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Mark Hampton had been a journeyman of a player. His career started at 17, when he signed for Northampton Town. He then went on to play for Grimsby, Yeovil, Dagenham and Oxford before finally moving to Nottingham Forest at the age of 25. He played at the City Ground for four years, making 98 appearances, and becoming a legend in the hearts of all Forest fans when he scored the goal that sealed their promotion to the Premiership in the 1997/98 campaign. His career was cut short at 29, a serious knee injury in a pre-season game against Rennes causing him to hang up his boots. That didn't deter him though, and he had earned his coaching badges by the age of 33. He got a job with Nottingham Forest, as first team coach, and he has been in that role since 2002. Hampton has seen promotion, relegation, and then relegation into the third tier of English football, but Forest are a big club, 'fallen giants' the term used, and they deserve to be back in the big time one day.


I sat up with a jolt, tentatively reaching for my knee. I still think about it now, even though it was 8 years ago. Eight years. That's a long time. Since then, I've got on with my life. Earned my coaching badges, working as a first team coach for my favourite club. Now, at 37, my dream has come true. Manager of Nottingham Forest. It's a big job, no doubt about it. The only European Champions to drop into the third tier of English football. The board want them back in the big time, as do the fans. Hell, I want them in the big time. But I want to be the manager to take them there. I want to bring success back to this once great club. I think I can do it, and I want to do it.

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Mark Hampton had been a journeyman of a player. His career started at 17, when he signed for Northampton Town. He then went on to play for Grimsby, Yeovil, Dagenham and Oxford before finally moving to Nottingham Forest at the age of 25. He played at the City Ground for four years, making 98 appearances, and becoming a legend in the hearts of all Forest fans when he scored the goal that sealed their promotion to the Premiership in the 1997/98 campaign. His career was cut short at 29, a serious knee injury in a pre-season game against Rennes causing him to hang up his boots. That didn't deter him though, and he had earned his coaching badges by the age of 33. He got a job with Nottingham Forest, as first team coach, and he has been in that role since 2002. Hampton has seen promotion, relegation, and then relegation into the third tier of English football, but Forest are a big club, 'fallen giants' the term used, and they deserve to be back in the big time one day.


I sat up with a jolt, tentatively reaching for my knee. I still think about it now, even though it was 8 years ago. Eight years. That's a long time. Since then, I've got on with my life. Earned my coaching badges, working as a first team coach for my favourite club. Now, at 37, my dream has come true. Manager of Nottingham Forest. It's a big job, no doubt about it. The only European Champions to drop into the third tier of English football. The board want them back in the big time, as do the fans. Hell, I want them in the big time. But I want to be the manager to take them there. I want to bring success back to this once great club. I think I can do it, and I want to do it.

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The financial side of the club was, as everybody knows, not good. Severe debts, a crushing bank balance, and loans to pay back to the bank. Chairman Nigel Doughty had indicated to me that I would only have a meagre £500,000 to spend on transfers. Obviously he felt the squad was good enough to win promotion from League One. I had other ideas however, as some of the players at my disposal were not good enough for League Two, let alone the standard I was looking for. The first duty I had to do was to appoint an assistant manager, considering there wasn't one at the club. I placed an advert for candidates, hoping that there would be one that stood out. The many reports from coaches, the physio and the chairman kept me pre-occupied that evening, several hours spent looking at the squad I had, marking which ones would be useful at League One standard. Free transfers and Loan deals would have to be the way forward for bringing in fresh faces, and even then I wasn't expecting too much quality to be interested in a move to the City Ground. Until an assistant was in place, there wasn't much I could do on the transfer front.


At least the squad had a base of talent to work with, although it was easy to see that some areas needed working on. The goalkeepers were more than good enough for this level, with Danish stopper Rune Pedersen the first choice between the posts, although former Southampton man Paul Smith would be a more than able back-up should he be needed.

The defenders, although some were the wrong end of 30, had plenty of experience and knowledge of the lower leagues and provided me with some comfort. John Curtis and James Perch looked the favourites to fight it out for the right back spot, while there was a sole candidate for the left hand side, that being Argentinian Gino Padula. The centre halves were, by and large, more than what I needed, with Danny Cullip, Ian Breckin and Wes Morgan the main contenders for the two berths at the heart of defence.

The midfield left a lot to be desired. The highly talented Kris Commons was the standout player, while central midfielder Sammy Clingan looked a good player. the right hand side was short of options, with just the highly paid Nicky Southall as an option, while young German Felix Bastians provided competition on the left. Ross Gardner and James Beaumont would be fighting for the other midfield spot.

Upfront there were an abundance of options, although not all of them were up to scratch. Grant Holt and Nathan Tyson stood out as the starters, with Junior Agogo and Scott Dobie in reerve. Having never been a fan of the former, I was more inclined to plump for Dobie, but cover was certainly a priority if we were going to fight for promotion.

Defence was goos, while attacking options were few and far between. There was no way this squad would win League Two without serious strengthening. That needs to start as soon as possible, ans the sooner I get an assistant in, the quicker we can start.

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There were plenty of players on the loan list, and other than Ipswich's Irish striker Billy Clarke, none had stood out for me. A whole host of other clubs were interested in the frontman, but I faxed a bid off to East Anglia to take him on loan for the season. I was more than happy to allow Gary Holt a move to Stoke for a minimal fee of £4,000. The 33 year old, although he had experience in the lower leagues, was not in my plans, and the chance to get his substantial £3K a week wages off the budget made the decision a hell of a lot easier. Rotherham also made a bid for Nicky Southall, and despite him being our only reasonable option on the right hand side of midfield I had no hesitation accepting their bid.

With just 4 long term loans allowed I wasn't that impressed, but it meant taking care when making bids for players. Billy Clarke elected to join Northampton instead of us, meaning I was still waiting for my first signing since taking over the reigns at the City Ground. I didn't have to wait too long for this however, as Bolton had quickly accepted our bid for American right winger Johann Smith, who agreed to join us for the season in no time at all. He was quickly followed by Jay Simpson, on a 5 month loan from Arsenal. He could play on either wing and would provide good pace down the flanks.

I eventually managed to hire an assistant manager, Norwich youth coach Dave Carolan the outstanding candidate of 9 that had shown interest. I quickly sent him on his first mission of finding players he felt would be interested in joining us at Forest. He didn't even get a chance to meet the lads before our opening friendly against Peterborough, but he took his place in the dugout nonetheless. What he saw was some blistering attacking from Nathan Tyson as he put us in front after 8 minutes, but poor defending, not once but twice conceding soft goals. We were in the lead both times we did this, Clingan grabbing our second just before the half hour, but Simon Crow grabbed both equalising goals in a highly entertaining game that provided me with a good insight into how the boys would perform

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With the pre-season coming along well, the boys training nicely and constantly getting more and more towards match fitness, my main concern was bringing bodies in to strengthen the team. With Holt and Southall both outgoing, that took £5,000 off the wage bill, leaving me some leeway to possibly make a couple of permanent transfers. Out of favour Southampton right winger Djamel Belmadi had attracted my attention, and despite his advancing years he was perfect for what I was looking for. His crossing was good, and he made up for his lack of pace with his passing and vision, and the transfer fee his side asked for was just £40,000, a fee I was more than happy to part with. Money was still becoming a rare thing, so the loan list was still the jewel in the crown, and the jewel sparkled again when I struck our second season long loan deal to bring Scottish central defender Neill Collins to the City Ground, the defender joining us from Sunderland.

A striker was still eluding me, with Billy Clarke, Danny Haynes and Chris Brown all refusing to come and ply their trade in Nottingham for a season. Goals are crucial at any stage of football, and with two strikers who were rally up to standard I was determined to bring in one more for the start of the season. Another offer had been made for one of our players, Accrington offering to take Junior Agogo on loan for three months, and the former Conference hit man was soon on his way to the Stanley to get himself some playing time

A full house turned up for our next friendly, a home game against major rivals Derby County, so a win would go down well with the supporters. We got off to a flying start too, Tyson giving us a lead within 43 seconds, before big Wes Morgan headed home a second in the twentieth minute. I was surprised with how easy the game was against a team a division above us, as we passed through them like a hot knife through butter. They did pull one back, Ryan Smith drilling home from 15 yards, but Jack Lester scored a third to send our fans into a frenzy and secure a pre-season win over our rivals

"Mark, I just wanted to congratulate you on a terrific win yesterday. I know it's only pre-season but it's always nice to get a win over our rival teams"

Nigel had walked in the ground the following morning grinning from ear to ear. The previous days win had obviously pleased him as much as it did the fans

"I played here for four years so I know how much beating Derby means. I'm happy with the way the team are playing too"

"Thats good to hear. Lets see the same as yesterday in the league this season"

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Dave had brought to my attention the availability of Everton striker James Vaughan, the Premiership's youngest ever scorer. He would be exceptional in League One, and a bid was duly sent off to Merseyside for his services. If I was being honest, I didn't expect him to want to come and play for us for a season, so I still had other targets in mind, but 48 hours later I was shocked and delighted to find out that Vaughan had agreed to a season long loan deal. Vaughan went straight into the squad for the friendly with Marseille, as did Danny Collins, a £60,000 capture from Sunderland to provide cover on the left hand side of defence

The French side were not a team I expected us to beat, but the chance to test ourselves against opposition of their calibre was what I was most looking forward to. Grant Holt and Vaughan started up front, but my mood soon changed after Vaughan picked up a thigh strain that would see him miss up to 2 weeks of football. His strike partner soon had us in front, heading home Belmadi's cross after 25 minutes. Marseille were soon back level, Bostjan Cesar volleying home from 12 yards, but Holt's anticipation saw him send us in at the break in front, as he intercepted a short pass and slotted the ball home. The second half saw 9 changes, and the French side made 7 themselves, the new players not getting into the groove of the game and the score staying at 2-1

