Sunday, 30 March 2014

Five Favourite Wins Against - Tottenham at Anfield

Continuing the series where I look back at my five favourite wins the Liverpool’s next opponents.  This weekend Liverpool play against Tottenham at Anfield.  Here are my five favourite wins from past encounters, with some of them packed full of goals.

2nd September 1978
LIVERPOOL   (3)   7   (Dalglish 8, 20, R.Kennedy 28, Johnson 48, 58, Neal pen 64, McDermott 76)
TOTTENHAM   (0)   0

LIVERPOOL: Clemence; Neal, Thompson, Hughes (Johnson), A.Kennedy; Case, McDermott, Souness, R.Kennedy; Dalglish, Heighway

TOTTENHAM: Daines; McAllister, Perryman, Lacy, Naylor; Ardiles, Hoddle, Villa, McNab; Duncan, Taylor

After winning back-to-back League titles in 1976 and 1977, Liverpool lost out to Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in 1978.  They returned for the new season in determined mood, having won all three of their opening matches, 2-1, 3-0 & 4-1.  Today they were to go more than one better.

Tottenham had just returned to the Division One having spent a season in Division Two and had shocked the football world by signing two players from Argentina’s victorious World Cup winning squad.  Ossie Ardiles and Ricardo Villa had inspired Spurs to claim a 1-1 draw at defending Champions, Forest, on the opening day.  They were then brought down to earth by Aston Villa winning 4-1 at White Hart Lane.  But today, Spurs discovered what it was really like playing at the top level as they attempted to do something no Spurs side had done since 1912 – win at Anfield.

Kenny Dalglish, who’d scored in every game so far this season, got the home side off and running after just 8 minutes.  Jimmy Case had mishit his shot and it fell to Dalglish on the penalty spot with his back to goal.  With a turn, which was to become a trademark of the man, he lost his marker, Lacy, and fired a left-foot shot past Daines.  After 20 minutes, Dalglish doubled his, and his sides, tally.  Heighway set McDermott away on the right, and his cross was poorly dealt with by the visitors allowing Dalglish to find Ray Kennedy at the far post.  His shot was stopped by Perryman almost on the line and bounced out to Souness to played it back for Case to drive it from just outside the area.  Once again, Case misdirected his shot but Dalglish was able to turn it in.  Then just before half-time the lead was three.  McDermott, wide on the right, hit a long cross to the far post where Ray Kennedy got up to head in the third.  The visitors went in completely shell-shocked, but worse was to come for them.

In the second half Liverpool completely took their opponents apart and it only took three minutes for them to add to their lead.  David Johnson had come on as a first half substitute for Emlyn Hughes and the change in formation was to their advantage.  McDermott was again involved down the right and his low cross found Dalglish on the edge of the area.  Some great one-touch play saw Dalglish knock it back to Johnson, who then found Souness and he in turn clipped it over Lacy for Dalglish to try and beat Daines from the right-hand edge of the 6-yard box.  Daines managed to block the shot but it bobbled clear for Johnson to fire a low shot past three Spurs defenders for 4-0.  Ten minutes later and Johnson was at it again.  This move began on the left as Ray Kennedy found Dalglish in the inside-left position.  He waited for Johnson to make a diagonal run and his pass was perfect to allow Johnson to fire another low shot through Daines legs for 5-0. 

John Duncan produced a miraculous clearance off the line to deny a 6th goal but then tripped Heighway in the area to give Phil Neal the simple task of beating an already demoralised Daines to confirm the 6-0 scoreline.  Then came the goal which is still talked about today.  It has to be one of my favourite goals of all-time and unfortunately I cannot find a clip which includes enough of the build-up to qualify it as such a classic.

Tottenham have a corner on the right and defending the near post is Terry McDermott.  This is important to picture this in isolation as it gives you a full appreciation of what follows.  The kick is defended and the ball comes to Dalglish who is about 30 yards from his own goal.  Cue a trademark McDermott run.  Once you watch the clip you just pick up McDermott behind Dalglish to his right, with both Argentinians between them.  Dalglish plays a ball to Johnson who is just inside the Liverpool half, who controls it and hits a right-foot pass out to Heighway wide on the left wing.  As Johnson plays the pass, McDermott is now just behind him having made it to the centre circle.  The ball from Johnson is played ahead of Heighway enabling him to run onto and hit a first time cross into the area where it is met superbly at the back post by McDermott, who had literally run the full length of the pitch.  McDermott met it perfectly to head in the 7th goal and easily the best of the day.  It was a classic goal and epitomised that Liverpool side and the confidence they had in their own, and each other’s, ability.

This was record season for Liverpool as they broke a number of records such as most points, most goals, fewest goals conceded at home and most clean-sheets on their way to winning the title.  For Tottenham they recovered to finish 11th.

