Derby Day Tales: Flying bricks, flying sheep heads and flying the flag (Part II)
These games have a habit of getting under the skin. They can produce ecstasy or anguish, joy or woe. They can define a season or even a career and they conjure up the most irrational hatred.
Many lay claim to having a rivalry with us. The thing is, we just aren’t that interested in anyone else.
Sure we collectively hold a hefty chunk of disdain for the Scousers but we have long since slipped off their radar. Sheffield United, like with Leeds, irritate and we have had our moments but it never feels like hatred. And your Leicester’s and your Notts County’s will always continue to amuse with their one way loathing.
We only have eyes for Derby.
We’re a strange couple. While we share a mutual affection for the Clough and Taylor names we quarrel incessantly over a range of subjects from the ridiculously trivial to the most tragic of incidents we should both steer clear of. In truth, we are abundantly similar and, like with some siblings, it is perhaps this which produces such a nasty, often bitter streak.
The rivalry has often led to violence which has characterised this fixture down the years. And it’s here we’ll start this collection of short stories submitted by our fellow fans who explain their own stand out memories of Forest and Derby encounters…
Jeff Edwards – Derby 4 Forest 1, Saturday 24th November 1979
My memories are more from the old Baseball Ground, particularly 1979. We had two vans start out from Kimberley, about twenty of us.
We called at a pub in Breadsall just outside of Derby. After 2 or 3 hours drinking we made our way to Derby and parked up in the railway station car park.
As we walked around the corner near the Shell petrol station there was a lot of demolition work on an old property. I started seeing these black dots in the sky.
They were bricks. A big group of Derby fans had laid in wait for us.
By the time we got to the ground the game had already started and we were already a goal down sadly. We went on to lose 4-1.
While the violence between fans had certainly diminished it still does exist, even if it’s taken on more bizarre forms of intimidation. Like that incident in 2009 when a Forest fan decided to go throwing severed sheep heads through pub windows in Derby before a FA Cup 4th Round game at Pride Park.
It made national news at the time and the police sought help catching the culprit. There were rumours circulating who it was and how the perpetrator was a Forest supporting butcher but, to the best of my knowledge, no-one was caught or came forward.
It did however give rise to the following tune which did the rounds for the next few games between the two clubs:
What’s that coming through the window?
It’s a sheeps head, it’s a sheeps head!
That particular cup game in 2009 game produced a late Robbie Earnshaw equaliser that triggered a replay back in Nottingham.
Markan Sangha – Forest 2 Derby 3, Wednesday 4th February 2009
Derby always seemed to fall on my birthday week for the first few seasons we were back in Championship and I’m pretty sure the first match against them at home was the infamous 3-2 FA Cup replay defeat.
We’d got off to an incredible start and were 2 up after about 10 minutes but after that it all unravelled pretty quickly.
My 18th birthday should have been one to remember and make me smile but all I can remember of it is Kris Commons doing a bum slide in front of the Lower Bridgford and Robbie Savage swinging a scarf around his head at full time. Gutting!
The Savage scarf waving was a source of much anger at the time – Derby beat us twice in a month at home and Savage ended both games in front of the A Block swinging a black and white scarf around. Savage, it is worth saying, carried this on all the way to the tunnel. This detail would prove important some months later when the boot was on the other foot…
Peter Walker – Forest 3 Derby 2, Saturday 29th August 2009
My story was I believe back in August 2009 and crucially our first game against Derby since they had beaten us the previous February twice at home. Those game were Robbie Savage’s piece de resistance, infamously waving a Derby scarf around his head in front of the Forest fans. The first time we were smarting after losing a two goal advantage in the FA Cup Replay and then in a 1-3 league defeat .
Needless to say revenge was in the air. You can easily imagine Billy Davies using it to stir things up before the game. It would seem to have had the desired effect as Forest steamrolled Derby that first half into a 3-0 lead. Cue pandemonium in the stands.
This being Forest, however, second half it was all Derby and they very nearly equalised having got two back. At full-time Nathan Tyson rather stole the show, running to the away end corner flag and doing a Savage directly opposite their baying fans.
Next thing all hell was let loose as the entire Derby team started to fight with Tyson and other Forest players. I was in the T Block that day so had premium seats for it. The rivalry is real; this was one example of it exploding into an all-out assault.
Personally I think the games between us when Mad King Billy and Nigel were in charge were the best as the hatred between the two of them was the same as it is between our two sets of fans.
Tyson’s flag display that day provided some closure to Savage’s antics and put the game into Forest folklore.
That game was added to the list of many others of famous Forest Derby games that featured that one defining moment. A firm favourite is from April 1994. Forest were on the cusp of an immediate return to the Premier League and made the short journey to the Baseball Ground.
In the Derby line up that day is former Forest full back Gary Charles.
Alun Gadd – Derby 0 Forest 2, Wednesday 27th April 1994
I was 20 years old at the time and my mate was 18, our ages probably saved us from a hiding as we had ended up in the home end.
The original match had been postponed if I remember right, can’t remember who I got the tickets off, I must have been friendly with a Derby fan at the time.
We went on the train from Beeston and then walked to the Baseball Ground keeping very quiet especially the closer we got. I remember passing a pub near the ground which was quite lively with the sheep shaggers.
