The History of the Great Rivalry

As the build-up ahead of the latest East Midlands derby gathers momentum, I bring to you a look at the fixture’s history. Kevin Tarrant has kindly sent in an article.

Nottingham Forest and Derby County are two clubs that have had a passionate rivalry with each other for over a century; yet despite the tension between the sides whenever they meet, there are strong similarities in the histories of the Midlands clubs.

Both clubs are considered two of the sleeping giants of English football. For teams with such glittering pasts and a trophy cabinet to match most Premier League sides, in recent years they have both found themselves in the second tier of English football and unable to climb out to once again compete with the elite.

Despite the fall from their glory days both clubs are averaging over 23,000 fans for their matches, their stadiums and facilities are up to Premier League standards and have been involved in some of the biggest events in football. Derby are 3rd in the Championship and Forest are 6th. To get back to the promised land of the Premier League is the aim for both sides, and to do so at the expense of their arch-rivals would be even better for the fans.


It’s not the first time that the two rivals have clashed with each other. The first fixture between the teams was way back in 1892. Forest came out on top that day with a 3-2 victory. There have been highs and lows for both since then and some gruelling encounters between the two.

Forests City Ground and Derby’s Pride Park are only 17 miles apart. Football can often cause a divide in families and one workplace can have sets of both supporters when two sides are this close. The only thing that comes close to seeing your side win is to see your rivals lose and how Forest and Derby would like to get the chance to gain promotion this season over their enemies, most people support their teams by placing the bets on their favourite team on Bwin.

Despite the feeling of animosity between the clubs, they both share one love; to hear the name Brian Clough will bring a smile to the face of both Derby and Forest fans. Clough, who is considered one of the most successful managers ever, enjoyed the best parts of his career at Derby and Forest.

Clough at Derby  

When Brian Clough was appointed manager of Derby in 1967 it would set him on the way to becoming an all-time great and change transform a small club like Derby who were struggling in the second division into the Champions of England and onto European adventures.

Clough took control of the Rams after enjoying success as manager of Hartlepool. After only finishing 18th in the second division in 1968, Clough showed how capable he was of transforming a clubs fortunes. With his right-hand man Peter Taylor, who had an eye for talent, he set about building the first of his great empires.

In the summer of ‘68 he signed Alan Hinton, John O Hare, Roy McFarland and Dave Mackay. He got his team playing the Clough way and guided them to the top of the table. Derby won the league and were promoted to Division 1. Clough was now a hero to the Derby faithful.

Clough was an ambitious young coach and wanted more success. He continued to build his side and delivered the Division 1 title in 1972. It was the first time Derby had ever won the league and was considered a huge achievement. The following season Clough led the Rams on their first battle in Europe. They managed to reach the semi-final before losing to Juventus.

Despite Clough’s achievements he failed to retain the league title in 1973. After coming under question from the board he resigned as manager. In Clough’s 6 years at Derby he turned them into one of the biggest teams in England and will forever be known as a hero to the Derby fans.

Clough at Nottingham Forest

Clough became manager of Nottingham Forest in 1975. In the two years since he had left Derby he had gone on to manage Brighton & Hove Albion with little success and was famously sacked by Leeds United after just 44 days in charge. Clough needed to rebuild his reputation and was hungry for more success.

Forest, like Derby when Clough took control, were now in the second division. In his first year there Forest finished 8th in Division 2; Clough was then joined by his old assistant Peter Taylor and together they guided Forest to promotion by finishing third the following year.

This was just the start for Forest as they went on to achieve unbelievable success. With Clough at the helm until 1993 they went on to win the league and four League Cups. The biggest achievement from the era was winning the European Cup.  In 1979 Forest beat Malmao FF 1-0 in the final and then remarkably managed to retain the trophy in 1980 when they beat Hamburg in Madrid.

Clough brought Nottingham Forest the most successful era in their history. He resigned in 1993 after he wasn’t able to prevent them from being relegated from the Premier League. He is an idol to Forest fans and the club have named one of the stands at the City Ground the Brian Clough stand.

Aiming for success

Both clubs are forever grateful to Clough for bringing them such great success. Since he left, neither have managed to gather the momentum to bring the glory days back. It’s been 6 years since either team have been in the Premier League, and Forest have even dropped in to the third tier since they were last in the top league.

