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Once Upon a Time in the Midlands

Can Billy Davies emulate Clough's success at Forest?

The East Midlands may possess a rich and colourful heritage in the beautiful game but, as a geographical entity, it has had very little to shout about during the 21st century.

Although synonymous with the identities of great managers and towering pillars in the English game such as Brian Clough and Martin O’Neill, the fortunes of clubs in this part of the world have proved somewhat dismal of late with little in the way of representation in the top flight for nearly a decade.

The silence has been deafening for fans in the province, however, and after a long and frustrating wait, two of the area’s sides now sit on the very threshold of gracing the Premiership once again and restoring this success-starved region’s pre-eminent position on the footballing map.

Nottingham Forest, Leicester City and Derby County are hardly strangers to the heights of the domestic game after all. As unfashionable as these clubs may seem, with four league titles, three FA Cups, seven League Cups and two European Cups between them, fans of the Championship trio could all tell you with some validity that their turn to bask the glamour and excitement of the top division is long overdue.

In fact, the Rams’ disastrously brief stint with the big boys in 2007/08, during which they were relegated at the first time of asking with a record low points tally of 11, is the exclusive taste of Premier League action that this triumph irate have experienced in eight fruitless years.

Derby have been distinctly average since that forgettable flirtation with football’s top table, despite the much-celebrated appointment of Clough Jnr at the helm, whilst it’s been slim pickings only a short hop down the M1 for the Leicester faithful too since the Foxes’ ignominious ejection from the top division in 2001/02. Fond memories of two League Cup triumphs beneath Wembley’s famous twin towers and Uefa Cup football at Filbert Street from the turn of the century have long since faded and until last May, the club were locking horns with such illustrious names as Leyton Orient and Brentford as a League 1 outfit.

Success and achievement has eluded those on the banks of the Trent in equal measure with the misery of Nottingham Forest’s 11-year absence from top-flight football being compounded by the unwanted moniker of becoming the only European Cup winning side ever to fall into their domestic third division.

The Premiership could now beckon for one of those sides as both Forest and Leicester are engaged in their respective play-off semi-finals against Blackpool and Cardiff this week.

Despite Forest’s 2-1 defeat at Blackpool in the first leg of their play-off clash on Saturday, Billy Davies is potentially only two games away from leading his side into the Premier League and becoming the first man since Dave Bassett in 1997/98 to haul the Reds out of the second tier. He would also earn the distinction of taking them to their first Wembley final since 1992’s League Cup defeat to Manchester United in the legendary Brian Clough’s penultimate season in the City Ground hot seat.

Alternatively it could be Leicester City who entertain Chelsea and Arsenal next season much to the distain of their rivals in Nottingham. Boss Nigel Pearson is in the frame to achieve back to back promotions at the Walker’s Stadium if his charges can overcome Cardiff City and then run out winners at the National Stadium.

Whatever the outcome, it would certainly make for a refreshing change to add some much-needed geographical variety to a Premiership dominated by teams from the South East and the North of England whilst adding a new chapter to the history of one of these once proud clubs.

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Article title: Once Upon a Time in the Midlands

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