Championship

A moment in time: Brian Clough’s 1978 Division One title win

The thought of a newly promoted team from the Championship winning the Premier League title the season they come up seems almost impossible to think of in this day and age.

In the era where Fulham can get promoted, spend £100 million on new players, and still end up being one of the worst teams in the division, the gap between the Premier League and Championship seems to be getting wider with each year.

But it wasn’t always this way.

A moment in time – Nottingham Forest, 1978

Cast your minds back to 1977. Goal difference and coloured cards had just been introduced into the English game, and Brian Clough and Peter Taylor’s rag-tag team of misfits called Nottingham Forest had just been promoted from the old Second Division into the First Division after six years absent from the top tier.

Expectations weren’t exactly high for Clough and Taylor going into their debut season in the First Division with Forest. The duo had had previous success in the division with city rivals Derby County, winning the First Division title in 1972, but could they recapture the magic they created five years prior?

The season started fairly well with three wins on the bounce against Everton, Bristol City and Derby, but a big 3-0 defeat at the hands of Arsenal brought Forest back to reality. The First Division was not going to be a walk in the park.

So what did Clough do? Spend £325,000, a then-record transfer fee for a keeper, on England’s #1 shot-stopper Peter Shilton. Forest meant business this season and business they meant.

Forest was an unexpected force to be reckoned with. From September to November Clough’s side remained unbeaten in the league picking wins up against Manchester City, Middlesbrough and QPR. But then another reality check came crashing in.

Two 1-0 defeats in three games from Chelsea and Leeds began to cast doubts in the mind of Forest fans that the blistering start to the season was over, and that results would surely now start to slow down. Did this happen? Absolutely not.

In a streak of form that Arsene Wenger would be proud of, Forest went unbeaten in the league from November 1977 to December 1978. The form of the likes of John Robertson, Peter With and Kenny Burns was creating something magical in Nottingham, and it only got better.

In March, Clough and Taylor won their first piece of silverware with the club in the form of the League Cup as Robertson penalty sealed the final for Forest in a replay, and two months later the band of born-again players had done the unthinkable and won the Division One title.

Forest’s 1977/78 title win remains one of the more stunning accomplishments in English football history rivalled only by the likes of Leicester City in 2016 and Manchester City in 1968.

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