A look back at how things turned out the way they did, from our own anals...
Game 1 August 8th 2021. Manager: Chris Hughton. Coventricity 2 Forest 1.
... we would suggest that the pragmatic (defensive) model is all Hugeton knows, which is why you will probably see very little creative innovation or even spirited, sustained attacking in his Forest teams, but a whole lot more negative energy, falling back and fearing the worst.
Game 2 August 14th 2021. Manager: Chris Hughton. Forest 1 AFC Muffs 2.
... when a team is chasing an equaliser against ten men, why would you retain two defensive midfielders?
Game 3 August 18th 2021. Manager: Chris Hughton. Forest 1 Blackbum 2
... THESE ARE THE GIFTS OF THE GREY GHOST: NO PLAN. NO PERSONALITY. NO POINT.
Game 4 August 21st 2021. Manager: Chris Hughton. Stokes 1 Forest 1.
... What does 'We're going down,' mean, Grandad?
It's called gallows humour, my boy. It means that somebody's going to get hanged.
Game 5 August 28th 2021. Manager: Chris Hughton. Sheep 1 Forest 1.
...the first half left me bewildered and disturbed. The Forest team was once more playing in that confused and dislocated way it reserved for football matches. Even the bright hopes were dimmed, as Zinckernagel and Garner laboured. I found it hard to fathom how decent players could combine to form this knotty confusion. My wife asked me "Who is Forest's coach?" and I had no answer. Perhaps we didn't have one. When Hughton says, 'This squad clearly needs help', he should try giving it some.
Game 6 September 12th 2021. Manager: Chris Hughton. Forest 1 Caerdydd 2.
... I watched your beloved Forest yesterday, Vetch. I watched them play reasonably well in the first half, scoring a goal and defending manfully against a barrage of high balls and elbows. Hughton delivered his half time team talk, and Forest duly collapsed in the second half. There's your recurring nightmare, Vetch. It's happened so many times before, and it'll carry on happening until Hughton is scotched. In fact it will probably get worse...
Game 7 September 15th 2021. Manager: Chris Hughton. Forest 0 Miserablebugger 2.
... With Forest now bottom, Hughton is sacked. Candidates for his replacement include Sean Bean, Genghis Khan, Neil Warlock, Gene Wilder and Makka Pakka. Or indeed, they could just plump for 'Handsome' Steve Cooper, late of Abertawe. Handsome Steve is the go-to candidate when things get ugly, as they are at Forest.
Game 8 September 18th 2021. Caretaker: Steven Reid. Uddersfeel 0 Forest 2.
... I mean, wearing a blood and custard kit is a bit of a statement, isn't it? You could have forgiven Forest for keeping the lowest of profiles as they prepared for what most of us feared would be their seventh defeat of the season. But no, not this lot. Out they trotted as cocky as you like with their luminescent finery blazing in the sunshine. It made Uddersfeel's shirts look like tired deck chair canvases.
In this first victory of the season, everybody did their job. Steven Reid set them up brilliantly, the players responded with enormous energy, the fans sang about Derby. But the real hero was the kit. As Winston Churchill once said, "I have nothing to offer you but blood, toil, tears and custard," and how right he was.
Game 9 September 25th 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 1 Mewo 1.
... I worry that Mister Cooper might be really good at saying the right things, and I worry about what kind of miserable wazzock I've become to entertain even the slightest doubt about him when clearly he has got Forest playing more progressively even though, worryingly, there are still problems to solve, one of which is not having a fit and competent striker, and I worry about how Mister Cooper will solve that one. I also worry that nobody has made the connection between the thuggish nature of Championship football and the woeful standard of refereeing. Weak refereeing is where Millwalls come from.
Game 10 September 29th 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Barnsleh 1 Forest 3.
...what happened to 'Steve Cooper teams are so boring it's like watching fish rot.'
You must be mistaking me for somebody else, Pie. As far as I'm concerned, last night's display against the Dykes was a masterclass in counter-attacking football by a properly coached team.
Game 11 October 2nd 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Boremingham 0 Forest 3.
...In one of the 'Hannibal Lecter' books, Lecter bumps into one of his pursuers on a crowded thoroughfare and slices him open with a knife so sharp and a movement so swift that the poor victim carries on walking for a while before failing to realise that he is dead. Forest did to Boremingham what Lecter did to his victim. You could see the bewilderment on the Boremingham players' faces after each goal. 'What the hell's going on here?' they seemed to say. 'And why are we saturated in blood from the waist down?'
Game 12 October 16th 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 2 Blackpoo 1.
...fluid formation, so called defensive players barrelling forward, forwards hunting together, everybody wanting to score or at least contribute positively, an absolute refusal to contemplate defeat - these are the qualities Cooper has brought. They are the ingredients of what he calls a "big club mentality". It's nice to be reminded that we are a big club. It's nice, once again, to have our pride back.
