Forest Chronicles: A game of three sides
Disappointment at the end of the 1967 season gives way to a new school for Gary, but more importantly a new season and a new experience – watching the Forest away…
Still in second place we beat Villa 3-0 and I thought it was our God-given right to score three goals at home games. Unfortunately Manchester United were winning their matches as well. We came down with a bump at Roker Park where we lost 1-0 to Sunderland in a midweek match. A draw at Arsenal and then it was semi-final day.
With the league becoming fever pitch and the FA Cup becoming even more intense, I couldn’t accept another defeat. In the back of my mind Joe Baker would need some replacing and with him absent the team didn’t tick the same for me.
Well the semi-final summed it up. Firstly we couldn’t get tickets for the match at Hillsborough v Spurs and then we got beaten. A goal from Jimmy Greaves put the Reds behind and another from Saul – Frank not the Hebrew. We only got reports on the wireless and I hoped for an equaliser but there was something inside me said we wouldn’t d do it without Baker. Terry Hennessey got a goal back but the next report was Tottenham were in the final.
Deep down I was glad I didn’t get to the match now and anyway we’ll be back next year. The league was taken out of our grasp with a defeat at Southampton of all places. Hotshot Barnwell cracked a goal but the Saints won 2-1. This was all down to Brain Labone. He was the man who felled the King and it upset our rhythm for the rest of the season, we were never the same team with Sammy Chapman taking the No. 9 shirt and not making any impression; well not on me! No one could replace the King.
Our last match away at Fulham was won 3-2 and Bob ‘Sammy’ Chapman tried to win me over by scoring two of our goals, but no, give me the King. Well at least we had qualified for the Inter Cites Fairs Cup and that meant we were to play foreign European opposition, that was a new one for me.
Manchester United won the league with about four points to spare but I knew we would be back challenging next season. I could only see one team now and that was FOREST.
After a summer break and a long school summer holiday I was ready to get down to the City Ground again. I moved up from Junior school to Ashfield Comprehensive, I wasn’t looking forward to it much but I was in a high class and having done well at Annesley CP it shouldn’t hold any problems. I wondered if there would be a lot more Forest supporters from around the Kirkby area to meet up with. I had an ally and Reds fanatic in John Maddock, he wasn’t in my form but we were in the same House (Hargreaves) we would swap stories about matches and he travelled to away matches which I hadn’t done yet.
There were lots of youths in older years who tried to browbeat us and make us switch allegiance, but me and Mado (John Maddock) were too staunch and stuck them out. He was a tough little bugger who would defy anyone so it was no bother to him. I took refuge under Roy ‘Bronco’ Lane’s wing, who was two years above us and from Annesley, when times got rough. I couldn’t figure out why they wanted to support other teams like Chelsea and Man Utd, maybe it was a teenage thing about not conforming?
Joe Baker was declared fit to start the season but the first match was an away match, I was dying to see the Reds again and my dad must have been the same because he said we were going to the first match at Brammell Lane against Sheffield United!
I’d never been to an away match so where do you stand? There will be no Trent End, we will be the away fans and not be as loud as the home side; will we? It was all new to me. How would we find the ground, should I take my red and white scarf? I knew for a fact that Forest would have to change strip.
There was a twist to the match. All the men who had been to a match or two in the past told me that there was only three sides to the ground. Strange. What, a triangular ground? No, in fact they meant there was only three stands. Brammell Lane was also a cricket ground and the cricket pitch widened the playing area out to the boundary on one side. Put it this way, every time the ball went out for a throw-in on one touchline it was a long walk to retrieve it. I had to see it for myself to believe it as well.
My dad’s mate Geoff Swindell wanted to go as well and they worked out where the ground was and off we went in the Hillman Minx de Luxe to Sheffield. I had the scarf dangling out of the window and it was great to see many more Forest fans on the road. We saw supporters buses with big banners covering the rear windows and all decked out in Red and White.
