When entering the autumn years of your existence, you can’t help but get a bit nostalgic. With that in mind, I’m presenting you with my best ever Forest XI. It spans the last twenty years or so and is based solely on ability.
Mark Crossley: Despite healthy competition from the quirky ‘post-modern’ goalkeeping styles of Marco Pascolo and Barry Roche, Crossley remains the safest pair of hands I’ve ever seen between the City Ground sticks. He saved an FA Cup Final penalty from Gary Lineker in 1991 and, for the pub quizlings amongst you, he remains the only goalkeeper to have saved a spot kick from penalty specialist and fast-food guzzling Soccer Saturday pundit, Matt Le Tissier.
Des Lyttle: This was the position I deliberated longest over. Des Lyttle is probably not everyone’s choice but I have fond memories of the 5ft 9in full-back bombing up and down the right hand side of the pitch during our 1993/94 promotion season and, of course, our unforgettable top three Premiership finish the following season.
Stuart Pearce: There won’t be any complaints about this one! Whilst I was growing up, Stuart Pearce was the reason I loved Nottingham Forest; in fact, he was the reason I loved football. Not only was ‘Psycho’ intensely passionate, he was also a tremendously talented left-back who took a devastating free-kick! I still keep a cardboard cut-out of him in my living room – I sleep more soundly in the knowledge that if any right wingers from the 90s have turned to a life of crime, they won’t dare come near my house.
Colin Cooper: With the organisation skills of a young Josef Stalin and the reliability of a George Foreman grill, Colin Cooper was an integral part of two promotion campaigns and a magical UEFA Cup run. Though there was genuine competition from Wes Morgan and Michael Dawson, Cooper is one of the best central defenders I ever had the privilege to see play and, as such, he was always a shoe-in.
Des Walker: He featured in all seven of England’s games during Italia 90 and played over 264 times for Forest under Brian Clough, but my favourite memories of Des Walker came from the 2002/03 season, when he returned to help us reach the Championship playoffs at the age of 37. Des was one of those defenders who were an absolute joy to watch – he was incredibly fast, read the game with nonchalant ease and tackled with expert timing and ninja-like stealth. You’ll never beat Des Walker!
Roy Keane: Roy Keane was a true box-to-box complete midfielder, scoring 22 goals and winning accolades galore during his time at the City Ground. For those too young to remember how ferocious and frightening Roy Keane was as a player, you can get a glimpse of his formidability when watching his reaction to the inane questions of Adrian Chiles during ITV’s football coverage. The glare Keane gave when asked “when does heavy rain become a downpour?” during the rained-off England-Poland coverage was absolute vintage! Check the YouTube footage if you don’t believe me.
Lars Bohinen: His performances nosedived after leaving Forest, ending his career in England playing for some part-time outfit near Long Eaton. However, whilst at the City Ground he was nothing short of sensational. The likes of Adlene Guedioura and Radi Majewski may one day take his crown but, for the moment, he is my team’s playmaker, creative spark and scorer of spectacular goals.
Andy Reid: With his wand-like left foot, his ravenous appetite for the ball and his ability to win a game all by himself, Andy Reid was far too good to leave out of my all-time Forest XI. You only need to see what happened after his departure last week against Oldham to realise just how influential he is. The only choice for the left-wing position!
Steve Stone: He had no hair but we simply didn’t care … Stevie Stevie Stone! The tenacious and tigerish winger was a fan’s favourite and yet another shoe-in for my best ever Forest XI. Without doubt, the best winger I’ve ever seen play. Whilst playing for Forest, Stone scored twice for his country and played the part of Nobby Stiles in the video for ‘Three Lions’ (England’s official Euro 96 song). Those were the days!
Pierre Van Hooijdonk: Probably the most controversial of my choices, Van Hooijdonk angered Forest fans when he went AWOL in the summer of 1998. But I’m not basing my selections on personality – if I were I’d have Bruce Forsyth and Karl Marx up front. Van Hooijdonk was a world-class striker who held the ball and linked up play in a way that I haven’t seen at the City Ground since. He could also score from anywhere!
Stan Collymore: When I imagine Van Hooijdonk and Collymore playing together, it sends a shiver down my spine. Stan Collymore had absolutely everything that a striker could wish for. He was quick, skillful, strong and dynamic. He could score with any part of his body and from anywhere on the pitch. While he was at Forest, he was every defender’s worst nightmare. Although he never quite hit those dizzy heights after leaving us, ‘Stan the Man’ was simply devastating for the Reds!
That’s my team! Feel free to send me yours via Twitter: @Dave_Abbiss