City Ground - Nottingham Forest
Saturday 15th August 2009
Vs West Bromwich Albion, Championship League, 7.45pm
By James Baxter
While I was in England for the summer holiday, four of us (Dad, brother, girlfriend and I) decided to see WBA’s first away game back in the Championship, at the City Ground.
We drove over from North Shropshire, an easy enough journey through Stafford, Uttoxeter, Derby and finally up Brian Clough Way to Nottingham. Once in Nottingham, we ‚ 'lost' the signs for the football and cricket grounds and decided instead to head for the city centre and a multi-storey car-park. From there, there are plenty of buses to Trent Bridge and the City Ground is then just a few yards along the river.
Riverside football grounds, especially the older ones, have traditions all of their own. Shrewsbury’s Gay Meadow (a ramshackle but loveable old place) was perhaps best-known for the guy who used to sit in a coracle ready to retrieve balls kicked into the Severn. Some of Town’s more uncompromising defenders (Noel Blake, even David Moyes) would have kept him very busy! Craven Cottage too is almost as well-known for boats as football; before Fulham’s Premiership days, it was only seen on TV when the university boat-race went past. With Forest, there is an excellent view of the ground from the opposite side of Trent Bridge. Then, as you walk across on a sunny day such as this, you see groups of fans sitting on the grassy riverbank enjoying picnics or drinks or even feeding the swans. It all adds up to a pleasant, laid-back pre-match atmosphere.
We didn’t bother with the pubs, which all looked packed and are home fans only anyway. That said, and despite our allegiances, we did have tickets for the home section, having decided to watch the game from the upper tier of the Brian Clough Stand. When this stand was first built, in the early 1980s as I recall, it looked stunning on TV. The outside, disappointingly, is almost pure concrete, reminding me a little of the unloved, soon to be demolished national stadium in Bratislava, Slovakia. Inside, everything is fine. The facilities are good and, if you get to your seat early, there is a fine view of more fans crossing Trent Bridge.
As for the ground as a whole, I would say that, in common with the Hawthorns and St Andrews, the City Ground is three-quarters excellent. It‘s let-down by one tired old stand, which is small, has pillars, no defining features to speak of and, unsurprisingly, the highest proportion of empty seats.
The game recovered from a poor first-half to become quite exciting. Forest were the better team overall but Albion had the outstanding individuals in Jonas Olsson and Jonathan Greening. The latter set up the only goal with a close dribble and cross which Chris Cohen unluckily deflected into his own net. Looking back now, many of the ingredients of Forest’s recent surge up the table were already in place but McKenna and Majewski, by all accounts outstanding in recent weeks, were yet to settle in properly.
Both home and away fans were in reasonable, if not outstanding voice. Albion had 3,000+, not a sell-out but a decent turnout, in a crowd of around 23,000. The Albion fans especially enjoyed Rob Earnshaw’s abject penalty miss, taunting him with chants of ‚Earnie is an Albion fan‘. Just for once, I found myself feeling glad he wasn’t still an Albion player!
Afterwards, we walked from the ground back to the city-centre. Once across Trent Bridge, it‘s not a scenic route but it’s quick and easy. Overall, it was a good football day out. The City Ground is well-worth a visit. I’d be very happy if my next visit there is to see Forest v Albion in the Premiership.
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