15th May 1982
LIVERPOOL   (0)   3   (Lawrenson 51, Dalglish 55, Whelan 87)
TOTTENHAM (1)   1   (Hoddle 27)

LIVERPOOL: Grobbelaar; Neal, Thompson, Hansen, A.Kennedy; Lee, Souness, Lawrenson, Whelan; Rush, Dalglish

TOTTENHAM: Clemence; Perryman, Miller, Roberts, Hughton; Brooke, Hazard, Hoddle, Villa; Crooks (Price), Falco

As 1978-79 had been a reaction to the disappointment in the League the previous season, so the 1981-82 season had been a reaction to finishing 5th the season before.  When they lost to Manchester City at home on Boxing Day, Liverpool were back in 12th having already lost 3 times at Anfield.  But they would lose just twice more as they won an incredible 20 of their final 25 matches.  When Tottenham, in 4th, arrived at Anfield, Liverpool knew a win would see them win the title.  Liverpool had already been successful against Spurs when they came from behind to beat them at Wembley in the League Cup Final.  This season had seen Bob Paisley make some difficult, but necessary changes to the squad personnel as Ray Clemence, Ray Kennedy and Jimmy Case departed with youngsters such as Ronnie Whelan, Ian Rush, Craig Johnston and Bruce Grobbelaar coming in to right a new chapter in the club’s history.

Tottenham stunned The Kop as Glenn Hoddle scored a stunning opening goal, but the home side didn’t panic.  The visitors had the lead at the break and then came one of the proudest moments I can recall in a football ground.  As Tottenham came out for the second half they were defending the Kop end.  As Ray Clemence, a former Anfield favourite, was greeted by a standing ovation from the home crowd .

But pretty soon all pleasantries were put aside as Liverpool had a Championship to win.  A corner from the right was met by Mark Lawrenson and the scores were level.  Then barely four minutes later, Kenny Dalglish was involved in the build-up which saw Whelan loop the ball over the defence and Dalglish was one-on-one with Clemence, and he made no mistake.  As Tottenham managed a couple of chances to try and equalise, news was coming in that Ipswich were losing at home to Nottingham Forest and then Ronnie Whelan, who’d broken Spurs hearts at Wembley, scored the third and it was party time at Anfield.  Grobbelaar launched a long-kick which was poorly dealt with by Miller on the edge of his own area and it fell to Whelan, who chested it down and as the Spurs defence parted like the Red Sea, the Irishman was able to fire past Clemence to confirm the win and the title.

28th September 1985
LIVERPOOL   (1)   4   (Lawrenson 44, Rush 56, Molby pen, 61, pen 67)
TOTTENHAM   (0)   1   (Chiedozie 46)

LIVERPOOL: Grobbelaar; Neal, Hansen, Lawrenson, Beglin; Johnston, McMahon (MacDonald), Molby, Whelan; Rush, Dalglish

TOTTENHAM: Clemence; Thomas, Perryman, Roberts, Hughton; Allen, Ardiles (Mabbutt), Hoddle; Chiedozie, Falco, Waddle

At the beginning of the 1985-86 season Liverpool were facing a determined challenge from Manchester United who had won all of their 9 matches.  Liverpool, beaten just once, were in 2nd and keen to win back their title lost to Everton the previous season.  Tottenham were 5th having won their last 4 matches. 

Tottenham had finally ended their dismal run when they won at Anfield the previous season, for the first time since 1912, and were keen to make it a double.  The first half was a tough affair with McMahon and Whelan determined to halt any progress the visitors might make.  Then as half-time approached, Lawrenson ran along the bye-line to beat Clemence from the tightest of angles.  But soon after the break, Chiedozie equalised for Tottenham when he fired a shot high over Grobbelaar.  Just over ten minutes later, Beglin’s measured pass beat the Tottenham defence and Rush shot past Clemence from about 15 yards out.  Then just after the hour Liverpool were awarded two penalties.  The first was for a trip from Hughton on Whelan, and the second was for a foul by Roberts on Ian Rush.  Jan Molby took both kicks and, unsurprisingly, didn’t miss with either.

A comprehensive win for a Liverpool side who went onto do ‘the double’.  Liverpool won the title by 2pts from Everton and then beat them 3-1 in the FA Cup Final.  Tottenham finished 10th in the League.

8th May 1993
LIVERPOOL   (2)   6   (Rush 20, 88, Barnes 45, 89, Nethercott og 49, Walters pen 85)
TOTTENHAM   (0)   2   (Sheringham 46, Sedgeley 77)

LIVERPOOL: Grobbelaar; Jones, Nicol, Wright, Burrows; Walters, Hutchison, Redknapp, Harkness; Rush, Barnes

TOTTENHAM: Walker; McDonald, Mabbutt, Ruddock, van den Hauwe (Nethercott); Anderton, Hill, Sedgeley, Watson (Dearden); Sheringham , Allen

The inaugural season of the Premier League had been a frustrating one for Liverpool as Graeme Souness had kicked out experienced players and brought in several dubious replacements.  But the final day would prove to be a classic.  Liverpool were lying in 8th at the start of the day, ahead of Tottenham on goal difference.  They had lost their last two matches, at Norwich and Oldham and their tally of 15 defeats is one of their worst records in the top flight.

In the opening stages Paul Allen rattled the Liverpool crossbar with a header but then on 20 minutes, Ian Rush opened the scoring.  A diagonal ball from the left found Rush in the area and he fought off Ruddock to fire past Ian Walker to bring up his 300th goal for the club.  As half-time approached Bruce Grobbelaar pleased the crowd with a customary foray out of his area as he broke down a Spurs attack and then Redknapp swept the ball out to the right where Mark Walters showed pace to get to the bye-line.  His cross found Barnes in the area he headed Liverpool into a 2-0 lead.

