Let me first of all set the scene: Freshers’ week; EQ nightclub; dodgy student DJ is shouting ‘Students of Nottingham University are the heart and soul of this city!’
Well, not really. Two weeks into my first term, on being asked by a friend who was planning to visit from a city based university how to get from the train station to campus, I realised I had no idea. As a fresher I probably couldn’t find the heart of the city without paying a cab fare. I was starting to become worried that my student experience was going to play out over three years as a horrific insular triangle of Crisis, Lenton and the occasional lecture. My friend, on the other hand, had already found his nearest supermarkets and shops, won a local pub quiz and discovered a taste for ale… I was still drinking Strongbow.
Thus, in a valiant effort to see a new, non-student side of our city, I found myself the proud owner of a season ticket for Nottingham Forest FC.
Now my reasons for this purchase aren’t entirely educational of course. As any football fan will know, Forest are defying all pre-season expectations and sit third in the Championship. If promotion does beckon then you won’t be able to get a season ticket next year for love nor money unless already a member. Still, with my best cultural intentions at heart, I entered the centre of town one freezing Tuesday night in my newly-purchased Forest scarf to investigate the environs of Nottingham on match day and, through this red lens, unearth some new truths about the city.
Our first port of call was the Bentinck Hotel bar by the train station, not a typical student haunt, but welcoming due to the fact that inside it was a sea of red shirts. It was in this pub that I was properly introduced to the fierce rivalry with Derby, as the patrons reminisced about ‘the good old days’, when visiting Derby fans would throw themselves into the River Trent rather than face the army of tooled up, pissed up Forest hooligans waiting for them outside the Bridgeford End. A few pints there and we followed the crowd as it departed in the direction of the City Ground.
The industrial area around the stadium is hardly glamorous, but the excitement was palpable as we caught sight of the visiting QPR fans who, like all away supporters to Nottingham, had taken the opportunity to visit the only Hooters in the UK and were under police guard inside. Once in my seat, chosen in order to be as close to ‘the nutters’ as possible, I was treated to a rousing rendition of ‘City Ground, the mist rolling in from the Trent’ (to the tune of Paul McCartney’s Mull of Kintyre) which I had no problems belting out. Difficulties as a football fan from a different part of the country arose however when the Nottingham fans began mocking the QPR supporters with cries of ‘come and get your peanuts’ in a cockney accent. Seeing as I live close to London I felt inclined to sit that particular chant out. Forest’s dominance during the game (they won 5-0) was so great as to make it uninteresting, but their constant angry chants about Derby fans (despite there not being a single one in the stadium) have at least taught me one thing, never to wear my ‘Derby Hall’ hoody into town again.