Forest dream of return to EPL

Forest dream of return to EPL

The city of Nottingham is probably best known around the world for the legendary tales of Robin Hood, but it is also home to Nottingham Forest, a football club that boasts a rich history despite having fallen on hard times in the last two decades.

Forest have the opportunity to redeem themselves and return to the Premier League for the first time since 1999 when they take on Huddersfield Town in the Championship play-off at Wembley tomorrow.

Considering their terrible start to the season, Forest have done remarkably well to reach the play-off final.

Manager Steve Cooper joined Forest in September with the club bottom of the league after losing six of their first seven games under Chris Houghton who was sacked. Relegation was beckoning.

Somehow Cooper transformed the team to the extent they finished fourth in the league playing some of the most attractive football in the division.

In the play-off semi-finals, they had to dig deep to overcome Sheffield United in a dramatic penalty shoot-out.

Now only Huddersfield stand in the way of Forest returning to the top flight after 23 long years.

The Terriers, who are coached by Spaniard Carlos Corberan, beat Luton in the semis.

Forest, twice European champions and also English title winners, are favourites for tomorrow's game but Huddersfield have also been showing good form, finishing third in the league.

Anything can happen in a play-off final in which nerves play a big part.

The two teams have played each other three times this season with a victory apiece in the league and a win for Forest in the FA Cup.

As fate would have it, Cooper was at Wembley this time last year as manager of Swansea when they lost to Brentford in the play-off final.

But his only concern now is for Forest. "This football club deserves the best," he said.

Amongst the Forest players to look out for are young defender Djed Spence on loan from Middlesbrough, goal-scoring winger Brennan Johnson and striker Sam Surridge.

The Terriers will be hoping their leading goalscorer Danny Ward will be on target.

Apart from winning two FA Cups back in 1879 and 1959, Forest did not really hit the limelight until the great Brian Clough took over for a hugely successfully 18-year reign from 1975-1993.

It was extraordinary what Clough achieved with this small unfashionable club which was floundering in the old Division Two when he took over.

His first major success was winning the league title in 1978 followed by two amazing European Cup trophies in 1979 and 1980. Later came two League Cup titles.

Modesty was never one of Clough's strong points and in his autobiography he wrote: "Nottingham Forest will never know how lucky they were that day they asked me to rebuild their run-down club."

But without gifted players he would never have achieved such success.

Among the outstanding performers were John Robertson, Peter Shilton, Viv Anderson and Tony Woodcock. A little later came Stuart Pearce and Nigel Clough, the manager's son.

Trevor Francis became Britain's first £1 million player when he joined Forest from Birmingham in 1979.

Francis scored the winning goal for Forest in the 1979 European Cup final against Malmo.

Huddersfield are one of those former giants that fell on extended hard times aside from a brief two-season stay in the Premier League from 2017-2019.

The Terriers have a proud history, being the first club to win the English league title in three consecutive years, from 1924-26.

With two runners-up spots in the following years, they were regarded as one of England's strongest clubs.

Huddersfield's darkest period came in the early 1970s when they plunged from the heights of the top flight to the depths of Division Four in the space of a few years.

In 1978, they finished 15th in Division Four and since then floundered in the lower divisions.

It is worth recalling that Huddersfield have a tentative link to Thailand.

This was the club that Thai star striker Kiatisak "Zico" Senamuang spent a season with in 1999.

Unfortunately, under Terriers manager Steve Bruce, the talented Kiatisak never got the opportunity to play in the first team, although he experienced a few outings with the reserves.

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