More bad news followed Vaughan's injury, as Kris Commons had picked up a pulled groin muscle, and would likely to be out for a couple of months, a big blow for us as he would be instrumental on the left hand side of midfield. Fortunately, Felix Bastians had shown me enough quality in training and in pre-season games to keep me sufficiently happy that he could do a job. The wage budget was still below what the board and myself had agreed, so I managed to bring in one more loan, left winger Ryan Lynch joining from Coventry to provide some cover for Bastians. He had been brought in on the recommendation of Dave, and it seemed to me that the £125,000 compensation I had sent to Norwich would be money well spent. He talked a lot of sense about the game, and his new ideas and fresh approach perfectly matched my old fashioned approach to the game

Our penultimate friendly saw Leeds United visit the City Ground, and once again I was distinctly surprised by how well we took to opposition who were supposedly better than us. Tyson had been impressive through the campaign so far, and once again he justified his place in the team with the opening goal, ramming home past Warner after collecting Beaumont's through ball. On the half hour it was two, Belmadi curling home a free-kick out of the reach of the 'keeper and into the back of the net. The Championship side did hit bakc just before half time, former Luton man Kevin Nicholls heading home from 8 yards to give a glimmer of hope to his side. It counted for nothing though, Danny Cullip's 70th minute header enough to seal another win and another excellent performance from the team

With three wins from four, all three wins coming against supposed better opposition, I was feeling confident about the team with the season start drawing ever nearer. The new signings had fitted in well, and I felt that promotion was looking a much more realistic target than it did when I started my tenure here in Nottingham. I knew the history of the club, having spent time as both a player and a coach here, and I think the fans and players respected the fact I had served time, playing nearly 100 games before my injury cut me short. The style of football I like is plain and simple, 4-4-2 with wingers and midfielders going forward, and the defence doing what it is there to do...defend. Nothing fancy, nothing heroic. Just plain, old fashioned football.

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One of the most impressive players in the pre-season campaign had been Sammy Clingan. The Northern Ireland midfielder had been in my plans originally, but with his terrific performances he had elevated himself into a definite starter in the centre of the park. Neill Collins had also been putting in some excellent performances, and he looked another certain starter in the centre of defence, likely to be alongside Danny Cullip. The defensive side of our game was without a doubt our stongest, but I was confident that with the addition of James Vaughan for the season that we would be fine in front of goal


When I signed for Northampton at 17, I was on just £50 a week. I didn't break into the side at Sixfields, and was transferred to Grimsby at 19, making just 6 appearances before going onto Yeovil and playing 25 times in the green and white. A combined 43 appearances for Dagenham and Oxford earnt me a transfer to Forest, and they paid £50,000 for my services. I was surprised that they signed me, but I managed to make nearly 100 appearances for Forest, scoring 6 goals from midfield. I wasn't a fancy player, I just used to slot in font of the back four and break up moves the other team used to create. I broke into the side at Forest after just 6 weeks, playing 65 successive games until I was unable to play because of injury. The game that ended my career was, ironically, against Northampton. I tried to turn on the ball, and got hit hard from behind. I knew straightaway that it was bad, I felt something snap, but I vowed to put it behind me and start again.

My football background started young, my dad taking me to me first game at the age of 6. We lived in Manchester then, my old man being a Manchester City fan, and they were at home to Tottenham on that day. He took me for my 6th birthday, and from that moment on I was hooked. I joined my first team at 8, eventually joining City's academy at 13, before signing for Northampton 4 years later. Football has been part of my life for the best part of 30 years, and I don't intend for it to stop too soon


Our fifth and final pre-season game saw Arsenal Reserves make the trip to Nottingham. Despite the fact there were no first team players, the reserves of the Premiership side still contained some quality players, such as Denilson and Alexandre Song, and I expected a good test for the lads. This is exactly what we got, and for 25 minutes we were outclassed. It was Nacer Barazite that opened the scoring, the young Dutch striker breaking through and dinking the ball nicely over Rune Pedersen. It took just three minutes for us to draw level, James Beaumont collecting Belmadi's pass and firing home from the edge of the box. The winning goal came from loanee Johann Smith, cutting in from the right and his shot deflecting into the back of the net. With no more goals, it left us with 4 wins and a draw from our pre-season, a record not to turn your nose up at, and with the season rapidly drawing closer I was confident our target of promotion could be reached

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The odds for League One saw ourselves and Bristol City the joint 6/4 favourites to gain promotion, odds which I wasn't sure what to make of. The squad we had was certainly capable of promotion, but we had to perform consistently well. Games at the City Ground would be key, if we could make our home ground a fortress and pick up crucial wins away from home then we were in with a great shout. I had looked down the fixture list and put a mark next to the games we should win. That made 30 out of 46, which amassed to 90 points. It doesn't always work like that though, and we just had to put 110% effort into every performance

Our League One campaign saw us travel to Saltergate to play Chesterfield. They weren't a great side, and I fully expected to open our account with three points. With Vaughan still injured, it was easy enough to pick Tyson and Grant Holt as the starting strikers, while Clingan and Beaumont started as the central midfield pairing. Clingan was superb from the first whistle, controlling the game with biting tackles and pinpoint passing. It seemed as if it was going to be one of those games, every chance we had being foiled by the Chesterfield defence, but eventually we found the back of the net, Nathan Tyson using his pace and sliding the ball home underneath Barry Roche to send us in one goal to the good at the half time interval. The home side came out all guns blazing in the second half, and their attacking approach reaped the rewards when Colin Larkin tapped home the rebound of Paul Hall's shot into an empty net. This seemed to wake us into life, and Tyson put is back in the lead twelve minutes later, rising highest to head home Belmadi's cross. We should have extended our lead before the final whistle, Grant Holt and Tyson both missing good chances, but it made no difference as we held on to claim a perfect start to the season.


My dad was mad on football. He had a season ticket at Maine Road for ove 50 years, from the age of 15. He was 65 when he gave it up, and he only did that because his arthritis was getting worse. He could barely walk, let alone get up at football games. I know he would have loved to have gone to just one game at the City of Manchester stadium, and if he had been alive when they moved in to it I would have taken him. He always supported my football career, and when I got my big break at Forest he was delighted. I was travelling to Swansea at the time, when the phone call came. He had been taken to hospital, having collapsed when he stepped off the bus. I raced back down the motorway, I got to his bedside as he was knocking on the door of heaven. I was there an hour before he passed. It's the toughest thing that I've ever had to go through. He was always the one who gave me support, came to watch me play. I could say I got over it, but I didn't. I still havent now. I had to move on with my life, but god it still hurts. He was my idol, my hero. I wish he could have been here for my first game as manager. More than anything in the world.


Another away trip saw us visit Brentford, a side who, like us, were fancied highly for promotion. Vaughan had recovered from his injury but wasn't fit enough to go into the squad, so Holt and Tyson kept their places. Beaumont had picked up a slight knock against Chesterfield so John Curtis came into the midfield to partner Clingan. We didn't start at all well, and found ourselves a goal behind after 17 minutes, Calum Willock firing underneath Rune Pedersen. Curtis was playing like a general, really getting stuck in and using his experience to will the younger lads on. The former United man got our equaliser too, pouncing on the loose ball and tapping home from 6 yards. Willock continued to post the biggest threat, and he put his side in front for the second time just after the half hour, completely unmarked in the box as he powered a header past Pedersen. We picked it up after this, controlling the possession in the second 45 minutes, but we just couldn't find a killer touch. Holt and substitute Scott Dobie both missed good chances, while Djamel Belmadi twice hit the woodwork with long range efforts. Brentford hung on though, and claimed all three points for themselves

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On loan striker James Vaughan was back to full fitness and went straight into the side to partner Nathan Tyson up front for the next game. We needed to get back on track after the Brentford defeat, and our home game against Carlisle gave us a perfect opportunity to do that. Beaumont came into midfield along with John Curtis to form an attack/defence partnership. We started well, the combined pace of Vaughan and Tyson causing all sorts of problems, and we should have been at least two clear by the time Vaughan did put us in front just past the half hour. He doubled both his and our tally 5 minutes from half time, collecting Ryan Lynch's pass and firing home across the 'keeper and into the far corner. We cam out just the same in the second period, creating chance after chance, finally sealing the game after 58 minutes, Vaughan netting a debut hat-trick and scoring our third goal with a powerful header past Kieran Westwood. The scoring wasn't finished there though, as Nathan Tyson grabbed a fourth goal and Vaughan grabbed his fourth and the fifth for the side when he slotted home Belmadi's cross. It was a superb peformance from the team, Vaughan absolutely running the Cumbrian's defence ragged and giving the impression he was far too good for this standard of football. I wasn't going to complain though, and if he kept up that standard of scoring then we were a shoe in for promotion


Many people wondered why I was only successful late in my playing career. I made more appearances for Forest than I did for all the other clubs put together. I put it down to a number of reasons, but I think the main one was luck. I wasn't an overly talented player, just plain and simple, but I got my break at the City Ground thanks to a severe injury crisis. I just took my chance. I think I'm a better coach than I was a player. Hopefully I can be a better manager than I was coach. I had just started to establish myself at Yeovil before I left. There were rumours, people thought it was surprise to see me leave, but very few people know the real reason. I was a bit of a playboy in my playing days, and I won't deny the fact that I used to have a few drinks once the week was out. Saturday night, after a match, out to bars and clubs, generally waking up with a new female companion on my arm. I'm well in my 30's now, but deep down I still want to be back in my 20's. Maybe it's time for me to settle down with a nice young lady...


A second home game followed 7 days later, with Bournemouth the visitors to the City Ground. They had started the season without a manager, appointing Graham Rix after a few weeks of the pre-season, and the former Chelsea man had seen his side to a comfortable 12th place so far. The same side that had put 5 past Carlisle took the field, apart from Felix Bastians replacing Ryan Lynch on the left hand side of midfield. We started well once again, James Vaughan and Nathan Tyson continuing their good partnership together, the Everton man putting us in front on 19 minutes, collecting Sammy Clingan's pass before firing home from 20 yards. We should have been further in front going into the second half, Vaughan, Tyson, Clingan and Danny Cullip all missing good chances to increase our lead, and we paid for this as Gooding earnt his side a point 9 minutes from time, popping up at the far post to slot in from two yards out

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Rory Delap had fallen out of favour at Sunderland, finding himself training and playing with the reserves, and after a long chat with Dave I had decided to match the £28,000 asking price. For an experienced player such as Rory, someone who had played in the Premiership, I was delighted to bring him to the City Ground as a member of the squad. My bid was soon accepted, and I travelled down to the North East to discuss terms with the former Southampton man.

