April 06, 2022 5 min read
Away from London and the north-west, it can be argued that the Midlands is the other great hotbed of English football. As part of his series of books on English football’s ‘Turf Wars’, author Steve Tongue has had to split the area into East and West Midlands. These happen to be the areas represented by the two Championship teams who meet each other this Saturday afternoon.
Vodka for Forest Fans
There are two bottles of Forest-branded vodka available on the website in case you want to get an early order in this week.
Steve Cooper has brought solidity to the football club, moving from Swansea City over the summer to the famous Nottingham Forest. He has fixed the problems which caused Forest such a horrible start to the season: they didn’t win in the league until matchday eight. Forest boosted their forward line in the January window, loan signing Keinan Davis bringing top-tier experience from Aston Villa an Sam Surridge joining after a lost few months at Stoke City.
Forest’s under-18s have also had a great season. Last week they overcame Chelsea 3-1 and secured a trip to Old Trafford for the final of the FA Youth Cup. The future of the club looks stable if they can keep hold of the likes of Jack Nadin and Detlef Esapa Osong, who have both starred for the Academy side this year.
As the two stars on the Forest shirt indicate, the club won the European Cup in 1978/79 and 1979/80 thanks to the coaching of legendary duo Brian Clough and Peter Taylor. After keeping the club in the top division throughout the 1980s, where they won consecutive League Cups in 1988/89 and 1989/90, the pair became unstuck in 1992/93. Forest were relegated following the inaugural Premier League season and Clough retired, a creature of a prior era of English football.
Happily they were promoted instantly under former player Frank Clark and went on to reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup in 1996, losing heavily to a resurgent Bayern Munich. Players who played in the home game included English internationals Steve Stone and Stuart Pearce, as well as future Burnley assistant manager Ian Woan. Welshman Mark Crossley was in goal while Dutchman Bryan Roy partnered Kevin Campbell upfront.
After another relegation in 1999, David Platt became player-manager and tried to integrate younger talent into the team, such as Marlon Harewood and Welsh Andy Johnson. A young John Terry joined on loan from Chelsea too. It was the start of a tough 20 years for Forest, who fell into the third tier in 2005 and endured three seasons there.
In 2008, Birmingham City were relegated from the Premier League, to which they had been promoted in 2007. Not even the signing of James McFadden from Everton could stop the slide, and promising midfielder Fabrice Muamba left the club to increase the blow of relegation. The Blues have had great success in the second tier, winning it four times and coming second seven times in their history.
They also won the play-off to reach the Premier League in 2002 thanks to a penalty shoot-out against Norwich City. That side, which this year celebrates 20 years since that promotion, included striking triumvirate Geoff Horsfield, Tommy Mooney and Stern John – two Yorkshiremen and a Trinidadian – plus the reliable Paul Devlin, Darren Carter and Stan Lazaridis. It also included the ‘other’ Andy Johnson, who later played for England.
In 2011, Blues famously beat Arsenal to win the League Cup thanks to a last-minute goal by Obafemi Martins. The cosmopolitan squad welcomed English internationals Ben Foster, Lee Bowyer and Kevin Phillips, Chilean midfielder Jean Beausejour and the Serb centre-forward Nikola Zigic. Local lad Craig Gardner started the cup final and today works as the club’s technical director after he returned to City to finish his playing career.
The current Birmingham captain is such a big fan of the club that he has its crest tattooed onto his leg. When Troy Deeney was at Watford, he said he would only consider a move to his hometown club. Troy being Troy, he was as good as his word. In January 2022 he was made captain five months after joining them and leads the charge in a transition season for his beloved Blues.
Deeney came off the bench in the home defeat to Forest in October 2021. The game was gone by the hour mark as goals from Lewis Grabban, Ryan Yates and Djed Spence helped Forest to a victory which was part of a run of 16 games in which they only lost once. Yates recently scored in three successive league games for Forest, including a last-minute equaliser against Sheffield United. This has helped the team on their quest for promotion, and they go into the derby match having trounced Blackpool 4-1 at the weekend. They have a home game against fellow Midlanders Coventry City tonight (Wednesday 6 April).
As for Birmingham, they faced West Bromwich Albion last Sunday in another Midlands derby. A Lyle Taylor penalty took the points for Birmingham, but Taylor cannot play against Forest because he is on loan from them.
This fixture first took place back in 1894, when Birmingham were still known as Small Heath. After the teams played in different divisions in the 2000s, the last decade has seen them play one another plenty of times in the second tier. Goals by Chris Wood helped the Blues to a 3-1 win in 2011, while a young Jesse Lingard played in a goalless draw at St Andrew’s over the 2013 Christmas period.
A year later, two goals by Clayton Donaldson secured an away with for Birmingham in a game where target-shy Forest had 26 attempts but only two on target. Forest will want to replicate the home victory in August 2019, where a team including current Forest players Grabban and Joe Lolley scored two of the three goals. It would be excellent for them to do a league double over Blues, since it looks like the away side are content with a mid-table finish, but bragging rights are up for grabs and Birmingham would love to halt Forest’s promotion push.
Ladies and gentlemen, please charge your glasses to two fine sides based in the Midlands, Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City. You can buy fans of both sides a celebratory or consolatory gift courtesy of Bohemian Brands