Joe Kinnear described it as just another game, one of a number of errors he made at the club that bought about his downfall, amongst not being good enough, it is always one of the ones that stick out, the straw that broke the camel’s back, a back that had been quivering for weeks anyway.
It’s also a fixture that a very young me remembers not for what happened in the game, but the rivalry off it. I was 6 maybe 7 and Dad used to take us on the Bridgford End terrace. Next to where the away fans were. My Dad wasn’t traditionally a Forest fan, more has absorbed love for the club from his sons he took regularly, he grew up in Essex as a Spurs fan, so maybe he didn’t quite realise the terrace next to the away fans wasn’t a great idea, but for me it was. It was a steep learning curve in footballing hatred and rivalry.
We were showered with coins, which my elder brother thought was amazing as he scooped up all the loose change, which, let’s be honest, in the mid late 80’s could buy you a lot of 10p mixes. There was scrapping in the street outside, this I remember. The game, I could look up the score and look all wise and worldly but to be honest that I don’t remember in the slightest.
One of my darkest days as a Forest fan came in this fixture. Away, in I believe 1999, may have been 1998. Relegation season anyway I think. I believe it was also our first visit to Pride Park. My Dad had scored free tickets, off a work colleague, but in the home end. I’d only ever done this before at Mansfield Town, where half the fans in the home end were probably Forest when I saw them in the League Cup, again on free tickets. Anyway I’ll sum up the feeling and why it was so bad by merely pointing out Derby scored a very late winner which the crowd went wild for. Thanks Horacio Carbonari. It was horrible having to be stood trying to look happy as your fellow fans stand dejected a short distance away, whilst surrounded by ecstatic Derby fans. Even worse when same fans separated by a fence hurl abuse, with me wanting to point out, No I’m one of you.
Couple that with mostly horrible defeats. The Cup defeat from a 2-0 winning position. The worst aspect is that at 2-2 my friend said he had a bad feeling about the Pukka Pies advertising hoarding next to the pitch in front of the Derby fans. I scoffed, it’s merely an advert. But lo and behold, when Derby scored the winner, and there was Kris Commons, much derided Kris Commons celebrating where? In front of the Pukka Pies advert. Poetic maybe for a chubster to be there. But not at the time.
I wasn’t at such events as the infamous Kenco Coffee cup moment, nor did I manage to get to the happy win we had there, our first win at Pride Park, when Earnshaw scored, Savage whinged and flounced and Moxey got sent off. I also missed the Tyson flag incident. But these events all live in the psyche of both sets of fans. It gets under the skin in a way that fixtures against anyone else don’t. I don’t recall trivialities about other fixtures in the same way, and I don’t regard myself as being vehemently anti Derby. I don’t hate for hates sake. I like to beat them, but the sheer vitriol and pure dislike you see in the eyes of some fans during the game is not an extreme of emotions I share.
That said last year, at around the same time, the last home defeat still hurts. This is a game that needs to be exorcised. The demons of that day live on. How much will we have to hear “we only had 10 men” or this week’s news that it’s not sold out yet (I anticipate by now it has) so Derby fans mock our attendance. This from a club who swell numbers with free tickets to students and children, and give away tickets with Mobile phones. That’s an irony right there.
But that day does need forgetting, and stamping a new identity. The a5-2 joke had lived quite long, but it was replaced by a new identity. Each derby game seems to have that. Something that identifies it. The Kenco game, The A5-2, the 10 men game, Tyson’s flag, it’s become almost a cult of what will happen next.
The strong connections have mostly faded, Tyson remains one, and the fear with him almost being a comedy figure in Forest fans eyes now that he might score. Or that they will use Kieron Freeman against us. It’s funny how they used that signing as a banner that they can still put one over us. Our third choice right back, really?
Derby’s sole ambition each season is to just to be, they don’t seem to have any delusions of threatening promotion, and neither do they seem to float to the bottom. A void of ambition other than to beat us. Seeing as us and Leicester have both dallied in the Third division, maybe it’s time they dropped there too. Just so they can all understand. We now have ambitions of Premier League with money to be spent. So in that regard we’re in danger of being their cup final. That they want to use our wealth against us and beat us, mock that our wealth can’t bring success against them. The fact is that wealth will hopefully take us away from and end this fixture. Derby won’t go up any time soon, we possibly might. The fixture list will be a lot worse place for this game not being there.
And I got all the way through without mentioning Brian Clough or Billy Davies......