This season it looks as though both have a genuine chance of claiming promotion. Billy Davies and Steve McClaren have got their teams into a playoff position; wouldn’t it be ironic if it was battled out by the two clubs where Brian Clough made his name at Wembley on May 26th?  The two clubs have been involved in some thrilling matches over the years.

Derby 4 – 0 Nottingham Forest, 1971

Going back to 1971 and this is an era that all Derby fans would love to experience again. If getting them promoted didn’t do it then thrashing their local rivals certainly turned Brian Clough into a hero. Before Clough had any association with Forest he led his team to this glorious victory at the Baseball ground.

The result gave Derby the momentum they needed as they went on to win the league. The season got even better for the Rams as their rivals were relegated from the top flight.

Nottingham Forest 3 – 0 Derby, 2003

Fast forward to 2003 and ten years after Clough had retired from football both teams were in the second tier. Forest were looking the stronger of the sides at the time and they showed why they were chasing promotion.

A Darren Huckerby strike and two goals from Marlon Harewood gave Forest a famous win over their rivals at the City Ground. The result was one of the highlights of the season for Forest as they were unable to carry the form through to the end of the season and missed out on promotion.

Derby 1 – 1 Nottingham Forest, 2008

The two sides hadn’t met for 3 years as Derby had been in the Premier League, so tensions were high at this fixture. Going into the match Forest had never won a game Pride Park. The first half failed to deliver though, as no real chance were made and the fans were becoming impatient.

If the first half was dire then the second was anything but. It had everything you’d want and expect from these two famous clubs – goals, fouls, red cards and penalties provided the fans with end to end entertainment.

Derby’s Argentinian striker Emmanuel Villa had given Forest the lead when he put the ball through his own net. The striker turned from villain to hero though as he went and got the equaliser for Derby to set up a tense finale.

The remainder of the match was filled with drama that you can expect from a local derby. Forest’s Luke McGugan was sent off for challenging with his studs up. Luke Chambers was also lucky not to get sent off as he gave away a penalty. Derby failed to capitalise though as their former keeper Lee Camp saved the spot kick.

Derby thought they had won it late on as Miles Addison headed the goal into the back of the Forest net only for the referee to disallow it, a decision that was highly disputed by the Rams. The match stayed at one a piece though in a match that was fitting to two of Brian Clough’s old teams.

Nottingham Forest 2 – 3 Derby, 2009

Going into this FA Cup fourth round match, Derby hadn’t won at the City ground since 1971 when Brian Clough was manager so Forest were favourites. They had drawn 1-1 in the first match and a replay was needed.

Forest showed why they were favourites as they dominated the first half. Chris Cohen and Nathan Tyson fired them into a 2 goal lead by half time. It looked as if they would be on their way to a famous win over their rivals in front of their home fans.

This was the FA Cup though and anything can happen. Derby came out in the second half and were a different team. Three goals from Rob Hulse, Paul Green and Kris Commons inspired them to an amazing comeback. The match finished 3-2 and Derby were rewarded with a fifth round tie against Manchester United.

Derby 0 – 1 Nottingham Forest, 2011

Going into this match Forest still had never won a match at Pride Park.  The odds were stacked against them but like always in these matches anything can happen.  33,000 were there to watch this Championship game that was the highlight of the season for the fans.

The match deserved more than the one goal as both sides treated the fans to an open attacking game. Passion got the better of some players as the referee handed out 7 bookings and sent a player off.

With the game deadlocked after 80 minutes it was Rob Earnshaw who put Forest in front with a tremendous strike.  Forest managed to hold on and the fans went wild at full time, manager Billy Davies going over to the fans to join in the celebrations. Not only was it Forest’s first win at Pride Park, but the first time they had done the double over them for 21 years.

Where now ?

Despite the ups and downs both clubs have had in recent years and chances to get back to the big time, they both find themselves in very similar positions. Both with the history and fan base of a top division club they find themselves stuck in the Championship.  Now two of Brian Clough’s old teams are battling out against each other to try and recapture glory.

In fact, in recent years the most glory that either club has had is winning a trophy that is dedicated to the former manager of both sides.

In 2007, 3 years after Clough passed away, the Brian Clough trophy was invented. The winner of the Nottingham Forest vs Derby match has claimed the Brian Clough trophy. As it stands, Derby hold the record by winning the trophy 7 times compared to Forest’s 4. It’s certain that both clubs would love to take the playoff trophy home along with the Brian Clough this season.

Thanks very much to Kevin for the article.

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