Book review: The Glory of Forest..

There are so many Forest books out there – there’s been a real glut of autobiographies in particular at the moment, I’ve still got somewhat of a backlog of books to read through which I’ve struggled to find the time to do – so in many ways the last thing I wanted was a preview PDF a new Forest book by Alex Walker (of LTLF fame).

The premise of this tome is a collection of Forest-inspired lists celebrating what is good about Forest’s history (let’s not forget that Alex was part of the team that brought us the LTLF fanzine that rather optimistically attempted to put the fun back into supporting Forest!).  Let’s face it, our history is a rich vein of amazing feats or strange innovations.

So I figured that I could skim-read a few of the entries to get enough of a view to pen a review of the book and go back later to look properly.  I must admit, I did get a bit absorbed and have read nearly all of it – there’s a great balance of things-what-I-already-knew told in a witty manner combined with a few new things I’ve learned (and I think a couple of mistakes, which Alex was delighted to hear about from me!).

Some lists are straight-up fact based, most are more emotive as most football-related rankings will always be – some are downright controversial.  I mean, a whole book of lists inspired about Forest and not even an entry, let alone an entire list, features Brian Rice!  You’d think that 21 lists of Forest facts with a bit of blurb would be short – but there’s plenty in here.

Obviously some notable figures feature more than once in the lists – and it’s great to see figures from throughout Forest’s colourful history looming large throughout.  Contrary to what folks who support other clubs would have us believe, life did not start nor end with the arrival and departure of a certain Mr Clough at the City Ground – although that particular figure of course features heavily throughout.

For just a tenner and a convenient release date just before Christmas it would make a great stocking filler for any Reds fan – you could read it cover to cover, or dip in to the lists that tickle your fancy at any point.  It can be ordered from this website (where you can also find extracts), or you could buy directly from Alex in the Trent Navigation Inn after the Hull City game on 1st December where the book is being officially launched.

I’ll close with some of Alex’s own words – probably my favourite passage from the book (although there were a few contenders), from the list covering our top five wingers.. I will let you guess the subject of the paragraph, and indeed where he might have featured in his particular list…

If you were writing a fictional film about football and had as the lead character a man who liked a drink and a smoke, was over-weight, generally scruffy-looking and had recently suffered a cartilage injury, then you had this man revive his career in a Second Division promotion campaign, you’d have something that might go in the same gritty realist bracket as This Sporting Lift.  With a bit of artistic licence, you could maybe stretch the realms of possibility to have this loveable rogue be the key creative force of a team that stormed the First Division and won it with games to spare.  But even Hollywood execs would laugh you out of the door if, for the final act, you had your hero go on to set up the winning goal in one European Cup Final and score the winner in a second… even if you had Brian Clough among the supporting cast!

A highly enjoyable read that absorbed me much more than I had time for it to do, so now I find myself frantically finishing things off I was supposed to be doing whilst basically reading the whole book rather than skimming it as I had intended.  Thanks a lot, Alex!

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Orientation.. unrelated to Forest, but might resonate with our fans..

This is a bit of an odd book for me to post a review for – it’s written by a Tottenham Hotspur fan who, disillusioned with life following a top flight team, decided along with similarly-minded mates to become a season ticket holder at Leyton Orient, and adopt the O’s as his team.

I was going to read it during the International break but got sucked in from a curious look and got through it much quicker than I anticipated – which in itself is probably a certain type of endorsement for it!

Of course there’s parallels with us – I too find the the Premier League a rather bleak place of a over-commercialisation, anti-competitiveness and something that divorces football from the traditional place it held at the heart of communities.  Of course, for Forest fans we have managed to undertake a similar journey from pinnacle to lower leagues without ever having to change our team, which is one of the reasons this piqued my interest.

Author Adam basically charts us through the season, interspersed with snippets of life outside football (and how football can clash with it when you’re committed to a cause) in quite an interesting manner.  As a seasoned fan of a non-top-flight team it was surprising at how many surprises he found on his trips to Brisbane Road, how often there are similar – nay – higher levels of obsession around transfer deadline days etc.

Quite a warming tale – his epilogue suggests that he’s continued his commitment to Orient, indeed, during the course of the season even bought his first house in the area.  There’s a bit too much continuing to focus on Spurs for my tastes, but the catalyst for what drove his project really resonates with me, and as we find ourselves at the beginning of a new ambitious era for the club it does provoke thoughts.

Now I don’t expect promotion this season, but it’s certainly something that will be on the agenda in the Forest boardroom over the next few years.  Indeed, the very mission statement I stated when setting up this blog was that I wanted to chart our return to from obscurity.  Admittedly the level of obscurity I was thinking about at the time was League One, but ultimately surely as football fans we should want promotion right to the top flight?

