The following article appeared in the official matchday programme - Forest Review - on Saturday 6th August for the game against Burton Albion.
words: David Marples
Everything is pristine, shiny and new.
Walking over Trent Bridge, the water seems fresher, more vibrant and richer, still pulsing through the Midlands after all these years. The Brian Clough Stand towers monumentally into the immaculate blue sky. It’s still there. He’s still with us. Everything is in its rightful place.
You have to push on the turnstiles just that little bit harder owing to them being left alone and unloved for a while. Yet they seem glossier; you even get a smile from the attendant as you tear the first ticket from its box-fresh booklet.
The early August summer sun slams down onto the lush green turf creating a whole new colour which would sit snugly on the front of a Farrow & Ball tin of paint: First Game Of The Season Green.
You take your seat. Exchanges of pleasantries and discussions of holidays with those around you: your quasi family – those who have seen you explode with joy, shout obscenities and try hard to conceal utter despondency - ease you back into your home from home for the next nine months. It’s good to be back.
It wasn’t always like this.
There remain some dark memories from the previous season. They were shunted to the deep recesses of the caves of your mind; they will never entirely disappear or be erased, rather like that nagging and haunting feeling when you can’t be sure of locking the front door as you head to the airport. That’s the thing with history – it may be rewritten from time to time, rejigged, tszujed up, tampered with, but it is rarely forgotten. At best, it lies dormant.
Bristol City on that stinking Friday night in October. Brentford’s visit to the City Ground on the 2nd April to coincide with the fans 150th anniversary march from the pub in which the club was founded – just a day after April Fool’s Day. Oh, how we laughed. We laughed until our sides ached with painful spasms.
February wasn’t good. April was worse.
It wasn’t all despondency though. A thirteen game unbeaten run stretched across the Christmas period like an elongated cracker and any season that can boast a win at Elland Road in its showreel can’t be all that bad. Rounding the season off with two glorious away days – away wins, no less - helped to nudge those gloomy feelings that little deeper into the cave, away from today.
Perhaps the 2015-16 season can have no more fitting monument than the fact that the highlight arguably came with only sixteen minutes remaining of the whole campaign. If Chris Cohen’s goal – headed with graceful élan yet celebrated in the style of Mr Bean attempting the long jump with his legs tied together – was glorious, Britt Assombalonga’s goal was deliriously joyful. Ben Osborn channeled the spirit of the sadly departed Johan Cruyff with his geometrically precise flick and Britt did the rest, slamming it with gusto into the net.
Cue pandemonium. Cue a cathartic release as fans tumbled down from the stands to welcome him back.
But it was more than that. It was hope. Britt’s goal after fourteen months out with a dislocated knee reminded us all that the game is never up. Cohen himself spent fifteen months out injured before his return against Charlton in January. The fact that both scored on the final day reminded us that football, for all its teeth grinding tumultuous lows can also offer a stage for cathartic redemption.
Each First Game of the Season is a blank canvass. Unwritten. Untainted. Let us paint it red. Let us begin.
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