Some fans had barely taken their seats for the second period when a ball over the top saw Sheringham run clear and he slotted it past Grobbelaar to give the visitors some hope.  Within minutes, though, the home side restored their two-goal advantage.  Redknapp on the left wing played it inside to Steve Harkness who fired past Walker, although this was later credited to Stuart Nethercott as an own goal.  Then as the game moved into the final quarter of an hour, Anderton, on the right, helped the ball onto Steve Sedgeley in the area and he managed to beat Mark Wright before his left-foot shot was too hot for Grobbelaar to handle and Spurs were back in it at 2-3.

But then with five minutes to go, Barnes cross from the left saw Nethercott foul Rush and Walters stepped up to fire the penalty under Walker.  Minutes later Spurs made a mess of breaking up another Liverpool attack and Redknapp pounced on a loose pass to run to the bye-line, pull it back where Rush bundled in his 2nd of the day to make it 5-2.  Then Redknapp was again involved in the build-up which saw the ball played out to Walters on the right and his cross was helped on by Rush for Barnes to nod in from close range and Liverpool had completed an impressive 6-2 win.

Liverpool eventually finished up 6th with Tottenham in 8th.

10th March 2013
LIVERPOOL   (1)   3   (Suarez 21, Downing 66, Gerrard pen 82)
TOTTENHAM   (1)   2   (Vertonghen 45, 53)

LIVERPOOL: Jones; Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique; Downing, Lucas, Gerrard, Coutinho (Allen); Sturridge (Henderson), Suarez

TOTTENHAM: Lloris; Walker, Vertonghen, Dawson, Assou-Ekotto (Carroll); Livermore (Holtby), Parker, Dembele, Bale, Sigurdsson; Defoe

In Brendan Rodgers first season at Liverpool, they were still harbouring hopes of securing European football when Tottenham arrived in March.  Spurs themselves had an eye on a Champions League place.  They were unbeaten in 12 and fresh from a win in the North London derby.  Liverpool, who’d won 1 of their first 7 matches, were coming off the back of 5-0 and 4-0 wins over Swansea and Wigan, respectively.

Twenty minutes in and Coutinho found Jose Enrique on the edge of the Spurs area and then ran round him to receive the return pass and thenthe Uruguayan finished from a tight angle.  A the break approached and with Liverpool keen to close out the half, Tottenham attacked down the right.  The ball was played back to Gareth Bale and his left-foot ball swept into the area found Vertonghen at the back post and his header left Jones stranded.  It was a frustrating goal for the home side to concede as Johnson didn’t do enough to challenge the Belgian.  Eight minutes after the break and Bale’s free-kick was floated into the area and as the home defence failed to clear, the ball dropped for Vertonghen who fired the visitors into the lead.  1-2.

Liverpool came back, though, when Kyle Walker on the halfway line played an inexplicable wayward pass to the edge of his own area where Lloris had to come out and try and intercept it.  But he was beaten to it by Downing and he ran onto beat Vertonghen on the line to equalise.  It was a crazy goal to concede and came soon after Sigurdsson should’ve put them 2-goals clear.  Then, as the game moved into the final 10 minutes, Defoe made a hash of a clearance from a Gerrard free-kick and Suarez was brought down by Assou-Ekotto and the ref pointed to the spot.  Steven Gerrard stepped up to send Lloris the wrong way and for only the second time that season, Liverpool had come back to win after going behind.

Liverpool ended the season in 7th with Tottenham missing out on Champions League football to Arsenal, finishing in 5th.

HEAD TO HEAD at Anfield

Matches: 50
Liverpool win: 44
Tottenham win: 6
Draws: 20

Liverpool goals: 136
Tottenham goals: 57

Sunday, 23 March 2014

To Be the Best You Have to Beat the Best

Eight games to go for Liverpool to win a long-awaited League title.  For a club who won 10 of the 15 titles between 1976 and 1990, it has been a very long wait and for some of us, almost too much to contemplate.  2008-09 represented our best chance to win the title when finishing 2nd to Manchester United.  Their points tally in that season, 86, would’ve been enough to win the title in 10 of the last 23 seasons since Kenny Dalglish’s side won the League in 1989-90.  We picked up 31pts from a possible 33pts from final 11 matches but United’s 25pts during the same period was enough to see them lift the trophy.

All season I have been saying we aren’t good enough to win the title.  I look at the squads at Chelsea and Manchester City and see they are stronger than ours and with more depth.  But at this stage of the season does squad depth really come into it?  There are just 8 games to go and one thing I am beginning to realise from Brendan Rodgers time at Anfield, is that these players are fitter than most Liverpool squads of recent times.  If you look at the way we finished last season, we were fit and strong right to the end of the season.  This was epitomised by the way the backroom staff have managed Steven Gerrard to allow him to play every minute of every game up till he picked up an injury towards the end of the 35th match.  This season has been similar and Liverpool are also benefitting from no European matches to clog up the fixture list.

