It’s more than 25 years since I made my maiden voyage to the City Ground – and that makes me feel old. Although it’d make me feel a heck of a lot older if it I hadn’t been just four years old when I first went through the turnstiles.
The fateful day was on September 30, 1989 and it was a 2-0 home victory against Charlton Athletic. Not a bad start eh?
I’d love to vividly describe the goals from Brian Laws and Lee Chapman but I can only guess I was shamefully distracted by sweets, pop and, well, other four-year-old kind of things since I have no memory of the day itself.
I’m lucky though. Going to Forest as a young child meant that I am able to remember the Clough era – and I can recall it before that sad demise in 1993.
Being short – I’ve never really grown up in truth! – we used to get to the Bridgford End super early, before the turnstiles opened.
Then, with a milk crate to ensure I could see over the front wall, we’d rush to get a prime spot right at the front of the terraces behind the goal and eagerly await the action.
I remember moans about Lee Chapman – who I didn’t think seemed that bad – and the reverence for those defensive giants of Stuart Pearce and Des Walker.
I also remember the ready supply of wine gums from a chap who stood near us (I always picked the Forest red ones) and the crackly Robin Hood record as we ran out to the field.
However, the first individual game that sticks in my mind came away from the relative creature comforts of the milk crate, wine gums and Bridgford terraces.
My first away game was on Saturday December 14 1991 at Anfield
This was an entirely different beast. We’d travelled, by train, to Kirkdale and walked on to the ground through Stanley Park.
By the time we’d reached there it was busy with fans flocking to the ground and I distinctly remember there being an array of barely understandable Scousers asking us about tickets, prompting my dad to need to explain ‘the tout’.
I also remember my dad (who had been at Hillsborough with my elder sister) showing me the famous Anfield gates before we went into the ground and into the lilac seats (why lilac?!) which were a bit of a novelty in an era still dominated by standing at matches.
It was a dark December day and the atmosphere felt hostile. It was, frankly, scary but in an exciting way.
An angry fellow tricky spent most of his time berating Bruce Grobbelaar with the sort of language my dad clearly didn’t want to explain.
The hosts, clad in that distinctive diagonal striped Candy home shirt, were just too good for us that day.
Steve McMahon scored early on and any hope of a comeback was dashed towards the end by Jan Molby. Both goal scorers looked like class acts to my young eyes but, of course, I disliked them both intensely for scoring against us.
Our youthful midfield hadn’t quite been up to the bright lights and big stage of Anfield on that night. Still, we went on to finish eighth that season, just a couple of places below Graham Souness’ side thanks to some class of our own from the likes of Sheringham, Clough and Keane.
I was hooked by the whole experience. The travel, the sense of adventure, the atmosphere…everything bar the result which, given what was to come in later years, was probably a good lesson to learn early on.
Team: Crossley, Charles, Pearce (C), Walker, Chettle, Keane, Crosby, Gemmill, Clough, Sheringham Woan. Subs: Wassall, Tiler.