At the ground my dad opted to sit in the stands. I wanted to go with my fellow Trent Enders to whichever ‘end’ they went for the chanting and songs. But I had never had a seat before and decided it wasn’t a bad idea. We had a good seat and were surrounded by some other Forest fans so I felt at home. The main block of Reds fans was opposite to the Sheffield supporters and I am sure our lot were outshouting them. The seats cost 6 shillings and sixpence, a lot to pay but on the day we came out 3-1 winners with goals from the King, Storey-Moore and Wiggy (Frank Wignall). The only figure missing from our strongest line up was John ‘Hotshot’ Barnwell. He was known as ‘hotshot’ because of his fierce shooting power.
When you get an away match at the start of the season the next game is midweek at home, then at home again the following Saturday. This was a good start because we already had two points and then two home games to follow. Tuesday night saw newly promoted Coventry City down here at the City Ground and nearly a capacity crowd, well 44,000 for a night match takes some beating.
Coventry brought a good following and as they sang their hearts out on the East Stand terrace we took the Mickey out of what seemed to be their leader. He was a red headed man who, raised above the crowd on his mates shoulders, acted as a conductor. Shouts of ‘Ginger nut’ came from the Trent End, but he lapped the attention up.
Now Coventry managed by Jimmy Hill were a pretty good side and gave as good as they got so to speak. We had goals from the King, Wiggy and Moore (again), but they got three back in reply. One incident sparked off a bit of controversy, it was when Frank Wignall broke George Curtis’ leg in a (shall we say) heavy tackle. It is usually the defender hurting the forward i.e. Labone on Baker, but this time it was the other way round. Tough player Wiggy! Well manager Jimmy Hill was out on the pitch having a go at Wignall and the ref. This was a rarity, was it allowed? Well he wasn’t helped by the Trent End goading him, he eventually went off with Curtis on the stretcher.
The next game we beat Arsenal and then it was Coventry again, another midweek night match. I would love to have gone after having a taste of away matches now. I waited up until the late night news for the results and it came up Coventry City 1 Forest 3. Yes, I told myself as I went to bed, we were better than the 3-3 home result, it was just beginners’ luck for them. Then just when I thought we were on a roll, we lost away at Manchester City who were becoming a decent side to rival Man United.
We were at Ingoldmells for a long weekend because Forest were away but my dad said we could cut it short and get home for the Tuesday night game at home to Liverpool. Now Liverpool had some good players including Roger Hunt (a World Cup winner) and their hero Tony Hateley. What Joe Baker was to us, Hateley was to the Merseysiders.
We drove home Tuesday dinner time to get back in time for the match. It was school next day but that was far from my mind. I had my new school uniform laid out ready, but it was Liverpool that were on my mind, not this large Comprehensive school and my education. It was a long day between waking in the caravan to getting ready for the match. Usual routine, I would close the garage doors as my dad reversed out, then hop in the passenger seat and drape the red and white out of the window. Off we went.
Down town we parked up off London Road at Kirkwhite Street, then joined the crowd as we made our way to the ground. I could tell there was going to be a good attendance again with how many supporters headed toward Trent Bridge. My dad bough a quarter of boiled sweets and went for a pint in the Greyhound pub while I stood outside soaking up the atmosphere, watching the supporters heading to the ground. Now I considered all the Forest fans as a part of my family. We all appreciated how good the team was, we all feared if we went a goal down and we all rejoiced when the ball hit the back of the oppositions goal. Mainly we all hailed Joe Baker as the King.
My dad was soon out because we knew there would be a big crowd, we got our places in the Trent End and found we shared it with a load of Liverpool fans; bad news. Not only could they use the roof of our end to enhance their voices, but it was flippin’ crowded tonight. Much to my annoyance was when their lot sang, “We’re gonna hang Joe Baker on the Kop”. The reply was of a similar vein, about drowning Tony Hateley in the Trent, and so on it went.
I learned then that every club had its own hero worship and every club had its ‘End’ where their singing supporters gathered as we did. I had seen some of the opposition on Match of the Day, which came on BBC2 originally and appeared every Saturday night. My knowledge of teams had grown over the early years of supporting my team. I always had football annuals for Christmas and bought magazines whenever I could. I was turning into a football nut.
We lost the match against the Scousers and I took it bad. After rushing back from the coast we were very tired, but I got the rest of the week off school to make a fresh start next week at the new place.