In this part of the world, there is only one true derby game. Leicester think they’re part of the rivalry but in comparison to this fixture, they’re a distant relative. Growing up as a kid, I’ve been refused entry at a mates’ house by his Dad unless I took my Forest shirt off at the door. I’ve seen a makeshift flagpole with shirt attached; planted in a rivals front lawn following a famous win. I also recall a Rams head being chucked through a pub window one year but that had nothing to do with me.
So where does the hatred come from? It’s not called The Brian Clough Trophy without good reason. The best way I can think to summarise Derby’s hatred for Forest requires a bit of imagination.
Imagine; your club being led to major success, winning the league and getting to a Champions League semi. Imagine further; falling out with your greatest ever manager for him to reappear at your bitter rivals a few years later. Imagine worse; him going onto achieve unparalleled levels of success with them, winning back to back Champions Leagues and a whole host of other trophies.
Imagine messing that up? Imagine. It’s unimaginable right?
This is the fuel that the Forest vs Derby game is stacked on. Both clubs have tried to step out of each others shadow in the years since Brian retired but neither can pull away. It’s almost as if we’re chained together at the ankles. Derby in particular have tried to step out but they just can’t pull it off. Whilst Derby fans have constantly reminded us to ‘mind the gap‘ (points wise each season), we’re still in the same division. I’d be lying to say that Derby’s usual failure in the Play Offs hasn’t been a high point of our season. Seeing Richard Keogh and Derby fans crying on the telly all those years ago at Wembley still makes me smile. You love to see it.
Added to this, there’s a ‘circus‘ that has been back and forth along the Brian Clough Way over the years. It’s fair to say we’ve both had our equal share of turmoil in recent times. Poor ownership, a coach full of managers, unwanted off-the-field incidents; it feels like Chuckle Vision at times as we pass the shambles baton; ‘to me – to you’.
We’ve taunted Derby with the ‘worst team in history‘ song based on their dismal 11 points haul the last time they were in the Premier League. But given our relationship, I’d put a £1 on Forest being the team to break that record if we were to ever make it back to the promised land. We simply have that kind of relationship. Whilst we have the rivalry, I honestly don’t know how we’d go on without each other.
On the pitch, we’ve had some cracking encounters that have added to the off the field rivalry. Both teams have boasted a rogue’s gallery of villains that have been involved with both sides. Nigel Clough, Billy Davies, Kris Commons, Robert Earnshaw, Nathan Tyson and Jamie Ward to name a few.
Other players have really picked up the derby day script and given some big performances. Robbie Savage was a cracking Widow Twankey with his scarf waving antics at The City Ground a few years back.
And so it’s a massive shame that Richard Keogh, our latest pantomime villain, has seen the curtain close on him. Objectively, Keogh has been a huge part in Derby’s success over recent seasons and for 40 games, he would be rock solid. He’ll be a big miss for them on Saturday after being Derby’s unequivocal flag waver for many a season. We’ve had some good times with Richard and football aside, nobody’s perfect; I wish him well in his recovery.
Us Forest fans will continue to keep everything crossed that we can turn the tables this season and finish above the Rams. Our man Sabri Lamouchi looks a class act, I can’t believe he’s not been snapped up for a modelling job. You see, this is the difference between the two clubs; Derby have had Gary Rowett as their fashion icon with his rubbish trainers and we get a style guru who would probably look suave in overalls and a pair of wellies. Nottingham is where it’s at. With new stadium plans in place and an owner that values his fan base with affordable ticket pricing, it feels like we could well be on the up.
As the game draws nearer and with recent events down at Derby, you can probably imagine that the banter is rife without a ball being kicked. Subsequently, the spice factor has gone up a few notches and the atmosphere in The City Ground won’t be for the feint hearted. It’s tantamount to adding a handful of ghost chilies in your chicken Vindaloo.
Saturday becomes an opportunity to stem the flow if you’re a Derby fan. They’ve been on a half decent run since the events and a win against Forest turns their season right around. A win takes the pressure of Philip Cocu and with Wayne Rooney coming in January, all of a sudden those ‘events‘ will turn to distant memories. Derby will be praying that either Tom Lawrence or Mason Bennett– after letting the team and fans down – turn full circle from zero to heroes on Saturday afternoon. A wise man told me in the week that there will be a script written for those pair somewhere, I just hope that none of them reads it.
On a final note, it’s always obligatory that’s there’s a conversation with a close Derby fan friend of mine, both pre and post match about the game. The thought of the post match call sends a shudder down the spine but it has to be made; win, lose or draw. I remember the 5-0 mauling conversation at Prideless being horrendous to take. The laughter, the snide comments, grrrrr. It’s those type of experiences that puts hairs on your chest!
We live and die by the sword.These are the rules. Derby day: you simply cannot beat it.