In his excellent book Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari explains that with the discovery of fire, humans leapt from mid-table in the natural food chain to top of the league, seemingly overnight. And although the physical benefits of this were obvious in terms of our diet and ability to tame the natural world, psychologically humans had evolved to fear predators and therefore subsequently struggled (and indeed, may still be struggling) to adapt to a life which no longer involved checking over our shoulders every five minutes for a peckish lion. Deep in our nature is a fear of the unknown and a natural predilection to suspect you could get eaten at any moment.
Such is the evolution of life as a Nottingham Forest fan over the past year. Through a generous investment in the squad and the appointment of a sensible, pragmatic manager, the ‘fire’ the team has discovered includes the Championship’s top goal scorer (Lewis Grabban), two top class creative talents (Joe Lolley and Joao Carvalho), a small army of defensive midfield bruisers and the tightest defence in the league - goalkeeper Costel Pantillimon has already kept ten clean sheets this season (18 since joining the club earlier in the calendar year – the joint highest in all four divisions). So the supporters are all happy with this footballing evolution, right?
Well, no. Quite happy. Some of us. Maybe. We think.
Take some fans’ attitude to Pantillimon: whatever his impeccable statistics may show, whenever the ball is passed back to him the City Ground takes a collective sharp intake of breath. The stadium hums with moans about his poor distribution or his lack of decisiveness from crosses. The #NFFC social media timelines buzz with complaints. Is it that we’re not yet psychologically equipped to believe that he’s objectively a pretty good goalkeeper and we’re actually having a decent season? Or, in Brexit Britain, are we now unwilling to believe any empirical data, preferring instead to base judgements on what we feel to be true? Is this giant Romanian (a word suspiciously close to ‘Remainian’) a 6ft 8in lightning rod for our ingrained fears and prejudices?
Thanks to sensible ticket pricing, Forest’s home ground is either full or almost full every match, and yet there’s an unease, a peculiar sense of dread – we’re half expecting things to go wrong, but even if they go right we’re not yet able to fully let ourselves go. Unlike this edginess at home, Forest’s away support this year has been loud, witty and unreserved in its backing of the team and is fast gaining a reputation for being among the best travelling fans in the division. It’s the away support that loudly sings Pantillimon’s name because they recognise him as someone helping to dig out a result on a cold night in Bolton or Hull – expectations are lower when you’re away from home, so the joy in battling for a point (or snatching all three) is that much more satisfying. The hope is that the joy and exuberance of this hardcore of away supporters can become infectious and improve the atmosphere Trentside too.
Since my last piece, Forest have had a whale of a time on the road, emphatically beating Hull 2-0, playing their part in one of the greatest games of the decade in the 5-5 thriller at the Villa (OK, so perhaps the Pantillimon naysayers had a point that night) and, most recently, putting in a commanding performance at Pride Park to earn a valuable point, and another clean sheet, against bitter rivals Derby. You probably don’t need me to tell you where the Forest fans noisily suggested the home crowd could stick their Xeroxed corporate white flags. Compare the thrills and spills of these away matches to the tepid performance in a defeat at home to Preston or the goalless battle against Stoke and you can’t help but suspect that the players prefer the freedom of life on the road too. Could it really be us, the ‘home’ Forest fans, that could be the decisive factor this season? Can we, loudly and unashamedly roar them on to promotion?
We can. Of course we can. My reasons for optimism are based on the groundswell of good work that’s been going on behind the scenes from supporters in Nottingham already this year: the Forza Garibaldi group organising fan murals and pre-match booze-ups on land and water; the forward momentum of the LGBT Trickies group giving a voice and a space (and some fetching rainbow laces) to those who previously might have felt less than welcome at the ground; the hugely successful food bank collections held at the Trent Navigator pub before matches.
We can be proud of all of these things as a modern, forward-thinking football club and be proud of our team too. Let’s not fear the worst – we’ve got to play Norwich, Leeds and Chelsea over the Christmas period – we’ve definitely discovered fire this year, isn’t now the best time to use it?
This month Nottingham Forest announced the launch of Dream Big, a campaign that aims to encourage Notts kids to achieve their full potential. Created by Owner Evangelos Marinakis, the initiative will reach out to 200 schools across Nottinghamshire, helping to address the region’s historically low literacy levels.
