MATT OLDROYD FOREST BLOG: Is it time to reclaim the Bridgford End as our own?

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It’s been a good few weeks since I posted my last NFFC related musings. In that time things have ticked along steadily; not as dramatically as we might have liked but things could certainly have been worse.

Crucially we seem to have started to overcome the defensive frailties that threatened to undermine our impressive goal scoring exploits at the other end.

The Sheffield Wednesday game was vital on a number of levels, I felt. Firstly, our recent points tally has been modest and we were in need of three points to give an overall rosier outlook. Our home form has also been erratic and it was important to be able to get ourselves back on track at the City Ground. Finally, it was the type of game we needed to be winning if we want to manufacture a challenge on the top six.

Wednesday are a club that remind me a lot of ourselves. They have maintained decent crowds despite many years of under achievement but, like us, it is their away following that is most worthy of note.

The lower Bridgford end was full at kick-off; an all too rare a sight. The traditional blue and white was outnumbered on this occasion by Portugese red and green in tribute to their midfielder Jose Semedo. It was an impressive spectacle and the noise that the travelling Owls produced up until the Forest goal late in the game is worthy of praise even if they ultimately went home unhappy.

I’d suggest that the away support was partially responsible for a spirited performance from Wednesday. It’s been a long standing complaint from many Forest supporters that it is hard to compete with such a large away following in that part of the ground, especially when they are intent on making themselves heard. The Wednesday fans really brought this topic to the fore again for me.

The City Ground atmosphere is often criticised but it’s better than most I’d say. I’ve seen Forest play at every ground in this division and it does make you realise that home supporters are generally a quiet breed. There are exceptions, of course, but Forest certainly aren’t alone in this respect. Yet it could certainly be better; the proverbial twelfth man even.

It would be fantastic to see the lower Bridgford teeming with Forest fans getting behind the team like the Wednesday fans did. We’ve seen numerous other teams do it too so why not us?

My opinion is that we are too kind to opposition fans. We offer them a great view right behind the goal in an area that is considered to be the best location in the stadium to make any noise. Elsewhere around the country, we are often tucked away in a corner somewhere and provided with the worst view and facilities in the ground. Blackpool, Palace and Leeds are recent examples and there are many, many others.

Twelve years ago there was a concerted effort by the previous regime to improve the City Ground atmosphere by cutting the ticket prices in the Trent End. The plan worked to an extent and the stand is still largely full to this day. Yet, it’s impact on boosting the noise levels didn’t work as they would have hoped. For whatever reason, the Trent End hasn’t consistently produced much noise since it was redeveloped in 1995.

A similar plan in the opposite end might just work though. Both the A Block and the Upper Bridgford do well to create some sort of atmosphere but the numbers in both areas is relatively small and they struggle when up against a large away following like Sheffield Wednesday. By combining these two sets of fans in the Lower Bridgford, there could be a bulk of noisy fans spurring the Reds on from directly behind the goal.

There are two primary obstacles to this proposal. Would any Forest fans be willing to move in the first place? The A Block in particular is a long term home for many and some many not like the idea of it but hopefully enough would see the benefits. I’ve heard enough people mention it over the years to think there would be sufficient interest.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle would be where to move the away supporters to. We’ve heard before when this subject has been put forward to the club that the police would veto any request but I often wonder whether this is a bonafide rejection or merely an attempt to brush the matter under the carpet.

The rear of the Bridgford Stand currently offers somewhere for the police to hold away fans if necessary but not every club has this. Do other local police forces fail to cope as a result? No is the answer. At the vast majority of grounds I have visited away fans are released directly into the path of home supporters. At Leicester last week for instance we left the stadium in precisely this manner and I for one didn’t see a hint of trouble.

The solution to this could only really be the Clough Stand. The lower tier hold 3,754 seats, enough to meet the 10% required to be issued to the visiting team while the alternative could be to provide seats in a section of both the upper and lower tiers. With a total capacity of almost 10,000 seats, there would also be greater flexibility to reduce or increase this section based on demand from either club. Having away fans sat above away fans and vice versa would also reduce the issues of objects being thrown from above, something that has been an issue in the current arrangement.

From here I fail to believe that the away fans could not be adequately policed both before and after the game. There would be enough room for away fans to be rounded up if necessary while also still giving Forest fans enough room to get through the car park behind the stand.

I don’t profess to have any legal knowledge on this matter so I stand corrected should there be some important detail that I have missed but I am yet to hear of any plausible defence why the above scenario cannot be implemented.

While this would hopefully produce a greater level of support from the Forest fans the impact of the visiting supporters would also be reduced. In a tough league like the Championship I think every little helps and therefore it’s about time this subject was actively pursued by us as fans and the club.

As previously mentioned, this whole debate has been rumbling on for many years so what is going to change now? Well, it isn’t an issue that we as fans have ever really pushed before and I’d say the new owners could be the driving force we need on this matter. They have been very pro-active on all fronts since arriving over the summer and strong rumours of big screens and ground developments being planned make me wonder if they could be a useful ally.

It’s maybe a long shot but in order to create the atmosphere that many crave at the City Ground, I think this is the obvious and only answer.