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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 September, 2004, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Forest's unforgettable fairytale

By Jonathan Stevenson

How did we win it? We were very good, it's simple
Brian Clough

On 30 May, 1979, Nottingham Forest captain John McGovern held the European Cup aloft to complete one of the most remarkable fairytales in football history.

Just four years previously the Reds had finished 16th in the old Division Two, spared the embarassment of relegation only by the appointment of Brian Clough as manager.

By the time Forest beat Malmo 1-0 at Munich's Olympic Stadium they had already bagged promotion, the league championship for the first - and only - time in their history and two League Cup trophies.

So how did the master manager turn a sleepy, small-time club into a side feared by Europe's finest? BBC Sport looks back on a golden time in English football history.


Clough was appointed manager in January 1975 and quickly realised - despite Forest's lowly league placing - there were already quality players at the City Ground.

Former Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Peter Shilton
Shilton was the rock upon which the Forest defence was founded

John Robertson, Viv Anderson and Martin O'Neill were all in residence, and Clough soon swelled his squad by snapping up John O'Hare and McGovern who had played under him at Derby and Leeds.

The addition of Larry Lloyd from Liverpool and Kenny Burns from Birmingham to play as a centre-half pairing was a stroke of genius, especially as they had both been languishing in the reserves at their previous clubs.

With promotion secured in 1977, Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor gambled 270,000 on Peter Shilton even though they already had England Under-21 stopper John Middleton.

Taylor reasoned: "Shilton wins you matches." He was right, as Forest conceded just 24 goals in 42 games on their way to the league title in 1977/78.

The final two pieces in the jigsaw were Long Eaton-born carpet-fitter Garry Birtles and Britain's first ever 1m footballer Trevor Francis. With them in place, Forest were ready to take on the continent.


Clough will go down in history as surely the greatest English boss never to manage his country. His success with Derby and Forest can perhaps best be highlighted by the struggles both clubs have encountered since his departure.

Brian Clough (left) and his assistant Peter Taylor
Clough (left) and Taylor had a remarkable relationship

But to talk about Clough is only one half of the story. His partnership with Taylor was fundamental to the running of the club and without Taylor by his side, Clough's rein at Forest never threatened reaching the same dizzy heights.

Where Clough was brash and ruthless with his players, telling Francis to take his hands out of his pockets as he introduced the first 1m player to the press, Taylor would indulge them, get to know them, find out what made them tick.

He was the brains to back up Clough's brawn, his incessant scouting of new talent and sharp tactical acumen crucial in giving Clough the platform to do what he did best - inspiring players to play at the peak of their powers through a cocktail of fear and loyalty.

Clough always said Taylor never got the credit he deserved for Forest's success, but Taylor shied away from the limelight and let his gaffer do the talking. It was a match made in heaven.

They parted when Taylor retired from football in 1982, but the lure of the Derby job proved too much for him to resist a year later and he signed Robertson in 1983 while Clough was on holiday.

Clough never forgave him and the two never spoke again. Taylor died in 1990 and Clough admitted it was his biggest regret that they were not speaking at the time of his death.


Having won the league in their first season back in Division One, Forest set their sights on the European Cup. But they were rocked by their first round draw, which paired them against holders and odds-on favourites Liverpool.

Trevor Francis heads home John Robertson's cross to win the cup
Trevor Francis heads home John Robertson's cross to win the cup

Forest were not given a chance, but first leg goals from Colin Barrett and Birtles gave them a 2-0 advantage to take to Liverpool, and Clough put each player on a 3,000 bonus to finish the job off at Anfield.

A brave 0-0 draw secured with some stunning saves from Shilton saw Forest through, followed up by a 7-2 aggregate win over AEK Athens that sent them into the last eight.

Another comfortable win, 5-2 over Grasshoppers of Zurich, put Forest into the semi-finals to face German champions Cologne, where a 3-3 first leg draw in Nottingham did not lend cause to optimism ahead of a daunting tie in Germany.

But Forest produced one of their finest performances under Clough, a backs-to-the-wall rearguard action once more inspired by the awesome Shilton, and an Ian Bowyer goal booked their place in the final.

Clough had some tough decisions to make ahead of the game with Malmo, and stunned many by dropping Martin O'Neill and Archie Gemmill - Francis coming in to make his first European appearance for the club.

A dour match burst into life moments before the break as Robertson raced past two defenders and crossed to the far post for Francis to head home the winner.

The last word, as ever, should be reserved for Clough: "It wasn't a great game but they were a boring team, Malmo. In fact the Swedes are quite a boring nation. But we still won, so who cares?"

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