With a two-time European champion, England’s oldest professional football team and an attractive Test cricket ground, Nottingham is something of a sporting mecca. It’s also a very pleasant city, worthy of a football weekend.
With his arms aloft and eyes glued to the middle distance towards Nottingham’s city hall, Brian
Clough’s legacy is set in bronze. His statue’s position in the centre of the city is way more prominent than Nottingham’s other famous iconoclast, Robin Hood, who draws his bow outside Nottingham Castle.
Clough and Hood are synonymous both with Nottingham and upsetting the status quo. It was Clough who took Nottingham Forest from its natural position in the second tier of English football to the very pinnacle of Europe. Not once, but twice.
Nottingham Forest’s City Ground hugs the banks of the River Trent, just across the water from the club’s nearest rival, Notts County, which – founded in 1862 – is the world’s oldest surviving professional football club.
Cross the road from the City Ground and you’ll find Trent Bridge, one of the most picturesque Test cricket grounds in England, if not the world. Nottingham truly is a sporting hotbed.
Nottingham Forest FC
Founded in 1865 out of a shinney (a hockey-like game) club, Forest was early to the emerging sport of football. Forest is proud of being ‘the original Reds’, members having elected at its founding meeting to wear ‘Garibaldi Red’ in honour of the hero of Italian unification (Risorgimento) in 1861, thus becoming the first team to wear red shirts. They also lent the team now known as Arsenal their red shirts.
Forest are also credited with being the first team to wear shin pads (1874), albeit outside their socks, and played in the first match where a referee used a whistle (1878 versus Sheffield Norfolk).
Forest’s history was largely one of underachievement – the odd FA Cup run aside – until the arrival of Brian Clough in 1975. With Peter Taylor as his assistant between 1976-81, the club won the Championship, two European Cups, two League Cups, and a World Club Championship.
For a mid-sized Midlands club, this truly was a phenomenal achievement. Forest are in the second tier (Championship) of English football but expect a full house and a cracking atmosphere.
How to get to City Ground, Nottingham Forest
The 30,576-capacity City Ground is around 1.5km south of Nottingham City centre. It is connected by bus routes but many fans simply walk in from the centre.
At the time of writing, tickets cost £26 for adults, £14 for children, and can be purchased online. For travel information visit here.
Notts County FC
Forest’s older neighbour, formed three years earlier in 1862, is also the oldest surviving football league club in England. Originally known as the “Notts Foot Ball Club” and playing in black and amber hoops, County pre-date the birth of the Football Association by a year. In 1888, the club was one of 12 founder members of the Football League. Forest’s application was rejected but it qualified a few years later.
Despite its early start, County has rarely featured in the top flight of English football – most recently it had shots in the top flight in the 1980s and 1991-92. County now lies in League Two, the fourth tier of English football.
How to get to Meadow Lane, Notts County
Meadow Lane is a little nearer to Nottingham city centre than the City Ground, so easily reached on foot. For travel information visit here.
What to see and do in Nottingham
Despite its fair share of ugly post-war town planning, Nottingham is actually a very green and attractive city. The shopping is excellent, don’t miss out on a trip to Nottingham Castle and, built into its cliffs, the wonderful Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub, reputed to be the oldest in England.