|Derby V Forest - The Rivalry Part 1|
Thu 20th Jan 2011 12:00 by Duncan Harris
When the subject of football's fiercest local derbies comes up, it is usually Liverpool, Manchester, North London and Glasgow that dominate the conversation, but anyone with a little deeper knowledge will know that the rivalry between the Rams and Forest can be as bitter and deep as any of them.
Of course the very term 'local derby' comes from the town of that name - after the keenly fought street football matches played between different districts of Derby in the distant past.
Once football became organized in the later nineteenth century, this partisan spirit soon spread to the games between two of England's oldest league clubs - the evocatively nicknamed 'Rams' and the less imaginatively monickered 'Reds'. For some reason, there has never seemed to be quite the same animosity when Notts County was involved.
The East Midlands rivalry would have been sharpened by an early victory for Forest, in the 1898 FA Cup final, five days after Derby has thrashed them 5-0 in the league - Derby were to lose in the final again the following year.
By the post First World War period, this enmity had become very well established. In 1921, the Derby Evening Telegraph , reporting a 2-1 Second Division win for Forest at the Baseball Ground breathed a sigh of relief that the game had not descended into the chaos that had been feared:
" ...apart from the result perhaps the most pleasing features from the unbiased onlooker was the clean way in which the issue was fought out. Local rivalry often leads to players losing their heads... “
In those days, the players would often be local men themselves, with as fierce a sense of local pride and identity as the fans. Very different to today's itinerant pros!
Soon after that match, some of this rivalry would have been diluted by the fact that the two clubs hardly played each other for many years. Derby got promoted and established themselves as a top First Division club, winning the Cup finally in 1946 while Forest languished in the lower reaches [which are of course, where they belong].
Then in the fifties, the positions were reversed for a while, with Forest in the top division and winning the Cup [in 1959] and Derby dropping as low as the old Third Division, albeit briefly.
By the early seventies, when Derby got back into the First Division, perhaps the old enmity had softened a little. Plenty of players in this period played for both clubs, often moving directly between the two - something that rarely happened with Liverpool and Everton, Spurs and Arsenal or Celtic and Rangers. Alan Hinton, Terry Hennessey, Henry Newton and Frank Wignall all moved from Forest to Derby without too many cries of 'traitor'.
The seventies, though, was when it all changed, and the rivalry between the two sets of fans became more sharp and bitter than it had ever been. Much of this is still fresh today and one man is at the centre of it: Brian Clough.
Clough had arrived at Second Division Derby from Hartlepool in 1967, bringing with him Peter Taylor - Sancho Panza to Clough's Don Quixote. They had quickly turned the side from dour mid-table nobodies to runaway champions of Division Two in 1969.
Clough and Taylor had not made too many changes to the team - although the arrivals of Dave MacKay and Roy McFarland were both masterstrokes - but had moulded the players already there into a team, none more so than Kevin hector who had blossomed into one of the best centre-forwards in the country.
Derby were soon challenging at the top of the First Division, winning their first ever Championship in 1972. This unexpected triumph was made even sweeter to many fans, as it coincided with the sad decline of Forest. They were relegated in that same season, the Rams did the double over them, and in the match at the Baseball Ground, Forest were outclassed so thoroughly, that Gerald Mortimer in the Telegraph wrote:
"[the fans were]...almost embarrassed by the ease with which Derby had shredded Forest and at watching the pathetic wreck of what was once a good side shamble a step nearer to inevitable relegation."
An extra bit of needle between the two clubs was also provided by Forest's one class player, Ian Storey Moore, who agreed to join Derby and was paraded around the Baseball Ground pitch by Clough. Moore was then persuaded by his wife to change his mind, and join Manchester United instead, leaving Clough red-faced.
The joke was soon on Moore though, as Derby went on to two Championships, while United were relegated [and how difficult is it to believe that now?]
Clough and Taylor then led the Rams into Europe, where they beat Benfica - then a genuine force in the game - but lost to Juventus in the semi-finals, a match Clough to this day insists was 'got at' by someone. During this golden period, the atmosphere at the Baseball Ground was second to none - and that is not just a partisan conceit.
The ramshackle old ground with its infamous mud bath pitch and echoing wooden stands could generate a fierce bear-pit ambience, which lifted the home team and intimidated opponents. More than one newspaper reporter described the Rams supporters as 'fanatical'. No one ever used that word for Forest supporters.
Then things started to go wrong. Derby chairman Sam Longson, who had brought Clough into the club, now thought that the manager was getting too big for his boots [surely not?] and feared that the famously outspoken Clough would open his mouth so often that Longson's ambitions for further advancement in the football bureaucracy would be thwarted.
Other directors joined him and the end result was a feud that led to Clough and Taylor walking out. Despite the best efforts of players and fans to get them back, this was the way it stayed - something that has remained a matter for deep regret from all those involved.
Derby soon appointed a successor to Clough - former captain Dave MacKay, who had been boss at Forest, then deep in the depths of Division Two. MacKay thankfully managed to carry on with pretty much the same team - plus the vital addition of Francis Lee and won the Rams another League title. Clough and Taylor meanwhile went in the opposite direction, via Leeds [very briefly] and Brighton, to end up at lowly Forest.
