August 24, 2022 5 min read
In 1992, Tottenham Hotspur poached Teddy Sheringham from Nottingham Forest in the middle of the 1992/93 season. He would form part of the exciting Famous Five along with Jurgen Klinsmann, Ilie Dumitrescu, Nick Barmby and Darren Anderton. Meanwhile, Forest were relegated and Brian Clough resigned.
The start of the Premier League era was full of transitions, in terms of player power and how much money came to football club chairmen like Alan Sugar. Spurs had been the first club to offer shares (initially overvalued at 108p per share) to raise funds from outside investors at a time when benevolent chairman pumped their own money into the teams for whom they acted as custodians, as per Rule 34 of the FA codebook. Clubs had previously had to offer half their gate money to the opposition, but this came to an end in 1983, the same time that Rule 34 was overridden by Spurs.
In many ways, Forest was the club not of their owners but of their manager. Two European Cup wins, memorialised in the film I Believe In Miracles, put Forest in the ‘top one’, as Brian Clough would say of himself, in Europe. Players like Peter Shilton, John Robertson and Trevor Francis – bought for £1m less one penny – were key parts of that side which is still talked about with fervour at the City Ground four decades on. In 1991, however, Clough was looking towards retirement, after winning two League Cups in the previous two years.
The team of that era was often made up of eleven Englishmen. Captain Stuart Pearce played to the left of Steve Chettle and Des Walker, while Franz Carr and local lad Gary Crosby ran up and down the wings to cross the ball to Nigel Jemson and Brian’s son Nigel. Manchester United and Leeds United poached Neil Webb and Lee Chapman respectively, while future United stalwart Roy Keane kept England international Steve Hodge out of the team.
Right-back Gary Charles, from East London, would play a role in the 1991 FA Cup final at the age of 21, having joined Forest as a teenager after Clough convinced him to sign as a pro with Forest. ‘He told me to go and ring my mum straight away!’ Charles told Forest’s website. A few weeks before that FA Cup final, Forest had blown Chelsea away, putting seven goals past them; Keane scored two of them, Pearce another two, while academy graduate and Welsh international Mark Crossley kept a clean sheet.
Spurs finished the First Division season in tenth, five points and two places behind Forest. The two league games had ended 2-1 to Spurs and, two weeks before the cup final, 1-1. From that XI, Terry Venables chose to start Paul Stewart and leave out Nayim, who started on the bench. The Forst XI was marked by grudges held by the manager, as Jemson and Carr were both omitted from the side. The Spurs player who had scored a spectacular free-kick in the semi-final against Arsenal, the mercurial Paul Gascoigne, was a bundle of nervous energy which would spill over in the opening half of the first half.
Indeed, in the opening seconds, Gascoigne went in very hard on an opposition player, leaving his boot outstretched and catching him in his ribcage. A quarter of an hour into the match, he overstretched while making a challenge on Charles on the edge of his own penalty area, sending the Forest player sprawling.
Two things then happened: Stuart Pearce sent the free-kick past Erik Thorstvedt, and Gascoigne had to come off injured with ligament damage, with Nayim replacing him. More drama was to come in the first half, as Crossley brought down Gary Lineker in the penalty area. The keeper was equal to the shot, turning the penalty over the bar with a dive to his left.
Forest led 1-0 at half-time but Stewart levelled the game ten minutes into the second half. Extra time followed. There was a worrying moment when Crossley went down injured after colliding with the post, which foreshadowed the game’s winning goal. Des Lyttle will forever be known as the man whose own goal gave Spurs the trophy and denied Clough his first FA Cup.
Forest bounced back after their 1993 relegation under the management of Frank Clark and in 1994/95 finished third in the Premier League. Presaging the Bosman ruling which led to many more non-British players in the division, Forest had brought in the Norwegian pair of Lars Bohinen and Alf-Inge Haaland, as well as Dutch striker Bryan Roy who partnered Stan Collymore upfront. In summer 1995, Liverpool would pay a British record fee of £8.5m for Collymore, who would be absent from Forest’s UEFA Cup run which ended in the last eight with a 5-1 defeat at the City Ground against Bayern Munich.
Forest had by then added Kevin Campbell and Andrea Silenzi to their squad. They beat Spurs home and away in the 1995/96 season in the league, and the sides also met each other in the fifth round of the FA Cup, with Forest settling the tie on penalties in the replay. Team captains Gary Mabbutt and Stuart Pearce would have shared a smile when they tossed the coin at the start of the game, remembering the events of May 1991. Crossley, Lyttle, Chettle and Ian Woan were all still in the Forest side five years on, while Justin Edinburgh and David Howells were on the other side of the pitch, remember their medal-winning exploits.
This week marks the first time the two clubs have met in the league since 1999, the season that Forest fell down into the First Division after finishing bottom of the Premier League. Incredibly, Crossley and Chettle started that game at the City Ground, which ended 1-0 to Spurs. The Lilywhites fielded players from Argentina (Mauricio Tarrico), Germany (Steffen Freund), Denmark (Allan Nielsen, whose goal won the 1999 League Cup for Spurs that year) and, in goalscorer Steffen Iversen, Norway.
Chettle, still first choice that 1998/99 season, left for Barnsley after 13 seasons and 415 league appearances. Crossley, by now displaced as number one by Dave Beasant, the Chelsea goalkeeper who had conceded seven goals against Forest back in 1991, joined Middlesbrough in 2000. The link to the team of the Clough era was broken.
Forest fans can charge their glasses to Clough’s team with one of two bottles of vodka available to them courtesy of Bohemian Brands.