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In conversation with...Daniel Taylor

Daniel Taylor is the chief football writer for the Guardian and Observer. He also happens to be a huge Nottingham Forest fan and has written a book to accompany Jonny Owen's film, 'I Believe In Miracles'. He was kind enough to speak to us regarding his forthcoming book.

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DM: So, we’re all giddily excited about the film but a book too - it’s like all our Christmasses coming at once. How did you come be involved in the development of the book?

DT: Well, you're not the only one excited about the film. I've been lucky enough to see it already. In fact, I've watched it over and over. Honestly, it's one of those rare events you just don't want to end. And the last 20 minutes – Jesus, I'm warning you all, it's emotional. I would say that, of course, I'm a Forest fan and I've written the book, but when Irvine Welsh is saying it is "the best film of football you will ever see" and Shane Meadows is absolutely raving about it, I think I'm entitled to be biased. As Richard Williams said in the Guardian review, if you can't get enthused about this story and the way Jonny tells it you don't have a pulse.

As for my (small) part in it all, Jonny invited me for a pint to talk about what he was doing and initially that was just because he knew I supported Forest and a good starting point, I guess, in terms of media. He's a great guy, very engaging and likeable, and he has completely thrown himself into it all. He had already got all the players on board and then, a little further down the line, someone had the idea of a book and he asked if I would be interested. Everything just went into fast-forward from that point and as soon as we went to see the publisher, Headline, they said immediately they wanted it as their main Christmas book. That didn't give me a great deal of time to write it but work were great and gave me five weeks off over summer. The only pressure has been that the film is so great I obviously wanted to do a book that did it justice. The whole project has been very exciting and - hopefully this won't sound too corny - it's been a genuine privilege to be involved. To use a quote from Martin O'Neill in the film, "it was like getting on a train and never getting off."

DM: What can we expect from your book? A weighty coffee table tome? More detailed and lengthy interviews with those involved? Behind the scenes revelations?

DT: All of that, I hope. There were 21 hours of interviews already in the bag and then we have had a few nights out at Copper in West Bridgford where the players have got together and then you start hearing some more of their stories. It's been great watching them bounce off each other and, over time, you realise one of the reasons why that was such a great team: every single one of those guys is a strong personality. They all hold their own and some of their stories are hilarious. The book is essentially like the film – the story from 1975 to 1980 of a pretty crumby football club that was 13th in Division Two, with plummeting crowds (8,000 for one league game), winning the First Division title, two European Cups, two League Cups, the Super Cup, going 42 league matches unbeaten and setting all kind of records, all within five years: that five years, when Clough was at his absolute peak.

It's almost absurd what that team did – just imagine Huddersfield (who are currently 13th in the Championship) winning the Champions League twice before 2020, and doing it with five of the players who are playing for them now. Someone on my paper chastised me a few years ago for using the word 'genius' in an article, saying there was no such thing in sport. Well, sorry, watch this film and tell me BC, from 1975 to 1980, was not touched by genius.

DM: As a lifelong Forest fan, working on this must have been a genuine labour of love. How did the experience compare with writing ‘Deep Into The Forest’? After all, you’re a little older and wiser since then.

DT: They both have been to varying degrees. Deep Into The Forest was my first football book and seems to have gone down well apart from the fact, er, both the publishers who took it on then went out of business and it's currently on sale for £0.01 on Amazon's used and new. That was a much smaller book, though, whereas Headline are the biggest sports publishers around so I'm looking forward to seeing the end product. The main difference is that for DITF I had to go through all the process of contacting the players and arranging interviews, which is obviously quite time-consuming. This time, Jonny had done all the spadework really and by the time I arrived on the scene they were all on board and really enthusiastic to help. I can't stress enough: as someone who deals with modern-day players every week of my life, these old guys (who actually went to the top of their game) are a breath of fresh air.

DM: The achievements of Clough, Taylor and the team between 1975 and 1980 are frankly, miraculous. There is a feeling that the team and particularly, John Robertson, never quite garnered the respect they deserve. Why do you think that is?

DT: Hopefully the film and the book will help to put that right. John's own view is simply that Clough was so charismatic and such a huge personality (I mean, has anyone verbally sparred with Muhammad Ali on television – and managed to get the final word in?) that it was just inevitable most of the attention went to the manager. Every newspaper article about Forest at that time started with 'Brian Clough'. It is ludicrous, though, that someone like John himself isn't revered more widely as one of the genuine greats of the era. He scored the winning goal in one European Cup final, and set up the winner the year before, as well as being the key man in a team that knocked Liverpool off their perch long before Alex Ferguson came up with that quote. I was looking through Robbo's testimonial programme the other day and the tributes are incredible. Jimmy Gordon, to cite just one example, says: "I saw a lot of Tom Finney and Stan Matthews in my time. John has a bit of both – and something extra on top." It does irritate the players that they don't get the praise they deserve but, equally, they are far from a bitter bunch and they are probably used to it by now. It was the same at the time. Bob Wilson said the bubble would burst; it was made out of more than soap and water, Bob.

DM: Although the game is still essentially one team trying to score one more goal than the other, so much has changed since then.  A club rising from the second tier to claim the top tier title, two League Cups, a Charity Shield, a Super Cup and then just for good measure, go on to conquer Europe couldn’t happen again now - could it?

DT: The first team I covered as a journalist was Leicester City just after Martin O'Neill took over. They won promotion, sneaking up in a similar way to how we did in 1976-77, then won a couple of League Cups and regularly beat the top clubs. Martin - a brilliant bloke who would have done such a great job at Forest - was like a God in Leicester during those years but then compare what they did with what Forest did. Like I say, imagine Huddersfield doing it now. Or Burnley winning the First Division last season and now competing in the Champions League. It is never going to happen again and that is why it is so brilliant Jonny has put this brilliant film together, and we can all be there with the players at the premiere. I was meant to be going to Lithuania that day to cover England but I've had to change my travel plans. I'm now going at 5am the following day with two connection flights but that's a minor inconvenience when the alternative would be missing the big night. I mean, you've got to be there, haven't you?

A huge thank you to Daniel for being so generous with his time. If you haven't read his book, 'Deep Into The Forest' you really should - it's an absolute treat and is available from amazon in either paperback or electronically. This edition would be my preference though - excellent front cover.

Daniel's book isn't out quite yet but will be on 12th November.

You can buy tickets to see the film here.