We Hate Nottingham Forest
Nottingham Forest 6 Chelsea 0
Wednesday 28 March 1979
“We hate Nottingham Forest, we hate Arsenal too (and Leicester)
We hate West Ham United (or Manchester United)
But Chelsea we love you.”
There has been much debate at Chelsea in recent times about singing or not singing songs that have been sung at Chelsea for many years now.
The above song is the song we have regularly sung about Forest for years, with the “and Leicester” being added in later years. With our regular routine still for singing about Steve Gerrard slipping on his arse and Dennis Wise getting a late goal vs AC Milan 20 years ago, the Forest song is one that you don’t hear as much these days but it has been part of the Chelsea songbook for nearly 50 years now.
But for anyone under the age of 30 reading this “We hate Nottingham Forest” probably has little relevance to them. Until this season they had not been in the Premier League now for 20 years and other than a couple of FA Cup wins in 2000 and 2007 and a Carabao Cup 5-1 thrashing of the Tricky Trees a few years back has there ever a time in our history when we, really hated them?
As Tim Rolls in an earlier article on this site highlighted there may have been some off the field terrace fisticuffs between both sets in the mid 1970s especially during the 1976/77 visit when we were both in the Second Division and threats by Forest fans of ending up in the River Trent and some fans of both sides did, but, even when Brian Clough was manager and they won the league and also twice won the European Cup did we really hate them. Even when they asked us if we had ever won a European Cup. (We have now twice, thank you), I for one did not. Them winning the league in1977/78 stopped the Scousers from doing so which was not a bad thing in many folks eyes and the outrage at all at Liverpool at Clough and co gate crashing their trophy winning monopoly was welcomed far and wide. Thanks Cloughie.
But Forest were responsible for two of the heaviest defeats in our history 7-0 in 1991 and 6-0 in 1979 so that should mean something shouldn’t it ?
Ah yes, the 6-0 defeat at the City Ground in March 1979. The original game had been due to be played in December and was postponed due to bad weather. It was rearranged for February but was called off again. It was finally rearranged for Wednesday 28 March. I had bought a ticket for the original date (£1) and a ticket for the club train (£4.50) which was still valid but as I was still at school studying for my O Levels in 1979 the 3.45pm train from St Pancras looked tricky to make with school. Fortunately the gods of school timetable saw two free periods that Wednesday afternoon miraculously appear and with Kings Cross station only half an hour from Burnt Oak on the Northern Line I was there in good time using my parka coat zipped up tight to best conceal my school uniform.
In the middle of revision for mock exams I even brought my history papers in a Tesco carrier bag for something to read on the journey to the East Midlands.
On arriving in Nottingham, the 700 or so Chelsea fans who made the trip on the “special” were greeted by the traditional police escort waiting for them at the station. Whilst waiting to be let out from the concourse on to the streets of Nottingham a chorus of “We hate Nottingham Forest” as Inspector Linley from the Nottingham Constabulary insisted his men searched every Chelsea fan before leaving the station.
The contrast between London and Nottingham greeted us as we left the station. Clear skies in the smoke, torrential freezing rain in Nottingham. Cold enough to snow some might say. The ten minute walk from the station to the ground took an eternity with the escort continually stopping as I with my carrier bag stuffed up my jumper trying my best to keep my history revision papers dry.
Our defence looked weak and inexperienced on paper. Wilkins (G), Stride, Sitton and Nutton up against Birtles, Woodcock, Francis and Robertson. Not forgetting we had that lunatic Borota in goal. For 44 minutes the rain come down until the pitch was saturated but our novice defence stood firm with last ditch tackling and goal line clearances. The mad Yugoslav was in fine form, denying Francis and Woodcock in quick succession with fine saves. Just when we thought we had weathered the Nottingham storm and the Forest one and we could enjoy hopefully our half time cuppa up popped Martin O Neill at the far post on the stroke of half time to put the League Champions ahead. I just had time during the interval to gen up on Gladstone’s Home Rule Bill and Disraeli’s reign as Prime Minister when the teams returned for the second half. Gary Stanley had replaced the injured Graham Wilkins at full back. What happened in the next twenty five minutes made Rorke’s Drift look
like a picnic as Forest pounded the Chelsea goal with shot after shot, attack after attack and
seemingly scored at will.
Tony Woodcock made it 2-0 and minutes later Gary Birtles made in three and our defence caved in. Woodcock scored a fourth goal and two further goals from the future Wycombe, Leicester and Republic of Ireland manager made the score 6-0 and there was still only 70 minutes played. The only consolation was their £1million minus a pound signing Trevor Francis drew blanks. Now there was someone only a mother could love and a mush from Shepherds Bush flogging the odd tracksuit. “What a waste of money“ sang the Chelsea fans as Francis failed to put away the numerous chances that fell to him.
By now the rain had turned to snow and a wind blowing in from the River Trent ensured that the hard core Chelsea fans who had made the journey north to the East Midlands were freezing their proverbial rocks off. Burnley in recent years has won the award for many Chelsea fans for the coldest they had been at a football match. If there was a reason to hate Forest back then other than this thrashing it was how cold, wet and windy it was that evening. It was freezing!
If being 6-0 down with plenty of time left in the game was bad enough in trying to prevent Martin O’Neill from scoring his hat trick, our centre half John Sitton had injured himself and with our one substitute used already we were now down to 10 men for the last 20 minutes of the game.
With our record defeat at Wolves in 1975 still a recent enough memory for many fans and Forest now rampant it was question of how many would they score. When faced with everything going against you, a 6-0 thrashing, a freezing cold terrace, relegation looming, the Chelsea fans who had cheered their team throughout the game upped their tempo with one of the longest version of “Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea” I think I have ever heard to this day. With Sitton off the pitch injured, we pushed Ron Harris back into the centre of defence and for the last 20 minutes Chelsea defended resolutely. When Forest did get through, Borota produced save after save to thwart the league champions.
The support seemed to get louder and louder and stunned the Forest fans into silence. “You’re supposed to be at home” went into “We want seven” to “We’ll support you ever more” and when the Trent End tried a woeful “You’re going down, you’re going down” we responded quickly with a “We’re going down, we’re going down”. The final whistle went and any other team on the end of a 6-0 hammering would probably have been booed off the pitch but the 10 men of Chelsea were warmly applauded by the travelling Chelsea contingent and the Blues fans were even applauded by their Forest counterparts at the end of the game.
We hate Nottingham Forest? Ask us all tomorrow any time after 6.30 pm.
This is an updated version of an article Mark Meehan wrote for CFCUK in 2019