"So what role in the team would I have then? Would I be a starter in the first team?"

"Absolutely guaranteed Rory. When fit, you'll play"

"OK well that's good, I just want to play football again"

"You will be, for certain. I know you might be a bit wary of dropping down a division but I think we'll be back in the Championship next season"

"Sounds good. So what contract terms are you offering?"

"2 years, £2,800 a week. The wage structure is good at the moment, and with that we will still be underneath it. Stability is the key"

"Fine by me. Where do I sign?"


Rory joined up with the squad on the day of our League Cup match with Tranmere, although he wasn't registered in time to play, but he took his place in the stands alongside the chairman. Tranmere were at the same level as us, and I fully expected to beat them, but the League Cup was not of any sort of priority to me, so some fringe players were selected. I made 7 changes from the side that were held by Bournemouth, and one of those changes scored after a quarter of an hour, Grant Holt rising highest to head home. We were one behind before that though, Kevin Ellison having put Tranmere in front after capitalising on a defensive mistake from Ian Breckin. The game played out evenly after that, neither side creating a clear cut chance, that is until the 78th minute, Ross Gardner playing a lovely one-two with Grant Holt and slamming home the return pass past Gavin Ward. As it looked like we were heading for the second round, an equaliser 7 minutes from time from the left foot of Jennings sending the match into a prolonged 30 minutes. The fatigue showed from both sides, and the game peteres out into a penalty shoot out. This proved to be our downfall, Grant Holt missing the crucial penalty and Ian Goodison sending Tranmere into the 2nd round.

We travelled down to Yorkshire three days later for our final game of the month against Huddersfield. It was a game that I couldn't predict whether we should win or not, as the Huddersfield team was not one that was familiar to me. Vaughan was back in the starting line-up, although his regular partner Tyson had a slight knock which saw Holt keep his place. Felix Bastians took his place on the left wing, and the young German was terrific, bombing down the wing and whipping crosses in. We just didn't seem to be able to find that vital touch in front of goal, neither Vaughan or Holt being on their game, but eventually we did take the lead, Vaughan crossing for Bastians to fire home on the volley. We secured the match in injury time, Vaughan's 6th goal since he joined us keeping us on track and ending the month on a high note.

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August 2006 Summary

(League One unless stated)

Chesterfield 1-2 Nottingham Forest

Larkin (57) : Tyson (44,65)

Brentford 2-1 Nottingham Forest

Willock (17,32) : Curtis (25)

Nottingham Forest 5-0 Carlisle

Vaughan (32,40,58,75) Tyson (65)

Nottingham Forest 1-1 Bournemouth

Vaughan (19) : Gooding (81)

Nottingham Forest 2-2 Tranmere (League Cup 1st Round)

Gr. Holt (15) Gardner (78) : Ellison (13) Jennings (83)

(Tranmere won 4-3 on penalties)

Huddersfield 0-2 Nottingham Forest

Bastians (69) Vaughan (90)

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Due to James Vaughan's scoring record in August, he earnt the player of the month award. If his scoring record continued in the same vein as it had done then it would be sure to guarantee our promotion sooner rather than later. We had finished the month in 2nd place, an automatic promotion spot, but I wanted the league title at the end of the season, not just promotion. Unfortunately, Danny Cullip had picked up a slight thigh strain in the Huddersfield match that would keep him out for around 10 days, and James Beaumont joined him on the injured list when he picked up a groin injury in training on the first day of the month. This meant that Ross Gardner took Beaumont's place in the centre of the park, while Rory Delap made his first appearance since signing for the club for the visit of one of my former clubs Northampton to Nottingham.

Northampton had clearly come for a point, playing with 5 at the back at stifling our attacks every time we went forward, even James Vaughan couldn't find the breakthrough, His pace still tormented the defence, but we went in at half time still goalless, the best chance of the half falling to John Curtis, who skied his shot over the crossbar. The second half was much of the same, Northampton clearly coming for just a point, and I got the funny feeling that it was just going to be one of those days. It took until the 74th minute for that view to change, Ross Gardner picking the ball up on the edge of the box before curling the ball into the top corner to send us into the lead. Northampton heads dropped after this, and we could have scored again, but we didn't and held on for a victory that kept us in the automatic promotion places.


She had caught my attention straightaway, as she pulled up to training in a silver Mercedes. I presume it was her husbands car, he was a fellow player, but I didn't plan to have an affair with his wife. They had a bust up at the end of year presentation, he stormed out and left her, I just wanted to make sure she got home safely. We had both had a few drinks, but waking up the next morning to find her there. That was a shock to the system. I felt guilty, but I didn't want it to stop. She was incredible, and I felt feelings for her like I had never felt before. 18 months we were seeing each other for, even when I moved to Nottingham. She used to make up business appointments to come and see me. I don't know how her husband found out, but he did. That was why I had to stay in Nottingham. I do regret it now, looking back I know it was a stupid thing to do. I was young, immature and inexperienced. I crave for that passion again though, I really do


The next game the team had to face was a visit to Valley Parade and 5th placed Bradford. They were a team in a similar predicament to us, having been a former Premiership team, and they were one of the favourites for the Playoffs, but I was still confident that we could pick up three points. 23 minutes into the match, this looked a bold prediction, two Bradford goals seeing them in front. We managed to get back on level terms with 2 goals in 4 minutes, Neill Collins and James Vaughan sending us in at half time two goals apiece. We were in front just 6 minutes into the second half, Grant Holt coming in at the back post and converting Vaughan's low cross. The Bradford team cut disconsolate figures after this, and there was never any danger of them coming back level, and we held on to claim an excpetionally good three points

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She was beautiful, long flowing blonde hair. I don't know what she saw in her husband, but if it hadn't been for the fact he was club captain then I don't know if he would have been as accepted around the club as he was. I honestly thought he was an arrogant, first class arsehole, who thought he was a better player than he was. Still, having an affair with his wife for 18 months made me see him in a different light. Last I heard, she had left him and gone to live somewhere else. We ended on good terms but we felt it was best to go our seperate ways. I still think about her, all the time. I don't have any memories of her really, just whats in my head. She made me feel good about myself. Did I love her? I'm not sure about that. But I know I wanted her, and I still do. She was amazing.


I had several options in the squad to choose as the front pair. My first choice was Vaughan and Tyson, with Holt as their replacement. Although Dobie wasn't a bad player, I still wanted more numbers. Having looked through reserve sides of Premiership team, young Liverpool striker Craig Lindfield seemed to be the best option for bringing in, and a deal was quickly finalised to bring him to the City Ground for three months. He had a slight injury when he arrived, so he didn't make the squad for our next league game, a visit from bottom side Rotherham. It was a game that I expected us to win comfortably, due to us being at home and Rotherham not being the greatest side in the division. We started well, creating three good chances in the opening 20 minutes, Vaughan missing two of them and Sammy Clingan the other guilty culprit. We toiled and toiled through the game but it looked like we were going to draw a blank, Rotherham 'keeper Neil Cutler keeping everything out, but it was our on loan striker James Vaughan who won the game, breaking free and sliding the ball home three minutes from time to give us our fourth straight league win and send us top of the table.


"Mark, I've got a visitor outside who wants to see you. You OK to see them?"

"Yeah it's fine, send them in. I'm not busy at the minute"



"Hi Mark. How are you?"

No. It couldn't be her could it? I looked up from my desk to see her standing there in front of me. It had been years since I saw her

"Joanne? What are you doing here? It's been so long and you just turn up like this"

"I thought I'd get a nicer welcome than that Mark. After all we've been through together. Aren't you even going to offer me a drink?"

"Not until you tell me why you're her. What's happened? Are you hurt or anything?"

"No I'm fine. I've just moved down to the area and I saw you'd become the manager. I thought I'd pay you a visit and catch up with old times"

OK. Well I'll take you out for a meal this weekend then. Will the other half mind?"

"There is no other half. It's just me. And dinner sounds good"

"OK. Well here is my home number and my mobile number, so just ring me and let me know when you would like to go"

"Perfect. Chow Mark. See you soon"

..and with that, she turned and walked out of my office, leaving me distracted by her perfectly formed backside and a huge grin suddenly sppearing on my face

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My meeting with Joanne had come as somewhat of a surprise, but it was a ncie one nonetheless. She was still as gorgeous as I remember, and I was delighted to see her. She always made me happy, and I was glad to get a chance to catch up with her and find out what she had been up to.

Before that though, there was a small matter of a trip to London to play Millwall at the Den. They were sitting in 4th place, Nigel Spackman having gotten them off to a good start, and I was expecting a difficult game. I was once again delighted to see the way the lads started, coming out of the blocks with a purpose and really having a go at the defenders. When Djamel Belmadi cut inside from the right hand side and was taken down by Marvin Elliott inside the area, Vaughan coolly stepped up and slid the penalty into the bottom right hand corner. We probably should have extended that lead before the interval, Holt and Clingan both missing chances, but our lead was doubled three minutes into the second half, Vaughan netting his tenth of the season with a clever little lob over the onrushing Lenny Pidgeley. This seemed to wake the home side up, and they got themselves back into the match after 70 minutes, Derek McInnes curling the ball home from the edge of the area, but we sealed all three points two minutes from time, Belmadi scoring his first goal in a Forest shirt when he converted Lynch's cross.


Rory Delap had recovered enough to take his place in the squad for our next encounter, another away game at Cheltenham, and he started in midfield alongside Sammy Clingan. Vaughan started up front with the returning Tyson, while Scott Dobie replaced Belmadi on the right after the Algerian picked up a slight knock in training. Cheltenham were a mid table side, sitting 16th in the table, and it was yet another game I was confident that we could pick up a full quota of points from. A quarter of an hour into the match, that theory was secured, yet another brace from James Vaughan putting us comfortably in front. The striker used his pace to beat the defence and slot home for both goals, on 7 and 14 minutes respectively, and the two goals saw Cheltenham lose heart. We couldn't find that extra goal to really put a nail in the coffin, but we left Whaddon Road with all three points, extending our lead at the top of the table to 4 points in the process.

