For a period of about 15 years, from the late 1970s, to the early 90s, it was a second home for Nottingham Forest, and the fans, having played in 6 League Cup finals, winning 4 of them, 1 FA Cup final, and countless ‘Members’ Trophies, as well as a Charity Shield, where Ipswich were despatched 4-0.
We’d experienced it three times last season, the FA Cup Semi against Brentford, before losing in the final of the FA Cup against Manchester City, then into the Playoffs, and winning the final against Middlesbrough.
An unwritten target I’ve set myself, is to try and resurrect the annual Forest pilgrimage to North West London.
This season, we’ve been there twice. Thanks in particular, to the newest member of our academy to break into our first team.
16 year old Jack Andrew came to light on the Youth Intake day, on the 7th March. A natural left sided player, able to play on either wing, and up front, he was ready for the first team, and more.
He made his debut, shortly after coming into the youth setup, and, after signing a long term deal, became a fixture on the left wing.
He chose perhaps the biggest stage of English football, Wembley, to make his first impact on the senior game.
9 minutes into the FA Cup Semi Final against a very strong Arsenal team, he broke into the box and made a beeline for the far post, knowing that Lewie Coyles cross would be coming across. He met it with the sort of header that Cristiano Ronaldo had made his trademark scoring, and left David Ospina grasping at air.
Despite Wilfried Zaha scoring an equaliser, the youngster found himself free on the left side of the box following a swift counter attack. The sliderule pass from Patrick Cutrone was met with a hammer like left foot, the ball flying past Ospina, who didn’t even move.
In playing the full 90 minutes, he had more than shown his potential, and had also secured a place in a second successive FA Cup final.
Just over 6 weeks after that fixture, the League campaign had drawn to a disappointing end, with essential players collecting injuries, saw a run of 2 wins in the last 7 Premier League games ensure us dropping to 5th place. The highest finish for Forest since the 1994/95 season, and the Stan Collymore / Bryan Roy inspired team.
As disappointing as the falloff was, finishing 5th was far beyond the targets set. I wanted a lower mid table finish, to consolidate for the coming seasons, and when I finally implement the style and recruitment policy the way I want it.
Which, brings us back to where I started this recap.
Its just after 5:15pm on the 15th May, 2021. The final has been over for about 20 minutes, and the presentations are about to start.
As manager of Forest, and a supporter, these days should be great, but, for the last 95 minutes of football, I’ve been a bundle of nerves. Especially after a first half showing which saw Domingos Quina curl a free kick into the top corner from 20 yards, and Pontus Dahlberg playing like Petr Cech in his prime.
A slight change of formation at half time, and the introduction of Ryan Gauld saw the pendulum swing in our favour.
4 minutes into the half, Jack Andrew, who was now being earmarked as the hottest property in England, after scoring 4 goals in his 7 league appearances, found himself unmarked at the back post, as Lewie Coyle drilled a cross in, and met it on the volley to put it past Dahlberg.
It took 16 minutes for the next goal to come, and this one was going to end up on highlight reels all over.
Dennis Man, who had found himself going through a slight loss of form in recent weeks, drifted in from the right wing, collected a loose ball, and getting towards the edge of the box, and not being closed down by Liam Moore and Marc Cucurella, hit the shot across the face of goal, and into the far bottom corner. 2-1, and hopefully, the Watford team would lose their way in trying to get back in the game.
With Watford trying to push forward, and attempting to get the equaliser, it was only fitting that we hit on the break, although, the scorer of our 3rd goal was somewhat surprising.
Finding the ball at his feet following a breakdown, Lewie Coyle drove forward, and hit a ball into the box, where 3 red shirts were waiting to score. Cutrone and Andrew were unable to connect, as left back, Josh Tymon came screaming forward, putting his left foot through the ball, and drilling an unstoppable effort from the penalty spot past Dahlberg.
Mason Greenwood came on shortly after this, with the aim of using his pace to counter.
This paid off, as the Manchester United loanee put the game beyond reach, with a pair of identical goals, breaking forward and scoring on the counter attack.
The full time whistle came, with one half of the stadium celebrating, and the other half already mostly empty.
Lewie Coyle picked up the man of the match, and it was left to the home grown captain, Ryan Yates, to collect the FA Cup for the first time in 62 years.
There was going to be a party in NG2 tonight.
After that was done, it would be time to sit down with the board to sort out the targets for next season.