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For much of last season, Nottingham Forest were in the thick of the promotion race, flirting with the top two for much of last winter before eventually finishing in the play-offs and suffering defeat at the hands of Ian Holloway’s Blackpool.
Throughout the campaign, Forest boss Billy Davies consistently stated his side weren't good enough to go up, and that it would benefit the club to wait another season before finally sealing their return to the Premier League they left in 1999.
After a sluggish start to the current campaign, it looked as if Davies’ side may have to wait a lot longer than one more season, but they have slowly but surely climbed the table, and a fantastic run of six straight wins has now lifted them into second spot.
They currently lie seven points behind leaders Queens Park Rangers, with two games in hand and a trip to Loftus Road looming this Sunday. A victory for the Championship’s form side would lift them to within four points of the summit, and would provide a real platform for a title tilt as the season approaches its climax.
Despite constant claims of a lack of investment from Davies, he has been able to put together a squad that boasts both talent and depth for the Championship. The club has seven first-team strikers, including recent arrivals Marcus Tudgay and USA international Robbie Findley, while Davies has looked to plug the left-back position with former England international Paul Konchesky, who has joined from Liverpool on a three-month loan deal.
Couple the ability to bring players of such a calibre to the club
with the form of their home-grown talent, such as goalscoring
midfielder Lewis McGugan, and Forest now have one of the most
competitive squads in the Championship. And at last, Davies seems
confident that his charges are capable of climbing out of the second
The former Preston North End and Derby County boss has a fantastic record when it comes to winning promotion from the Championship. He came within a whisker of the Premier League when in charge of Preston, losing in consecutive play-off campaigns, before winning a surprise promotion with Derby in his first season in charge at Pride Park.
Davies left Derby within a couple of months of that promotion, with the Rams rooted to the bottom of the Premier League. The circumstances surrounding his departure from Forest’s bitter rivals is somewhat shrouded in rumour, but it is widely accepted the club were not able to compete in top flight, and that Davies was a victim of his own immediate success.
And it is that experience that may well have led to the Scotsman playing down his current side’s promotion hopes last campaign, wary of the fact that should they win promotion and then seriously struggle in the Premier League, his head would quickly be back on the chopping block.
Now, however, everyone at the City Ground seems ready and willing to step up to the top flight, and very few Football League fans (outside Derby) would begrudge Forest a spot back in the Premier League.
The club has endured a torrid decade of financial struggle and on-the-pitch woes. In May 2005 they were relegated to League One, and in doing so became the first European Cup winners to ever play in the third tier of a domestic league. A three-year spell in League One followed, Forest’s first seasons in the third tier for more than half a century and a far cry from the club’s most successful period.
Under Brian Clough, Forest won the First Division title in 1978, just one season after gaining promotion from the Second Division. Clough’s side then went on to win the European Cup the following season, and retained the greatest honour in club football the season after.
Clough left the club in 1993, after 16 consecutive seasons in the top flight. During his time at the City Ground, the club added four League Cups and a European Super Cup to the haul of trophies.
Clough passed away aged 69 in September 2004, at the beginning of the season that saw Forest relegated to League One. Six seasons later, the club is over its spell in the third tier and is once again on the verge of real success.
And if they can go on to a notable victory at Loftus Road this Sunday before sealing a long-awaited return to the top flight, there's no doubt Cloughie will be smiling down upon the club once more.
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