Game 13 October 19th 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Bristols 1 Forest 2.
...sadly for the Bristols, Forest don't play that game any more. D.J. Spence sped into the box, was up-ended by some bloke, and the penalty was converted with cool arrogance by Lyle Taylor. To his enormous credit, Taylor grabbed the ball and hared back to the centre spot for a quick restart. The atmosphere in the place became really weird, a mixture of dread and excitement and appallingly heightened awareness. Until the ball broke to the Bristol back post, where Taylor bundled it home.
It was then, and afterwards during the joyous celebrations and Mister Cooper's fist pumps, that it dawned on us that this wasn't football at all, but some new game in which luck and justice were entirely irrelevant and absurdity was entirely feasible, where self belief and perseverance and team spirit weren't just token words but treasured assets. And where, scarily, Forest couldn't stop winning.
Game 14 October 24th 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 0 Cottagers 4.
...we prefer the positivity of Mister Cooper. 'I'm not saying we deserved to win,' he said, 'but it was never a four-nil game, so we're not going to let this derail us, we've worked too hard over the last couple of weeks. There are things we need to improve on, of course, things we need to do better, definitely, but there are still some good signs there for us.'
Game 15 October 29th 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. QP Ladies 1 Forest 1.
...Mister Hughton left halfway through September, sir. Do you remember, we had scored one point from a possible twenty one. I had decided to drink myself to death, and you threatened to withdraw your subscription to Hare and Hound if "the fraud Hugeton" wasn't dismissed? Well, the threat paid off. Mister Hughton left, I stopped drinking, and a great weight was lifted. Since his departure, Forest have picked up seventeen points from a possible twenty four by playing exciting, progressive football.
Game 16 November 2nd 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 1 The Undead 1.
...We apologise for the bias and the name calling, but would excuse ourselves by saying we've gone too many years without the opportunity of expressing just how passionate a game football can be. Steve Cooper is the man who has inspired this re-kindling of the flame. 'We want people to be proud of us,' he says. 'We know we have work to do; we know we need to be in a better place, still. But we are trying. And when things are going against us and people want to be unfair with us, we will not accept it. I am not going to go on script with you guys about that, but we will certainly be addressing it off script, officially.' This is not a response born of synthetic anger or calculated mischief, this is genuine stuff from a man whose passions beat loud in the hearts of his players.
Game 17 November 6th 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 3 Preston Nob End 0.
...This feeling of invincibility is wholly unnatural, and no good can come of it. It's reached the point where the singing is too loud, the players are too cocky, and anyone who criticises any of the players is banished to the dead zone. Bring back the dark days, I say. It's better to live safely in a ditch than risk everything in the clouds.
Game 18 November 20th 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Reading 1 Forest 1.
...This was not the performance of a team that was prepared to settle for a draw. If you are one of the 'plateau' people, you should admit you are wrong and flog yourself raw in the market square. Or something.
Real frustration is typing this up on a new tablet with the most aggressive predictive text you can imagine, while making in neck essence to reach everybody twist.
Game 19 November 23rd 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 0 Lutontown 0.
...missing players and Fiery Jack's sending off and officials with broccoli for brains and Taylor's missing a sitter and us not being given a penalty wrecked Forest's chance of getting three points. Simple.
Game 20 November 26th 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Wet Bags 0 Forest 0.
...Twas windy, and the slimy turds did dive and tumble in the mire. All mardy were the Baggyfans, and the whole game dire.
Game 21 December 4th 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 2 Peterburger 0.
It was beginning to look like Peterburger, a team from just north of somewhere else managed by a character from The League of Gentlemen, were going to force Forest into another match as tedious as the BBC's coverage of the Women's FA Cup final. But eventually the old ambulance's tyres bit into the sand, and off it trundled towards Alexandria and a well deserved glass of cold lager. Or whatever.
Game 22 December 11th 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Abertawe 1 Forest 4.
...Would you rather
(a) indulge in some drunken canoodling in the cloakroom of a country house with a fragrant older woman who turns out to be the boss's wife, or
(b) watch Phillip Zinckernagel roll Lewis Grabban's return ball under his studs and smash it past Abertawe's goalkeeper Ben Hapless for Forest's first goal. etc.
Game 23 December 18th 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 2 Hullsby Town 1.
...Things You Probably Don't Hear At The City Ground These Days: 'I'm really not looking forward to this one...'
This is a relic of those days, not so long ago, when Forest put you through the wringer before losing, especially at home, and you were forced to paralyse yourself with drink to ease the pain. Not now, though...
Half way through the season, Forest had climbed from rock bottom to 7th place in 16 matches. People started daring to ask questions like 'Why do you only get 11 Wotsits in a packet?' and stuff like that.
