Know your enemy: Forest's rivals compare notes
I doubt you’d find a single Forest fan who’d argue that a win against Leicester City is more important than one against Derby County. After all, the A52 derby – ‘El Cloughico’ as it’s become known – has a rich and great history, with both Brian and Nigel Clough attaining legendary status with the two clubs, along with a host of other players who have swapped the Ram for the Tree, and vice versa.
Barring the creation of the world’s most unholy of unions between Forest and Derby (think Satan adopting Jesus or Alex Ferguson befriending a referee), it would seem that Leicester City are destined to remain the unworthy pretender and a perpetual outsider when it comes to the East Midlands’ most anticipated fixture. However, that’s not to say that the Forest-Leicester rivalry doesn’t have its own particular, passionate history…
This season in particular has been one to remember for the two teams. Going back to those carefree pre-season days, fans of both clubs had reason to be optimistic; Leicester were doing their best Man City impersonation by splurging £15 million on new players, Forest had added some Premiership quality to their ranks, and with two failed England managers in their respective dugouts, what could possibly go wrong?
As we now know it turned out, just about everything went wrong for the Reds. Schteve McClaren resigned after only 112 days, leaving behind a demoralized team in the bottom four (as well as any hopes he had of shaking the nickname ‘Schteve’, which I’ve previously discussed, any time soon). Less than a month later, Sven Goran Eriksson was sacked, the Foxes failing to compete with the Championship’s early pace-setters, and so it was that Svennis and Schteve had managed to dash the cherished pre-season expectations of both Leicester and Forest fans before Bonfire Night was upon us.
By the time the season’s fourth meeting with Leicester came about the other week, Forest had already played out a 2-2 league draw and suffered a 4-0 drubbing in an FA cup replay that marked one of the lowest points of an already disastrous season, so I think it's safe to say that the Reds had redemption on the mind. What added an extra dimension to the game was the inclusion of former Forest stalwart Wes Morgan, sold in January to pave the way for the arrival of a few loan signings. Few Forest fans can really begrudge him his big money move across the East Midlands given that he would have left for nothing at the end of the season. All I’ll say is blue doesn’t suit you, Wes.
The sun setting over the KP stadium, and Leicester's promotion hopes
Throughout the 90 minutes Forest proved themselves to be an infinitely more organised and solid team than the one that lost at the KP Stadium two months earlier. Leicester may have seen more of the ball but they failed to take their chances, and it was in fact Forest who came the closest when Adlene Guedioura hit the crossbar in the last quarter of an hour, but a 0-0 stalemate was probably the fairest result given the lack of clear-cut opportunities for both teams.
However, perhaps the most telling statistic from the game was the fact that only 1,348 Reds made the 23-mile trip to their local rivals. When compared to the 8,000-strong occupying force that Leicester took to the City Ground in January, this figure is perhaps the clearest sign of the indifference felt by many Forest fans towards the Foxes.
Anyway, despite the relatively uneventful nature of the latest Forest-Leicester clash, there have in fact been some pretty memorable games down the years. Back in 2007 Leicester defender Clive Clarke suffered a heart attack in a League Cup tie at the City Ground and the game was called off with Forest leading 1-0. However, in an incredible showing of sportsmanship, Leicester allowed Forest keeper Paul Smith to restore their lead straight from kick-off in the rearranged game, which ultimately ended in a 3-2 victory for the Foxes but it will always be remembered for a gesture that led to what is the fastest ever League Cup goal in history (thanks, Wikipedia).
The mother of all thrashings occurred back in 1909 when the forerunners to Leicester City (the unfortunately titled ‘Leicester Fosse’) were demolished by Forest 12-0, a result that remains Forest’s biggest ever league win. After an FA enquiry it turned out that a number of the Leicester team were horrendously hungover from a friend’s wedding celebrations the night before – although to be fair this was back in the days when people only got married the once, so it definitely merited an epic piss-up.
LCFC supporter does some pre-match shopping in the Broadmarsh
And of course there have been a number of players who’ve represented both teams in their careers. The likes of Stan Collymore and Scott Gemmill were unable to resist the tractor beam-like draw of the East Midlands and joined Leicester a few years after leaving Forest. However, they failed to replicate the kind of form that made them such firm favourites beside the Trent. On the flip side, 2007 saw former Leicester captain Neil Lennon arrive at the City Ground hoping to lead Forest out of League One, but instead ended up losing his place in the squad and left on a free transfer to Wycombe Wanderers the following January.
There are a few players that have managed to have success in both the blue and the red: Peter Shilton racked up over 200 appearances during spells between the sticks for both clubs, and Garry Parker won two League Cups playing for Forest, one more with Leicester. But probably the man most equally beloved by the citizens of Leicester and Nottingham is former Reds midfielder and jack-in-the-box Foxes boss, Martin O’Neill. The Ulsterman won a host of trophies with both teams in his time but, rather than reel off his impressive list of honours, it’s perhaps easier to quote another footballing legend: “Anybody who can do anything in Leicester but make a jumper has got to be a genius” (Brian Clough). Exactly.
Come May, it’s certain that both Forest and Leicester will be looking to consign this season firmly to the past, but while the Foxes may take comfort in their hefty financial backing and one of the league’s most envied squads, one thing they will never have is the fierce, undivided attention of their footballing neighbours from up the M1. As ever, the travelling Forest fans summed it up best the other Tuesday night, as they gleefully reminded the King Power stadium: Der-by, we only hate Derby…