I don't know anyone of my age or older who has been fortunate enough to choose their team. By rights a football team is assigned to you by geographical location or by some family link. I grew up in rural East Anglia, so could either have picked Cambridge United or perhaps a Norwich team containing such stellar talents as Ian Culverhouse, Jeremy Goss or super Chrissy Sutton. However my Grandfather (the only person in the family who enjoyed football over horse racing) supported Nottingham Forest. I liked that they played in red, had Stuart Pearce rifling free kicks in from 40yards, a retro badge, desperately unfashionable location and had Brian Clough in charge. So Forest it was!
I missed the glory years and joined the club approaching decline, my first and only experience of any sort of success was the Gazza dominated FA cup final of 1991. Since then we hovered around the Premier League and have dropped to League One, got promoted to the Championship, flirted with success and are now on a downward trajectory once more. Currently, thanks only to the equally bad form of Coventry City we're almost staring a return to the third tier of the football pyramid full in the face.
However I am excited, a relegation battle is more enjoyable than mid table mediocrity and last time we went down to League One it offered an opportunity to rebuild the club. Of course there are negatives to relegation - there's the money for a start. The difference in revenue between leagues is vast, thankfully theres less of a gulf between the Championship and League One, but its definitely a concern. Theres also the risk of your club going permanently belly up, to illustrate the following have all played in England's top division since Italia '90 and since plummeted to the third tier or beyond at least once:
Bradford City, Charlton Athletic, Leeds United, Leicester City, Luton Town, Manchester City, Nottingham Forest, Notts County (yes, they really did play in the first division within living memory), Norwich City, Oldham Athletic, both Sheffields (Wednesday and United), Swindon Town and the forebearers of what can happen if; Wimbledon.
The loss of television money, compounded by the ITV digital collapse in 2002, has left some of these clubs stranded in non league football without the necessary income to recover. Yet for some clubs relegation can be a galvanising force, a clean slate on which to build and frankly, an incentive to make more of a bloody effort on the pitch.
For Forest back in 2005 relegation felt an exciting opportunity. Going from playoff losers to relegation candidates in one close season is something we're headed for once again, but last time relegation saw the team rebuilt from the ground up.
Out went the 'big time Charlie's’ and in came a promising influx of youth teamers, transfers from the lower leagues and astute young loanees. Our first team included;
Wes Morgan (born in Nottingham)
James Perch (born in Mansfield)
Julian Bennett (born in Nottingham)
Kelvin Wilson (born in Nottingham)
Lewis McGugan (born in Long Eaton)
Kris Commons (born in Mansfield)
All local, all young and hungry and all playing for the shirt. Quite a rarity in a game dominated by foreign stars, that said the above list includes some chaps who have since blotted their copybook by believing the hype and jumping ship - I'm looking at you Mr Kris 'free transfer to dirty Derby' Commons.
So, with relegation looking increasingly likely this year, I’m actually quite positive about it... bring on AFC Bournemouth!
To take things to the extreme just look at Manchester City, since relegation, they’ve continued to build
We had less money, but more heart and it made the team relevant again. Luckily we eventually got promoted back to the Championship, it took us 3 seasons, but the few seasons we spent in League One were brilliant.
We were favorites to win something for a change, we were the “big name team’ and in a perverse way, history makers... first European Cup, now the UEFA Champions League, winners to drop to third division. This isn’t an achievement relished by all Forest fans, in much the same way our Derby loving neighbors are still sore about being officially and statistically the worst team ever to play in the Premier League (even now I pray no team ever betters their dismal haul of 11 points in a season).
Its not just Forest either, arguably, Norwich, Southampton, Leeds and Leicester have all emerged from the dark depths of third tier football stronger. In fact after the drubbing Norwich received against Colchester at the start of their tenure (a 7-1 reverse at Carrow Road) they poached Paul Lambert from the victors and happily swashbuckled their way back to the Premiership with back to back promotions. Southampton look like emulating them this time season with a side built around talented youth teamers and the bargain signing of Ricky Lambert from those well known powerhouses Bristol Rovers. Saints progress is all the more impressive too given their history of constantly flogging their “next big thing” - Walcott, Bale, Surman and more recently Oxlade-Chamberlain.
I guess my point is, if the club can stay solvent, getting relegated - it’s not all bad.Relegation can offer a chance, the opportunity to reinvent and start afresh. There are examples of horror stories but equally things to take inspiration from, for example Swansea, Norwich, Blackpool have all played in League One within the last few seasons and have tasted Premiership football since.
To take things to the extreme just look at Manchester City, since relegation, they’ve continued to build, taken advantage of offshore investment and the Commonwealth Games bequeathing them a stadium and are now qualifying for the Champions League. I’m not saying an Arabian Prince will sweep into the City Ground and promise Nottingham Forest fans the signing of David Silva - but it is grounds for outrageous optimism.
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