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Football Without the Margins: Return of Nottingham Forest

26 June 20 words: Gareth Watts

Even before the return of Nottingham Forest to active duty against Sheffield Wednesday this weekend, I’d had a realisation...

For me, it wasn’t necessarily being deprived of physically going into work, meeting friends or visiting family in the flesh that I’d missed most during lockdownAll of those things could be approximated remotely. No, what I’d realised was missing from my day were the in-between times: the one hour commute where I listened to podcasts and music; the tispy-skippy walk home from the pub in the dark; those few merciful minutes to  process the transition from one state of affairs to another that the unforgiving blankness of a finished Zoom call doesn’t afford. However great the online interaction, quiz, song or film – it was still just me, in the spare room – no ramp up or down, just empty teacups and home teaching to-do lists. 

And so as much as I was happy to welcome my beloved team back to hopefully complete their promotion push, I knew there’d be no ceremony to it. No wrapping a red scarf around my son as we head out together, holding hands in the scary-squeeze of a train carriage; the lary lager smells of away fans and tip-toeing around the edges of adulthood on the way to the ground.  

Daddy what is a Hooters anyway?” 

As Forest took to the pitch at 3.00pm on Saturday, I was cursing the faltering iFollow service and shoving cables from my laptop into my TV to try to catch the game on a screen. No ‘Mull of Kintyre’ or necking an overpriced pint, just the pale predictability of forgotten usernames and a throbbing loading wheel. Eventually I got in to find a near-empty Hillsborough and a rejuvinated Joe Lolley with matinee idol long hair. I had to keep reminding myself it wasn’t a pre-season friendly, and my pathetic pacing and cursing between the TV and the sofa made no sense when I wasn’t surrounded by thousands more Forest sisters and brothers. 

Then a looping Matty Cash clearance down the line found the sweet control of Lolley who marauded in from the right. A delicate finish as the ball nestled inside the far post. For split second all was forgotten. That adrenaline burst wasn’t fake or virtual – my team had scored and looked to be taking 3 points from South Yorkshire. Colin Fray’s familiar audio exuberance perfectly captured the mood. Joe Worrall was a warrior: protecting the fragile lead with an amazing goal-line clearance. This really could be our season. The premier league could be the light at the end of this weird tunnel. 

And so it was until the 93rd minute. Forest were knackered, the mighty Figuerido faltered and it was far too easy for Connor Wickham to head in an equaliser 

Back down to earth: a living room, a Saturday afternoon. Dinner to make and children’s toys to tidy.  

We’re still in the promotion race and an away point is never to be sniffed at. I might not like things this way, but boy will I be tuning-in again in the hope of another transcendent moment like that one Lolley gave usThere’d be no dash to catch the train home. Just a point in time where everything was good again.