Last time against Forest: An historic rivalry put on ice for 23 years

It’s a rivalry that’s been put on ice for 23 years, with Liverpool’s trip to the City Ground to blow the dust off what was once a fiercely contested fixture that ignited in the late 1970s.

With Liverpool being pulled out of the hat alongside Nottingham Forest in the FA quarter-finals, the two will meet for the first time since 1999 having been separated by at least one division ever since.

The 8,385 days between that fixture and the next is the longest the two teams have gone without going head to head since the first time the two contested a fixture in 1895.

But it was not until the 1970s that the Reds and Forest saw a heated battle ignite as the two went toe to toe for European and domestic glory, with Brian Clough having temporarily stalled Bob Paisley‘s relentless side.

Bob Paisley at Anfield after taking over as Liverpool manager following the resignation of Bill Shankly. 26th July 1974. (PA / Alamy)

“We hate Nottingham Forest, we hate Everton too, we hate Man United but Liverpool, we love you!”

The chant may be lost on a generation of Reds, but Forest’s place, in part, came from the two meeting thirteen times in three seasons between 1978 and 1980, both fighting for the same prizes at the price of the other.

But while Liverpool would charge on into the 80s and lift 14 pieces of silverware throughout the decade, Forest would fade and the rivalry simmered. One that has not had a chance to reignite this side of the millennium.

As for when the two teams last met, they were a shadow of their respective former selves.


Familiar names

Premiership - Nottingham Forest v Liverpool - Fowler, Redknapp, Owen (Image: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

The year was 1999 and the Euro had come into circulation, Michael Johnson would set a record in the 400 metres that would last 17 years and boybands were fighting it out in the UK charts.

Gerard Houllier was at the helm for the Reds and Ron Atkinson for Forest in April 1999, the last time the two clubs met in a Premier League fixture.

The City Ground played host, as it will for the FA Cup tie, with 28,374 fans in attendance as they looked for a miracle in their fight to remain in the top flight.

Liverpool arrived with David James, Jamie Carragher, Steve McManaman, Jamie Redknapp, Paul Ince, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen in the XI, with future legend Steven Gerrard on the bench.

The Reds were favourites with confidence not in abundance for the hosts, as their first half showed, although Liverpool could attest to the same with some of their early passages of play.

But the combination of Redknapp and Ince from a 25-yard free-kick paved the way for an unstoppable opener from the former, with his powerful strike nestling firmly into the top corner. 1-0 to Liverpool after 15 minutes.

Jamie Redknapp, 1999 (Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport)

“After that goal Liverpool coasted, although there were chances for Fowler, Owen and Dominic Matteo to give them control,” the Independent penned.

But on the hour mark, Dougie Freedman made it 1-1 to punish the Reds’ lack of clinical edge, before they were then gifted what ought to have been the winner.

Despite sensing the momentum had shifted, Richard Gough’s misdirected clearance opened up the space for Redknapp to send Owen through, no defender could catch the 19-year-old as he made it 2-1.

Game over, right? Wrong.

“Fowler, who is likely to face another misconduct charge following Saturday’s ‘cocaine-snorting’ mime against Everton, was squeaky clean to the point of anonymity, and he was substituted 11 minutes from time,” The Telegraph explained, with Gerrard expected to help see out the game.

Liverpool's Rigobert Song (standing) congratulates Robbie Fowler after scoring their first goal as he pretends to snort cocaine from the touch line, after abuse from the Everton fans, 1999 (Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport)

But while Liverpool looked to have engaged cruise control, Ince was then incensed after being judged to have handled the ball outside the box to hand Forest a dangerous free-kick in stoppage time.

And as Pierre van Hooijdonk expertly curled his effort beyond James’ fingertips to make it 2-2, Ince had to be pulled away from the referee as the City Ground celebrated before talking with their feet after the 90 minutes in protest against their board.

In the end, four well-taken goals in a game that was far removed from the flame of the fire that burned so bright nearly two decades before.


What happened next?

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 19, 2011: Nottingham Forest take on Cardiff City during the Football League Championship match at the City Ground. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool went on to finish seventh in the league in 1998/99 as Forest were relegated having failed to lift themselves from the foot of the table, and have since yet returned.

From relegation to promotion to relegation again, Forest have since spent a total of 20 seasons at Championship level and a further three in League One since they last lined up opposite Liverpool.

In present day, they are pushing for one of four playoff spots in the Championship and are currently only two points adrift with a game in hand in their search to end a 23-year wait to return to the top flight.

For the Reds, the quarter-final tie is crucial in their hunt for a historic quadruple and they will be eager not to see a pain of the past came back to bite them.