Nottingham Forest vs Derby: The East Midlands rivals locked in the Championship

When Ipswich were relegated from the Sky Bet Championship earlier this year, it ended 17 consecutive seasons the club had spent in the second tier of English football.

As they dropped out of the division for the first time since relegation from the Premier League in 2002, the mantle was passed to – and is now jointly held by – Nottingham Forest and Derby, who just so happen to be East Midlands rivals.

After being promoted as League One runners-up under Colin Calderwood in the 2007/08 campaign, Forest reached the play-offs in two of their first three seasons, but since then the two-time European Cup winners have just twice forayed into the divisions’ top 10.

Derby’s trials and tribulations with the Championship play-offs, meanwhile, need no introduction. On a yearly basis, the Rams seem to reach the top six, before falling apart either in the deciding weeks of the season or on the Wembley stage, as they did last year in their 2-1 loss to Aston Villa.

This season, there seems to be a different feel. Sabri Lamouchi and Phillip Cocu took their first roles in English football earlier this year, but the way their respective seasons have panned out thus far has surprised many.

Lamouchi – the left-field appointment and unknown entity in England – has already helped Forest to sample the delights top spot has to offer, albeit only for the duration of a Friday evening, yet Cocu – the three-time Eredivisie winning manager – would struggle to have overseen a more run-of-the-mill start, with six wins, six draws and five defeats so far.

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On Saturday, they face off against one another at the City Ground. We spoke to a fan from each club to discuss their thoughts on ambitions for the season and, of course, the bitter, undying rivalry…

N Forest vs Derby

November 9, 2019, 12:00pm

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‘Derby fans crying on the telly all those years ago at Wembley still makes me smile’

Scott Eley –

In this part of the world, there is only one true derby game. Being refused entry to my best mate’s house by his dad unless I took my Forest shirt off. A makeshift flagpole with Forest shirt attached planted in a rivals front lawn following a famous win. I also recall a Rams head being chucked through a pub window one year but that had nothing to do with me.

Brian Clough is the fuel that the Forest vs Derby game is stacked on.

Imagine falling out with your greatest ever manager for him to reappear at your bitter rivals a few years later. Imagine him then going onto achieve unparalleled levels of success with them – winning back-to-back Champions Leagues and a whole host of other trophies.

Both clubs have tried to step out of each others’ shadow in the years since Brian retired but neither can pull away. It’s almost as if we’re chained together at the ankles.

I would be lying if I said that Derby’s usual end of season failure in the play-offs had not been a high point of our season. Seeing Richard Keogh and Derby fans crying on the telly all those years ago at Wembley still makes me smile.

For years we have taunted Derby with the ‘worst team history’ song based on their dismal 11 points haul the last time they were in the Premier League. But given our relationship, I’d put a £1 on Forest being the team to break that record if we were to ever make it back to the promised land.

While we have a rivalry, I honestly don’t know how we would go on without each other.

Over the past 10 years, there has been a rogue’s gallery of villains that have played for both sides. Nigel Clough, Billy Davies, Kris Commons, Robert Earnshaw just to name a few. Other players – like Robbie Savage with his City Ground scarf-waving antics – have really picked up the derby day script and given some big performances.

So it’s a massive shame that Richard Keogh, our latest pantomime villain, will not be around. Having been a huge part in Derby’s success over recent seasons, he will be a big miss for them on Saturday and we need to take advantage.

Sabri Lamouchi is a class act and we should be feeling confident after a convincing win at Luton on Saturday where Joe Lolley and Lewis Grabban both had their best games of the season. They both know exactly what Saturday means to the fans.

This match is an opportunity for Derby to stem the flow. They have been on a half decent run as of late and a win against Forest turns their season around and takes the pressure of Philip Cocu.

A wise man told me earlier this week there will be a script written for that pair somewhere.

I just hope neither of them reads it.

‘This is the perfect opportunity to prove people wrong’

Ollie Wright – @derbycountyblog

For over a decade, Forest and Derby have been practically joined at the hip.

Both have been stuck in the Championship since 2008 – suffering play-off heartbreak despite significant spending. Both have ambitious, colourful owners and both are desperate to finally return to the Premier League.

Many East Midlands Derby matches are tense, attritional affairs. But an early goal can cause pandemonium.

The day Craig Bryson scored a hat-trick as Derby scored five with no reply in 2014 to equal our biggest win in history over Forest is unforgettable. Then there was the 3-2 FA Cup fourth-round win at the City Ground in 2009 when Derby came back from 2-0 down to win the tie. Delirium.

But the most extraordinary game of all was in 2011. Our goalkeeper Frank Fielding was dismissed in the second minute, conceding a penalty which Derby scored to go one up. Yet we somehow rallied to win 2-1.

Having already been criticised for fielding a weakened team at Forest in the cup, Phillip Cocu understands a good result here would do him a massive favour. Fair play to him, he’s provided a measured, mature presence throughout the drink-driving storm which ended Richard Keogh’s Derby career.

However his slow, calm, patient, methodical style of football reflects his persona. That’s great when there’s an end product. But until we convincingly beat Boro last weekend, Derby have struggled to create chances. A change to 4-4-2 diamond paid dividends. So we will have to see whether we continue with that shape on Saturday.

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