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40 years later, the scale of the European Cup victory by Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest is hard to match

The night ended with part of the team playing Connect 4 at a secluded hotel and others heading for the bright lights in a folded-out Spanish sedan, but one characteristic unified everyone who played a winning role.

The Nottingham Forest players were indestructible on the warm Madrid night, 40 years ago this month, when they held the European Cup.

The players ran relentlessly against the firm favorites of Hamburg, so relentlessly that match winner John Robertson remembers that they could barely greet their arms in greeting to their supporters when it was all over.

Nottingham Forest players celebrate in 1980 after winning consecutive European Cups

Nottingham Forest players celebrate in 1980 after winning consecutive European Cups

Perhaps under the circumstances it was a grace that the trophies ceremony was so approachable. It was performed on the field, while Captain John McGovern was barely visible after lifting the huge cup up.

It meant that there would never be iconic images similar to Emlyn Hughes holding the trophy high in Rome in 1977, or Phil Thompson, Paris, 1981, saved for posterity.

You know something very remarkable happened when Graeme Souness, an integral part of a Liverpool party who never had a bit of affection for Forest, acknowledges that their back-to-back European Cups in 1979 and 1980 ‘might be the greatest achievement ever ‘in British were American football.

“Given where they would come from, in the lower divisions, I wouldn’t argue with that,” Souness said a few years ago.

Brian Clough’s side had been promoted from the Second Division to the top division just three years earlier, behind Wolves and Chelsea.

In 1978 they were English champions. A first European Cup followed a year later. They remain the only party that has won the most valuable trophy in Europe several times than a domestic title. All that from a club with a 1980s urban population of just over 600,000.

John Robertson scores the winning goal against Hamburg while Kevin Keegan (L) watches

John Robertson scores the winning goal against Hamburg while Kevin Keegan (L) watches

John Robertson scores the winning goal against Hamburg while Kevin Keegan (L) watches

Clough’s players were always on a tightrope, not sure where his eccentric whims would take them. But for McGovern, Clough was the supreme psychologist, “the master to keep you interested and ready for the next game.”

For that 1980 final, preparation included a week at Clough’s favorite resort in Cala Millor, Mallorca, with the threat of fines for anyone violating his prohibition on training of any kind to save energy for the final.

McGovern tried to “sneak out and find a workout somewhere … I found a beach but running on soft sand wasn’t great.”

Striker Garry Birtles recalls, “Some questions were asked about the preparations, but Cloughie simply said,” You train when I tell you to train. ” ‘

Clough insisted meeting only at 11am every day. A meeting took place in a run-down pub restaurant called “The Shack”. McGovern remembers it as “an isolated place where our conversations could grow into an open debate, without anyone eavesdropping.”

But that was as serious as it got. In fact, Clough overlooked the messy consequences of Robertson’s first meeting with Tia Maria at an English island pub, The Manchester Arms, where he and Frank Gray broke the appointment rules to see how Scotland played England at Hampden Park.

Brian Clough (R) and assistant Peter Taylor watch the action from the Bernabeu dugout

Brian Clough (R) and assistant Peter Taylor watch the action from the Bernabeu dugout

Brian Clough (R) and assistant Peter Taylor watch the action from the Bernabeu dugout

Ian Bowyer, another Forest mainstay of Clough’s, describes the pre-final break as follows: “We swam, walked along the beach, had a few beers at night, and broke up the mickey. We were not complacent. But we were calm. Nobody talked about the game. ‘

However, there were concerns. Trevor Francis, whose goal against Malmö in Munich had captured the 1979 European Cup for Forest, broke a cartilage during a match against Crystal Palace 25 days before the final.

He told local TV reporters that he had decided not to travel to Madrid during his recovery. But Clough had excluded him from the trip, given the presence of an injured player who was bad for morale.

Francis’ absence weighed the fans heavily for the final. “We didn’t expect to win in Madrid,” said Adrian McGreevy, a lifelong supporter.

Forest’s accommodation was a hotel far outside of Madrid in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains.

