May 1999; a month that shaped the foreseeable future for two iconic football clubs, and for their respective supporters it was a sliding doors moment as Nottingham Forest and Manchester City set off on very different trajectories.
For City it was the beginning of what might just become the most unprecedented trophy haul in world football, but for the Reds it triggered a twenty-year nightmare from which they are only just awakening.
However, amid the misery and malaise emerged a brave new generation of Nottingham Forest supporters. And it is to these loyal, young hopefuls that I dedicate this article to.
I wanted to hear from lifelong Forest fans who’d barely seen NFFC in the Premier League but continued to follow the club through thick and thin.
So, without further ado, let’s hear from the supporters themselves as to how and why they pledged their allegiance to the Reds.
ADAM WEST - “I’m 31 and I’ve been a season ticket holder since 1992, I’ve had the same seat in the Lower Brian Clough stand since my very first game. My dad’s a lifelong season ticket holder so I was always going to be brainwashed by him. Man United were the main team at this time and all my friends supported them so I got a lot of stick, especially when they stuffed us 8-1 in 1999!
At 31 I consider myself lucky to have seen that fantastic NFFC side of the mid nineties, with the likes of Pearce, Collymore and co. And of course, winning the Championship courtesy of Bart-Williams’s last gasp goal, I’ll always remember my dad swinging me around when it went in! I also did the whole 46 league games and cup whilst in league One, it was enjoyable going to so may different places and meeting proper football fans.
I’ve witnessed relegation to League One, Gary Megson and four semi-final playoff defeats, not to mention a shambolic owner with a nice car collection. As much as I love Martin O’Neill, as a manager he’s just not for me, but with Marinakis now in charge maybe the sleeping giant is ready to come off life support?”
BYRON WILKINSON - “I’m 19 and attended my first Forest match as a three-month-old baby versus Birmingham in 1999. My Mum and dad were massive NFFC fans so obviously they fed me Forest propaganda.
Being honest, between the age of 7-12 I liked both Forest and Arsenal. We lived in Florida at the time and Forest were rarely on the TV, the average person didn’t know who they were but knew about Arsenal. I started boarding school in Somerset at 13 and watched Forest more frequently on TV and at the games so that’s when I really became a die-hard fan.
The lowest point was probably losing 0-5 to Derby and the highest would be the 1-0 win over the same opposition when Nelson Oliveira scored the winner. My mates think I’m obsessed with Forest and I even started a little business called byronbricks on the premise I can sell Forest LEGO characters. It’s something I’d have loved as a kid growing up, following Forest and liking LEGO.
Off the field, the new owner has been fantastic and has really improved Forest as a football club. On the field I think they look impatient, in my opinion Forest need to provide someone with trust and give them a year or two to create a successful and stylish team. Constant sackings cause instability and have hindered the club.”
AMY WILLIAMS - “I’m 28 and my dad took me to Forest in 2002 at the age of 11. At the time it was something we could do as a family and involve my grandad too. It was a very special season, we made the play offs under Paul Hart and David Johnson scored 29 goals.
Within a season I was completely hooked and have been ever since. While my school friends were obsessed with David Beckham and Thierry Henry, I had Andy Reid and Michael Dawson posters on my bedroom wall. I got to see my heroes every week rather than daydream about them.
The low moments were relegation to League One and David Johnson breaking his leg, the highs were that very first season and some cracking football under Billy Davies too. On February 26th of this year I paraded around the Derbyshire office where I work in red!
I’ve been a season ticket holder since 2002 through school, University and two jobs. I can’t imagine life without matchday Saturdays now. As for never seeing Forest in the Premier League, I don’t mind as it’s all I’ve ever known. This is my club and whether we’re in the Conference or the Prem that will never change!”
The three testimonials you’ve just read are the tip of the iceberg and I can tell you that I was inundated with similar stories when I requested them via social media. It only goes to prove how loyal the younger generation of Nottingham Forest supporters really are.
The demographic of our great football club is a beautiful mixture of young and old, spoiled and starved but most importantly, unified. When the good times return, which will be very soon indeed, it will be a fitting reward for the likes of Adam, Byron and Amy who’ve stuck by Nottingham Forest through thick and thin.