Now everything turned upside down. Derby followed the 1975 title with a decent, if ultimately disappointing season, in which they dropped to fourth in the league and went out of the Cup to United in the semi-final [hard to believe that in those days, that was considered failure]. A poor start to the 1976-77 season gave Longson's successor George Hardy and excuse to sack Mackay and try to lure Clough back.
Clough, with Taylor had been rebuilding Forest into plausible promotion candidates, but they wanted to accept Hardy's offer and return 'home'. Forest's board though, threw a spanner in the works and refused to release them from their contracts. They remained at Forest and every Forest supporter should be eternally grateful to their board for making that decision.
With his plans to bring back Clough in tatters, Hardy turned to a series of managers either too inexperienced - Colin Murphy and the eventually great Dario Gradi, Colin Addison and John Newman - or over the hill - the hapless Tommy Docherty. Forest meanwhile, went from strength to strength under 'our' manager.
Clough took with him not only his methods and style, but also many of the old Derby team on and off the pitch. As well as Taylor and trainer Jimmy Gordon, there were John O'Hare, John McGovern, Archie Gemmill and later Colin Todd.
"The new Forest feels just like the old Derby" said the Daily Mirror. Derby fans could feel only bitterness as their rivals won the First Division title straight after coming up from the Second, while Docherty led the Rams into the abyss.
That championship was followed by even greater success, with Clough taking Forest much further in Europe than he had Derby, and winning the European Cup twice. The League Cup became for a while Forest's personal property and only the FA Cup eluded him.
During this period at the turn of the decade, a Derby side emptied of virtually all class, was sadly slipping into lower-division obscurity. Even the return of Peter Taylor, as manager in 1982 [which led to a tragic rift with Clough that had not been fixed by the time of Taylor’s death in 1990] only held up the decline for a while, and the Rams again sank as far down as Division Three.
This is the background to the most burning resentment, which festered through years of underachievement. Among Derby fans, there is an overwhelming sense of injustice, that Forest enjoyed undeserved success that should have been Derby's. Clough himself has often sympathized with that sentiment.
He has always regretted the way he and Taylor had left Derby. As Clough said;
"It's more than 20 years ago and I still regret the parting. Directors have short memories and, when there's success, start to imagine they could cream it... Had we stuck together, we would have taken on Liverpool, who were then at the top of the England game. And we'd have replaced them for ten years."
A typically bold statement from old Big 'Ed.
Clough has also often admitted that all of Forest's success left something of a hollow ring; that he never got quite the euphoric response he would have had if it had been Derby. Again, Clough's own words make the point very well:
“Even in the heyday at Forest, when we won the League, League Cups and two European Cups, the atmosphere was never like Derby.”
Forest supporters will deny this, but Derby fans have always known that this is absolutely true.
On a personal note, in those days I lived in South Normanton, a village just on the Derbyshire side of the border with Notts. Derby had always been the dominant team in the area, with some Mansfield and Chesterfield fans and a mere smattering of Forest types. Once Clough had won them the league in '78 though, what seemed like thousands of 'lifelong' Forest fans came crawling out of the darkness, like zombies in a George Romero film.
The antagonism became more and more intense as Forest's success grew and Derby's decline deepened. Forest supporters who could hardly believe their luck couldn't resist the opportunity to rub it in. This caused much friction, particularly in the string of small towns that straddled the county boundary, where the natural catchment areas of the two clubs met.
Many a Saturday evening was disfigured by a 'disagreement' between young men in pubs in South Normanton, Pinxton, Langley Mill, Heanor and Jacksdale over the relative merits of the two clubs. I remember trying desperately, and thankfully successfully, trying to prevent a kid from Ripley - far enough into Derbyshire to be condemned for supporting anyone but the Rams - from summary revenge because he followed Forest.
Perhaps in other areas, away from where the two clubs' natural constituencies converge, the rivalry is less intense. Steve Tickle, a Rams fan in Swadlincote - to the south of Derby and closer to the Leicestershire border than to Notts, tells me that in those parts, it is generally Leicester City who is the main enemy.
Where I now live, in North Derbyshire, Rams fans, though plentiful, are outnumbered by supporters of Chesterfield and the two Sheffield clubs. But for the majority of Derby fans, matches against Forest will always be the local derbies to be relished.
In recent years, both Derby and Forest have been beset by mediocrity on the field and financial problems off it. For a while in the late nineties, it seemed as though the Rams would again be in the ascendancy, while Forest went back to their rightful place in the middle of the Second [now the First] Division. Derby was again in the top ten of the top flight, looking to Europe.
Both sides are pale shadows of their former selves, the glory years for both seem a long way off now. But whenever Derby play Forest, there will be a build up of expectation, of arguments and banter in workplaces and pubs, on the streets and within families.
If the Rams should win the game, the next few days will be spent rejoicing, no matter where we happen to be in the league table; before reality sets in again and the rigors of trying to climb back to the top faced once again.
Tomorrow: Derby V Forest - The Rivalry Pt: 2 in which Paul Mortimer picks up the story for RamZone and takes the history lesson right up to the vital clash this Saturday!
From coffee cups to legally blind referees...
The brilliant article above was originally published over 10 years ago on RamZone, written by Duncan Harris. With Saturday's big game fast approaching, it seemed appropriate to dust off a classic and look back at what has made these clashes great.
A special thanks to former RamZone editor Arild Sand for digging up this article so we could give it the repeat appearances it fully deserves.