“It was like a retreat from Addams Family, a Hammer House of Horror,” says Birtles. ‘Dark. Extinct. The family who ran it lived elsewhere. There was a pool but small with green algae. ‘

Nottingham Forest defender Larry Lloyd remains steadfast in the first half of the 1980 final

Nottingham Forest defender Larry Lloyd remains steadfast in the first half of the 1980 final

Nottingham Forest defender Larry Lloyd remains steadfast in the first half of the 1980 final

Clough and Taylor were consumed with fear of player fatigue. The final of the cup winners cup 14 days earlier, in which an exhausted Arsenal did not show the best of itself and lost after penalties against Valencia, was in their minds. Pre-season included, the final would be Forest’s 79th game of the campaign.

Bowyer remembers the last training session on the eve of the game, a five-on-five match on a ‘small, small, grassless training ground’ near the hotel.

“Cloughie insisted on playing herself and after a few minutes the heavens opened and it all got a little hot,” says Bowyer. “I caught him in a tackle and took him off the floor and that was it, the session was over.”

Peter Shilton was stunned that he had not done any handling and no diving exercise. The only grass nearby was on a traffic island, so he worked there. The English No1 had drawn a calf muscle not long before and, as he told in his autobiography, The Magnificent Obsession, he shared his concerns with Peter Taylor.

“I will have to handle the ball. I have to feel it every day, ”he told Clough’s assistant.

For example, Jim Montgomery, the experienced reserve keeper, was told that he had to be ready for a possible appearance.

Martin O'Neill comes forward as Forest tries to break the back line of Hamburg

Martin O'Neill comes forward as Forest tries to break the back line of Hamburg

Martin O’Neill comes forward as Forest tries to break the back line of Hamburg

An analgesic injection that caused Shilton to play was given just before kick-off. Forest was against it, and Taylor always remembered the silence on the bus driving into town.

There hadn’t been a big team discussion. Taylor, who had watched the opponents twice, told the players that they had not impressed him much.

He checked Horst Hrubesch, their 6ft 2in top scorer, who would only be semi-fit on the bench, and Kevin Keegan, in his last game for Hamburg before moving to Southampton. “Keegan always gets tired towards the end of a season,” Taylor said.

Goalkeeper Rudi Kargus was “vulnerable,” he added. Roving Right Back Manny Kaltz ‘Doesn’t Look Good When Attacked’. Gary Newbon remembers McGovern mentioned Kaltz when he interviewed the Forest and Clough captain together pre-match. At that point, Clough stepped in to say, “We have a little fat guy who will turn him inside out.” “John Robertson?” Newbon asked intuitively. Clough replied, “Very talented, very competent, incredibly left outside. He will turn it over [Kaltz] inside out.’

Future Forest boss O'Neill (R) lifts the famous teammate trophy after a historic win

Future Forest boss O'Neill (R) lifts the famous teammate trophy after a historic win

Future Forest boss O’Neill (R) lifts the famous teammate trophy after a historic win

At the stadium were supporters of Forest Gary Bowyer, the eight-year-old son of the Forest midfielder who was deemed too young to attend the 1979 final. He traveled with his maternal grandmother.

“We were in a hotel that was usually full of Hamburg fans, who told me Hamburg would win.” But Clough had done his usual motivational work, with specific instructions not to talk to Keegan in the tunnel. Ian Bowyer recalls, “He told us,” Has nothing to do with him. He’s not your partner. If you ignore him, he will be tense. ”

The exceptions to this rule were central defenders Larry Lloyd and Kenny Burns, who were ordered by Clough to intimidate Keegan.

Birtles looked at Burns, chewing gum, cutting out his teeth for Keegan and making a grotesque chew gesture. “As if to say,” I’m going to chew you on it. “

Lloyd, who had played with Keegan in Liverpool, said, as Birtles remembers, “Because of our friendship and my respect for you Kevin, you should know that Kenny will cut you in two.”

Goalkeeper Peter Shilton made three great saves to keep his clean sheet

Goalkeeper Peter Shilton made three great saves to keep his clean sheet

Goalkeeper Peter Shilton made three great saves to keep his clean sheet

The sun set behind the stadium when the final kicked off on the night of May 28. Forest, all in the red, had planned a 4-4-2, but quickly changed to five in the middle, a sign that they were against it.

