A Warm Leeds United Welcome on Saturday to Nottingham Forest’s “Tricky Trees” – by Rob Atkinson

Former United striker Dougie Freedman, now in charge of the Tricky Trees

Former United striker Dougie Freedman, now in charge of the Tricky Trees

Notts Forest (they hate being called that, so let’s go with it) are one of those annoying, middle-sized clubs with no real history or tradition, who got lucky for a brief period during an otherwise mundane existence – and whose fans have never stopped boring on about it since. In this respect, they’re even worse than Aston Villa, who had at least been there and done it in previous eras. But Notts Forest led a life of almost unrelieved dullness between the time of Robin Hood‘s departure and the arrival of one Brian Clough. Then, for a brief period, everything gelled – and there was a purple patch. Not one to compare with the dominance of Liverpool in the seventies and eighties, to be sure – or even Leeds United in the sixties and seventies. But a purple patch nevertheless, and – for many residents of Nottingham – it was the best time of their lives (always excepting the defeat of the miners in the mid ’80s…)

The magic factor that made the difference for Notts Forest is of course one man, now sadly departed. Without him, all of that unprecedented success would never have happened. His eye for a player and his ability to play his crucial part in a phenomenal double act was the vital ingredient – the difference between mere competence and spectacular success. What a pity that publicity hog and shameless ego-maniac Brian Clough went and nicked almost all the credit for himself, ruthlessly marginalising the true hero. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Peter Taylor – the divine spark behind the conflagration of conspicuous achievement at the City Ground 38 years ago. The fact that Taylor made the vital difference is undeniable – and reflects poorly on those who, to this day, accord all the kudos for everything to Old Big ‘Ed himself. They could hardly be more wrong.

The truth of Taylor’s importance to Clough is easily enough illustrated. For whatever reason, Peter Taylor remained behind at Brighton when Clough strolled into Elland Road, expecting to repeat the success of Don Revie “but better”. 44 days later, he left Leeds, an abject failure – but lollied up to the eyeballs and able to name his own terms in any future job. And he had learned the painful reality that, without Taylor, he was no better than ordinary. All of Clough’s finest achievements came about with Peter Taylor at his side. If that duo had ever worked in tandem at a big club – and there was none bigger than Leeds in 1974 – then a dynasty of success could have been founded. Taylor wouldn’t have let Clough make his rash Elland Road mistakes – he’d have set about the matter far more gently, far more constructively. It was Leeds’ calamity – and Forest’s eventual good luck – that the mainspring of the Clough/Taylor double act stayed at the Goldstone Ground, Brighton – while Clough was left alone in a hotel in Leeds to discover the unwelcome truth of his limited potential as a one man band.

Nowadays, the glory years of dominance and success are distant memories for both Forest and Leeds – though United’s early-nineties revival at least gives Whites fans a choice of eras to drone on about – and they find themselves instead as the undisputed two biggest clubs below the elite Premier League level. The meeting at Elland Road on Saturday will reflect this in a bumper crowd of over thirty thousand, with the added spice of what appears to be a keen mutual dislike between clubs, personnel and supporters. Notts Forest possibly resent the continual references to their local area’s lack of solidarity during the Miners’ Strike, and also to their ridiculous nickname. Honestly – the Tricky Trees? Who on earth was responsible for that particular weird flight of fancy? Neither have they got over the perceived injustices of the 1-1 draw between these two at the City Ground earlier in the season, when apparently the Tricky Trees should have had half a dozen penalties at least, if not more.

Saturday’s game sees Leeds United in a more relaxed frame of mind than might have been the case only a few short weeks ago. Relegation worries have been seen off, and the Whites are bobbing about comfortably in mid-table, looking unlikely to move very much either upwards or down. The most likely realistic goal for the remainder of the season will be to see if a disastrous pre-Christmas spell can be overcome for Yorkshire’s Number One to confirm that position in the league table. A win over Forest would be another step on the way to realising that baseline target.

The main problem for United is that the Trickies have revived somewhat since the dismissal of the useless Stuart Pearce, their results showing a distinct improvement under the guidance of former United striker Dougie Freedman. There are even some pundits who fancy them still to make a late bid for a play-off place, which would at least give the rest of us the pleasure of them collapsing in a fit of nerves against whoever they might play in the two-leg semis. But it’s more than likely that both of these mid-table pedestrians will be renewing hostilities next season, in the same league – but hopefully with better prospects – at least for Leeds.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s game still has that top flight feel about it, with memories of Curries and Strachans and Battys and Hankins taking on the likes of Shilton, Gemmill, Keane and O’Neill. It’s not a fixture that wants for historical appeal, and a fullish Elland Road will be ample tribute to that. Leeds fans will hope for three more points towards sealing Yorkshire supremacy and, with a few solid if unspectacular victories under their belts, it would be most welcome if – just for once – United could set about their visitors with enough relish to see them off convincingly. It’s not that long since Forest got the worst of a goal-laden afternoon as Leeds emerged 4-2 winners – but there have been heavy defeats for the Whites too, about which the least said the better we’ll all like it.