The team is bulging with confidence and attacking with such pace that defences are unsure whether to sit deep and welcome them on, or push up and risk a ball over the top.  Yesterday against Cardiff, Liverpool showed their ability to play through their opponents with their first equaliser.  Then they murdered them on the break with the last two goals.  Add to that, the ability to score from set-pieces and things are almost perfect.  Well, they are as long as we continue to score more than we concede. 

You have to look down as far as Stoke City in 11th to find a team conceding more goals at this stage of the season than Liverpool.  In fact there are only 9 other sides who have conceded more so far.  But it’s the goals for column which is giving fans a difficult question to answer – “could this be our year?”.  The Champions are traditionally a side with one of the better defences and in the Premier League, no club has won the title and conceded more than 45 goals.  At their current rate Liverpool is projecting a total of 48 goals conceded this season.  But on the plus side they are on target to outscore Chelsea’s 103 total in 2009-10.

All eyes will now focus on the final quarter of the season with many suggesting the title is between Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, after Arsenal’s capitulation at Stamford Bridge yesterday.  With both Chelsea and City still to visit Anfield, the scene is set for a fascinating finale.  There have been some crazy results in one of the most open seasons many can remember, so we’re bound to have one or two twists and turns left to navigate.

For Liverpool, 4 of their 5 home matches are against sides in the top eight, Chelsea, Man City, Tottenham and Newcastle.  But they have just 3 away games, all against sides who are desperate for points, West Ham, Norwich and Crystal Palace.  Chelsea would look to have the easier run-in of the three with Stoke, Sunderland and Norwich at home and a relatively straightforward away list of Crystal Palace, Swansea and Cardiff to add to their trip to Anfield.  Manchester City has 10 matches left with trips to Old Trafford and The Emirates to come next, along with further trips to Anfield and Goodison Park.  An away menu list of Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton and Crystal Palace should certainly test them with their home fixtures presenting a rather more straightforward path – Southampton, Sunderland, West Brom, Aston Villa and West Ham.

City’s last two games are at home and with Villa and West Ham the opponents, you would expect those sides to have little to play for by then.

This coming week sees Chelsea sit out and watch proceedings hoping their challengers slip up.  City are involved in a potentially tricky Manchester derby and Liverpool entertain a Sunderland side who are still in the bottom three.  Sunderland has just lost 2 on the road after a run of 6 without defeat away from home, but have they enough to cope with a Liverpool side bang on form and a crowd baying for success?  It’s a month since Liverpool last played in front of The Kop and with home fans having witnessed 4-3, 5-1, 4-0, 2-0, 3-1, 4-1 and 5-1 from the last 7 home games, confidence will be high of further champagne football.

For the next two weekends both Chelsea and Man City play on the Saturday with Liverpool not turning out until 24 hours later.  Next weekend Man City travel to Arsenal with Liverpool hoping that’s a draw or a win for Arsenal, as they host Spurs on Sunday.  Chelsea travel to Palace confident of a win.  The one potential spanner in the works for Chelsea could be their participation in the Champions League.  They are up against PSG either side of a home game against Stoke in the League.  Personally, I hope Chelsea get through as the Semi-Finals are scheduled to be played either side of Chelsea’s visit to Anfield.

Television has decreed the following Sunday will see all three sides in action as Chelsea travel to Swansea on the same day Liverpool host Man City.  The following Sunday sees Liverpool travel to Norwich and Chelsea entertain Sunderland.  Man City are at home to West Brom having also met Sunderland at home the previous Wednesday.  Crystal Palace and Sunderland have still to meet all three title contenders for a second time and unfortunately for them, they are away on each occasion.

Sunday 27th April also has all three in action on the same day when Liverpool host Chelsea with City travelling to Crystal Palace.  For some reason May 3rd sees all Premier League fixtures kick-off at 3pm.  Whether that is because Sky and BT have yet to decide how they would like to re-arrange the fixtures, is uncertain, but it could add to the drama if things remain like this.  Chelsea are at home to Norwich with Liverpool travelling to Crystal Palace and Man City at Everton.  This could be where City could drop points as Everton have been beaten just once at home.

For the final Sunday, things could still be undecided with Liverpool and Man City at home and Chelsea away.  Liverpool welcome Newcastle.  You have to go back to April 1994 to find the last time Newcastle won a league game at Anfield and November 1995 since they won a game there in any competition.  Manchester City host West Ham and the visitors record is also a poor one with West Ham picking up just 1pt from their last 6 visits.  Chelsea travel to Cardiff where it’s over 40 years since they were last defeated there, although they’ve only played there 5 times during that time.

If Liverpool are to win the title they may well have to beat both Chelsea and Man City, but their performances in the reverse fixtures last Christmas would suggest they have a right to be positive.  If City drops points at Man Utd, Arsenal and/or Everton then Liverpool could afford a draw against City and still finish ahead of them, but it’s Chelsea who are the worry.  Looking at Chelsea’s fixtures it is hard to see them lose again, other than at Anfield.