England’s World Cup opener against Scotland kicks off at 5pm today and promises to be quite the showdown; but did you know that, not one, but two of the Lionesses hail from Notts? We find out more about Mary Earps and Jade Moore.
Week one in Notts was the place in which the Cricket World Cup shot into life, provided unexpected disappointments and the reigning world champions, Australia, paid us a visit.
Following on from last year's success, the Accenture World Triathlon returns to Nottingham Saturday June 15th. On a choppy winters day a few months back, we caught up with participant and double Olympic swimming champion, Rebecca Adlington and Commonwealth Champion Triathlete, Jodie Stimpson, to get the low-down on this iconic event.
You can’t miss the giant cricketer in the Old Market Square this week, apparently flattened by the Council House before he could bowl the ball he clutches. The Fan Zone in the Square promises more street sport than has been seen since the early days of the City of Football and more fun since the Winter Wonderland’s ice rink melted away.
A student studying a supported learning course at Nottingham College is succeeding against the odds, as she competes for the title of World Champion in the Special Needs Taekwon-Do Games in New Zealand later this year.
With two of the biggest franchises in MLB history, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, going head to head in the UK this summer, we've enlisted super fan Matt Pumfrey to keep you up to date on all things Notts Baseball.
Wrestle Gate Pro (WGP) is an up-and-coming Notts based promotion, fast gaining a reputation for professional set-ups and major signings. Lions Spirit at Rushcliffe arena helped to cement this, bringing the hard hits, electric atmosphere and a huge surprise main event that could headline any Vegas show!
With Notts County having spent the majority of the season struggling to avoid relegation to the non-league, it’s easy to forget that things haven’t always been doom and gloom for the Meadow Lane club. In fact, this month marks 125 years since the world’s oldest professional football club won the FA Cup. Despite being one of the greatest moments in the Magpie’s history, it’s a story that ended in tragedy for Jimmy Logan, the striker who scored a hat trick that day…
Meet Visage - Nottingham’s Wrestlin’ Bitch Face. Another House of Pain alumnus building momentum on the UK’s grappling scene Visage is a flamboyant and instantly recognisable character. He’s also proper nails - mock his collection of amazing wigs and he’ll slap the taste out of your mouth. Visage’s blend of humour, innuendo and merciless bludgeoning is an unusual in-ring fusion invoking classic performers like Gorgeous George and Cassandro. We cornered Visage for a chat in a pleasingly kitsch tiki-bar.
It’s been the best part of two decades since I last played Championship Manager (or Football Manager as it’s now known) but recent events at Nottingham Forest have rekindled boyhood memories of the classic management simulation computer game.
Finally…the wrestling has come back to Rushcliffe! Champions from across the globe are heading to Notts on 26 January to entertain fans and beat seven shades of subtext out of each other. Bringing a harder, edgier style influenced by Japanese wrestling and MMA and with at least one legitimate dream match on the card, it’s something new for the city. SOHN talks to Gary Ward, promoter and owner of Wrestle Gate Pro.
After a disappointing run of results in October, November was a better month for the Nottingham Panthers.
Stixx is Nottingham’s very own HHH; a technician, brawler, trainer and promoter. He has contributed massively to Nottingham wrestling’s ongoing rejuvenation and has fought and trained some of the best in the world. Whilst Stixx benevolently left mainstream recognition to his protégés, to those in the know, there can be no doubt he is he is one of the linchpins of wrestling in the midlands. Sitting in the post-show wreckage after another bruising bout, LeftLion hangs out under the tree of woe with Notts’ most garrulous gigantic grappler.
Nottingham Hellfire Harlots are gearing up to host what promises to be a spectacular weekend of WFTDA European roller derby action! The 2018 Track Attack tournament will see teams from Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands face off against our very own Nottingham Hellfire Harlots A team.
Nottingham is one of the original homes of UK skateboarding with a large skate community that helps feed the city’s art, music and fashion scenes with a DIY sensibility. Skate Nottingham are a not-for-profit community organisation dedicated to changing perceptions of skateboarding and raising its profile as a positive, healthy culture and community that can help the city we love become more active and inclusive.
As a Forest fan, I needed my faith in football (and, without wanting to be too dramatic, humanity) restored this weekend, after a summer that promised so much yet has delivered precious little. If I’m not mistaken, it’s hardly been a barrel of laughs for our sisters and brothers across the Trent either.