Commentator Peter Jones noted that Robertson’s assumption of possession on the left after 20 minutes was the first time he was seen ‘in an offensive sense’. Hamburg already dominated the game. Still, Robertson shot to the right, squiggling past Kaltz, grabbing a one-two with Birtles, then firing a low shot to put Forest ahead.

Hamburg striker Willi Reimann had the ball in the net within 30 seconds of the restart, although Keegan was marginally offside and rejected. A minute later, Burns made good on his pre-game promise by defeating Keegan from behind to earn a yellow card.

McGovern was within earshot and heard Burns say, “You’re bouncing very well, Kev. Nice permanent too. It was a reference to the haircut with which Keegan left Liverpool.

Iconic manager Brian Clough celebrates after winning the tournament a second time

Iconic manager Brian Clough celebrates after winning the tournament a second time

Iconic manager Brian Clough celebrates after winning the tournament a second time

Robertson’s goal was the beginning and end of Forest’s creative contribution to the competition. Hamburg threw everything in their strive to equalize, but Hrubesch looked unsuitable and the attacking threat came largely from the defenders’ shots.

Shilton made three first-rate saves, although it was half-volley from Jurgen Milewski before half-time that he said he was most proud of. “I had a clear view of the others, but after Kevin [Keegan] head down, was a little late. “

In the stands, Gary Bowyer and his grandmother just stared at the stadium clock. “Non-stop, I want it to be finished,” says Bowyer Jnr.

Bowyer Snr says, “Once we got to the front, we held on, it’s our discipline that has helped us to the end. That is my lasting memory: our discipline. ‘

The match was 78 minutes old before Forest got a second chance, but Birtles was exhausted after a long run-up and when he ran Kargus around he was expropriated. “My job was to run over their back line over and over again,” he says. “I was on my feet towards the end. I had played soccer so much that I had blood blisters on my feet. ‘

But the white shirt side just couldn’t break through, as Keegan kicked out at Birtles in anger towards the end. McGovern took the trophy, but missed the champagne in the locker room because Clough wanted it at the press conference.

Garry Birtles (R), pictured in the 1979 final against Malmö, earned £ 200 a week at Forest

Garry Birtles (R), pictured in the 1979 final against Malmö, earned £ 200 a week at Forest

Garry Birtles (R), pictured in the 1979 final against Malmö, earned £ 200 a week at Forest

That Clough-Taylor’s desire for seclusion in the buildup also dominated the aftermath. The pair insisted that the squad all return to the mountains, even though their families were all in Madrid. Robertson protested the most, stating twice that this was “ridiculous” and, despite being the match winner, he deserved Clough’s reproof that he had “looked out all night”.

Cake was put in the hotel, but the owner’s son went back to town and, as Robertson remembers, had Lloyd, Burns and three others pack up in his ‘little car’ and stack the Lloyd family in the hotel room had booked. Estimates vary on the hour of the apostate’s return to the hills. Birtles sets it at 5 a.m., Robertson around 7 a.m., but certainly no later, since Taylor was an early riser.

They joined the players who had stayed in what had been one of Connect 4’s more alcohol-fueled games. “Peter said,” Have you played Connect 4 all night? “Birtles said. “We all just said yes and the boys got away with it, even though it was clear they had been destroyed.”

Taylor’s autobiography suggests that he was no wiser. The victory made the Forest players a little richer, but not much. Adidas had offered players £ 500 each to wear their boots, with the understanding that eight players did and Forest won the match. “The club has also given us £ 5,000 to win it,” said McGovern.

But the memories are, of course, indelible and priceless. Birtles, who joined Forest from non-league Long Eaton United in 1976, made £ 200 a week, or £ 10,400 a year when he ran away from Madrid.

“I was probably the lowest paid member of the squad because of where I would be from,” he says. “But I found myself very happy. Before I started playing for Forest, I had laid floors for £ 12 a week. “

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