If Liverpool beat Chelsea and win all their remaining games they can afford a draw against City and end up on 87pts.  If Chelsea win every game but lose at Anfield they will end up on 87pts.  If City draw at Liverpool, Arsenal and Man Utd, and win all their other games, they will end up on 87pts too.  Of course, if City win any one of those big away games they should win the title.  But it could all come down to goal difference and at the moment City’s is again superior.

Having said all that the odds would still seem to be stacked against Liverpool and for me, third place still represents a success as I think this team will be so much stronger next season.  One could argue both Chelsea and City could also be stronger next year and are they likely to slip up where they did this season?  I thought it would take Rodgers all three years of his first contract at Liverpool to get us into the Champions League.  But as it looks as if he’s done this a year early, it will be interesting to see how the owners now view any improvements required to the squad to negotiate the extra fixtures for next season.

But for now it has been a wonderful season if you’re a Liverpool fan with them playing some of the best football seen at this level.  I have been following them since 1975 and there have only been 3 seasons when we were on more points after 30 matches, than we are at this stage.  So far, our goal tally is our highest after 30 games since I’ve been watching Liverpool, with the previous highest 73 in 1982-83.  This impressive tally has been down to the successful partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.  The two have scored 47 between them this season.  This has surpassed the club’s best tally in the Premier League, beating Fowler & Collymore 42 goals in 1995-96.  They may well beat the total Aldridge, Beardsley and Barnes managed when they hit 56 goals between them in 1987-88.

Going back to squad depth, Liverpool may well struggle if any of their important players suffer an injury between now and the end of the season, but they are fresh at the moment and I fully expect Rodgers training methods to focus them solely on each game at a time.  Of course Chelsea could live to regret the lack of goals from their strikers and even Negredo at Man City is currently lacking in front of goal at the moment.  But there’s plenty still to play for, and it’s a welcome change to see us right in the mix.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A Moment in Time - 1977-78 When Nottingham Forest Won the League

When Forest Won The League.

The season is 1977-78 and Nottingham Forest had just been promoted from the Second Division, now The Championship. They had finished 3rd behind Wolves and Chelsea.  Forest had only ever won the FA Cup in their history, in 1898 and 1959.  Promotion was a tight struggle too, as they only finished 1pt ahead of Bolton and Blackpool and had to wait for Bolton to finish their season to see if they would be promoted.  Bolton only needed 4pts from their final 3 matches but only managed 3pts and so Forest were promoted and then set about conquering the First Division.

They were managed by Brian Clough, who took over the club in January 1975.  At the time, Forest were 13th in the Second Division.  They finished that season in 16th, and then 8th the following season.

Clough had managed Derby and took them from the Second Division in 1967, to win the League in 1972.  Having been sacked by the Derby, he had a brief spell at Brighton and an even shorter one at Leeds.  Then he turned up at Forest with his trusty side-kick, Peter Taylor.

The two had begun to build a good, yet unproven, side as they recruited John McGovern and John O’Hare who’d both been at Derby and Leeds with Clough and Taylor.  Players like John Robertson, Martin O’Neill, Ian Bowyer, Viv Anderson, Frank Clark and Tony Woodcock were already at the club and would play an important part of the club’s eventual success.

Clough then made 4 crucial signings who would turn Forest from the 3rd promoted side, to League Champions.

Larry Lloyd was signed from Coventry, Kenny Burns from Birmingham, Archie Gemmill from Derby and, probably the most important, Peter Shilton from Stoke.

He also offloaded some of the older ‘deadwood’, as Barry Butlin went to Peterborough, Sean Haslegrave to Preston and Sammy Chapman to Notts County



Peter Shilton (age 28) (43 appearances) Started out at Leicester in 1966, before moving to Stoke in 1974.  Signed for Forest in this season, and stayed till 1982 when he moved to Southampton.

John Middleton (age 22) (6 appearances) Began his career at Forest in 1974, before moving, during this season, to Derby.

Chris Woods (age 18) (7 appearances, all in League Cup) Signed as an apprentice in 1976.  He spent 3 years at Forest before moving to QPR, Norwich and then Glasgow Rangers


Viv Anderson (age 22)  (50 appearances, 4 goals) Joined Forest in 1974 and stayed until 1984 when he moved to Arsenal.

Frank Clark (age 34) (19 appearances, 1 goal) Joined Newcastle from Crook Town in 1962m signed for Forest in 1975, retired from playing in ’79.  Returned to manage the club in 1993.

Colin Barrett (age 25) (41 appearances, 1 goal) Began his career at Man City in 1970 and moved to Forest in 1976, before moving to Swindon in 1980.

Larry Lloyd (age 29) (34 appearances, 1 goal) Started his career at Bristol Rovers in ’67, moving to Liverpool in ’69.  In ’74 he moved to Coventry where Clough signed him from at the start of this season.

Kenny Burns (age 23) (55 appearances, 4 goals) Began his career at Birmingham in 1971 where he was a striker.  Converted to centre-back when Clough signed him in ’77.

Dave Needham (age 28) (22 appearances, 4 goals) Started his career at Notts County in 1966, before moving to QPR in 1977.  He only spent 6 months there before Clough signed him.


Martin O’Neill (age 24) (52 appearances, 13 goals ) Signed for Forest in 1971 from Lisburn Distillery.  Stayed there till ’81 when he moved to Norwich.