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"So then Mark. Is there a Mrs. Hampton on the scene? Or are you still the playboy of old"

"Oh you know me Jo. I like to keep my options open. What about you? Why is there no man in your life?"

"I don't know really. Since you came to Nottingham, I missed you. I left Paul 4 years ago, since then, just haven't found the right man I guess"

"So you've been looking then? You could always try a dating service"

"Oh yeah, you can see me doing that can you?"

"No not really. So where you staying then? If you like you can stay in the spare room in my place, free of charge. I don't mind helping a friend out and it'd be nice to have some company"

"You know Mark, I might just take you up on that offer. Thanks a lot"

"Don't mention it. If you're not too busy I can show you your new home tonight if you like"

"Hmm..I think a couple more Gin and Tonics might do the trick"


With my new housemate spending considerably more time in my bed than in the spare bed, I was becoming increasingly more aware that we were getting closer by the day. Not that this was a bad thing, but I knew I had other things to focus on, namely winning football matches and winning promotion. fellow promotion candidates Scunthorpe were the next opponents, and with the lethal Billy Sharp in their attack they alwyas had the chance of a goal. I was sure we could pick up three points but I expected a tough test for the team. By half time, the game was as good as over, a first Forest goal for Craig Lindfield and James Vaughan's 13th and 14th goals of the current campaign saw us three goals to the good at the interval. We couldn't afford to let it slip though, which we didn't, holding the second half in the palm of our hands as we strolled through to a surprisingly easy win over a strong side

It was only 4 days later that the final game of the month was upon us, 9th placed Yeovil, another one of my former clubs making the visit to the City Ground. They weren't a bad side, but they were nothing exceptional, and when on loan Arsenal midfielder Johann Smith put us into a 12th minute lead I was a lot more comfortable in my seat. I was getting ever more nervous as the half went on though, but Grant Holt did his job, the former Rochdale man heading home Smith's cross to all but seal the points. We did manage a third in the second half, Northern Ireland midfielder Sammy Clingan striking home from the edge of the area to give us an 8th successive League One win and see us end the month sitting atop the table by 6 points

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September 2006 Summary

(League One unless stated)

Nottingham Forest 1-0 Northampton

Gardner (74)

Bradford 2-3 Nottingham Forest

Johnson (13) Graham (23) : Collins (29) Vaughan (33) Gr. Holt (51)

Nottingham Forest 1-0 Rotherham

Vaughan (87)

Millwall 1-3 Nottingham Forest

McInnes (70) : Vaughan (pen. 7,48) Belmadi (88)

Cheltenham 0-2 Nottingham Forest

Vaughan (7,14)

Nottingham Forest 3-0 Scunthorpe

Lindfield (19) Vaughan (22,36)

Nottingham Forest 3-0 Yeovil

Smith (12) Gr. Holt (45) Clingan (57)

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Damien77 - thanks a lot, glad to know your enjoying the story


<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">


1. NOTT'M FOREST 12 10 1 1 +20 31

2. Bristol City 12 7 5 0 +9 26


3. Brentford 12 7 1 4 +5 22

4. Scunthorpe 12 7 1 4 +4 22

5. Brighton 12 5 4 3 +7 19

6. Leyton Orient 12 5 4 3 +3 19



Vaughan picked up his second successive Player of the month award thanks to his 8 goal haul, while I collected my first Manager of the month gong, after guiding the team to seven wins out of seven. A few more months like that and promotion would be a breeze. October didn't get off to the greates of starts though, with Clingan, Grant Holt and Rune Pedersen all picking up knocks which would rule them out of the trip to Boundary Park. With Dobie picking up an injury a couple of days later it left me with just three fit strikers, something which I wasn't keen on being a regular feature, so I instructed Dave to have a scout on the loan list and see who he could find that could provide three months cover on the attacking front.

We had driven up north for the Oldham game on the morning of the match, with the intention of staying in Oldham that night, but I would have much preferred to have stayed the Friday night and left Saturday afternoon but I had no choice in the matter. I would have been unhappy had we lost, but come the final whistle in the match we had sealed a third 3-0 win on the trot, Nathan Tyson and a Rory Delap brace enough to seal a comfortable win

With a week's restbite until we played again, I went along with a few of the lads (aswell as members of the Oldham team) into Oldham town centre for a few drinks. Come the coach journey the following day, I couldn't remember much about the next except I had started on bitter and ended up with a pounding headache and a bloody great cut on my head. The lads told me later that a flying bottle had struck me, although my epilepeic state had left me oblivious to it, and it had certainly left it's mark.

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After a few quizzical looks from Joanne and a trip to the hospital, I was all patched up and ready to lead the team on our march to the Championship. James Vaughan was proving to be deadly in League One, having scored 14 goals in just 9 league appearances, and with Sammy Clingan putting in dominant midfield performances the team was really starting to come along well


"You know what today is don't you?"

Joanne had sat down next to me, in a revealing top and short skirt, which had distracted me from the question she posed


"No, I mean what special day is it?"

"It's not your birthday is it? I could have sworn that was in February"

"No don't worry, it's not my birthday. It's the date we first, well, you know..."

"When we first what?"

"Well, took the relationship to the next level"

"Ooooh. I see. That must have been 9 years ago. How do you women remember things like that?"

"It's just a knack we have. We're good like that you see. So are you going to treat me to dinner tonight then?"

"Yeah I will. I won't be out of the ground till gone 7 though, so if you want to meet me there we'll go straight from there"

"Ok, I'll meet you at half 7 in your office"

"OK. See you later"

Women. How do they remember things like that eh? Still, a night away from the football would do me good, even though Joanne is an expensive date...


Port Vale visited the City Ground next up, and they had been the surprise package so far. The expected relegation candidates had started well, and sat in a comfortable 10th place in League One. I still expected to pick up a full quota of points from the game, and when Kris Commons stepped up to take a 13th minute penalty we were already one ahead, Sammy Clingan having slotted in a goal in the 6th minute. Commons missed the penalty, or to be more precise, it was saved by Vale 'keeper Mark Goodlad. We still pushed forward, dominating the game and creating chance after chance, but we just could not find the breakthrough, and we paid dearly for it when the Midlanders equalised in the 69th minute, a goal which they didn't deserve, but it earned them a point and ended our winning run.

The Johnstone's Paint Trophy was, quite frankly, a competition that didn't mean a whole lot to me, promotion to the Championship the main target for me and the team. The forst round of the competition had landed us a home draw against League Two Swindon, a game which I had no hesitation in resting the majority of first team players for. Even without the likes of Vaughan, Cullip, Collins, Clingan, Curtis and Belmadi, the team still managed to secure a comfortable win. By the ninetieth minute, we had put four past the hapless Swindon 'keeper. Three of those goals came from on loan Liverpool striker Craig Lindfield, his hat-trick goal a beautiful 20 yard volley that flew into the top corner. Grant Holt also chipped in with the fourth goal, and a comfortable passage into the second round.

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Four days later and we were back in League One action, a visit to Leyton Orient providing us with another tough test. They were a newly promoted side, and many people expected them to be in a relegation dogfight, but they were sitting comfortably in 8th place thus far. They had some good players, and in front of goal they posed a threat, and come half time they were one goal in front, on loan Southampton striker Leon Clarke having put them in front. We were much better in the second half, creating chances, and two James Vaughan goals in the space of 7 minutes sealed us a win. His first was a typical poachers goal, converting Belmadi's cross from 6 yards, but his second was a real gem of a goal, as he ran from our half, beating three men and sliding the ball under the Orient 'keeper. We held on for the three points, extending our lead at the top to 9 points over Bristol City.


Joanne had settled in well, and there was no doubt to the fact that we were officially a couple now. I had tried to bring up her ex husband, and why she had left him, but she hadn't answered the question and kept skirting round the answer. I was interested to know why she had walked out on him, but she didn't want to talk about it so I didn't push the issue.


In the first couple of months, we had tried to get as much time together as possible, seeing each other on 5 days a week. He got suspicious though, so we had to slow down, take it easy. To be honest, I think he suspected her of having an affair from the early days, but I don't think he thought it was one of his fellow players at the club. I don't know if he ever found out it was me, but one day he found out and started going ballistic. Next time I saw her, she had bruises. What could I do. I couldn't let him know it was me could I. I always said I would get revenge one day, and I will...


Swansea visited the City Ground next, with Lee Trundle their main goal threat. The big Scouser never got into the game though, as we comfortably ran out 3-1 winners. Beaumont opened the scoring after 68 seconds, collecting Clingan's pass and slotting home the ball past Willy Gueret. James Vaughan doubled that lead two minutes before the interval, using his pace to break free of his marker and dink the ball into the net. Swansea were back in the game two minutes into the second half, Alan Tate heading home, but the game was sealed soon after, a Robinson own goal sealing the match and giving us another three points.

Another home game finished the month off, Cheltenham the visitors in the second round of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. Goals from Scott Dobie and Craig Lindfield were enough to send us into the quarter finals, and even Ryan Hall's 89th minute goal wasn't enough to take a shine off the result. Dobie was superb, running the game from the right wing, and he deservedly earned man of the match for his performance

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October 2006 Summary

(League One unless stated)

Oldham 0-3 Nottingham Forest

Tyson (6) Delap (8,88)

Nottingham Forest 1-1 Port Vale

Clingan (6) Commons missed pen (13) : McCann (69)

Nottingham Forest 4-0 Swindon (Johnstones Paint Trophy Southern section 1st Round)

Lindfield (pen 17,52,55) Gr. Holt (76)

Leyton Orient 1-2 Nottingham Forest

Clarke (37) : Vaughan (61,68)

Nottingham Forest 3-1 Swansea

Beaumont (2) Vaughan (43) Robinson OG (50) : Tate (47)

Nottingham Forest 2-1 Cheltenham (Johnstones Paint Trophy Southern section 2nd Round)

Dobie (17) Lindfield (80) : Hall (89)

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November started with some good news, Tomas Pekhart joining on a three month loan from Tottenham. The 17 year old Czech under 21 international was a big strong powerful lad, and he would provide some good cover upfront for the rest of the strikers. The opening game of the month saw Doncaster the visitors, and they really set out their stall for a point. Their 5-4-1 formation stifled us, so much so that we only had 4 shots on goal in normal time. It wasn't until the 3rd minute of injury time that we grabbed the winner, substitute Grant Holt heading home Bastian's cross and securing all three points for the team.