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything wearily dons its pundits hat then – and the prediction this week is that the Whites will see off their embarrassingly nicknamed foes by three goals to one. And, in a crude attempt at reverse psychology, I would simply like to emphasise that there is no possibility of Steve Morison scoring for Leeds, none whatsoever – just forget that completely, it ain’t gonna happen.

Glad we got that cleared up. 



27 responses to “A Warm Leeds United Welcome on Saturday to Nottingham Forest’s “Tricky Trees” – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Very good,as always Rob …”the fact that Taylor made the vital difference is undeniable – and reflects poorly on those who, to this day, accord all the kudos for everything to Old Big ‘Ed himself”.

    Just a thought … I wonder if the same thing can be said about Steve Thompson, or is the change in our fortunes too much of a coincidence?


    • Some say it’s Bamba arriving, some say it’s Cellino having to take a back seat – maybe Thompson is due some credit. I might write that up and ask what people think.


  2. Not one to compare with the dominance of Liverpool in the seventies and eighties, to be sure – or even Leeds United in the sixties and seventies????

    Leeds during the 60’s & 70’s, Won 1 League, 1 Fa Cup, 1 League Cup and 2 Fairs Cup. Forest in the 13 year period from 1977 till 1990 won 1 League, 3 League Cups 2 European Cups and the European Super Cup.

    I think just like Forest most Leeds fans are also living in the past.

    But good read

    (from a Notts Forest fan)


    • I think difference is we were there abouts a lot. “bridesmaids” syndrome so to speak, lots of finishing 2nd. also domestically it was a time when Liverpool and arsenal had very strong sides. oh and we were done by bent refs in Europe twice.


    • Chris,
      I agree, but you’ve missed out the two trophies Leeds were cheated out of but bent ref’s……..as everyone with any sense of fairness


  3. nigel gould-martin

    one of your best writes almost noble prize material Great stuff keep it up my friend


  4. As M L King once said I have a dream Leeds will win by three three goals to one, scorers B Sharpe 27mins C Taylor 54mins S Morison 84mins N/ F scorer W Scarlet 89mins.


  5. Eddygraysshoulderdrop

    Excellent piece Rob got to say that I have a respect for Forest fans that I will never have for the team at the other end of the A52. They have won the trophy that we were cheated out of in 1975, once against “Kevin Keegans” Hamburg (always made me laugh when commentators described Hamburg in that way) and the Swedish part timers Malmo. Both are clubs have history and that reflects in the support we both have. Forest have had,to quote the words of a famous song, their own ups and downs but their fans from my personal experience remain loyal, pragmatic and self effacing. Now this no way detracts from the fact that their most successful manager was a self proclaimed hater of OUR Damnned United and our beloved Don Revie. That not whithstanding I look forward to Saturday, a good crowd with a cracking atmosphere and hopefully a win for us. Oh and on the subject of Thompson I think we can not underestimate what he has brought to the club. I remember Blackburn away, not least because I was sober at an away game for the first time in years, looking down at NR as he cut a lone figure on the sidelines, I thought then he needed a number two, someone to bounce ideas off, seek affirmation or get another perspective on the game, let alone warm the subs
    up without having to take your mind off the game, as Brian Clough proved a great assistant is key to being a great manager……. MOT


  6. I was too young to enjoy our halcyon days, in fact most lads alive who support the Lads can’t remember us winning a thing. I even missed Bobby Mocur lifting the awld Inter city Fairs by a single year. I some times wonder if it was me that spelled disaster for the lads but that theory has been put to bed by the fact that I stopped attending home games in 2008/9 when mighty Mike sped into toon on a horse drawn chariot, selt all our best players and promised us a decade of mid table survival and third round F.A cup exits-oh for the glory of a cup run or a crack at the league- bloody Forest won 2 European cups in the 80’s and even Villa won the league in 81 with my uncle Roy on the coaching staff!! yet we are as far away from winning fuck all as we’ve ever been, it’s a bugger to face up to and still hurts like hell at the thought of it! Leeds’very own David Batty (I loved Batts as I know all on here will of for different reasons)and when he scored one of his very very rare goals for the Toon in 96 away at Blackburn I thought we’d finally done it, it never quite turned out the way I wanted it to and although we’ve all waited to long, both sets of fans can take solace in the fact that at least we’re not Sunderland eh lads? NUFC.


