The following piece is written by Mike Hurley.

Back in 1984 at the tender age of 7, the same age that my son Brian is now, little did I know, that when placing a Nottingham Forest poster upon my bedroom wall for the first time that I was about to spark a love affair with this glorious club. A love affair that lasted a lifetime, a love affair that shows no signs of ending, but instead, intensifies with every passing season.

I remember seeing that particular poster for the first time. It was of the all conquering double European cup winning team, celebrating their second triumph in Europe’s premier football competition as they paraded around the Santiago Barnabao stadium in Madrid. I recall the way the magnificent trophy gleamed and glistened in the floodlights, and the fantastic vibrant shine from those marvellous red shirts which looked good enough to eat. I was taken by the beautiful crest that adorned those spectacular garments. The way the river Trent is simply but beautifully depicted underneath that magnificently bounteous tree. From that moment on I was hooked. To this day the very sight of this fabulous emblem quickens the pulse and make one stand to attention.

Growing up in rural county Kerry, Ireland, in the heartland of the GAA, being a “football” fan or soccer as they call it in these parts, was never easy or straight forward. The odd narrow minded poor soul that still exists around here like to have their archaic opinion voiced now and again. Even in the Kerry of 2017 you’ll get the odd jibe thrown, such as “You’re off to visit the Queen again” or “Why don’t you spend your money going to Croke Park instead of watching that rubbish sport for divers.” All that these people succeed in doing is to galvanise me.

Throughout my life many people have come and gone but the one constant has been, Nottingham Forest, and the Fantastic Friends I have made down the years, travelling the highways and the byways of Britain and Ireland in order to get my fix of Forest. Some of my oldest and dearest friends in life are indeed people whom like me adore that beautiful tree emblem, and like me, travel far and wide to cheer on the super reds.

As I said I started following the tricky trees at the age of seven and 10years later at the age of 17, I embarked on my first journey to see the Forest. A home game against Liverpool. From then on I would travel across the Irish Sea several times a season and I still continue to make those pilgrimages. In that time I’ve had so many, heavy nights out, experienced my fair share of agony and disappointment and revelled in whatever good times have come over way, but most importantly I’ve done all these things with good friends

From beating Yeovil 3-2 on the last day of the 07/08 season and in the process, nicking promotion (to the championship) by a point as Doncaster and Carlisle both failed to win, to staying in the championship on goal difference on the last day of the season virtue of a 3 nil win at home to Ipswich. Just to mention 2 of so many great memories I’ve amassed down the years.

I’ve been lucky to have made some fantastic friends from various parts of Ireland, who have been my travelling companions for a long time now. In turn we have met some fabulous people from Nottingham on our travels. People whom we are proud to call our friends. These great people all travel to Ireland to meet up with us every June. Some have been doing this for many years, and we’ve had some fantastic times all of us together. All united by our love for the mighty reds.

My most recent trip was to see Forest away to Aston Villa at Villa Park with my 7 year old son. We decided to stay in Nottingham and travel on the supporter’s club coach to the Birmingham venue. This was my son’s first away match, and one that will live long in the memory.

The coach was setting off from The City Ground, the home of our heroes, so we made sure to be down to the ground early, in order to make the obligatory visit to the club shop. The new away kit was top of Brian’s shopping list and I felt I was deserving of a new jacket. Captain and Commander of our coach was my dear old friend and supporters club Secretary Joan Bakewell. Joan and her great friend Rita Kirk will always have a special place in my heart, and when they travel to Kerry next June, for the Munster Forest Supporters Club Social, they will mark 20 years of travelling to Ireland and 20 years of special friendships with many Irish Forest supporters.

Blog written by Mike Hurley, Co. Kerry


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