"You know, it's 15 games since we last lost in the league?"

Dave had a knack for knowing things that slipped me by, and he came up with another gem in training

"Really? I didn't think it was that many"

"Yeah, 15. 8 points clear at the top and best goal difference in the league"

"Nice. Well if we keep that up through the season then the Championship shouldn't be a problem"


Nigel Doughty had popped his head round the door the following day. He had a smile on his face, a sight which was pleasant to see, as if he had been in a fould mood following our recent good form then it wouldn't bode well.

"Mark, everything OK?"

"Couldn't be better Nigel. Yourself?"

"Perfect. The team are playing well, good form at the moment, and I think promotion is a very reasonable target"

"Glad to hear it. It's also good to see that you're under the wage budget and still with transfer funds left. I always like to see that"

"Well I'll do my best to see that's how it stays. I want promotion just as much as you Nigel"

"Good to hear. Keep up the good work Mark"

Keeping the board happy was something I wasn't the greatest at, especially in my playing days. At least Nigel and his board members were pleased with our start to the season. I had every intention of keeping it that way too.

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The F.A Cup had thrown us up a fairly simple game on paper, Conference side Grays Athletic the opposition. They were doing well in the league, looking good for a play-off place, and I was expecting a win but I still had the though of a banana skin, and until we progressed I always had that niggling doubt.

Several first team players were rested, but come the final whistle it had made no difference, as we put four goals past the conference team. They battled hard, but our quality sone through. Grant Holt was the star of the show, grabbing a hat-trick, while Craig Lindfield scored the other one. They did draw level after 38 minutes, Howe heading home, but the game was well beyond their reach and we progressed through to the next round


We travelled down to Merseyside for the game against 7th placed Tranmere, although the ninetieth minute left me wishing I hadn't. It was a crap game, neither side finding the back of the net. The chances were few and far between, a total of three shots finding the target. A point away from home is better than nothing, and I couldn't be too unhappy with the boys. We still held a substantial lead at the top of the table and were looking well set for promotion

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"Joanne what's wrong? You havent been yourself for a few days now"

Jo had been quiet, not her usual self at all. I sat down next to her, putting my arm around her before posing the question.

"No nothing, honest. I'm not feeling all that great that's all"

"OK. Well if there's anything at allw rong, you can talk to me"

"I know. Thankyou darling"

"No problem. I'll go and make you a drink..."

"Nick...there is something. I had a letter the other day. From Paul"

"Right. Well what did the letter say?"

"He want's a meeting. Want's me to waive all my rights to him when the divorce goes through"

"Well don't do it. Just tell him you want what you're entitled to"

"It's not that simple. He knows I'm with someone, but if he found out it was you...I don't know what he'd do"

"You just listen to me Jo. He won't do anything. He's got to go through me first. So you just relax, don't worry, and trust me OK?"

"Yeah. OK. Thanks sweetheart. I really appreciate it"

2All part of the service. Now, get your coat. I'm taking you for a few drinks"


The month was rapidly drawing to a close, and Crewe visited the City Ground. Again we started badly, and we were lucky to go in at half time level, Crewe missing four or five good chances, but we bucked our ideas up in the second half, Vaughan and Tyson both having good chances, but for the second successive game we failed to find the net. Rune Pedersen managed to keep a clean sheet however, and we claimed a point with a goalless draw.

The quarter final of the Johnstones Paint Trophy saw us travel down to Gillingham, a game which meant nothing to me. The reserve team players got their chance, although ninety minutes later we had seen ourselves eliminated from the competition, goals from Guylian Ndumbu-Nsungu and Danny Haynes sending Gillingham through. I wasn't too disappointed, although the lads were down hearted, but the League One title was my priority

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November 2006 Summary

(League One unless stated)

Nottingham Forest 1-0 Doncaster

Gr. Holt (90)

Grays Athletic 1-4 Nottingham Forest (F.A Cup 1st Round)

Howe (38) : Gr. Holt (14,47,87) Lindfield (76)

Tranmere 0-0 Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest 0-0 Crewe Alexandra

Gillingham 2-0 Nottingham Forest

Ndumbu-Nsungu (39) Haynes (pen. 73)

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Jo still had worries about her ex finding out she was with me, but I wasn't too worried. It was a bit like trying to find a needle in a haystack. He wouldn't have a clue she was with me, surely he couldn't find it out. I had a niggling doubt, but I was pretty confident he wouldn't find out about me and Jo.

The opening game of December saw Stockport visit the City Ground in the F.A Cup. Again, I wasn't all that bothered about the competition, but I was well aware that if we beat the League Two side then we could land a plum tie with a Premiership side. I decided to rest a few of the regular starters, a move which made no difference to the result. Craig Lindfield and Wes Morgan scored first half goals, while Scott Dobie added a third just before the hour mark to give us a nice comfortable win and progression into the next round.


"Mark, what are you doing for your birthday?"

"Dunno really. I was just going to go out for a meal"

"Well I'll treat you. It's your birthday and you've been good to me. I'll take you out"

"Right. OK. Thankyou. Do you want me to book the restaurant or are you going to do it?"

"No I'll do it. It's fine. I think I can manage it"

I walked into my office a couple of days later to find the chairman sat there waiting for me. My surprise was picked up on, Nigel seeming quite amused at the shocked look on my face

"Mark, how are you? Good I hope"

"I'm fine thankyou Nigel, yourself?"

"Couldn't be better. I just wanted to let you know that I had a phone call from Bolton"

"OK. What was that about?"

"Well as I'm sure you're well aware Sam Allardyce was sacked a few days ago, and they'd like permission to talk to you"

"Really? Wow. I didn't expect that..."

I had to consider for a moment, it really was unexpected. Bolton, a Premiership team, interested in me.

"Tell them I'm not interested Nigel. I'm happy here, and I want to see my contract out"

"That's excellent to hear. I'll let them know"

I couldn't believe that a Premiership club had wanted to talk to me about the vacant job. I had only been in management less than 6 months, with a League One team. I had to think whether or not I could handle the pressure. The key factor was my love for Forest, having been here 8 years as a player and a coach, and my loyalty to the club was the turning point for me staying at the City Ground

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Two League One games in 5 days were enough to keep the team occupied, although Kris Commons and Nathan Tyson had picked up knocks in training, missing 2 weeks and 6 days respectively, meaning Grant Holt started alongside James Vaughan for the trip to Blackpool. They were a side who were in with a shout of a play off place, and they had some good players, but with the squad we had I felt we were comfortably better than every team in the league on our day. Holt had to be replaced by Craig Lindfield after 20 minutes of play, but the on loan Liverpool man gave us the lead just four minutes later, converting Beaumont's cross. We could, and probably should, have been 3 or 4 in front as we went into the interval, but we had to settle for just being one ahead. It made no difference in the end, James Vaughan's 60th minute volley enough to send us back to Nottingham with a full quota of points. Despite the fact we could have had more than the two we did score, it was sufficient enough for my liking.

2nd place Bristol City were our next opponents, and they were drastically falling behind us in points gained, so a win against them would send us a possible 12 points clear. Tyson was back in the starting line-up for the game, but it was Northern Irish midfielder Sammy Clingan who gave us the lead, heading home Smith's cross after 8 minutes. Our promotion rivals created chances, as did we, but it was the returning Nathan Tyson who sent us in two clear at the break, using his pace before firing across the Bristol City 'keeper into the far corner. Gary Johnson obviously fired his side up at the interval, Cole Skuse getting his side back into it four mintes into the half, but despite Johann's Smith sending off with 26 minutes left we managed to hold on and advance to 12 points clear at the top of League One.

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<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">


1. NOTT'M FOREST 21 16 4 1 +30 52

2. Bristol City 21 11 7 3 +11 40

3. Brighton 21 10 7 4 +16 37

4. Scunthorpe 21 9 5 7 +5 32

5. Yeovil 21 10 2 9 0 32

6. Swansea 21 10 2 9 -1 32



I was leaving the ground after a long day, 12 hours spent preparing for the Christmas and New Year run-in, when my phone rang, interrupting my train of thought.


"Mr Hampton?"


"Mr. Hampton, DCI John Byrne, Nottingham Police. Could I have a word with you?"

"Well I'm on the way home at the minute but I could make my way to the station if you like?"

"No it's quite urgent. I believe you were scheduled to meet a Mrs. Joanne Townsley for a meal tonight?"

"Yes that's right, we were going out to celebrate my birthday. Is there a problem?"

"You could say that. Your house has been burgled, and they were caught in the act by Mrs. Townsley. They panicked and attacked her"

"What? Jesus Christ. Is she OK?"

"Relatively she's fine yes, just a concussion and a few cuts and bruises, but if you'd like to visit her she's been taken to Nottingham General"

"Right yes thankyou. I'll be there as fast as I can"

Bloody Hell. I put my foot down and raced to the hospital, eventually walking into Joanne's room 15 minutes later. She had bruises on her face and a distant look in her eyes.

"Jo. It's me. Are you OK?"

"Hi darling. I've been better but I'm not bad in the circumstances"

She could barely talk properly, her voice was so weak. I felt nothing but guilt, like it was my fault.

"I'm sorry. It's all my fault. I should never have left you on your own. I'll make it up to you, I promise"

"Don't be daft, it's not your fault. You didn't plan for someone to rob the house. I'm not sure what they took or anything..."

"Don't worry about that now, that's the least of my concerns right now. You just get some rest and I'll go and see the DCI outside. I'll be back as quick as I can"


I had gone back to the house to survey the damage and see what had been taken, but after half an hour it became obvious that whoever had broken in hadn't taken anything. That struck me as strange, especially considering some of the valuables in the house. Someone had obviously come looking for something in particular, and having not found it they decided to take it out on Joanne. Once I got my hands on the bastards who did it there would be serious reprecussions.