Game 24 December 26th 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Miserablebugger 2 Forest 0.
...Steve Cooper said: 'In terms of both the result and the performance that was a bad result today, especially the performance. Having said that, if certain players hadn't performed like dickheads, we could have won that one.' No he didn't,. But he should have. Zink.
Game 25 December 30th 2021. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 0 Uddersfeel 1.
...Welcome to Shudderland, whose name is an echo of the fear that's on you, right now. No matter how well you played, two defeats in a row would make anyone shudder. What if you lose a third?
Game 26 January 15th 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Mewo 0 Forest 1.
...Phew! It was exhilarating to see the mighty Grabban roar his defiance at the Mewo boo boys. It was thrilling to win the game in the last minute. It was noticeable, too, that once again the blood and custard kit didn't get dirty. It never gets dirty. Is it magic, do you think?
Game 27 January 22nd 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 2 Sheep 1.
...When Lawrence scored, his attempt to retrieve the ball quickly was thwarted by Brice Samba, because, as everybody knows, anything in or around Brice Samba's goal belongs to Brice Samba, and anyway Brice Samba is slightly nuts, and anyway Lawrence was the guy who kicked his head in.
Game 28 January 25th 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 3 Barnsleh 0.
...If Derby was the Lord Mayor's Show, then Barnsleh was the booze up afterwards ... 'but we're trying to raise standards collectively and, when the players fall short, I will tell them,' said Cooper.
He speaks with the ruthless honesty of a man whose team cannot afford to let standards drop if they are to get promoted this season. Yes, it's come to that.
Game 29 January 30th 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Caerdydd 2 Forest 1.
...What irked me most was the amount of damage the referee was prepared to allow before taking inadequate action. Caerdydd's 'Dirty Joe' Ralls (plus one or two others) was obviously on a mission to cripple anything in a Forest shirt, but survived to the end because of the referee's weakness. Feeble refereeing creates a virtual Thugs' Charter, which turns 'competitive' football into something much more dangerous.
Game 30 February 9th 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Blackbum 0 Forest 2.
...'dear mister cooper, My dad said that he liked you So much he wold let you take my mum out for a drive but if he did that I wold never ever watch Forest again and anyway i told mum and she poured milk on my dads trousers.'
After 30 games, Forest are up to 6th. But it's incredibly tight from second place to mid-table, and there promise to be more twists and turns than in a packet of Wotsits. Walkers, eh? Bloody cheapskates.
Game 31 February 12th 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 2 Stokes 2.
...some tremendous fighting back, Samba sent off for being insane, Worrall in goal, and Stress's report comprising a series of photos. One of them was a picture of his little lad surrounded by Stress's mates having a post match drink. The six year old looks as if he has been traumatised by a miracle. I suppose we all feel a bit like that these days.
Game 32 February 22nd 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Preston Nob End 0 Forest 0.
...Another dank night in the Nob End of Preston, another 0-0 draw.
Nob End are your typical Championship side, with a game plan based on physicality, intense pressing, quick but often pointless interplay, crap finishing and a blind referee. It's like watching the film 'Fruitless Exertions' and discovering there's no sex in it at all.
Game 33 February 26th 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 2 Bristols 0.
...Forest keeper Evan Horvath had a decent afternoon, punching some, catching others, and picking his nose during the post match interview with some confidence. The fact that he had so little to do in a fairly routine win was a little worrying - not all teams will be as anonymous as Bristols in a fairly tough run in, beginning with the Undead on Friday.
Game 34 March 4th 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. The Undead 1 Forest 1.
...people kept referring to the Undead as 'worthy opponents'. No they weren't. They were cut from mediocre cloth, and steeped in the Undead tradition of diving and bombarding the referee with simulated anger. They were lucky not to get a hammering, and they knew it.
Game 35 March 12th 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 4 Reading Ladies 0.
...but no matter what the best goal was or wasn't, no matter how easily Forest made Incemeat of the opposition, we all agreed to just enjoy a very special moment in which Forest scored 4, Derby, Blackbum and Sheffield Undead lost, Barnsleh and Peterburger got unexpected points, and we all discovered that too much barley wine is seriously bad for your gastric composure.
Game 36 March 16th 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 3 QP Ladies 1.
...'Enter the referee, Mister Moss, a man who couldn't decide whether he was too fat to cope or too bent to care.' We wrote that, and are thoroughly ashamed of having done so. We can only assume that in the heat of the moment we ditched our impartiality and traduced a fine and entirely blameless official. We also gave those dirty Ladies a footballing lesson. COYR!
36 games gone, 8th position, but having played fewer games than most of those above and around us. Better to buy supermarket cheesy puffs than Walkers Wotsits. You get thousands. 10 games to go.
