From luxury to heartache

Willy Caballero probably felt differently after watching his chance of a clean sheet on his Chelsea debut disappear, but it was hard to begrudge the Nottingham Forest fans their one bright moment in our Carabao Cup clash on Wednesday.

Four thousand of them followed their team to London for the third-round match but they had little to cheer for much of the evening as Antonio Conte’s much-changed side drilled five goals past goalkeeper Stephen Henderson.

However, with what was the last kick of the game, substitute Tendayi Darikwa shot past Caballero to spark some energetic celebrations behind the goal in the Shed End where the visiting supporters were gathered.

It may have been just a consolation goal for the Tricky Trees in a 5-1 defeat but for the Forest fans, it was a moment to savour and their cheers were an expression of relief, defiance and passion for their club after a difficult game and result, which they have become all too used to in recent seasons.

What they may not have realised was that Darikwa’s late goal actually averted the prospect of watching their team suffer their heaviest-ever defeat against Chelsea; instead we merely matched our 5-1 victory at the City Ground from August 1925.

To be fair, not too many Chelsea fans will remember that result either. Indeed, we would be more conscious of the heavy defeats which they inflicted on us – 6-0 in March 1979 and 7-0 in April 1991 (pictured below) at the City Ground, and 6-2 at the Bridge in September 1986.

All of those harrowing results happened in a glorious era for Forest when they were managed by the great Brian Clough and were firmly in the ascendency over the Blues for nearly two decades.

Both teams won promotion to the first division in 1976/77 but while Chelsea dropped back down again two seasons later, Forest went from strength to strength, winning the league title in 1978 and back-to-back European Cups in 1979 and 1980.

While Forest continued to collect trophies and regularly qualified for Europe during the 1980s, the Blues went without a major honour for 26 years, spending much of the time either in the lower half of the top flight or in the second division.

However, as our fortunes began to change for the better in the mid-1990s, their star began to fade as they suffered three relegations from the Premier League in seven seasons. 

When we won ended our trophy drought by winning the FA Cup in 1997, they were relegated to the second tier. And when we ended our half-century wait for a league title in 2005, they dropped further down into League One. 

They managed to get back into the Championship three years later but while they managed to qualify for the promotion play-offs on a couple of occasions, they have regularly finished in the bottom half in recent seasons. When we were winning the Premier League last season, they avoided relegation to League One on goal difference.

It is now 19 seasons and counting since they last played in the Premier League. While they made a bright start in the Championship this season, they have suffered three defeats in their last four games to drop to 10th, which suggests that their long exile from the top flight is not likely to end soon.

Forest fans could rightfully aggrieved but instead of being miserable and pining for the glory days, they showed their character at the Bridge, cheering on their team in a positive manner and getting some reward at the end when they got a consolation goal to celebrate.