John McGovern (age 29) (42 appearances, 4 goals) Started out at Hartlepool in ’65, before Clough signed him for Derby in ’68, Leeds in ’74 and then Forest in 1975.

Ian Bowyer  (age 26) (37 appearances, 10 goals) Started out at Man City in ’68, then moved to Orient before joining Forest in ’73.

John Robertson (age 24) (56 appearances, 18 goals) Joined Forest in 1970 and played there until 1983 when he was controversially signed for Derby in ’83, by Peter Taylor.

Archie Gemmill (age 30) (36 appearances, 3 goals) Began his career at St. Mirren in 1964, and then moved to Preston in ’67.  Joined Clough at Derby in 1970 and then signed for Forest at the start of this season.


Peter Withe (age 26) (54 appearances, 19 goals) Played for 7 clubs in 5 years by the time he turned up at Forest in 1976.  He stayed for 2 years and was then off to Newcastle, before joining Villa in 1980.

Tony Woodcock (age 22) (50 appearances, 19 goals) Joined as an apprentice in 1973.  Played for 6 years before moving to Cologne in 1979.

John O’Hare (age 31) (14 appearances, 1 goal) Began his career at Sunderland in 1964, before joining Clough at Derby in ’67, Leeds in ’74 and then Forest in ’75.


The opening day of the season and Forest are at Goodison Park to play Everton, a team who had finished in the top half of the table for the past 4 seasons.  Fortunately for Forest, Everton were without their star striker, Bob Latchford, who ended the season with 30 goals.

Forest’s play that day went on to become the blueprint for their success.  A tough battling display to wear their opponents down, and then the football began.  Midway through the first half, Peter Withe got Forest’s season off and running, with John Robertson making it 2-0.  Robertson increasingly made life difficult for Everton’s right-back that day, Dave Jones (the former Wolves, Southampton and Cardiff manager).  Everton pulled one back before the break, but Forest weren’t to be denied and with 10 minutes until full time, Martin O’Neill sealed a 3-1 win.

Saturday 20th August 1977 was not only notable for Forest’s win in their return to the First Division.  It also heralded the start of one a legendary career as a certain Kenny Dalglish scored on his debut for Liverpool in a 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough.  Another notable result that day was at Portman Road where Ipswich beat Arsenal, 1-0.  Those of you who know your football history will understand the significance of that result later in the season.

Forest’s next two matches were against Bristol City and Derby County, both of whom had battled relegation the season before.  The Bristol City game represented Forest’s first home game of the season as Peter Withe scored the only goal in a 1-0 win.  Forest were again at home the following Saturday when local rivals, Derby, were the visitors.

This particular East Midlands derby was eagerly anticipated.  Forest had begun with 2 wins from 2 games, they were managed by the man who had brought Derby County their first league title just 5 years ago.  The Derby side that lifted the trophy again in 1975 were arguably still Clough’s team.  Whilst Forest had been languishing in the Second Division since, their nearest rivals had been playing in places like Rome and Madrid.

A volatile game saw Peter Withe give Forest the lead in the first half.  He doubled the lead in the second period and now had 4 goals in the opening 3 matches of the season.  John Robertson then rounded off a fine win as he made it 3-0.

League tables are generally a waste of time after just 3 matches, but not for Forest fans this season.  They were top.


Next up was Arsenal.  Before that they beat West Ham, 5-0 in the League Cup, and then travelled to Highbury.  Forest were brought down to earth with a bang as Arsenal won 3-0 with 2 goals from Frank Stapleton and a penalty from Liam Brady.

This result seemed to galvanise Forest as they went on a 9-game unbeaten run.

The following weekend and Forest were again away from home as they travelled to Molineux.  Goals from Bowyer, Woodcock and another from Withe gave Forest a hard-fought, 3-2 win.

Clough then pulled off the masterstroke that arguably took them from plucky newcomers, to potential European champions.  Stoke City had been relegated as Forest were winning promotion last season and they had the England goalkeeper playing for them, Peter Shilton.  It is remarkable to think that a player who probably became the best keeper in the world was bought for just £250,000.

Shilton made his debut at home to Aston Villa, but had little to do as Robertson and Woodcock gave Forest a 2-0 win.  They then travelled to Filbert Street to meet Leicester City and came away with a 3-0 win, thanks to goals from O’Neill, Woodcock and Robertson.

At the end of September, Forest was one of 3 clubs on 12pts, along with the top 2 from the previous season, Manchester City and Liverpool.


October began with a 1-1 draw at Norwich, as Kenny Burns scored his first goal for the club.  4 days later they welcomed Ipswich Town to the City Ground.  Beaten just once and conceding 5 goals in their 8 matches so far, Ipswich were certainly a team to test Forest.  Or so everyone thought.  4 goals from Peter Withe saw off the Tractor Boys in a 4-0 win.

Forest had now hit the top of the league.  They wouldn’t be knocked off for the rest of the season.

A 0-0 draw at West Ham was preparation for the visit of Manchester City.  It was 1st v 2nd, in front of the biggest crowd of the season so far at the City Ground.  Brian Kidd gave City the lead, but Tony Woodcock and Peter Withe won it for Forest and now people were starting to sit up take notice.