Game 37 April 2nd 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Blackpoo 1 Forest 4.
...Blackpoo, currently in decent form, were supposed to be a test, but Forest overcame all difficulties by the simple expedient of playing football on a higher plane - higher than any other team in the Championship, probably. The Poo's manager Neil Critchley said, 'We weren't second best - only in moments. Still, Forest have reached that state of transcendence where players and fans are mutually sustaining and the team succeeds without apparent effort. Like Zen, innit. Nothing beats a bit of Zen.'
Game 38 April 6th 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 2 Coventricity 0.
...We are the sky blue chappies and we run on electricity,
The other teams have trouble putting up with our intensity,
We're neither rich nor famous and we probably will never be,
But all we want is people to respect our Coventricity.
Bye bye, Cov.
Game 39 April 9th 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 2 Boremingham 0.
...Stress said: 'It's quite surreal at the moment at Forest. It's like everything is perfect. Even the music before and after the game. And the Forza Garibaldi displays are great. And we're up to third as it stands, six behind the Muffs.'
Game 40 April 15th Good Friday. Manager: Steve Cooper. Lutontown 1 Forest 0.
...In a game they should have won under normal circumstances, Forest lost to the thugs of Lutontown. Under normal circumstances, the Lutontown players would not have been so fired up they would have sacrificed family members to the cause, nor would they have been urged on by some prehistoric wood-goblin whose game plan was based on the Orc assault at Helm's Deep. The only normal circumstance to be had in this match was the predictable incompetence of the referee. This normality will no doubt continue for the rest of the campaign, but we must hope that Forest can equalise the odds by playing the kind of football that got them here in the first place. And no, AFC Muffs are not out of reach yet.
Game 41 April 18th 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 4 Wet Bags 0.
...The Bags had never been famed for the subtlety of their approach, but misfortune seemed to have reduced them to a gang of thuggish gobshites.
The last thing you need when you suspect you are crap is for somebody like Forest to come along and prove it to the world by scoring four against you.
Life can be cruel indeed, especially for those who have made their homes in the Great State of Denial, like Derby.
Game 42 April 23rd 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Peterburger 0 Forest 1.
...Peterburger's ground is like something off The Outer Limits - you know it can't be real but the camera angles give it an oddly convincing edge. Anyway, Peterburger fell through the bottom of the dog box, and Forest edged a bit closer to the Muffs. Apparently, before the Muffs equalised, the Fulham fans were reminding them that
Forest were on their heels. We'll be snapping at their Achilles if Fulham let us win on Tuesday night. It's only fair.
Tight at the top:
Cottage played 43, 81 points.   Muffs played 42, 78 points.
Uddersfeel played 44, 76 points.   Forest played 42, 73 points.
Game 43 April 26th 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Cottage 0 Forest 1.
...With the Muffs scraping a desperate draw at Abertawe, Forest now lie three points behind them with three to play - one of them against the Muffs themselves. Who could have even imagined after seven games of the season, when Forest had amassed one point, that thirty six games later they would not only secure a play off spot but give themselves a real chance of automatic promotion?
Well I could, actually. And I think a few others did too, the ones who listened to Cooper talk about a "big club" mentality and saw him instil a fiery belief in the players from the word go. It has not been a miracle. It has been a plan.
Game 44 April 30th 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Forest 5 Abertawe 1.
...By the time it was 4-1 the noise inside the City Ground had turned solid, like painfully loud concrete. When Mighten burst through for Forest's 5th the atmosphere was so potent it could have powered Nottinghamshire. Mighten went insane, and he wasn't the only one.
And now Forest go to Muffshire to play in the biggest Championship game of the season. So, when we're 1-0 down at half time, put a bet on us to win 6-1. You know it makes sense.
Game 45 May 3rd 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. AFC Muffs 1 Forest 0.
...Still angry. The officials admitted to getting Forest's offside/penalty decision wrong, which was gracious of them, but in no way excused their incompetence, nor did it change the fact that, had they made the right decision, the match would have taken a very different turn. And all this unfairness might have been avoided had the Muffs played the match when it should have been played in February. They couldn't, of course, because their doghole of a stadium was in convenient danger of falling down, apparently. Muffs are promoted. Forest go to Hullsby Town.
Game 46 May 7th 2022. Manager: Steve Cooper. Hullsby Town 1 Forest 1.
...Forest end up fourth after a disappointing day in Hullsby. Back in junior school, I went on a school trip to Hullsby and Grim. All I can remember is fish and disappointment. Things haven't changed much.
Regular season over. Cottage and Muffs go up automatically. Lutontown v Uddersfeel and Undead v Forest in playoff semis. Some try to convince themselves that, whatever happens, Forest have had a brilliant season. Most everybody else just can't get enough. 2 or 3 games left. Buckle up.