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My Trip to the City Ground

Saturday 7th January 2017
For Christmas, I treated my dad to tickets to see his favoured football team – Nottingham Forest. It was my first visit to see the ‘Original Reds'; and it was certainly not one I'll forget.

My father never forced football upon me, we didn't have a subscription to pay-for-TV either. So it wasn't a surprise my interest in football developed later in life. That meant that despite growing up and living in Nottingham for the first eighteen years of my life, I didn't attend a single game of football at the City Ground. I had therefore never had that “first game with your dad” experience.

Forest, that's who my dad supports. I don't support them, but given how affordable the club is compared to my beloved Arsenal and that it's a gift for him, I felt it more fitting to purchase tickets for Forest.

I picked a festive fixture at the City Ground – on December 2nd when the iconic Tricky Trees hosted the Championship oddity in Barnsley. Given the stature and reputation of both teams, I felt that this would be as good as an opportunity as it gets to see Nottingham Forest triumph.

Making my way down to Nottingham on the train, I encountered both sets of fans. The Barnsley fans were in good number, taking up most of the allocation of the Northern rail service from Sheffield to Nottingham. As the route got closer to Nottingham, the train picked up several patrons from great reaches of Nottinghamshire and henceforth picked up a shedload of Forest supporters. The combination made for a great, yet rather noisy atmosphere. On a more chilled side of the carriage, rival supporters were chewing the bit over the politically charged chants between the sets of fans.

Walking down to the ground, there was quite a vibe, despite the chilling temperatures. We took our seats in the first row of the Brian Clough stand. This was comfortably the closest I had been to a pitch, it was effectively pitch-side. It was so close I could make out Eric Lichaj's American accent when he was taking a throw-in.
 As the announcer said, a panorama of the 'world famous' City Ground.
As the announcer said, a panorama of the "world famous" City Ground.
The mood, however, soured relatively quickly, as Barnsley looked like the side in control for first twenty minutes. Forest setup like a very attacking team but kept on getting caught out too high up the pitch. It was a miracle they didn't concede a number of times they gave up possession. Come forty minutes, I stood up and headed to pie stand for a savoury treat and try to beat the queues.

It was at this point I realised just how narrow and poorly ventilated the ground was. A few people in the corridor soon became like trying to fit an entire squad into small Barton's bus. Uncomfortable. Navigating to the front of the queue, I opted for a pie. The filling wasn't really a solid state of beef; rather a warm brown gunk. The pastry wasn't great either, 2/5 on the pie front, wouldn't eat again. The saving grace being how relatively inexpensive it was and it did warm me up on a cold day.

During the half-time interval, Sherwood the Bear made an appearance. He was in goal for the kid's penalty shoot-out. Considering Stojković wasn't in the squad, he could have been Sherwood. The mascot made unnecessary saves against the youths; although later allowed them to score so they could win a small prize.

The second half came around and Forest sat off a bit more, and the game was a little more balanced. Although got very, very boring. Pereira, for his efforts, tried to get things going for Forest – but his football was a little ill-placed. His efforts would be more suited to the top-tier team, where his colleagues would be able to keep up with his ambitious style of football.

Nicklas Bendtner was introduced in the last ten minutes and did inject some pace into the game. He got very creative and found the back of the net in the eighty-fifth minute. Sadly, it was adjudged offside. Conor Hourihane then found the ball near the edge of the box and scored a very appealing goal to win the game. The match deserved a goal and it got one. Given the very little time left, hordes of fans made their way out of the ground. A collective chorus of boos rang out across the ground.
Highlights from the game I went to see.

The end reaction of the crowd summed up their taking to the game, forever pessimistic. Booing the ref at every opportunity. Exiting the ground, it was a tense feeling. The Forest fans were very quiet. The merchandise stalls were unbothered. During the walk out to the centre, I and father discussed the game and Forest's season. It's not looking good for them at all, as they sit just above the relegation zone.

Not quite the first game with your dad experience I had in mind. Yet, I do have reservations about visiting the City Ground again. Herewith the reasons why:

  • Poor quality pie.

  • The very negative atmosphere throughout the game. (Potentially changes when the game is more entertaining).

  • Not very easy to get around. The hallways feel very cluttered when there's actually not that many people in attendance.

It was still, however, what I wanted – to share a live football experience with my dad. Next time I hope it's a better game.
Warren Smith

A British and J.League soccer enthusiast, now local to Yokohama, Japan. A keen Arsenal supporter. Has been known to play the game every once in awhile, once likened to Xherdan Shaqiri. 

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