It would be silly to suggest anything else – and I’d love it, in so many ways – but then you enter a league where survival is lauded as an achievement, where to compete a side must spend ridiculous amounts of money, where fans are priced out of being able to afford to support their team and where players are shielded and separated from the community that is supposed to be the principal supporter of them, not Sky Television or other sponsors.

There is something a little troubling in trying to square away a desperate wish to see us back amongst the top flight whilst wholly disapproving of what a frankly over-commercialised and corrupt system it has become – and Adam Michie perhaps inadvertently tapped into things I often ponder in his journey from armchair Spurs fan to active Orient fan.  It was a good read though, if you think similar random thoughts to me then I think you’ll enjoy it.

To find out more and buy then there’s a link here.

The man with Maradona’s shirt..

Steve Hodge was my first favourite Forest player as a young whipper-snapper.  At Primary school everyone was a Liverpool or Everton fan, with a few Forest fans thrown in – I was never that into football – but decided to have an affinity with my local team.  I could probably only name about three Forest players, Stuart Pearce, Nigel Clough and Steve Hodge.

Because the other couple of Forest fans in my circle of friends had picked the first two, just as I’d shunned the more popular teams in the playground, I went with Steve Hodge.  As I learned more about the side in the late 80s it turns out I didn’t make a bad choice – hardworking and dangerous both in creating chances, and snagging goals – and a local lad to boot!

Back then I used to fancy myself as a bit of an artist – I’d draw pictures of Forest players, and send them in the post to the City Ground addressed to Hodgey asking him to get them signed – they always came back, too – I’ll always have tremendous respect to him for that, it made my day as a kid to get my (looking back, terrible!) pictures signed.  So thanks, Steve!  I think they’re still in the loft somewhere.

This is quite rightly touted as a chronicle not only of Steve Hodge’s career – but also a tale of the last age of innocence in the world of football – before stupid money came in, before it was weighted in favour of the rich over the poor, when the underdogs could still ultimately prevail – it’s the era of the game I fell in love with before the Premier League came along and made it all a bit shit.

Naturally to us Reds the Forest career (over two spells) of Hodge is fascinating enough, but of course he had a career that took in characters like Paul Gascoigne, Eric Cantona and – of course – Diego Maradona in that game.  That was the game where he acquired the shirt – a proper relic of football history, what a great memento of an admittedly very painful day!

Written in a very engaging style you’ll fly through the pages – and thanks to his habit of diary keeping perhaps the recollections in here are sharper than many similar books which can feel a bit vague.  I’d thoroughly recommend giving it a read – a great chronicle of Forest coming out of one glorious era into their secondary spell of greatness.

For all that though there was a bit of a ‘never meet your heroes’ moments – it struck me that the tenacious midfielder whose play I so admired was pretty impatient when things went wrong, he seemed quick to bail out of clubs – including Forest – when he felt things weren’t going his way – indeed, he spent a long time being abused by Villa fans!

But well, Hodgey provided invaluable service to the Reds, and – in true Brian Clough style – we sold him for £450k to Villa, whilst we went backwards in buying him from Spurs for £550k (£100k less than they spent on him), we ended up selling him to Leeds for £900k – so we made a tidy profit, and of course Hodge got a league championship medal.

It’s only eleven quid on Amazon as I write – and I’d heartily recommend it (then again, I generally do for Forest books!).

For Pete’s sake.. a great read!

I’m at once indebted and slightly irked at Wendy Dickinson – no sooner did my copy of her book ‘For Pete’s Sake‘ arrive this morning, suddenly I have found myself missing a day – and having just finished, I glanced outside. It looks like it’s been a lovely day. If the ability to ‘put down’ a book is the barometer, then – aside from a couple of comfort breaks – this one passes with flying colours.

The author runs the gauntlet of tackling a tome as both a journalist – and a daughter – with good grace. Of course I’m sure there’s natural enough biasedness in there – but one gets the feeling a subject clearly very dear to her heart is dealt with with a degree of objectivity too. The stories are often very familiar (certainly once the football kicks in), but told from a slightly different perspective.

I was only twelve years old and just starting to fall in love with Forest when Peter Taylor was taken from us earlier than was fair – and given the policy of the club at the time, and indeed, one that remains – it’s fair to say I knew little of his influence at my relatively newly chosen club. Early forays into my brother’s video collection of Forest’s glory years offered clues, my Dad filled in a few more gaps.

However, it wasn’t until the relatively recent flurry of Clough related books and a natural inquisitiveness that started to unearth him properly for me – and since I’ve always felt drawn to him, the unsung local hero who combined so potently with undisputed legend Brian Clough. I think most books tackling the pair are unanimously favourable to Taylor, but perhaps over-simplified him as simply an excellent scout.

