Paul Severn talks to NFST board member Steve Bennett about his lifelong passion for Nottingham Forest, including the story of an unused ticket to the Munich final and, in more recent times, what drove him to get involved with the Supporters' Trust
My Forest story: Steve Bennett
Every young football fan who buys their first season ticket probably dreams of their club winning the League Championship in their first season. That’s what happened to Steve Bennett in the 1977-78 season as newly promoted Nottingham Forest made history – and made Steve a fan for life.
However, Steve had another reason to be in Nottingham at weekends. Although he had moved to Manchester to begin studying at the University, he had met his future wife, Sue who lived in Nottingham. So began two love affairs, which have run parallel for four decades. Steve’s long distance relationship with Nottingham Forest continues to this day, as he travels from Cheshire for each home game, sharing the ups and downs with his friend Mark.
Steve recalls: “I first started going to matches with my grandfather – starting in December 1967 when Forest beat Stoke City 3-0 and on my eleventh birthday, my dad who wasn’t a football fan, took me to see Forest play Manchester United – a team containing George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton. In my teens, I had a Saturday job which meant I couldn’t go regularly.
“My student grant cheque meant I had a bit of money and I went to 24 games in the league title season and 36 the following season. I bought a ticket for the European Cup Final in Munich, but the coach was too expensive at £25. Only later did my parents tell me they’d have lent me the money! However, I remember watching the final with my mates on TV and being one of the first to arrive in slab square to celebrate.
“I was doing my finals at university at the time of the Madrid final, so I decided not to go, and wait for the next one. But unfortunately there wasn’t a next time…”
In 2001 Steve decided to send his unused Munich ticket to Trevor Francis, then manager of Birmingham City, to be signed. Unfortunately Trevor signed the plastic wallet and not the ticket. After corresponding with Trevor’s PA, Steve sent the ticket back to St Andrews to be signed properly, only for Francis to be sacked that summer. However, the ticket did make its way home in the end – signed by Trevor Francis. It is now displayed on his office wall complete with a photograph of the winning goal.
Steve enjoyed many years of success at the City Ground, attending all the Wembley finals in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but things went sour in 1993 as Forest were relegated. Steve saw Cloughie’s final game at Ipswich and remembers it was “an awful season.”
Steve remembers: “Only looking back at the photos of Brian Clough that season did you realise he was not well. It was very, very sad. I remember the warmth of opposing fans towards him in those final games.”
In recent years, under the ownership of Fawaz Al Hasawi, Steve’s love for Forest started to fade. So much so that after Arsenal’s second string thrashed Forest 4-0 in September 2016 in the Carabao Cup tie, Steve decided to stop attending matches. “It was woeful,” said Steve.
“I didn’t go for several months, but when Gary Brazil and Jack Lester took over I decided to come back and support them. I then started to read about the Supporters’ Trust on Twitter and had wanted to get involved in the club for a long time so I to attended a meeting at the Larwood and Voce. There were some strange looks when I said I had travelled over from Cheshire just to be there!”
Steve was elected to the board and is involved in the Membership Working Group, which is working to grow the membership, encourage renewals and develop the membership offer.
“The Trust wasn’t just about removing Fawaz. It is about leaving a club to our grandchildren. I have been able to meet senior figures at the club and discuss exciting projects such as the Miracle Gates and sharing our membership survey findings.”
Steve’s two children, Emma (24) and Andrew (21) are both Forest supporters. Steve names Stan Collymore as his all-time favourite Forest player and chooses the 4-0 victory over Middlesbrough in March 1998 as his favourite ever game. He explains: “That was a day when the stars all aligned. We needed to win 4-0 to go top and it set us up for promotion. Everything fell into place.
“I remember coming home from the 0-0 draw versus Coventry which secured the league title in 1977. It was very quiet on the train. Everyone was knackered. It had been such a long, exhausting season. Even when the players took the field in their green tracksuits to collect the trophy the following week at the City Ground, it felt surreal.
“As you get older, you learn to appreciate the highs more – to enjoy every win. If we get three points, it puts me in a great mood for the rest of the weekend. But with experience, you learn not to get too high after a win and not to get too low after a defeat. But if we ever do get to another European Final, that will be a real high – and I certainly won’t be missing that one!”