2022 – Nottingham Forest: The two-time European Cup winner has quelled nightmares to end 23 years of exile in the Premier League.

On Sunday, this sleeping giant, whose 23-year sleepwalking through the lower echelons of English football, arduous and almost humiliating, retired to the Premier League.

40,000 beloved fans cheered at London’s Wembley Stadium as the former European champions beat Huddersfield Town 1-0 to complete the most unlikely comeback and turn the club’s worst start to the season in 108 years into a stunning promotion.

For anyone over the age of 40, Forrest is a name associated with one man – the great Brian Clough, who led him to promotion, an unexpected win in the Premier League, and then two European Cup winners between 1978 and 1980.

The club was a regular contender for prizes in the 1980s and early 1990s, but was relegated from the Premier League in 1993, its inaugural season.

Cloff left and although Forrest returned briefly to the First Division under his successor Frank Clark, his stay was short-lived and the club was relegated again in 1999.

It's a Ph.D. that took 23 years to work on.

painful bottoms

Forrest’s generation-long absence from the football aristocracy is beginning to take on a hopeless vibe. Losing two semi-final matches in the tournament, to Sheffield United in 2003 and Swansea City in 2011, were their highest honors amid deep, sore bottoms.

A 3-1 lead against Yeovil Town eight minutes before the 2007 Premier League semi-finals and a 5-4 loss in overtime is a memory that continues to haunt every Forest fan.

Cloff ran Forest for 18 years – over the next 29 years, the club had no fewer than 35 different men at its head. The ownership has also been turbulent, with the club changing hands four times in the post-Clough era.

Current owner Evangelos Marinakis, a shipowner who also owns Greek champion Olympiacos, took charge in 2017 promising progress in five years.

Nottingham Forest players Joe Worrall and Louis Graban celebrate during the club's victory parade.

In January of this year, it seemed highly improbable. Forrest scored only one point in his first five games, which led to the departure of coach Chris Hughton.

New manager Steve Cooper took over in September, with the club reaching the bottom of the league.

The 42-year-old Welshman, the son of a referee and on the losing side in a previous play-off semi-final, appears to have changed every aspect of this famous club and led them relentlessly up the table.

That season also included FA Cup victories over Arsenal and Leicester City and the intimidation of Liverpool, who escaped the city’s vibrant grounds with a slim 1-0 win in the quarter-finals.

Even Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was touched by the noise at Forest Stadium.

“It was a massive atmosphere, a massive event. To be honest, it felt like a European night. I know Nottingham hosted them for a while but the fans are ready.”

Winning the tournament final will cost an estimated $215 million to the winning club.

“Mix things up”

Jungle fans sure crave success, but they’ve also learned to expect the worst.

“I’ve been very emotional the last two weeks,” Forest fan Malcolm Cox told CNN Sport before Sunday’s game.

“We’ve been this close before and always screwed up. But this season felt different, it’s all about it. The fans, the intimacy, the feeling that something special was brewing. I’ve never seen City Ground rock like this before this season – even the glory days weren’t like that.” Something fundamental has just changed.

Given their club’s historical tendency to “muck things up,” Forrest fans were understandably anxious as they headed into the match.

Matthew Beardsley carried his five-year-old son Percy on his shoulders, wrapped in a woodland scarf.

“Besides the birth of my son, I would say they are the two most important days of my life,” he said.

“who are we?” Beardsley asked his son, “The Red Army!” The shriek came.

It is estimated that the prize money for winning the finals of the tournament is close to $215 million.

The potential transformative impact of such fortunes on the winners is clear, but the stakes are particularly high for Forrest’s squad of five loan players, including Manchester United’s James Garner, as well as at least two of his local youths – Joe Worrall. and Brennan Johnson – whose performances have captured the attention of clubs with deep pockets.

If they hadn’t won on Sunday it would have been difficult to keep one of the big names.

Cooper understood how much pressure was taken off the shoulders of the entire club.

“We really needed something like this and I’ve been feeling it for the last eight or nine months,” Cooper told reporters.

“I am really proud of everyone associated with the club. It’s not about individual success. It’s about the club… It’s a magical football club and we just reminded the world of that.”

Prior to his appointment as Forestry Manager, Steve Cooper (centre) was Liverpool Youth Manager and Swansea City Manager. He also led the England Under-17 team to victory in the Under-17 World Cup in 2017.

“I just can’t get enough”

Declining the final on Sunday with an own goal – Huddersfield’s Levi Colwell curled his own net under pressure from another local youth in the woods, Ryan Yates.

The second half saw two convincing calls from Huddersfield for the penalty shootout, which were controversially rejected by referee John Moss, the first with an intervention from the VAR. Forrest held out over the huge and wide stands of Wembley, the red-clad crowd erupted and bounced to the sound of the club’s recently approved anthem, Depeche Mode’s “I Just Can’t Get Enough”.

Worrall, who captained the team on Sunday, welcomed Cooper’s influence.

“It gave us a little bit of confidence,” he told reporters from Sky TV. “It’s like a whipped dog, you treat any dog ​​kindly and they become a gentle dog, and if they mistreat you, they become aggressive.

“We were an exhausted team and he came and gave us that hope, he gave us that faith. He killed us kindly.”

The only thing fans were concerned about was that the long wait was over.

“It’s revenge for all those terrible nights – the loss to Woking and Yeovil – and the idea that there will be no happy ending to the story,” Cox said as he walked away into the ecstatic crowd of Wembley fans.