Certainly Duncan Hamilton and David Peace in wildly differing tomes offered more than a hint that there was more to the quieter half of the partnership – indeed, the over-dramatising of the film The Damned United had them both with many of the stereotypical trappings you’d associate with a married couple rather than a working pair!

For Pete’s Sake gives us the prehistory of the man before he met Brian Clough, growing up in Nottingham and actually fleetingly representing the Reds as a player before ending up at Coventry and eventually – and crucially – Middlesbrough. This is where the partnership began, although wasn’t to flourish before Taylor was able to demonstrate his managerial prowess in isolation of Clough at Burton Albion.

Of course, the charted path from Hartlepools, to Derby and to glory are well documented – and tantalisingly that’s where the volume ends, with – after bringing unbelievable success to Derby County, they are compelled to resign due to irreparable relations with the board. Not, as is popularly depicted, at the driving of the hot-headed Brian Clough, but at the insistence of Peter Taylor.

Understandably, growing from childhood to adulthood with the backdrop of Derby’s most successful period, the author is clearly very much a Derby fan. That might make uncomfortable reading for Forest fans, there is the necessarily odd ill-disguised swipe at Forest in there – and it will be fascinating to see how she tackles the subject in volume two, where the pair will obviously end up there and reaching the apex of their careers.

However, it shouldn’t be uncomfortable – this is an impassioned re-telling of a familiar tale from very close to the firing line, and it makes it very compelling. Sure, we get the ‘Derby’s a football town, Nottingham isn’t‘ cliché trotted out, shortly before the pride of a father who achieved a trebling of the club’s attendance figures in the ‘football town’- but well, it would be a bit rich of me to criticise too heavily for someone letting their prejudices sneak in to their writing!

Indeed it’s that feeling of reasonable biasedness that makes the passages chronicling Derby’s rise all the more compelling. Suddenly there’s real colour added to matches with real recollections, it is we that are celebrating and not them – it’s really rather charming even though it’s about that team. Maybe I can be charitable because I know already what is to follow!

This latest addition to my burgeoning Forest/Clough/Taylor library comes recommended by me – certainly I am really looking forward to Volume Two! Not just because it obviously tackles subjects with more resonance to me but I’ll be intrigued to see how the author deals with what I perceive to be animosity to Forest – like any self-respecting Derby fan would have, but particularly one who has the frustration of the club not recognising her Dad’s achievements.

The other surprise was that this wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to the Clough/Taylor vogue underway – much of the information comes from recordings made with Taylor himself before he died, filed away until the grief of his passing was perhaps less raw. It’s a fascinating insight into a man who I’ve always greatly retrospectively admired and offers us a few more layers to the Peter Taylor onion than anything I’ve read before.

You can pick up a copy by clicking here – and I can certainly vouch for quick delivery – just remember to set a few hours aside to read through it as, if you’re like me, you won’t want to put it down!

For Pete’s sake..

In the absence of anything transfer-related to write about it’s nice to have a slight distraction.  I’ve written about Peter Taylor a few times, he tends to divide Forest fans opinions given the nature of his departure all those years ago, but what is generally undeniable is the impact the formidable combination of him and the more-public-facing Brian Clough has had on our football club.

Of course, there’s been a real glut of Clough-themed books in recent years, culminating in the cinematic release of ‘The Damned United’ – and whether you’ve picked up Duncan Hamilton’s book, David Peace’s or the more recent Maurice Edwards book – you can’t help but have gained a strong sense of the dynamics reported by these authors between the pair.  A real partnership, given the stature of the clubs they managed together – probably the most potent that English football has ever seen.

Certainly in an official capacity Forest tend to fall very much on the ‘out of favour’ side with regard to Taylor.  Not only did he ‘retire’ only to resurface at Derby, he took prized asset John Robertson to the Baseball Ground causing a rift with Brian Clough that wasn’t to heal until after Taylor had died in the early nineties.  Even then, Forest never honoured him with a minute silence nor considered his name in the renaming of the Executive Stand.

Perhaps characteristically I find myself on the fence teetering towards going against the official stance.  Regardless of his movements after Forest, Taylor’s influence on Forest and our historic stature is undeniable.  Indeed, if Forest could as an organisation take Robbo back into their care and affections – then it seems rather double-standardish to maintain and reinforce a grudge which might’ve been understandable at the time.

Maybe I’m just too reasonable – but I would have liked to have seen the Executive Stand bear the names of both the men whose achievements – very literally – built it.  I would also like to see Forest – as Derby have – commission a statue of both men to be present at the ground (I can understand and fully support the Brian Clough statue sited in the city centre, which is testimony not only to Clough’s managerial prowess, but the profile he brought through his media persona to our city).