    • Batts’ goals were rare but often things of beauty. He gave one of the best quotes I ever heard too, after breaking a years-long goal drought against Man City in ’91. City had been on the receiving end of Batts’ previous strike in about 1987, and he said after the ’91 game “I don’t score many overall but against Man City I’m prolific”. A grand lad and technically very adept – few struck a ball more sweetly. He should have scored many more.


      • I don’t think its any coincidence that Batts won a league title twice (did he get one with Leeds’ in 91/2? I know he won one with Blackburn). He was a super little player and very consistent. He was like Matic and Tiote rolled into one. Yes he could have scored more but he was very defensive for us but that was his job and he gave us 8/10- 9/10 performances week in week out. Brilliant at what he did, break up play and give the ball the Beardsley or Ginola. He once famously got a hold of the neck of Nicky Butt in a man yoo game reminiscent of the Mackay Bremner picture I’m sure you’ve seen. Up there with the best definsive midfielders there’s been in the Premiership. I’m struggling to think of any better to be honest.


      • Batts was indeed one of the “Last Champions”, forming a quarter of what was generally acknowledged the finest midfield four around at that time, with Strachan, McAllister and the late, great Gary Speed. The finest compliment being paid at the moment to our current prospect Lewis Cook is that he reminds many watechers of a young Batty. Batts even notched a few that title-winning season, the first of which ended a long drought and led to insane celebration among his fans on the Kop, who had waited years for the moment. Ankles snapped that day as the place went mad with joy – but I believe it’s true to say that absolutely no pain was felt until much later.


  7. Anyone who hates Derby as much as they do must be OK really. I didnt like Forest when they were succesful, I dont really know why, Perhaps it was Clough, I just dont know, but I hated Liverpool too, more than I hated Man U, which took some doing (But I hate the spitters and divers more now).. But since their golden era Forest have been just as useless as us and seem to have retained a decent if not amazing level of support, so credit to them for that. Their fans seem fairly normal and not as mouthy as Derby, without being too quiet and dignified. Their ground has improved a lot over the years. I remember seeing Aidan Butterworth score at the Trent End as I watched from the awful open roofless terrace at the other end. Its odd, perhaps I quite like Forest now because I hate Derby so much? Is that the same reasoning that stops us really hating Man City?
    Perhaps its because Clough annoyed potential signing Gary McAllister by asking him if he was gay when they met to discuss a contract, which ensured Gary’s decision to sign for Leeds.( A great day)
    Clough went through a stage of kissing people at one time, which I found a bit sickly, but despite that maybe I just respect clubs like Forest and Wolves because they remind me of Leeds. (All potential and little reward). Not a glory seeker in sight.


  8. ‘Some tricky banter from Notts fan Chris… But, returning to the match, has anyone else noticed that when Redders picks the same team that won the last game we lose? When he’s forced to make changes we win. This could be due to either tired players or other teams’ game plans being successful or not depending on how they expect us to play. As Head Coach, when he was on his own, Redders was predictable in his team selections and tactics. It changed when Tommo joined as his second. Whether it was Tommo’s influence or just the fortune of happenstance is still moot. I guess we’ll find out during the remaining games of this term… Starting tomorrow!


  9. What a totally boring and waist of space on the SCUMS childrens book shelf. A Div one championship, so that makes you FAMOUS then !!😅😂

    Gid when will you Yorkshire Puddings realise that youv’e not won owt’e cos ya harp on about your short and uneventfull period under that knob Mr Revie, BC woukd have made you a real football club, but instead Bully Bremner threw his toys out the pram and Sir Brian Clough made us an ever famous club instead, dream on you SUCKERS….😅😁😂😃😆


    • A few Florist Twiglets fans seem to think they have a right of reply here. Not so, I’m afraid – not with the appalling standard and the gutter language used. I make an exception for this one as it’s unintentionally amusing and demonstrates the scary level of thickness out there in Scabland 😂


  10. ‘Imagine Redpara’s “waist of space” is as thick as his head – I.e. a mono dimensional lump of wood, or two short ones!


  11. There was I saying their fans were not as mouthy as Derby!
    Changed my mind now…They are all Scabs.


  12. milano whites

    We all hate scabs and scabs and scab…MOT


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