When Forest won 2-0 at QPR, they opened up a 2pt lead as the Merseyside derby had ended 0-0.  They then turned their attention back to the League Cup and beat Notts County, 4-0.  Ian Bowyer scored another 2 goals in that game, to add to the 2 he scored in the previous round against West Ham.  The goals were flowing as they ended November beating Middlesbro, 4-0, with Viv Anderson bagging a brace with his first goals of the season.  With Liverpool losing 1-3 to Man City, Forest were 4pts clear, and were now top scorers in the league.


During November, their form dipped.  4 matches and only 1 win.  They lost 0-1 at Chelsea, and Leeds and were held at home, 0-0 by West Brom.  This loss of form seemed to coincide with Liverpool’s, as the champions picked up just 3pts during December and slipped to 5th.  Everton now emerged as challengers.

Their League Cup run continued, unabated, as they put Aston Villa to the sword with a 4-2 win.  3 games in and cup and 13 goals scored, and Tony Woodcock had scored in each round.


December was a busy month with 6 matches, including the visit of Liverpool and a trip to Old Trafford.  First up, though was a trip to St. Andrews where Martin O’Neill and Tony Woodcock gave them a 2-0 win.  This was followed by a 2-1 win at home to Coventry, with O’Neill again getting on the scoresheet.

Forest’s trip to Man Utd was a stunner.  Having come from behind to beat Utd the month before, they had little trouble this time as Robertson and 2 from Woodcock added to a Brian Greenhoff own goal, gave Forest a 4-0 win.  Coming into the Christmas period, Forest were still top by 2pts from Everton.

That game saw the debut of Dave Needham, who Clough had just bought from QPR.  He had moved there from Notts County and seemed happy to swap a relegation battle for a title challenge back in Nottingham.  He managed to keep Larry Lloyd out of the team until April.

Forest were away in 2 of the 3 games over Christmas, but first they welcomed Liverpool to the City Ground on Boxing Day.  Liverpool were chasing a 3rd successive title, but were 6pts behind Forest.  If Clough wanted a real test of his teams credentials, who better than the reigning European Champions to prove it against? 

Over 47,000 fans watched as Archie Gemmill gave the home side an early lead.  On 30 minutes, Steve Heighway levelled.  Neither side could break the other down and the game ended, 1-1.  These two met 4 times that season, Forest never lost.  Two days later, Forest were up at Newcastle winning, 2-0 as Dave Needham scored his first goal for his new club.  On New Year’s Eve, he scored again as Forest won at Bristol City, 3-1.

Christmas was often a time for goals and this season was no exception.  Here are just 3 games you wished you’d watched on Match of The Day

Birmingham  4-5  Chelsea
Coventry  5-4  Norwich
Everton  2-6  Manchester United

That Everton result was a real surprise.  They were 2nd in the table, and United were down in 13th

Forest had begun 1977 in 5th place in the 2nd Division, 5pts behind leaders Chelsea.  At the end of 1977, Forest were 5pts clear at the top of the 1st Division.


Two days into January and the top 2 met at the City Ground.  Forest v Everton.  It was a tale of two penalties, both hotly disputed but both converted.  The game ended 1-1 and Forest maintained their 5pt lead.

Forest’s defensive strength was beginning to prove a real advantage.  Everton had scored only the 4th goal in 8 games since they lost to Leeds.  The next 3 matches underlined their tightness at the back.  0-0 at Derby, and 2-0 home wins against both Arsenal and Wolves.

The Arsenal game included one of the goals of the season from Archie Gemmill.  It probably summed up Forest’s approach, which was to soak up pressure and then hit them on the break.


In between the Derby and Arsenal games, Forest beat Bury, 3-0 in the League Cup 5th Round.  They were now in the Semi-Finals of a competition they’d scored 16 and conceded just 2.  Their opponents would be Leeds United, the last team to beat Forest.  The first leg was at Elland Road and 2 goals from Peter Withe contributed to a 3-1 win.  Withe had begun with a bang, scoring 11 goals in the first 12 games of the season up to 15th October.  It was 8th February when he grabbed the 2 goals in the League Cup Semi-Final 1st leg, and between October and February he’d netted just 3 times.

Withe scored again in the 2nd Leg, as Forest cruised into the League Cup Final, winning 4-2 on the night, 7-3 on aggregate.  Their opponents at Wembley would be Liverpool, who’d beaten Arsenal 2-1 on aggregate in the other Semi-Final.

In the FA Cup, Forest had beaten Swindon, 4-1 at home, and then Man City, 2-1 at home.  Before their next league match, they went to QPR in the FA Cup and were held 1-1

They only played two league games during February, with a trip to Molineux being the first.  Goals in each half from Tony Woodcock and John McGovern gave them a 2-0 win.

Their final 2 matches of February were draws.  3-3 in the league at Norwich and 1-1 in the FA Cup replay at home to QPR, with Martin O'Neill grabbing a dramatic equaliser a minute from the end. 

In those days replays continued until a winner was found.  On 2nd March a winner was found as Forest finally cast QPR aside as 2 goals from Tony Woodcock gave them a 3-1 win.


