As I took my seat for the Forest v Derby game last Saturday, red jerseys surrounded me as usual, there was one big difference though; it was 9am and I was in New York City!
Having foolishly booked my trip to the Big Apple whilst the East Midlands derby was taking place, the next best thing was to see if there were any fellow Trickies living in the area. To my amazement, I trawled Facebook and came across “Nottingham Forest New York City Supporters Group”, which was set up by a guy called Karl Hudson. Karl is a Pinxton boy done good, in his very own words and was massively helpful in accommodating my brothers and I for the game.
Picture the scene; three slightly hung over brothers’ after lengthy St Patricks Day celebrations, bisecting the snow-covered sidewalk for the early kick off, which was being screened at Smithfield Hall (138 West 25th St, between 6th&7th Avenue). On arrival I noticed pockets of Arsenal, Everton and West Ham supporters who were preparing for their own screenings on the numerous TV’s around the venue.
On meeting Karl, we exchanged pleasantries and the odd gift too. He supplied us with some superb NY Forest badges, which he himself designed. Given that he’s a graphic designer by day, it’s fair to say that they were brilliantly orchestrated. We then had the pleasure of presenting a couple of tops signed by Forest skipper Eric Lichaj. A Forest jersey for Karl and a United States shirt for the owners at Smithfield, Tom, and Kieron.
As the game commenced, I felt a real sense of belonging despite being over 3,000 miles from Nottingham, which was enhanced by the arrival of two more fellow reds, Kiel Porter from Eastwood, and his girlfriend Sophie Hayden, who’s a native New Yorker. Despite there only being six of us in total we certainly raised the roof as Zach Clough nipped in to give Forest the early advantage.
In a frantic first period, Forest were certainly in the ascendancy and were worthy of their half time lead. In addition to the best passage of play for some time, we were somewhat brought back to life by the outstanding full breakfast that Smithfield had to offer.
During the interval, I took the opportunity to find out a little more about our Empire State Reds; Karl, is 40 years of age and now lives in Tribeca, whilst Kiel and Sophie, both 31 reside in Brooklyn. Worryingly for me, Kiel is a Journalist for Bloomberg so I’m taking extra care with my diction as I type up this blog. Sophie, who works for the Carlyle Group informed me that this is her very first NFFC game.
Karl went on to say that there are only seven or eight televised Forest games a season, “when they’re on, we’re in” he told me. Both he and Kiel agreed that you could usually expect between six to ten Forest supporters for any given game. I was keen to know if it was purely locals that attended the Forest games in New York. Karl pointed out that “it’s mainly a transient fan base for people on holiday in New York; which was again reciprocated by Kiel who said “It’s bolstered by visiting friends too, I may have three of four over to visit and I will give them the opportunity to come and watch the games with me”.
As we reconvened for the second half, I couldn’t help but notice the number of empty seats around the City Ground, especially since the game was not being televised back in the UK. Smithfield Hall was now somewhat quieter as Derby turned around the one goal deficit and began to boss the game, taking the lead themselves in the process. Losing this game would have really put a dampener my vacation, the very last thing I wanted to remember my trip to New York for was losing to Derby.
Then came a moment of Midtown mayhem; Dani Pinillos headed home that stoppage time equaliser amidst a tumultuous, collective roar from the NY six. It felt as good as any Forest goal I’ve ever celebrated and for a split second we were transported Trent side once more. Having been to many an away venue, my brothers and I will treasure our memory of Smithfield hall and the New York Forest Supporters Group for ever more.
As for the guys and girls themselves, Kiel said “Mark Warburton seems to have instilled a few principles, we passed the ball well at times, but the defence still worries me”. Karl stated that “we needed a win without question but I’ll settle for that now”. And as first ever games go, I think Sophie can be regarded as lady luck as opposed to lady Liberty in future!
So; if you’re heading to the Big Apple, I strongly advise you look up The NY Forest group on Facebook or Twitter @nffcNYC. The place to meet is always the wonderful Smithfield Hall, which can also be found on social media (Smithfield Hall NYC) on Facebook and @smithfieldnyc on Twitter.
Massive thanks to Eric and Kathryn Lichaj for the signing of the jerseys too!