I was nowhere near in the right frame of mind for our trip to Gillingham, my mind still firmly on the events of a few days before. I had managed to pick a side eventually, and gave them a brief team talk, but my state of mind meant Dave had to take control of the side. He did a good job too, Rory Delap's 26th minute goal enough to give us a win, despite the fact Gillingham were by far the better side throughout the 90 minutes, but they found our Danish stopper Rune Pedersen in stunning form, as he deservedly earned a man of the match award.

With Joanne recovering well, she was allowed home a few days later, and I made sure that somebody was always at the house with her when I was unavailable. I didn't want her to be left alone at all now, at least not until she had got the attack out of her mind. I was even reluctant to go and do my job, but she had insisted I carry on as normal, so I took my place in the dugout for the home game against 3rd place Brighton. We eased through the game, controlling the midfield from start to finish, and a goal in each half was enough to seal the points, Gino Padula's penalty and a Ryan Lynch free-kick the difference making strikes.

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Cheers Irish. Glad to know you're enjoying the read icon_smile.gif


The Christmas period is always a busy time for any football team, and much of my time was taken up at the ground rather than at home with Jo. She was beginning to feel much more safe and gradually began to go out a bit more, with encouragement from her friends, and with her feeling safer I was a lot happier to go to work. Having spent a relaxing, quiet Christmas day together with a meal, a DVD and a bottle of wine, I was ready for the Boxing Day visit of Brentford to the City Ground. So far, they were the only side to beat us in the League, a fact which made myself and the boys hungry for revenge.

Come the final minute, we had done what we set out to do. Tyson and Vaughan grabbing the goals in a comfortable 3-1 win, although the first 15 minutes was a bit twitchy. Tyson opened the scoring on 8 minutes, beating the offside trap to side the ball underneath goalkeeper Nelson. They were soon level though, on loan midfielder Drew Surman curling his free kick past Pedersen's outstretched glove. We got back in front through Vaughan's header, before Tyson sealed the points with 7 minutes left, although the game wasn't without scares, Skulason and Kuffour both missing chances for their side.

December closed with a visit up to the top end of the country, to face Carlisle. I was very confident of a win considering we had put 5 past them back in August, but in the end we were very lucky to get out of Cumbria with all three points. We started the better of the sides, Nathan Tyson's 24th minute goal putting us on the lead, one which we held onto until the 70th minute, Rob Elvins equalising for his side. Three goals in the space of five minutes decided the game, Vaughan and Clingan scoring for us while Murray had a goal sandwiched in between. Still, I was happy to end the month on a high note and with a 100% record for the seven games we played

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December 2006 Summary

(League One unless stated)

Nottingham Forest 3-0 Stockport (F.A Cup 2nd Round)

Lindfield (12) Morgan (43) Dobie (59)

Blackpool 0-2 Nottingham Forest

Lindfield (24) Vaughan (60)

Nottingham Forest 2-1 Bristol City

Clingan (8) Tyson (45) : Skuse (49)

Gillingham 0-1 Nottingham Forest

Delap (26)

Nottingham Forest 2-0 Brighton

Padula (pen. 42) Lynch (82)

Nottingham Forest 3-1 Brentford

Tyson (8,83) Vaughan (36) : Surman (10)

Carlisle 2-3 Nottingham Forest

Elvins (70) Murray (86) : Tyson (24) Vaughan (84) Clingan (88)

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I was more than happy with how 2006 had gone, my first 6 months in charge seeing us end the year top of the league, a substantial lead and looking odds on for promotion. The players were forming a good squad, getting on well, and they were doing the business on the pitch. I was just slightly worried that some of my key players were only on loan, and I had sent Ian McParland, my chief scout, to try and find the availabilty of some of those on loan players.

New Years day brought Chesterfield to the City Ground, a game which I fully expected us to pick up three points in. Lindield's loan had been extended by a further three months, and he started upfront with Vaughan, while Beaumont and Delap started in midfield. By the twenty first minute of the match the game was over, goals from Belmadi and Vaughan a penalty from Padula had secured us the win. We could have been further ahead by half time, Vaughan and Lindfield both missing chances, and in the second half it was much of the same, as we dominated the game. We didn't find a goal until the final minutes, Rory Delap heading home Padula's cross to wrap up a comfortable 4-0 victory.


"How are you feeling now?"

I hoped Jo was feeling better, as I wanted to treat her to a night out

"I'm much better now thanks sweetheart. I can go out without worrying"

"Good. Well get your coat, 'cos I'm taking you out for a meal"

"Why, what's the occasion?"

"There isn't one. I just think you deserve it after what you've been through"

"OK. Well let me have half an hour to get ready and then we'll go"

"Sure. I'll see you in a little while"


The night had gone well, we both enjoyed ourselves, and it was nice to relax and not have football on my mind for a change. That soon changed a few days later, as we travelled to Wales for our third round F.A Cup tie with Championship side Cardiff. This was a chance to show that we meant business, and that we could handle ourselves without a problem in the Championship. The Welsh side were mid-table, and I felt that we could beat them if we were at out best. By the ninetieth minute, my theory was blown right out of the window, as we succumbed to a 4-1 defeat. We were two down at half time, goals from Glombard and Bolder, and although we came back much better in the second half, Craig Lindfield's 68th minute header getting us back in the match, two goals in four minutes from Mcphail, with a penalty. and Ferretti three minutes from time secured Cardiff's progression into the fourth round

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After such a disappointing game against Cardif,, in which we had let ourselves down, I wanted to make up for it in the league. An away trip to Bournemouth provided a perfect opportunity for us to do that. Once Nathan Tyson had his 17th minute penalty saved by Neil Moss I feared the worst, and on loan striker Hogan Ephraim heightened those fears with his 34th minute strike putting Bournemouth in front. We did manage to go in at the interval in front though, two James Vaughan goals giving us a lead. Danny Cullip powered home our third from a corner, while Vaughan completed his hat-trick on 70 minutes and sealed the points. The home side did pull one back, Ryan Hartslief heading home twelve minutes from time, but we claimed all three points to confirm our place at the top of League One.


Joanne had gone to stay with her parents for a week in Oxford, so I was spending quiet nights in with my Only Fools and Horses series and a few lagers. 24 hours before our next League One game, I decided to go down to the ground and do some work. I walked into my office and couldn't believe my eyes. It looked like a tornado had ripped through it. The filing cabinet was tipped over, paper and files scattered all across the room, my desk was on its side. Somebody had obviously been looking for something. First my house, now my office. It was too much of a coincidence to just be two seperated incidents. They were definately connected.

It took me more than three hours to sort the office out, and during that time I established that nothing had been stolen, just like as in the previous incident, and this was what I thought was strange. Why would people break in and not take anything? I had other things to focus on, namely a home game the next day, so I moved my mind onto that. I decided against telling Joanne, as she would only worry, and she didn't need that after what she had been through


The home game saw Huddersfield make the trip to Nottingham, another game I expected to win. It looked like we were going to win, James Vaughan's goal right on the stroke of half time looking good enough to win the game, but that was scuppered when Collins equalised a minute from time to earn his side a point. We should have won the game, having had at least 7 clear cut chances, but we had to settle for just the one point rather than all three

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Our next League One match was against Northampton, as we returned to one of my old stomping ground of Sixfields. The ovation I got was mixed, some clapping and some booing, but I wasn't overly bothered about whether the crowd liked me or not. I was just focused on winning football matches. This was a game we should have won, as we dominated from first to last, Nathan Tyson missing 5 chances, and Vaughan missing two good ones, but for the second successive game we had to settle for one point rather than three.

We did claim all three points in our next game, when Bradford visited the City goal. One solitary goal was just enough to win the game, Felix Bastians volleying home Belmadi's cross after twenty one minutes. We could have had more, Tyson again missing some good chances, but we held on and claimed the win to establish our lead at the top to fifteen points.

Promotion was looking a certainty at this moment in time, but despite the fact the team were on a terrific run of form I was still wary that nothing was secure yet. We had to get our heads down and work hard, the fans deserve Championship football, and the board want Championship football. I know that we're good enough, but we have to prove it to the rest of the country

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January 2007 Summary

(League One unless stated)

Nottingham Forest 4-0 Chesterfield

Belmadi (10) Padula (pen. 13) Vaughan (20) Delap (90)

Cardiff 4-1 Nottingham Forest (F.A Cup 3rd Round)

Glombard (16) Bolder (36) Mcphail (pen.83) Ferretti (87) : Lindfield (68)

Bournemouth 2-4 Nottingham Forest

Ephraim (34) Hartslief (78) : Vaughan (40,45,70) Cullip (61) Tyson missed pen. (17)

Nottingham Forest 1-1 Huddersfield

Vaughan (45) : Collins (89)

Northampton 0-0 Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest 1-0 Bradford

Bastians (21)

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During the course of January I had been fervently trying to secure a couple of permanent transfers, particularly some of the loan signings I had brought in who had been really impressive. It took until transfer deadline day, but I finally managed to get two signatures on paper, Ryan Lynch comfirming his £30,000 move from Coventry and Sunderland's Neill Collins moving to the City Ground permanently for £130,000, a signing which I was delighted with, as the Scottish defender had been superb at the heart of defence all season.

Neill and Ryan took their place in the squad for the game against Rotherham as permanent Nottingham Forest players for the first time this season, with Lynch having to take Kris Commons' place when out left winger went off with an injury after half an hour. Nathan Tyson gave us the lead in the twentieth minute, using his pace to break clear of the defence and slotting underneath Neil Cutler. The bottom side were level soon after, on loan Man City striker Ishmael Miller collecting the ball and firing the ball past Pedersen from the edge of the box. James Vaughan put us back in front with a thirty yard shot that flew into the top right hand corner of the Rotherham net. We should have put the game to bed, with Tyson, Clingan and Cullip all missing good chances, and we paid for that after 73 minutes, an equaliser from Taylor earning a point for the home side.


"I'm going out with the girls tonight Mark. It's Charlotte's birthday so we're going out to celebrate"

Joanne was fully recovered from the attack now, and she felt very comfortable going out. She had spent an extra 3 days at her parents house and she really enjoyed the trip. She was looking happy and refreshed, which made me happy, I hated the thought of her being unhappy

"That's fine Jo. You have a good night. Are you staying out or coming back here?"

