Was Nottingham Forest’s win at Derby County their sweetest derby win ever?
There are a number of reasons why Nottingham Forest’s 2-1 victory over Derby County on Saturday will be remembered in the years to come by Reds fans as a classic.
But how does it compare to some of Forest’s other recent victories over their arch-rivals?
Forest and Derby have both been in the Championship together for seven years, following Derby’s relegation from the Premier League and Forest’s promotion from League One in 2008 (the only other era the two clubs have been in the same league for such an extended period of time was when they were both in the top flight from 1893 to 1906).
Fixtures between the two clubs during the glory days of each were actually relatively rare, with Brian Clough only being in charge of Derby for six meetings between the two teams in his seven years managing the Rams, and the two clubs were only in the same division for sevn of the 18 seasons he spent in charge of Forest.
It is since 2008, therefore, that Forest fans of the current generation draw their memories of this fixture from.
Forest’s first win against Derby in this chapter of the rivalry came in August 2009, with a wonder goal from new signing Radi Majewski after just 58 seconds setting Forest on their way to a 3-2 win.
That goal was kept out of the headlines that evening though by a major brawl between players of both sides, sparked by Forest striker Nathan Tyson picking up the corner flag, complete with Forest badge, and walking provocatively close to the Derby fans.
Tyson claimed he was merely taking it over to join his teammates celebrating at the opposite end of the pitch, but this argument doesn’t quite stack up as there would have been other corner flags where his teammates were.
The Derby players interpreted the incident as Tyson mimicking Derby midfielder Robbie Savage, who had celebrated Derby’s win the previous season by waving a Derby scarf at the Derby fans, and the animosity grew.
The rivalry at this point began to boil further as the two clubs were both managed by men with history at the other - Derby by former Forest striker and son of Brian, Nigel, and Forest by Billy Davies, who had got Derby promoted to the Premier League, but fell out with the board spectacularly and left early in the next season.
Both men, therefore, had to cope with the pressure of being consistently compared to Brian Clough whenever the two teams met; Nigel because his father had taken Derby from the second tier to winning the top division, and Davies because he, like Brian, had achieved some success in a short period of time at Derby, and had then gone to Forest to try and better it. T
he meetings between the two always seemed to bring out the worst in them, and the two came to blows in the January 2010 clash, with Davies accusing Clough of ‘kneeing him in the back’ in a scuffle between the benches of the two.
The next season saw Forest in the ascendancy, doing the double over Derby and in the process winning at Pride Park for the first time. That away victory, in January, followed one of Forest’s
finest performances under Davies, a 5-2 victory over Derby at the City Ground in December.
These games were characterised by an increasingly high amount of players who had played for both sides, with only two of the eight goals scored in these fixtures not being scored by a player against his former employers.
Forest finished this season in 6th, Derby 19th, and it was looking like Davies was closer to emulating Brian Clough at Forest than Nigel was at Derby.
Davies was the manager the next time Forest beat Derby, although few could have predicted that in between these two victories Forest would have a different manager in all four Derby matches; Steve McClaren, Steve Cotterill and Sean O’Driscoll all oversaw defeats with Alex McLeish being in charge for the 1-1 draw in January 2013.
Forest’s win over Derby in September 2013 saw Davies finally see off old rival Nigel Clough, seemingly for good as he was sacked the day after Jack Hobbs’s goal gave Forest the 1-0 victory.
This was to be Davies’ last victory in this fixture, as his second spell at Forest ended in one of the club’s worst ever defeats, suffering a 5-0 reverse at Derby in March of last year. Interestingly, Derby were by that point (and are still) managed by Davies’ immediate successor at Forest, McClaren, and Forest’s poor run of form leading into that defeat had begun with an FA Cup defeat by Sheffield United - who were managed by Nigel Clough!
Nottingham Forest’s victory over Derby County was, for me, the sweetest of the lot. It was a game of football played amongst a backdrop of rumours of Stuart Pearce being in danger of losing his job, and the players responded perfectly, proving that they were still committed to the cause.
The drama of the victory, and the passion shown by the fans, players and most importantly a manager who was not interested in anything other than winning the game, means that the result on 17th January 2015 has to go down as Forest’s most satisfactory victory against Derby in recent times. Long may the rivalry continue!