When Nottingham Forest and Huddersfield Town clash today in the Championship play-off at Wembley, a lifelong Forest fan based currently in Bahrain will be rooting for his team to seal their return to the English Premier League (EPL) for the first time since relegation in 1998-99.
“I will struggle to watch the game, even though I desperately want to, because I’ll be at St Christopher’s Cathedral for the platinum jubilee service and celebration for the Queen at the time the game is on,” management consultant, David Axtell, who hails from Nottingham and has been based in the kingdom for 27 years, told the GDN.
“Church commitments, obviously, take priority but I will check the score as soon as possible afterwards to see if my team has been able to accomplish what has seemed to be impossible for so long.”
Forest have won a plethora of trophies in the past. They won the First Division in 1978, the League Cup in 1978 and 1979, and the European Cup in 1979 and 1980.
The 2022 team looks to be the better of the two in this crucial, one-off match dubbed the richest game in football, Axtell said.
Financial analysts say promotion will mean an increase in revenue of at least £135 million ($170m) over the next three seasons for the triumphant club. That could rise to £265m over a five-year period if the club avoids relegation in their first season in the Premier League.
Despite his passionate support for Forest, though, Axtell was mindful of Huddersfield’s recent form and conceded that they were going to be extremely difficult to beat.
“Huddersfield have been on a roll in their last 10 games. This playoff is going to be a tough game for both sides,” he added.
Huddersfield, who won three successive English League titles in the 1920s along with an FA Cup triumph, were relegated in 1972. After spending 45 years in the lower leagues, they earned promotion to the EPL in 2017 before being relegated again in 2019.
“Forest will have to play better than they did in the semi-final if they hope to beat Huddersfield,” Axtell stressed. “They looked nervous and edgy in that game.”
But with coach Steve Cooper at the helm, Axtell added, he was hopeful that Forest could shrug off the jitters and play to their full potential.
The Welshman joined Forest in 2021 after spending two years as head coach at Swansea City. Cooper has overseen a dramatic change in Forest’s fortunes, Axtell said, adding that the team had now begun to remind him of the side he grew up watching in the 1970s.
“I was just on a call to Nottingham the other day, reminiscing with mum and dad about the games we used to go and watch,” Axtell laughed.
“I remember my dad took me to see my first Forest game when I was about seven. And, when I was in my teens, I remember watching them beat Liverpool and other big teams. Hopefully, they can get into the EPL again and start repeating those performances.”