"I'm not sure yet, it depends on the time we finish. You don't need to wait up for me though"

"OK. Well I'll just watch a film and have an early night I think. Gotta be up early"

"Sounds good darling. I'll see you later OK?"


Jo hadn't come home that night, and by the time I left for the ground that afternoon she still wasn't, so I assumed she was sleeping her hangover off at Charlotte's. I had other things to concentrate on, the main thing being the visit of Cheltenham to the City Ground. It was a game that we controlled with ease and composure, an early goal and a late goal securing the three points. Sammy Clingan opened the scoring after less than two minutes, side-footing home Bastian's cross from 8 yards. Substitute Kris Commons sealed the match in the 81st minute, winning and then converting a penalty to continue our incredible undefeated run alive.

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I had got home from the ground to find Jo sitting on the settee, looking worried. I sat next to her and put my arm around her shoulders

"What's wrong Jo? Didn't you have a good time last night?"

"Oh no it's nothing like that. I had a good time. It's just...Paul was out last night. I saw him in one of the bars. He came and started talking to me"

"What's he doing in Nottingham? I thought he was back in Oxford now?"

"He is, he was just down visiting a friend. He was asking about my love life Mark"

"What did you tell him? Did you mention me?"

"No, I didn't think I should. It would only cause problems. He wanted to meet me, have a chat about divorce proceedings and things"

"Go and meet him. Anything that gives him no indication of me and you OK?"

"OK. He gave me his number. When should I arrange to meet him?"

"It's up to you Jo. Whenever you feel ready to, you do it"


"Mark, I've got a gentlemen out here to see you. He said he hasn't made an appointment but it's urgent"

"Hmm. OK. Cheers Julie, send them in"

I had no idea who it could be. Urgent. Surely it can't be that urgent that they need to see me in my office

"Hello Mark. Long time no see"

"Paul? What do you want?"

What the bloody hell was he doing here? And why did he need two 6'4, 18 stone bodyguards with him?

"Now come on Mark, I've come all this way to see you and thats how you greet me?"

"Yeah well, you're forgetting I know you too well. What are you doing back here?"

"Came to find Joanne. Need to sort a few things out with her. So you're managing Forest now then eh?"

"Yes. Don't feed me all this ******** Paul, just tell me what you want"

"Just two hours of your time. Tomorrow night. I need to have a chat, discuss some business"

"Right. And if I say no?"

"Will, show the man what will happen?"

The white bodyguard suddenly lurched forward, grabbing me out of my seat. He held me up while his companion threw four or five punches to my ribs

"As you see, no is not an option Mark"

"Right. Fine. Where and when?"

"Eight o'clock. Meet me in that alley behind Tonto's cafe, just off the Trent road"

"I know it. Fine. I'll see you there"

"Good boy Mark. I always knew you were sensible. Gentlemen, lets leave the man to his work"


With my meeting with Paul on my mind, I could barely focus on our game with Yeovil, so much so that our 4-0 win didn't register. Nathan Tyson's goals just after half time and in the final minute, coupled with goals from Vaughan and a Simpson own goal were enough to give us three points, but as I drove back to Nottingham i pondered in my mind what Paul could possibly want from me

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"Mark. So good to see you. Now, lets get straight into it"

I didn't want to be there. I could have done without it, but I know what he can do. He's got influence. I had to go there. Plus the fact my ribs are bloody sore

"Now, I believe your doing rather well in your new career?"

"Well, not doing too badly. What's that got to do with anything though?"

"Nothing. Just interested. How's the family?"

"You know full well. I haven't got one. What bout you?"

"Oh I think you know Mark. Considering you're living with my wife"

"Eh? What do you..."

"You know. Now, just shut up, and listen to what I've got to say. Elvis, make sure he listens"

Paul's Jamaican bodyguard pinned me against the wall, so hard that I couldn't move

"Now, I know it was you that she had an affair with all those years ago. For that, I want revenge. I know your address, and if you don't co=operate, I will make sure that Joanne's blood is on your hands...literally. I want you to stop seeing her. If you get promotion to the Championship, which is looking likely, you have to get relegated. Or stay in the Championship. If Nottingham Forest make it to the Premiership with you in charge, that means I lose a lot of money..."

"Paul, you know I can't do that"

"Mark you dissapoint me. I thought that you would co-operate. Elvis, please show him his fate"

More punches came into my ribs, knocking the wind out of me

"Now. I won't expect you to answer, but I will be coming to visit you soon. Good luck with promotion. Come on fellas"

I started to pull myself up when Paul turned round to face me. As I looked up at him, he swung his right foot into my already tender ribs

"And give Joanne my love"

Bastard. I dragged my battered and bruised body to the car, debating whether to go to the hospital or not. In the end, I decided against it, and went home to Joanne, deciding not to tell her about my meeting, and also to hide my pain from her. I needed to think of a way out of this situation. I couldn't put her through any more than what she already has. I have to keep it from her

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I had to put my bruised ribs and troubles with Paul to the back of my mind as we travelled to Glanford Park to face our fellow promotion contenders Scunthorpe. Twenty minutes into the match, it looked like we were heading for defeat, goals from Winn and Taylor putting the home side two goals ahead. We did pull one back before the interval, Craig Lindfield heading home, and the side got a real bollocking off me. It worked a treat, as we dominated the second half, but we only had the one goal to show for our efforts, on loan striker James Vaughan's 55th minute equaliser earning us a point and keepin us well clear in the league.

Four days later, Millwall made the trip to Nottingham, and yet again we only got a point. This time though, we were the side two goals clear, Scott Dobie and James Vaughan sending us in at the break two in front. Spackman's side came out with a bang in the second half, Chris Zebroski and Poul Hubertz scoring within 8 minutes of each other to earn Millwall a point and keep them in the play-off hunt. I was disappointed to lose two points, but I couldn't be too down heartened with the result. A point is always better than two, and it still kept us on course for promotion

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February 2007 Summary

(League One unless stated)

Rotherham 2-2 Nottingham Forest

Miller (25) Taylor (73) : Tyson (20) Vaughan (29)

Nottingham Forest 2-0 Cheltenham

Clingan (2) Commons (pen. 81)

Yeovil 0-4 Nottingham Forest

Tyson (46,90) Vaughan (54) Simpson OG (57)

Scunthorpe 2-2 Nottingham Forest

Winn (12) Taylor (19) : Lindfield (30) Vaughan (55)

Nottingham Forest 2-2 Millwall

Dobie (27) Vaughan (34) : Zebroski (47) Hubertz (55)

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lol why does the violent bodyguard ahve to be Jamaican huh? Stereotyping my people to be violent are ya?

lol just playing..enjoying your story alot man. icon14.gif

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JaGunner - thanks a lot, glad to know you're enjoying the story icon_smile.gif


I started March knowing that our promotion to a higher division could be secured with the right results. With so much going on off the pitch, I was finding it hard to fully concentrate, but I knew I had to have my mind focused on our game with Oldham. Rory Delap came into the side for James Beaumont, and it was the former Southampton man who scored the difference making goal, heading home a Kris Commons cross five minutes before half time. We could have sewn the game up more comfortably before the full time whistle, Vaughan, Grant Holt and Delap ball missing good chances, but Rory's goal was enough to settle the game.


"Mark, good to see you. How are you?"

Nigel had walked into reception on the Monday morning, smiling like a Cheshire cat.

"Fine thankyou Nigel. And yourself?"

"Wonderful. Promotion is all but secured, wage budget looks good and the entire board is delighted with how things are going"

"That's good to hear. I'm really enjoying managing, it's a different challenge than playing"

"Good. Well if you keep these standards up then I'm sure you'll be here for a long time"

"I hope so Nigel"

As he left, he turned back round to face me...

"Oh by the way Mark, therew as a phone call for you last night. Somebody by the name of Paul. Said that you'd know what it was about"

"Yes I do. Thanks Nigel"


Our next League One game saw myself and the side travel to face Port Vale, a side who were fighting for their lives in the league, so I fully expected three points from the game. The first 45 minutes saw 6 chances all fired at the Port Vale goal, Mark Goodlad making a string of good saves to keep his side in the match. It took until the tenth minute of the second half for us to open the scoring, Craig Lindfield volleying home from 12 yards, before he won the penalty ten minutes later, which was duly converted by James Vaughan. We claimed a priceless win, which took us ever closer to the Championship

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As we travelled on the team bus down to Yorkshire for our game with Doncaster, there was a healthy atmosphere on board. The lads were more than aware that we could clinch promotion in this game by avoiding defeat, so they were pumped up and ready to secure their place in a higher division. Even with all this going on, I still had worries on my mind, as I expected a visit from Paul any day and my contract was also running out at the end of the season, but we were in the middle of March and I had not been offered an extension. I would sign it instantly as soon as I was given it, theres no way I'm not staying. I've been here more than 8 years, as both a player and coach and now as manager, so Nottingham Forest play a massive part in my life.

Just a few short hours later, the players strode onto the pitch knowing that they were just ninety minutes away from securing promotion to the Championship. This did seem to affect their game though, as we started slowly, Doncaster obviously determined to stop our promotion. The home side tool the lead a quarter of the way through the match, Paul Green firing home underneath Pedersen from the edge of the area. This did wake the boys up, and despit constant pressure it wasn't until the sixty seventh minute of the match that we drew level, James Vaughan side footing home Belmadi's low cross. We should have won the game, but the point wasn't a big loss, and when the final whistle blew I felt a sense of relief and joy. We had done it. Nottingham Forest were back in the Championship.


"Mark, Garth Crooks, BBC. Congratulations on promotion, you must be delighted?"

It was a ridiculous question, but I knew that he was just doing his job so I had to answer it

"Oh yes Garth, absolutely. The boys have been superb all season and this is no more than they deserve"

"There are several thoughts that your future may be in doubt, as you are yet to sign a new contract at the club. Could you give us your take on that?"