We were in the top tier of the 3 tiered stand behind the goal (can’t remember its name) and I remember when the 1st goal went in from Colin Cooper it just kicked off in all the other stands. We just kept our mouths shut!!
The way we got found out was when Pearce flattened Ted McMinn. The whole stand erupted apart from me and my mate. A gentle tap on the shoulder and a warning to keep quiet followed.
I remember the Derby fans saying near the end of the game where they’d be able to get to the Forest fans for action.
Gary Charles scored an amazing own goal and a 2-0 win. It was followed at the final whistle by us running all the way to the train station to avoid the potential trouble.
Regrettably since that game in ’94 all but secured promotion for Forest almost all of the amazing moments have ultimately settled bragging rights only. One exception to that rule was in 2017 when a goal from the most unlikely of sources rescued us a point that would end up securing our safety from relegation come May:
Alex Card – Forest 2 Derby 2, Saturday 18th March 2017
It was the home game against Derby on the 18/03/17 that ended 2-2 with Forest going ahead and then going behind until Dani Pinillos header in added time.
We sit upper Bridgford behind the goal at the top of the stairs. And when that goal went in it felt like the whole section just sprinted down the stairs going mental above the Derby fans. I remember swinging my scarf in the air so hard that I let go and it flew onto the netting above them.
It was pure madness and joy and to see the shock on the Derby fans faces made it even better.
But how does it feel to be thousands of miles away when these huge derby day moments are unfolding?
Oliver Hague – Forest 1 Derby 0, Saturday 9th November 2019
It’s Saturday, 7:30 am. My alarm goes off. I’ve got to work. How times have changed in these past few years. Usually I’d be up on Derby day and contemplating how to sneak in my first drink. Do I put whiskey in my coffee? Baileys on my cereal? Or do I just straight up grab the nearest bottle of something strong to kick things off and flatten those wiggly jiggly butterflies from deep within? But not this weekend and not right now. I’ve got to work.
Yes, times are certainly different for me in the lead up to a Derby game living overseas, but different doesn’t necessarily mean bad. On waking up Saturday morning in South China, it could be anything from 12 hours to 20 before kick-off (depending on how SKY Sports have decided to screw us this time). This gives me abundant time to message my dad (usually first thing), trawl through Twitter for all the latest gossips and giggles, write a few messages in the NFFC China supporters group chat, and oh yeah, LOSE MY ABSOLUTE $**T. I didn’t say different was bad, but I also didn’t say it was easy…
Anyway, I digress. So, usually the morning is torture. I’m trying to teach my students new grammar points whilst pacing, pacing, incessantly pacing around. The first few classes of the day are usually hieratic, without lineage, or focus. As I jump from pillar to post in my own mind. “It’s Derby day”, “it’s Derby day”, it’s all I can think. “Should I just teach them Forest songs?” I ask myself. “Maybe I can somehow work it into a lesson….”
3 entire hours of teaching this morning and I’ve just taught them Forest songs. The afternoon then echos this. My students have no idea how to speak in tenses but they do know Robbie Earnshaw is a Red. The shame of it all! Anyway, work done, and off the pub…
Now then, the pub, here is where I can (hopefully) enjoy my day! I’ll grab a can or six for that matter (please do not judge) from one of many convenience stores littered around the area of my work, for the 25 minute taxi ride into town. Maybe six cans for a 25 minute ride would seem excessive but I’ve had a torment filled day, I’ve some catching up to do and I did ask you not to judge. But the bar is where we can have fun…
I mentioned the NFFC China group chat previously… Well we’ve managed to accumulate a number of fans over the last few years from all over China, consisting of locals and foreigners and it is through this community of friends and my own friends here I will by this time have organised a small gathering of Guangzhou(ers) / Guangzhou(ians) at the bar for the game. (I’m aware I’ve coined two new terms there for the city I live in. Just pick whichever one sounds most pleasing to you and run with it). Anyway, so we’ll have a small gathering in the bar and things will finally start to hot up. This is where the nerves, the adrenaline, THE LOVELY BEER, all start to kick in.
… It’s 0-0, not much has happened. I’m apologising to my American and Canadian mates, both new to football and wondering why I’d been in such a mess all week. Ameobi hits one from about 30 yards out and it goes screaming over the bar. At this point my American mate asks me why he didn’t pass? I turn to him, away from the TV and express happiness as at least we’d had a shot. Nothing had happened so far in the game and… I turn back around and Grabban is wheeling off in celebration. WHAT THE F…?
I didn’t ask that at the time, I just leaped onto the stool of which I was sat in the bar and furiously pumped my fist at the TV. What had happened? I was cheering a goal I never saw. What must the locals had thought?
Turns out Derby forgot how to play football for a second and Grabban being the acute predator he is made no mistake about it. Sending those Derby tossers packing and the City Ground into anarchy. It was a beautiful moment and finally I got to show my friends here the passion of a rocking City Ground.
It’s never easy following Forest for any of us and it’s certainly never easy following on a Derby day. What I’ve managed to learn from my time away is that no matter what time, what day, or how bloody far away you tried to get; Forest and football will always be something that connects us.
And in that moment when Grabban scored, I was with you. The same emotions, the same beating heart, and baring a missed television reply the same view! 6,000 miles really are nothing when it comes to these sorts of moments. These are the moments we share as a community and the moments that make us one.
We all love Forest.
Another collection of short stories will follow later in the week.