So I digress completely, as ever.  The purpose of this post was to alert you to a book that is about to be released telling very much the Taylor side of the story.  The first volume might be of less interest to Reds fans since it charts his life up to and including his time at Derby, with a second volume picking up where that left off due next year.  It’s been written by his daughter, Wendy Dickinson and former journalist Stafford Hildred.

If you order now, you can get it delivered for a discounted £15 rather than the recommended price of £17.99 – and whilst of course it doesn’t quite reach the full heady heights of Peter’s time at Forest – it’s worth remembering that he is a son of Nottingham, and will include chronicles of his time growing up in our fair city.  Something we could do well to remember when we consider his rank of local hero – in a birthright sense as well as his achievements.

I’ve placed my order and look forward to having a read – I’m sure I’ll feel compelled to impart what wisdom I might glean from it in due course, and – much like when I went to see The Damned United (which I found a lot more palatable than the book) – it will surely whet the appetite for what we know is to come in the second book.  Obviously I’d be – as ever – very interested to hear your thoughts!

Kenny Burns: No Ifs Or Butts

I picked up this book at the excellent ‘Evening with..’ night at The Approach back in December, but given Christmas kerfuffles it’s taken me a while to get around to reading it.  However, it’s been worth the wait to have read through Kenny Burns’ book, ‘No Ifs Or Butts.’

Being a fan too young to have had the pleasure of seeing Kenny representing Forest, it perhaps has less resonance for me than some of you who will have real memories of some of his antics.  I avidly consume Forest books, and this was an entertaining read courtesy of the big fella.

Anyone who’s had the pleasure of hearing Kenny speak at ‘Evening with’ nights or after-dinner speaking (or indeed, those of you who might’ve actually met him!) will know he’s a witty fellow, very dry and sarcastic – which is ace.  And that shines through in the book, this isn’t an overly polished ghost-written number – it reads like you’d imagine Kenny telling the stories.

I suppose the only part of the book that didn’t quite do it for was the reasonably frequent descent into listing results in a particular season – but that’s a small quibble, there’s plenty of amusing tales from Kenny’s time at Birmingham, through Forest and then beyond into where I hadn’t realised quite how long he was still playing non-league football.

A nice account of one of Forest’s unquestionable stalwarts in our most successful era- definitely worth having a read – I’m sure it’ll raise a few chuckles along the way too.  Next up is the more daunting illustrated history of Forest I was generously given as a Christmas gift.  Can’t wait!

And the ref was called Clough..

I’ve been on a bit of a Forest book reading phase at the moment, speaking of which – congratulations to Jason who won the competition to have a signed copy of ‘150 BC: Cloughie the Inside Stories‘ courtesy of the very generous author, Dave Armitage.  I’m confident it will be a prize he’ll enjoy greatly!  Commiserations to the many of you who also entered!

At the same time I bought that book, I also picked up a copy of the intriguingly titled ‘And the ref was called Clough‘ by David McVay.  Normally when it comes to delving into Forest’s past usually I find myself reading of the late seventies and early eighties – but this book documents the achievements of a yet earlier Forest side – in 1959 the Reds lifted the FA Cup for the second time in their history – this book documents the cup run.

It could have course been a non-starter, the very first hurdle for Forest was non-league Tooting and Mitchum who almost caused an upset – indeed, should have done – Forest managed to take it to a replay thanks to a dodgy penalty awarded.  The rest, as they say, is history.  For me it was a chance to remind myself of perhaps less familiar luminaries of Forest’s past – but defintely deserving of recognition from present day Forest fans.

Forest captain Jack Burkett holds aloft his hard-earned prize - judging by the photos in the book, it was difficult to get the cup off him after the match was over!

Thanks to reading Gary Imlach’s book about his dad I had some sketchy background knowledge of that era for Forest – but this book brings it all together wonderfully – and the best bit of all is the treasure trove of fantastic pictures.  Match-action shots from every round – bearing in mind cameramen didn’t have the luxury of modern rapid-shooting cameras the quality of the photography is amazing.

So for those of you who haven’t ever taken the time to learn of these names: Chic Thomson, Bill Whare, Joe McDonald, Jeff Whitefoot, Bobby McKinlay, Jack Burkitt, Roy Dwight, Johnny Quigley, Tommy Wilson, Billy Gray, Stewart Imlach, Billy Walker and Harold Alcock, I urge you to avail yourself of a copy.  Did you know Forest were the first side to win the cup with only ten men?  It was also the first time the winning team completed a lap of honour after an FA Cup final.

It’s a great story – made completely compelling thanks to the wonderful collection of pictures and reproductions of contemporary advertising and memorabilia from the time.  One of the many historic battles that have been taken place at Wembley Stadium a little over fifty years ago now, when football was a very different game indeed.  I won’t spoil the bit that amused me most – but imagine the health and safety furore if a team celebrated their homecoming in the manner that Forest did in 1959!