"No I haven't signed a new contract as yet, but be in no doubt that I want to stay at this club. This promotion is the first step of many to put this club back where it belongs. I want to stay with Nottingham Forest for the foreseeable future"

"OK Mark, thankyou very much. Enjoy the celebrations and congratulations once again"

Obviously I was delighted that I had secured promotion, not just for me but for the fans. They are some of the best and most faithful in the country, and they deserve to be watching Premiership football again one day. I had said I wanted to stay at Forest, and reiterated that again during the week, but the lack of progress on the contract front was really starting to worry me. I put that to one side for the time being to focus on winning the League One title though, as with promotion secured that was the next step.

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"Mark, have you got a minute?"

Nigel popped his head round my door the morning after we had secured promotion

"Yeah sure, come on in"

"As Im sure you're well aware, your contract runs out soon"

"Yes I know. I also want to stay here, I'd like to sign a new contract"

"I know that, so because of that..."

As he dropped the contract onto my desk

"...there is a three year, £3,000 a week contract to stay here"

"Thankyou Nigel, and I will be delighted to sign"

And with that, I signed my name on the bottom of the contract to confirm three more years at Nottingham Forest


Leyton Orient visited the City Ground in the next League game, and this game could see us clinch the League One title. When Nathan Tyson gave us a twelfth minute lead this looked all well and good, and even though Nicky Forster equalised five minutes later we earnt the point to clinch us the title. We should have won the game, but it was nice to seal the title in front of our home fans. They had been superb all season, and they fully deserved the promotion. Myself and the team allowed ourselves a few celebratory beers, although we still had business to conduct in the remaining time of the season.

The final game of March saw the team involved in one of the best games of the season, against Swansea. Lee Trundle put his side in the lead in the 12th minute, and we didn't get back level until ten minutes after half time, Nathan Tyson's 15th of the season, but Trundle's 75th minute goal put them back in front. We did pick up three points with two goals in the space of 3 minutes, John Curtis and Rory delap both heading home corners to give us a win that, in all honesty, we probably didn't deserve

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March 2007 Summary

(League One unless stated)

Nottingham Forest 1-0 Oldham

Delap (40)

Port Vale 0-2 Nottingham Forest

Lindfield (54) Vaughan (pen. 64)

Doncaster 1-1 Nottingham Forest

Green (24) : Vaughan (67)

Nottingham Forest 1-1 Leyton Orient

Tyson (12) : Forster (17)

Swansea 2-3 Nottingham Forest

Trundle (12,75) : Tyson (55) Curtis (90) Delap (90)

Nottingham Forest promoted to Championship

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<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre"> PL W D L GD PTS

1. NOTT'M FOREST 40 28 11 1 +53 95

2. Bristol City 39 18 15 6 +16 69


3. Scunthorpe 39 19 9 11 +21 66

4. Brighton 40 18 10 12 +20 64

5. Blackpool 40 18 9 13 +1 63

6. Swansea 39 18 6 15 +11 60



The target of 100 points was sitting firmly on my mind, and the chance to win the league by a record margin. Wuth just 6 games left, and a possible 18 points, then it was possible for a maximum 113. April started with a home game, Tranmere the visitors, and once we had taken the lead after 34 minutes, James Vaughan hitting his 32nd goal of the season, it was an easy game that we claimed three points from. McCready's sending off in the second half never helped his teams cause, but we couldn't find the second goal and had to settle for just a one goal win.

48 hours later, and we visited Crewe, looking to pass the century mark in the points column. Luke Rodgers stunned the players after twelve minutes, when he put his side in front completely against the run of play. It looked as if that goal would be enough to send his side in at half time in front, but James Vaughan had other ideas, finally beating the Crewe 'keeper and levelling the scores up. Nicky Maynard had only been on the pitch 11 minutes before heading his side back in front, but after that it was all one-way traffic. Four goals in the final fifteen minutes assured us of three more points, and took us comfortably past 100 points for the season. Vaughan equalised with his second of the match on 75 minutes, before Craig Lindfield headed us in front for the first time in the match. Vaughan completed his hat-trick five minutes from time, before Neill Collins rounded off the game in style when he struck home a fifth from 25 yards out. The scoreline was harsh on Crewe, who had battled hard, but I was not going to complain and congratulated the team on a superb victory

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"Mark. How are you? Good I hope?"

Paul had decided the time was right to pay me a visit, waiting till the ground was empty before collaring me in the corner of the car park

"I'm fine thankyou Paul. And you?"

"As good as can be expected. Congratulations on promotion and the title by the way, very good achievement to get 100 points"

"Thankyou. I'm happy wi..."

"Anyway, down to business. I know that you don't know why I'm here but I'll tell you. Considering you're living with my wife, and it was you that cost me the captaincy back at Oxford, I think you need to repay me"

"OK. Well do you want me to give you money? How much?"

"No no no Mark. I'm well off on the money front thanks to a little sideline of mine. I need you to do something for me. Just a part-time thing"

"OK. What is it?"

"I need you to deliver this package..."

He handed me a thick, padded brown envelope, I don't know what was in it, and I certainly didn't fancy losing a rib to find out

"...to a client for me. I believe you play in Brighton last game of the season? Well my client will meet you in a little cafe, near the stadium, it's called Johnny's. You give him that package, then bring back what he gives you. You don;t find out what is in either, you ask no questions, you just do it. Got that?"

"Yes. Loud and clear. Should I ring you when I'm on the way back?"

"No. I'll know. See you soon Mark. Boys, make sure he gets his present"

Two big right hands came towards my ribs, which were still tender from the previous assault on them, and a few more hits wouldn't do them any good at all.

"Anything goes wrong, it'll be much worse for you"


I was getting myself in deeper with Paul, which I knew would get me in some serious ****. I needed to get out, after this job. I had to get out of it. I had football matches to put my mind on first, as Blackpool visited Nottingham. It turned out to be a surprisingly easy win against a team guaranteed a play-off place, with a goal in either half enough to seal the game. Nathan Tyson scored first on 7 minutes, rounding the 'keeper and slotting home. The second goal came just six minutes from time, Danny Collins volleying home from 6 yards after Belmadi whipped a cross in from the right hand side. Our unbeaten run stood at 41 League games, an incredible record and just one away from the club record, which I had in the back of my mind, but I was pleased with the ruthless streak the lads were showing.

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"Jo, it's not my fault. I'm doing it for you. Just take some time, go and live with your mum and dad"

"I thought you were happy Mark?. I thought you wanted me?"

"You know I do, and you know I'd do anything for you, but it's for the best. At least this way, you will be safe"

"I guess...in a way, I know you're right, I just don't want to go"

"It's for the best. We both know what he's capable of, and until this situation is resolved I want you to be safe. That's my priority"

"OK. Mark, you're right. I'll leave first thing"

"Good girl. You know it makes sense"

I had to stop seeing Joanne. It was for her own safety. I don't want her blood on my hands. I can't live with that. I don't mind taking a beating or two, but she doesn't need to be involved in this


The trip south saw us face 2nd placed Bristol City, who needed to win to confirm their place in the Championship. I was determined to keep our good run in tact, and come the ninetieth minute we had managed to do just that, the on form Nathan Tyson grabbing both goals. His first, on 33 minutes, was a typical poachers goal, as he rammed home the rebound from James Vaughan's shot. His second was a superb individual effort, as he beat four players before slotting home underneath the Bristol City 'keeper. It wrapped up a good win for the side, and left us high on confidence.

Our final home game of the season saw us entertain Gillingham. They had won the Johnstones Paint Trophy a few weeks before hand, but once again our ruthless streak came to the forefron as we controlled the game, running out as comfortable 3-1 winners. First half goals from James Beaumont and James Vaughan, with Ryan Jarvis pulling one back in between, but when Craig Lindfield struck home after a knock down from Holt in the 81st minute, it was all over and we had set a new club record for games unbeaten, 43

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April 2007 Summary

(League One unless stated)

Nottingham Forest 1-0 Tranmere

Vaughan (34)

Crewe 2-5 Nottingham Forest

Rodgers (12) Maynard (56) : Vaughan (42,75,85) Lindfield (79) Collins (90)

Nottingham Forest 2-0 Blackpool

Tyson (7) D.Collins (84)

Bristol City 0-2 Nottingham Forest

Tyson (33,88)

Nottingham Forest 3-1 Gillingham

Beaumont (19) Vaughan (27) Lindfield (81) : Jarvis (21)

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Just one game was left in the season, myself and the side travelling down to Brighton. It was a game that didn't matter to either side, as both automatic promotion spots were settled and the play-off places had been secured, with our opponents having earned one of those. The game was a dull affair, both teams happy to settle for a draw, Belmadi scoring for us, while Reid scored for the home side. I had other things on my mind though, and I left the players to their celebrations while I made my way to deliver the package

"Hello. Anyone there?"

The cafe was empty, derelict, run down. No wonder Paul had picked this place to meet his client

"Whos there?"

"I'm delivering a package on behalf of Paul Townsley"

"OK. Sean, Damien, search our visitor for the usual"

Once I was searched I was made to sit down in a chair, across from the supposed client. I couldn't see his face, not that I wanted to, but I had a strange feeling of deja-vu

"So what do you do? Why are you involved in this?"

"I'm a football manager. Paul believes I owe him favours, but I think he's wrong"

"Hmmm. Well I'll tell you what son. I'm owed a few...favours, shall we say, from Paul. And it seems you have a problem with him. So here is my business card. You help me, and I'll help you. Anytim Paul does anything out of turn, your ing me. My boys will sort him out. Alright?"

"Yes. Yes thankyou very much. Can I ask you something though?"

"Fire away"

"Why are you doing this for me? I mean, what have I done for you?"

"Well, lets just say that you manage a team that is very close to me..."

He leant forward, letting the light shine on his face, and I let out a gasp of breath. It couldn't be him, surely? Stuart Pearce was sat across from me. What was all this about? Have I gone mad?

"...and you're doing a bloody good job. So I don't want anything to happen to you, OK?"

"Yes, that's fine. Thankyou, again"

"Not a problem. Oh and by the way, I wasn't here, should anyone ask. I'm supposed to be in Manchester but I've got the feeling I'm not going to be in a job much longer"

"I won't say a word to anyone"

"Good lad. Now keep up the good work"

And with that, he stood up and left, leaving me sat in amazement, a feeling that was still occupying the forefront of my mind as I got back to Nottingham with the lads, and even into the night as we carried on our celebrations.

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