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TRCH David Suchet

Why Nottingham's Football Rivalry Is Rubbish

1 December 08 words: Al Needham
illustrations: Rob White

"Nottingham’s football rivalry is probably the weakest in the country, which is pretty strange when you consider it's also the oldest"

Fact: when it comes to football, Nottingham’s two-team rivalry is by far the weakest in the country, which is pretty strange when you consider we have the oldest local derby in the world. Please don’t jump down me throat, rabid Magpies and Reds, because when you consider the facts I‘m about to lay out, you won’t only agree with me, but you’ll be jumping in the Square in celebration. It’s not that our teams are crap. It’s because our city is that damn good.

It can’t be denied that success-wise, and barring a golden period for both clubs from the late seventies to the early nineties, both Forest and Notts have spent most of their lives punching below their weight. But there are far more important reasons why our rivalry lacks the bite of other cities...


Most clubs formed in the Victorian era sprang directly out of religious sports clubs and schools, meaning that if one started up in a city for one creed, another would invariably come into being to cater for the other lot. So, a multi-team city would end up having a Catholic club (Man United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Hibernian, Celtic) and a Protestant club (Man City, Chelsea, Everton, Hearts, Rangers), meaning that an entire family tree would stick to one club – and, in the case of Glasgow, can still be the cause of some serious needle. Although Forest were formed as an off-shoot of an Irish shinty club, no Notts fan has ever referred to them as ‘The Pope’s XI’. We’re right heathens in this town.

Catchment Area

In places like Birmingham, Bristol and Sheffield, the local clubs are a fair distance from each other, meaning they have full reign over their outlying areas. But Forest and Notts have been virtual next door neighbours for years, in a city that isn’t that big. The only real catchment areas either club has ever had have been Bridgford for Forest in the sixties and seventies, and The Meadows for Notts up until the same time (renowned local journalist David McVay pinpoints the rebuilding of the Meadows and the scattering of its fanbase as a killer blow for the club’s fortunes).


Both clubs have yo-yoed all over the shop for nearly 150 years, meaning that crucial, history-making games have been few and far between. No club has ever prevented the other from winning silverware – the last time they met in the FA Cup was in 1894, and they’ve only met once in the League Cup.

Football Hotbediness

This is a factor that I’ve made up, but it’s a vital one. Yes, you hear that Nottingham football is less intense than it is in Newcastle, Liverpool or even Derby, but if you ask me, ‘Football Hotbed’ is shorthand for ‘there’s arse all else to do here on a Saturday afternoon’.

So what makes a Forest fan a Forest fan, and so on? Well, here’s the great thing about Nottingham; there’s no one reason. Some people will support a club because their Dad does, while some will support a club because their Dad doesn’t. Some went for Forest when they were beating everyone in sight (or because they used to), while others go for Caanteh because they like the underdog. Most of us, on the other hand, were dragged to a game and thought to ourselves “Yeah, I like this team – I’m one o’ them now”. Being given the freedom to pick your local team regardless of religion or history is a beautiful thing, people; let us never forget that.

(Oh, and a quick word about people from Notts who support one of the Big Four: Scum.)


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