Saturday, November 16, 2013

And it was not all – before winning the title, Nottingham won another trophy. Now, this was really their first victory ever. Nottingham reached the final of the League Cup , where they faced Liverpool. Nottingham was quite confident in the ½ final, where they won both legs against Leeds United – 3-1 and 4-2. Liverpool had it tougher against Arsenal – 2-1 and 0-0. The final opposed the mavericks against the strongest team in Europe. Attacking vs defensive style. Stars vs wannabees and oldish second-raters. Paisley vs Clough. At Wembley, in front of 100 000 fans, nobody scored and after the overtime a replay was scheduled. Which produced nothing too... mean Foresters' defense killed Liverpool's efforts, but in the same time Nottingham was not able to penetrate the opposition. It was tactical game, perhaps not to the taste of almost 55 000-strong crowd at Old Trafford. The first half ended painfully familiar – 0-0. Then in the second half Phil Thompson committed professional foul (the term was already becoming familiar, although really menaced the 1980s) against John O'Hare. The referee's call was disputed immediately, debated for a long time, probably still is objected: it looked like the foul was outside the penalty area. Replays on TV were convincing... depending on what one wishes to be convinced of. Pat Partridge called a penalty. Suspect call, but in the same time it appeared to be the only way to break the tie. Nottingham's defensive style did not provide for many scoring opportunities for either side. John Robertson stepped in and scored.

Ray Clemence guessed where the ball will go, but was unable to reach it – Robertson (#11) scored. It was practically the end of the match... fair-unfair, the Italians won trophies for years that way and no matter what, victory is decided exactly by the difference between scoring and no scoring. Liverpool did not score and lost. Nottingham lifted a trophy for the first time in their history.

Game over and two heroes look more exhausted than happy – Brian Clough and John Robertson.

Things improved soon, at least for the players... Kenny Burns all smiles with the Cup. 'The uggliest player I ever signed', quipped Brian Clough, but footballers are not recruited for looks.

Cup winners – victory at last! In retrospect, Nottingham deserves more appreciation, despite their unattractive style: Liverpool was in full force, fielding all their stars. Not so the Foresters – their captain McGovern had to be substituted in the first match and did not appear at all in the replay. Gemmill did not play at all. And Shilton was absent too – Chris Woods, 18-years old and without a single championship match, played both final matches. Nottingham were underdogs, compared to Liverpool – but they won. The Scots in the team – Burns, O'Hare, and Robertson distinguished themselves. Too bad the other too missed the glorious moment – may be too bad for McGovern more than Gemmill, who at least had his greatest moment a few months later, when he scored his fantastic goal against Holland in the World Cup finals. Too bad for Shilton too, but great for Woods! When two months later Nottingham won the championship, their trophies not only became two, but became legendary – not many clubs won championships immediately after promotion anywhere in the world. Even fewer ended with a double. Fewer still won trophies for the first time in their history right after promotion. A double? Well, it was really a triple, for Nottingham won the FA Charity Shield as well. And since inevitably time passed, their success remains even more important now – so far, no other club did the same after 1978. Legendary stuff, only to become bigger soon.