It was only back in December that I was reflecting on the FA Cup final in 1959. I’m too young to have witnessed it in person, but had just watched what was a fantastic game on DVD. If you didn’t the first time around I’d throughly recommend doing so yourself, it’s a stark reminder of the things about the game that have changed – some for the better, but much for the worst. That 1959 Forest team were bloody good.
Only one member of that team now survives, Jeff Whitefoot contributed some moving words to the official site in tribute to his old team mate, Billy Gray, who passed away at the age of 83. He joined Forest from yesterday’s opponents Burnley in 1957, and played 224 times for the Reds, netting 37 goals. He returned to the club in the 1980s in the capacity of groundsman under no doubt close supervision from Brian Clough!
In the FA Cup run for which he and his teammates are best remembered, he scored five goals – including a vital one when there was an early threat of embarrassment for the Reds at the hands of Tooting & Mitcham. His goal earned us a replay in the third round when it looked like an early exit was on the cards, and is firmly established in history as one of the most gifted players of his era.
Naturally heartfelt condolences to Billy’s family and friends – which I’m sure you’ll all share in offering. A real Forest legend from an era that deserves to be remembered both fondly and proudly. I’ll reiterate, watch that DVD and see how good we were – a fluid, skillful counter-attacking team that utterly dominated the final ’til Roy Dwight suffered a leg-break, leaving Forest with ten men for more than half of the game.
Even then, they still passed it around and tried to counter attack – it really is a joy to watch.
Rest in peace, Billy.
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