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An evening with the Miracle Men

The Miracle Men gathered for a Q&A hosted by Colin Fray. We were lucky enough to be there.

Daniel Taylor

You can have too much of a good thing...or so they say.

Initially, this was a curious one. We'd all heard the anecdotes and we'd read them in various interviews or in Daniel Taylor's book. What more could we possibly hear? Maybe even some people uttered under their breath, 'If I hear about Larry bloody Lloyd and that bloody washing machine one more time, I cannot be responsible for my actions."

But it wasn't like that. It was different. It was better.

If the movie premiere offered the audience a cathartic, communal celebration, this event provided an intimate post-closing time, old fashioned lock-in atmosphere at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham.

Before the main event, the audience were treated to a film initially installed at the Nottingham Contemporary alongside a display of fan memorabilia from the era. Moving, funny and warm, this montage of clips, interviews, stills and quotes captured the wide eyed amazement of the team's achievements whilst also contextualising them against the social and economic background. It was the late 70s. It somehow looked both unutterably grey and infinitely groovy at the same time.

Then some dry ice crawled onto the stage and gathered behind one of the two European Cups on display. A slow yet steady acoustic plucking and strum of chords meandered through the speakers. Mull of Kintyre.

It sounds awfully cheesy and trite, doesn't it?

It wasn't.

The audience sang along. Nay, they bellowed along. They were ready.

Colin Fray announced each and every member of the squad; they took their turn to take the stage and assembled in a long line. All were cheered. All looked proud to be there. One person got a more sustained reception than others - his name was Martin O'Neill.

For a moment, it seemed a bit awkward. The audience made their feelings known regarding who they'd like to see as the next incumbent of the manager's chair at the City Ground. Martin looked a bit sheepish. He was here to celebrate and catch up with old mates, not to make an exclusive announcement or kick up dust ahead of his Ireland team's preparations for Euro 2016. The cheering, whooping and chants of 'Sign him up' eventually subsided. The point was well and truly made though.

It was quickly apparent how the event was to be structured. Having all 17 on stage at one time was clearly going to be difficult and so the discussions were took place in small groups. First up were the five men who were at the club when Brian Clough chucked his coat onto a peg in the dressing room and got down to business: John Robertson, Tony Woodcock, Viv Anderson, Martin O'Neill and Ian Bowyer.

O'Neill is every bit as witty, erudite and sharp as you wish to imagine. Self depreciatingly, he admitted that he came to Nottingham as he'd, "heard that there were six women to every man." Next to him, Viv was very much enjoying this, like a young 16 year old out on the town for the first time with his older mates.

Frank Clark - that most gentle of gentlemen - shared a zinger of footy trivia in revealing that Newcastle United somehow managed to allow two players to leave on free transfers who went on to win a European Cup winner's medal: himself and Ronnie Simpson who played for Celtic in 1967.

Club ambassador, John McGovern - perhaps in a potentially awkward situation with the audience letting their feelings known regarding the club's next step - was on great form all evening, especially when pondering the magnificent consistency displayed by the team: "We never got injured...seems a strange thing to say about a Nottingham Forest player at this moment in time."

Archie Gemmill recalled the details of the time Brian stayed over at his house in an effort to get him to sign for Forest. Brian stayed the night and the next morning, came down in his vest and underpants. When asked by Archie's wife what he'd like for breakfast, he declared "Full English". Naturally.

Vest and pants. Brian. Full English.

Brian - in his vest and pants, possibly dunking his sausage into his runny egg - told Archie that if he were to sign for him, he would play on Saturday, win the league and play for his country.

He signed. All three events came to fruition.

Larry Lloyd, Kenneth Burns and that nice young man known as David Needham entered stage left. Larry and Kenneth were dressed in mock bandages and Kenneth wielded an Acme sledgehammer. At the heart of a mean defence, they bled. And maimed.

Larry, in his gentle west country twang, told his fridge story. No man has ever looked cooler in a ropey old hat than Larry:

They were excellent value. Kenneth on the modern game: "I get more physical contact at Asda." Larry on that first half performance against Southampton in the League Cup final: "We were pissed. We were shite in the first half."

Daniel Taylor and Jonny Owen rightly took the stage to be congratulated on their efforts in telling the story. It appears that plans to acknowledge the team by the National Football Museum are well underway.

"About bloody time" according to Taylor.

He's right. He usually is.

Naturally, talk turned to Brian. Colin Barrett came closest to getting to the heart of what made him the genius he was. For all the tricks, bluster, hubris and manipulation, deep down, Brian was only really interested in one thing when considering a player: "Can he play?"

That word - 'play' - it could mean a million different things but anyone who has seen a team managed by Brian knows instinctively what it means.

On his legendary goal in Cologne, Bowyer was delightfully humble: "It was (Harald) Schumacher in goal and did you see what he did to that French lad (Patrick Battiston) in 82? If I'd have known that, I'd have stayed well away from him."

Everyone agreed that Gary Mills - who appeared for Forest in the European Cup final at the tender age of 18 - was still boyishly good looking and handsome.

One final thing that is abundant apparent: everyone loves John Robertson.

Truly, madly, deeply.

Even intimate lock-ins have to end some time. This one did too. Even if it was only fleetingly, it was a pleasure to be in the pub at the next table.