Nottingham Forest won two back-to-back European Cups under Brian Clough. (image: Nottingham Forest club website)

Lewis Brumby looks back at the legends of the City Ground and chooses the best starting line-up of Nottingham Forest’s history, how many of the famous Clough-era will make it in?

Under Brian Clough, Forest enjoyed a meteoric rise and phenomenal success in the 1970s but how many players in those extraordinary teams will make it into the all-time greatest side?

GK – Peter Shilton

England’s record appearance holder – with 125 caps for the Three Lions – has to be in this team. Joining the City Ground in 1977 for a record fee of £325,000, with Brian Clough disregarding criticism of the fee by saying, “Shilton wins you matches.”

That proved to be exactly the case as with Shilton between the sticks, Forest won the 1977-78 Division One title, with him taking the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in the process and went on to famously win two successive European Cups in 1979 and 1980 as well as the 1979 European Super Cup.

He made 272 appearances for the club over five years, winning six trophies.

DEF – Viv Anderson

Pioneer, hero and a really good player. Viv Anderson was the first black player to play for England and, in truth, deserved more than the 30 caps he got. A key member of the double-European-Cup winning side, Viv is a legend not only to Nottingham Forest, but to the sport as a whole.

He made 425 appearances for his boyhood club before moving to Arsenal and eventually becoming Sir Alex Ferguson’s first signing at Manchester United.

DEF – Des Walker

Des Walker was named Forest’s player of the year three times

Des Walker was a constant rock at the back for Forest as they looked to transition the side from the late 1970s. He played in seven finals at Wembley for the club, winning five of them.

He was named in the PFA team of the year in four successive years, being named as Forest’s player of the year on three occasions. He was also a key member of the England side who made it to the 1990 World Cup semi-finals.

Over two spells at the club he made 408 appearances for Nottingham Forest.


DEF – Bob McKinlay

A potentially controversial one here, McKinlay only won one trophy whilst at Nottingham Forest, but is nevertheless a club legend who deserves recognition.

The definition of a one-club player, McKinlay is Forest’s all-time record appearance holder with 685 appearances under his belt. During his time, he won the 1959 FA Cup in a 1-0 victory over Luton Town.

Once his playing career ended, he stayed at the club in a coaching role, before becoming a prison guard.

DEF – Stuart Pearce

An ever-popular character, ‘Psycho’ spent 12 years at the City Ground, most of them as club captain. He won two League Cups under Brian Clough in 1989 and 1990.

He was a cult hero of the Italia ’90 England squad which made it to the World Cup final, alongside Paul Gascoigne and Forest teammate Des Walker.

He captained Forest to an immediate return to the Premier league in 1994 and helped them to a third-place finish in the league in 1995 and a UEFA Cup quarter-final appearance the following year.

He made 522 appearances for the club and managed them twice in 1996-97 and 2014-15.

MID – Martin O’Neil

Another former manager, Martin O’Neil’s success at the club as a player can not be understated. He spent 10 years with the club and was a key part of Brian Clough’s revolution, gaining promotion to the First Division in 1976 and winning the title and League Cup the following year.

His place in the starting eleven came under threat towards the end of his time at the City Ground but played in the 1980 European Cup final win, Nottingham Forest’s last trophy for nine years.

In total, he made 285 appearances for the club, scoring 48 goals.

MID – John McGovern

John McGovern played for Brian Clough at three different clubs (image: Pinterest)

Described by John Robertson as someone who “epitomises what every side needs”, John McGovern captained Forest through their brightest years and made sure that every player gave their all.

He was the youngest player to play in all four divisions at the age of 19, and was a favourite of Clough, playing for him at Derby County, Leeds and Nottingham Forest.

A true fan favourite, the hard-working midfielder was a member of Brian Clough’s side and made 335 appearances for the club over a seven year period.



MID – Roy Keane

Despite only spending three years and making 154 appearances for Forest at the end of Brian Clough’s managerial career, Roy Keane is still remembered fondly in Nottingham.

As a teenager, he displaced experienced midfielder Steve Hodge and shone through in a struggling side of the early 1990s.

After Forest were relegated in 1993, he got a transfer to Manchester United for a British record fee of £3.75 million. At Old Trafford, he would win seven league titles, four FA Cups and the Champions League.

MID – John Robertson

Once described by Brian Clough as a “little fat man” John Robertson was a magnificent footballer who was instrumental to Forest’s 1970s success.

An often forgotten man by many when remembering Clough’s success, Robertson was described by the manager as “an artist, the Picasso of our game”.

He is one of the first names which come to mind to Forest fans when asking for their best player of all-time, so he had to be in this list.

Over two spells with the club, he played 514 times, scoring 94 goals, including the winner in the 1980 European Cup final.

FWD – Stan Collymore

Stan Collymore helped Forest get back to the Premier League in 1994. (image: Stuart Franklin)

The outspoken radio host may not have such a good reputation nowadays, but as a player he was electric for a struggling Forest side.

He was instrumental in guiding them back to the Premier League in 1994 and then to a third-place in the following top-flight season. In just 78 appearances for The Reds he scored 45 goals, averaging 0.6 goals per game, earning him a move to Liverpool in 1995 for a British record fee of £8.5 million.




FWD – Grenville Morris

Another off-track one here, Grenville Morris was a player at the turn of the 20th century, once described as “the pinnacle of inside lefts”.

After just 30 games for Swindon he was signed by Forest and went on to become their leading all-time top goalscorer with 217 goals in just 460 appearances for the club.

Honourable Mentions

Marc Crossley was a permanent fixture between the sticks in the 1990s and played 355 times for the club.

Kenny Burns was a key defender of the dominant side of the late 1970s. He made 196 appearances, scoring 15 goals.

Michael Dawson is the only player close to the list who still plays for the club, he came through the club’s academy and learnt his trade alongside the legendary Des Walker.

Steve Hodge was a key player for the team in the 1980s and only displaced at the end of his career by the brilliant Roy Keane.

Ian Storey-Moore was an exceptional talent whose career was tragically cut short by injury, whilst at Forest he scored 118 goals in 272 games.

Trevor Francis is a name often heard in a pub quiz, as the world’s first £1 million player. At Forest he scored 37 goals in 93 appearances during the double-European Cup winning years and scored the winner in the 1979 final.

By Lewis Brumby