The greatest Nottingham Forest players to represent England
It’s been a while since Forest were represented in the England team at an international tournament, but the club has produced some excellent English talents in its history, particularly in its 1970s heyday. Here Sathesh Alagappan takes a look at the six finest England internationals who were called up whilst plying their trade at the City Ground…
6 – Tony Woodcock
Local lad Tony Woodcock was an important part of the legendary Nottingham Forest side that won the First Division title and the 1979 European Cup. The striker played a total of 129 times for the Reds, finding the net on 36 occasions.
His exploits during this period earned him the attention of England manager Ron Greenwood, who gave Woodcock his debut against Ireland in 1978.
Woodcock left English shores in 1979, enjoying successful spells at German club FC Köln. He also spent four years at Arsenal.
Woodcock went on to amass 42 caps for his country, including appearances in the 1980 European Championships and the 1982 World Cup. He scored a total of 16 goals for his country.
5 – Trevor Francis
Francis became the first English footballer to command a transfer fee of over £1 million when Brian Clough bought him from Birmingham City in 1979. He had his moments at Forest, including scoring the winning goal in the 1979 European Cup final against Malmö. However, Francis never quite reached his potential under Clough, and was sold off to Manchester City in 1982, before a four-year stint in Italy with Sampdoria.
During his time with Forest, Francis played a minor part in the England setup, appearing a handful of times during the qualification campaign for the 1980 European Championships. But it was after his days at the City Ground that he really became a regular for England. He played every game of the ultimately unsuccessful 1982 World Cup campaign, scoring two goals during the tournament.
4 – Viv Anderson
Breaking into the Nottingham Forest team in 1974, Anderson was one of the few black faces in English football. He faced frequent racial abuse, but his talent could not be denied. The right-back, nicknamed ‘The Spider’, impressed during Forest’s miraculous First Division title and European Cup wins.
In 1978, England manager Ron Greenwood gave Anderson his first cap. It was a historic moment, making Anderson the first black player ever to represent England.
Unfortunately, Anderson played at a time when England had a glut of talented right-backs, such as Phil Neal of Liverpool. Whilst he never established himself as a regular for his country, he did gain 30 caps and is seen as a pioneer for non-white players in football.
3 – Des Walker
Walker was an immensely talented center-back. Gifted with speed, positional awareness and a mean tackle, he was one of the finest defenders in Europe at his best. Spotted by Brian Clough as a youngster, he played for Forest between 1984 and 1992, before moving to Sampdoria (he returned to the City Ground in 2002).
Walker announced himself on the international stage during Italia ’90. His imposing performances were only overshadowed by the exploits of Paul Gascoigne. Walker was pivotal in England’s success in the tournament, although he couldn’t prevent them from suffering a cruel semi-final penalty shootout defeat to Germany.
Walker should have enjoyed success in England colours for many years to come. However, he was made the scapegoat for England’s failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. His defensive lapses had contributed to the defeats by Holland, Poland and Norway. Many argue that this was in no small part down to Graham Taylor’s awkward tactical setup. Nevertheless, Walker never played for England again.
2 – Stuart Pearce
Arriving at Forest after the glory days of European triumph, Pearce nevertheless became a legendary figure at the club. The left-back joined the club in 1985, quickly earning plaudits for his gritty style and leadership abilities. He spent most of his 12 years at the club as captain, leading them to an FA Cup final.
Pearce is also remembered as one of England’s greatest full-backs. He made his debut in 1987 against Germany and was a mainstay of the side that reached the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup (Pearce famously missed in the penalty shootout against Germany).
He got his chance to make amends six years later in Euro ’96. In the shootout against Spain in the quarter-finals, Pearce thumped his penalty into the net. He followed it with an impassioned salute to the delirious Wembley crowd.
He repeated this in the semis against Germany, but it was to end in familiar heartbreak as the Germans once again triumphed.
1 – Peter Shilton
With a staggering 125 caps for England, Shilton is one of the icons of English football. He holds the world record for most competitive international matches and is considered one of the finest goalkeepers of all time.
Shilton spent five years at the City Ground as one of Brian Clough’s marquee signings. He was instrumental in guiding Forest to the First Division title and two European Cups. He left for Southampton in 1982, appearing for another seven clubs before hanging up his gloves in 1997.
Shilton made his England debut in 1970, and was the first name on the team sheet for the next twenty years, playing a part in iconic moments such as Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ incident. His final tournament was to be Italia ’90. Shilton’s heroics helped England reach the semis, but he was left a passenger in the penalty shootout, unable to reach any of the German penalties.
He eventually retired from football altogether in 1997 at the age of 47, having played 1005 league games.