Although some refuse to admit it, football is a game that hinges on emotion and sentiment. Why else would we all dedicate a vast chunk of our week to following one team’s every move and allow results to dictate out mood for days, weeks and even months after?
The modern game has, however, become a bit sanitised. If you follow Premier League football then there’s very little hope of seeing your side lift a trophy unless you’re supporting one of six, maybe seven, teams. Also, the ability to rise through the various steps of the Football League and achieve glory is something reserved for hours of Football Manager or FIFA. It just doesn’t happen anymore.
That makes the efforts of Nottingham Forest during the last 1970s to the early 1980s all the more impressive.
From relative obscurity, Brian Clough’s troops rose to claim back-to-back European Cups in 1979 and 1980 with the infectious nature of their manager and the heroics of his players still remembered fondly by fans from both with Nottingham and further afield.
And with Jonny Owens’ film ‘I Believe In Miracles’ due to be released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download on November 16th, here’s a look at what happened to the iconic 17 players and their boss from the club’s great era…
Outspoken and often controversial, Clough was Forest’s manager from 1975-1993, and is considered one of the great coaches in the history of English football. His achievements with Derby and Forest, two small, struggling clubs upon his arrivals, rank among the greatest in football history. He’s often referred to as the ‘best manager England never had’ as he was not given the chance to guide the Three Lions despite his club heroics.
Clough died in 2004 at the age of 69, but is still remembered fondly by football fans across the nation and much further afield.
Then: Nigel, the son of Brian, enjoyed the best spell of his career with Forest and played over 400 times for the club in total – mostly under his father – scoring 131 goals. Such a tally makes him the second highest scorer in the club’s history, and for that he is remembered fondly. He went on to play for the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Sheffield Wednesday before finishing his career in non-league football.
Now: Clough was the manager for Sheffield United until earlier this year. He’s also managed, like his father, Derby and took Burton Albion from the seventh tier to the verge of promotion to League Two before leaving during the 2008/09 season.
Then: Clough signed the legendary goalkeeper from Stoke for £250,000 in 1977. He went on to cement himself as a club icon and remains England’s most-capped player with 125 appearances to his name. He played until the age of 48, winning five trophies.
Now: At the age of 66, Shilton often appears as an after-dinner speaker and features in video games such as FIFA 10, 11 and 12 as a legendary player.
Then: His career was stagnating before Clough took a chance on the defender at the age of 29. He went on to become a key player at the club and famously received a signing on fee in the form of a washing machine Clough stole from the City Ground laundry.
Now: Lloyd, 67, has now retired after managing Wigan and Notts County before running a pub and working in local radio.
Then: Rescued from Manchester City’s reserves by Clough and went on to become a regular for Forest. He featured in the now famous game in which the club doomed Manchester United to relegation.
Now: After playing for Swindon Town, Barrett, 63, now works as a painter and decorator near his home in Southwell.
Then: After coming through Forest’s youth ranks he established himself as a first-team player under Clough and went on to play over 400 games for the club and became England’s first black footballer.
Now: Anderson, now 59, runs a travel business and works in an ambassadorial role for the FA. He also played for Arsenal and Manchester United during his footballing career.
Then: Plucked by Forest from non-league outfit Long Eaton – he worked as a carpenter whilst playing – for just £2,000, Birtles starred as a centre-forward during the European Cup-winning run of 1978/79.
Now: Now 59, he’s enjoyed a good career as a television and newspaper pundit. Birtles also earned an England call-up and played for Manchester United.
Then: Needham played almost 500 games for Forest’s bitter rivals Notts County, but was a part of both European Cup runs. Signed from QPR for £140,000.
Now: The 66-year-old owns a company that makes road signs. During his playing days he joined North American Soccer League club Toronto Blizzards.
Then: Famous for being Britain’s first ever £1m player, He repaid the fee Clough paid for him with the winning goal in the European Cup final of 1979 against Malmo.
Now: Francis, 61, now works as a pundit for Sky TV, but was a football manager (he was in charge of Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham City) between 1988 and 2003.
Then: A 400+ game veteran for Newcastle before he joined Forest, he ended his career in fairy-tale fashion by winning the European Cup in 1979.
Now: The 72-year-old is enjoying his retirement after a spell as Forest’s chairman – a period in which he helped them return to the Premier League.
Then: A feisty Scottish midfielder who worked extremely well under Clough until the pair fell out over his exclusion from the 1979 European Cup Final team.
Now: He settled his differences with Clough and returned to Forest to work as a coach. Now retired at the age of 68.
Then: Although a centre-forward in his time at Birmingham City, Clough signed him to play as a defender. Had a very close relationship with his manager, who signed him while at a dog track.
Now: The 62-year-old works as a newspaper columnist after ending his career in non-league football.
Then: PFA Young Player of the Year in 1978, the local lad starred during the 1979 European Cup run before moving to Germany to play for FC Cologne.
Now: The 59-year-old runs a number of sports-related businesses. He was Arsenal’s top scorer for four seasons before injury ended his Gunners career.
Then: Famously ‘Robbo’ was on the transfer list when Clough arrived, but the manager recognised his abilities and turned him into a dazzling winger. He scored the winning goal in the 1980 European Cup final against Hamburg and has been voted Forest’s Greatest Player. Well-known for being extremely cool off the pitch.
Now: The 62-year-old is now retired and suffered a suspected heart attack in 2003 while playing tennis.
Then: A silky midfielder, Bowyer signed for Forest from Leyton Orient and played in both successful European Cup finals.
Now: The 64-year-old works as a scout for his son, Gary, who manages Blackburn Rovers.
Then: Captained both European Cup-winning sides after being told to ‘get your hair cut’ by Clough, who was unappreciative of his trendy style.
Now: A club ambassador at Forest after ending his career managing Bolton, Rotherham and several non-league sides.
Then: The Scottish striker followed Clough from Derby to Leeds (the scene of his infamous 44-day reign) before joining him at Forest. Appeared in the 1980 European Cup final as a substitute.
Now: The 69-year-old is a club ambassador for Forest and a part-time chauffeur for Toyota. Heralded as one of the trailblazers for soccer in America after playing for NASL side Dallas Tornado.
Then: A versatile defender/midfielder under Clough. Mills became Forest’s youngest ever player after making his debut as a 16-year-old in 1978 before going on to be the youngest European Cup final appearance maker two years later.
Now: At 53, he manages Wrexham. Played in America for then NASL side Seattle Sounders after leaving Forest in 1982.
Then: O’Neill has a fiery relationship with Clough and was famously dropped for the European Cup final in 1979. He did, however, play a year later.
Now: Currently the manager of the Republic of Ireland. Recently secured their spot in EURO 2016. Has also coached Wycombe, Leicester City, Celtic, Aston Villa and Sunderland.