Everything USMNT fans need to know about Nottingham Forest

Before they started collecting USMNT goalkeepers, Nottingham Forest had Illinois-born defender Eric Lichaj, who had already notched up close to 200 appearances.

Links with the US are nothing new for the club, which counts Ben Olsen and John Harkes among their former players. But with Gio Reyna expected to join Ethan Horvath and Matt Turner at the City Ground — although a deal is not yet done — more Americans might suddenly find themselves casting one eye towards Nottingham.

Forest already have numerous U.S. supporters’ clubs, including in New York, Los Angeles and Hawaii. Their links on the other side of the Atlantic are only getting stronger by the week.

This has been helped by the return to the Premier League after a 23-year exile. Despite that absence, Forest do have a significant place in the history of English football. More on that and Brian Clough later.

The Athletic has taken a look at Forest and everything you need to know ahead of Reyna’s likely move to England.

So, where is Nottingham?

It is in the Midlands — right in the heart of England. The City Ground, Forest’s home stadium, is famous for sitting right on the banks of the River Trent.

What is also unique about Forest’s home is that Notts County — the city’s other football club, who hold the title of being the oldest Football League club in the world — is on the opposite bank of the river, while Trent Bridge, the home of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club, is across the road. That’s three major, historic sporting venues all packed together.

Nottingham is also the fabled home of Robin Hood. Nottingham Castle is not too far away from the City Ground, in an area of the city that is still peppered with caves and underground tunnels.

And the city also still has a sheriff — although they are no longer evil villains.

Forest’s Robin Hood mascot (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Can you sum up the history of Nottingham Forest?

There is a lot to get through…

Forest were one of the first football clubs formed, in 1863, when a meeting of shinney (a sport similar to field hockey) players met at a city centre pub called the Clinton Arms and voted to begin playing football instead.

At that meeting, it was also agreed the team would purchase a dozen caps in the colour of ‘Garibaldi Red’ — named after the leader of the Italian Redshirts freedom fighters, Guiseppi Garibaldi. The club’s colours were decided.

Forest’s first-ever game was against city rivals Notts County, who had been formed only three years previously. Forest joined the Football League in 1892.

In 1898 Forest won the FA Cup — the most prestigious cup competition in England — for the first time, beating Derby County 3-1. The post-war years saw Forest flit between the third and second division but, in 1959, after returning to Division One, Forest won the FA Cup for the second time, beating Luton Town 2-1.

Roy Dwight played for Forest in that final, scored the opening goal and broke his leg — this game was before substitutes were allowed. Dwight also happened to be the cousin of Reg Dwight — better known as Sir Elton John.

Forest’s fortunes were transformed with the appointment of Brian Clough, their greatest-ever manager, in 1975. He was a charismatic, inspirational character. He turned a rag-tag group of players into a team that was far greater than the sum of its parts.

Clough took over a side that was struggling in the Second Division and, in 1976-77, he led them to promotion, finishing third in the table.

What followed was remarkable. In 1977-78, Forest marked their return to Division One by winning the league title. They also beat Liverpool to win the League Cup that season.

The 1978-79 campaign saw Forest pitted against Liverpool again, this time in the first round of the European Cup. Forest delivered another in a series of shocks, by beating them 2-0 on aggregate over two legs.

In February 1979, Forest made Trevor Francis the world’s first £1million footballer. Within a few months, he scored the winning goal as Forest beat Malmo 1-0 to win the European Cup (now the Champions League), as he headed home a cross from winger John Robertson — a tubby Scotsman who is widely regarded as Forest’s greatest-ever player.

It is hard to properly explain the scale of this achievement, but it is safe to say that it is something that will never be repeated. The players involved have subsequently become known as the Miracle Men and remain heralded around the city today. They did it again the following year — winning the European Cup for a second time, this time beating Hamburg 1-0 in Madrid.

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Taylor and Clough watch the 1980 European Cup final (Duncan Raban/Allsport/Getty Images)

A bit of the Clough magic diminished when Peter Taylor, his assistant and key part of the double act, departed in 1982. But Clough still inspired success. In all, Forest won four League Cups under Clough, as well as reaching the FA Cup final in 1991. Clough’s remarkable 18-year tenure came to an end in 1993. He retired on a low note as Forest dropped out of what was now the Premier League.

Frank Clark, one of the Miracle Men who had lifted the European Cup, took over as manager and immediately led Forest to promotion back to the top flight, before inspiring a third-place finish — and a title push — during the following campaign. It meant a return to Europe, where they reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup.

Clark left with Forest fighting relegation in 1997, to be replaced by Dave Bassett — who could not save the club from the drop, but did lead them to an instant promotion in 1998. Forest spent only one season back in the Premier League, however. And, when they were relegated again in 1999, it was the start of 23 years of exile. Forest even dropped down to the third tier (League One) for three seasons, between 2005 and 2008.

Forest flirted with promotion back into the Premier League a few times, but it took more than two decades before Steve Cooper arrived in September 2021 to lead them into the Championship play-offs and, via a victory over Huddersfield at Wembley, back into the top tier.

So, are Notts County their main rivals?

Well, no. While their grounds may be a few hundred yards apart, the two clubs’ histories have taken different paths. In the modern era, they have rarely played in the same division. It is almost 20 years since they faced each other in the league.

County fans have a strong dislike for Forest. But Forest’s disdain has largely been reserved for Derby County and, to a lesser degree, Leicester City.

The road that links Nottingham and Derby is named Brian Clough Way, with Clough having also led Derby to a league title and into Europe before joining Forest.

Forest fans have taken great pleasure in Derby’s recent misfortune. They have been relegated into League One, although they are currently building a promotion challenge.

Do Forest have any celebrity fans?

Stuart Broad, the former England cricketer, is a regular at the City Ground. Fashion designer Paul Smith, who grew up in Nottingham and launched his brand here, is another famous fan. Joe Dempsie, who played Gendry Baratheon in Game of Thrones, is another supporter.

World champion featherweight boxer Leigh Wood hopes to fight at the City Ground at some point. Former world No 1 golfer Lee Westwood always keeps track of Forest’s results, wherever he is in the world.

Who owns Nottingham Forest?

Evangelos Marinakis, the Greek shipping magnate, has been the primary owner of Forest since May 2017. His son, Miltos, is heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the club.

The Marinakis family are also the figureheads at Olympiacos, the biggest club in Greek football, as well as owning Rio Ave in Portugal.

Marinakis has never lacked ambition at Forest, having sanctioned the signing of 42 players during the last three transfer windows, following Forest’s promotion — at a cost of around £250million.

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Evangelos Marinakis (Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

What does the badge mean?

The Forest badge is one of the most iconic in English football.

The story of how it was designed is also entirely unique, as it was actually the result of a competition run by the local newspaper, the Nottingham Evening Post, back in 1973.  It depicts a tree — symbolising Sherwood Forest where Robin Hood and his merry men robbed the rich and gave to the poor — sitting on the waves of the River Trent.

Simple but perfect.

If Forest ever attempt to change the design significantly, an entire city would mutiny.

(Top photos: Getty Images)

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