The fixtures were coming thick and fast, and back in the league at the beginning of March, Forest saw off West Ham, 2-0, but the strain was starting to show.  They won, but were without Anderson, Barrett, Clark, Lloyd and McGovern.  This game was 1 of 3 in a row at home and they won them all, without conceding a goal.  1-0 against Leicester and 2-0 against Newcastle, with John Robertson scoring a penalty in each match.

Between the Leicester and Newcastle matches, they had the small matter of a Wembley final.  Forest had only ever played at Wembley once in their history, the FA Cup Final against Luton in 1959.  For those who do pub quizzes, make a note of the first scorer for Forest that day.  Roy Dwight.  Why do I mention this?  Well, Roy Dwight had a rather famous nephew, Elton John.

Anyway, the League Cup Final was a typical Forest v Liverpool game of the era.  Forest soaked up the pressure and then tried to hit Liverpool on the break.  The game ended goalless but gave many of us our first real glimpse of Chris Woods.  The 18-year old keeper had played in all but one of Forest’s League Cup matches as Shilton was cup tied, but this game would give him an opportunity on the national stage.  He didn’t disappoint as he pulled off a string of fine saves to thwart Liverpool.

The replay was 4 days later, and contained one controversial goal.  Phil Thompson brought down John O’Hare, and a penalty was awarded.  The controversy was that replays showed the challenge to be outside the box.  Robertson stepped up and scored his 6th spot-kick of the season.

Forest had won the League Cup, 1-0.  Their first silverware for 19 years and people were no longer questioning their ability.

Back in the League they were held at Middlesbro, 2-2 which were the first goals they’d conceded for 5 matches in all competitions.

March 1978 had been an historic month for Nottingham Forest and they ended it just 2pts clear at the top of the table.  But, because of all their cup fixtures, they had 3 games in hand over Everton and Arsenal (who were 6pts behind)

They’d won the League Cup, but had been knocked out of the FA Cup in the 6th Round at The Hawthorns, as they lost 0-2 to West Brom and so ended their treble chances.


As the season approached its finale, Forest were having to use all their resources and strength to keep going.  They came from behind to beat Chelsea, 3-1 and then struggled against Aston Villa, before Tony Woodcock scored a late goal to give them a 1-0 win.  This result proved even more important with the news that 2nd placed, Everton were beaten at home in the Merseyside derby.  Forest were now 4pts clear with 3 games in hand.

They followed this with two draws, 0-0 at Man City and 1-1 at home to Leeds. 

Midway through April, Forest were still 4pts clear with 3 games in hand, but more significantly, Everton only had 3 games to go and with just 2pts for a win, Forest were now a win and a draw away from their first ever League title.

Three days after being held at home by Leeds, they were again at home against QPR.  Two years previously, QPR had been minutes away from winning their first ever league title, but were now only out of the relegation zone on goal difference.  This wasn’t helped by yet another John Robertson penalty giving Forest a 1-0 win.

That win meant Everton could only match Forest’s 58pts, if they won their final 3 matches.  Liverpool needed to win every one of their final 5 games to match Forest’s total too.  The one big advantage Forest had was a goal difference 16 better than Everton and 22 better than Liverpool.

Saturday 22nd April 1978

Coventry v Nottingham Forest

Forest didn’t have to travel far to pick up the point necessary to confirm themselves as Champions.  Liverpool were at home to Norwich and Everton made the trip to Middlesbro. 

The Coventry game was a bit of an anti-climax, but Clough’s finest signing, Peter Shilton, undoubtedly kept Forest in the game, and one save in particular will be remembered by the fans for many years to come

The game ended 0-0 and that point was enough to take the title.  Fans celebrated as news of the other results came in.  Liverpool beat Norwich, 3-0 and Everton were held to a 0-0 draw.

Since losing to Chelsea on bonfire night, Forest had now gone 24 league matches unbeaten.  This would extend to 28 by the end of the season as they drew 3 and won 1 of their final 4 matches, conceding in just one of those games, 2-2 with West Brom.

Their final match was at Anfield.  Liverpool’s run had seen them unbeaten in 12 matches, but Forest just weren’t to be denied and the game ended 0-0.  Forest ended 7pts clear at the top of the table.  Liverpool, had confirmed 2nd place, which meant a top 2 finish for the 4th season running, but there was to be no 3rd consecutive title.  Not yet, anyway.

Kenny Burns was Football Writers Player of the Year, Peter Shilton the PFA Player of the Year, Tony Woodcock the Young Player of the Year and Brian Clough was named Manager of the Year.

An astonishing season which ended with 2 trophies.  They’d only ever won 4 trophies in their 113 year history, 2 FA Cups and 2 Second Division titles.  They would go on to finish 2nd the following year, yet win the European Cup at their first attempt, and retain their League Cup.  In 1980 they retained the European Cup.  Their unbeaten run in the league finally came to an end after 42 matches.  That record would remain until Arsenal overhauled it in 2004.

For a season which was expected to be a consolidation it had been an unprecedented success.  Clough had taken an unfashionable Midlands club, from the Second Division to become League Champions.  The second time he’d done that in 6 years.  A remarkable achievement.