Nottingham Forest have waited over 11,000 days for date with destiny

Wembley Stadium was once a second home for Nottingham Forest, with trips from the East Midlands to north London becoming regular occurrences during the iconic reign of Brian Clough. Between April 9, 1989 and April 12, 1992, a Red army descended on the capital on six occasions.

Prior to that, when league titles and European Cups were the order of the day, a further four trips were made down Wembley Way between the spring of 1978 and that of 1980. Only three defeats were suffered across all of those outings, with seven pieces of silverware collected across two memorable eras at the City Ground.

For all of those highs, the last 30 years on the banks of the River Trent have been something of a slog. Forest are daring to dream once more, though, with football tips siding with them ahead of a Championship play-off final clash with Huddersfield Town in 2022.

Those who witnessed the Zenith Data Systems Cup being lifted three decades ago could never have imagined that a fall from grace would be quite so humbling. Having been founder members of the Premier League, the Reds have spent just five seasons competing at that level.

They did tumble as far as the third tier at one stage, while four previous visits to a shop handing out play-off lottery tickets have delivered nothing but heartache and misery. Having come unstuck at the semi-final stage in each of those post-season adventures, Forest have been left wondering whether their day in the sun would ever come again.

Bouncing back

A matter of weeks into the 2021-22 campaign and it appeared as though any hope of bringing a barren run on the Wembley front to a close had evaporated for another year. Steve Cooper has, however, overseen the most remarkable of renaissances.

From bottom of the table to within touching distance of automatic promotion within a matter of months, Forest are looking to complete one of the most stunning turnarounds in recent memory. They do, of course, have history when it comes to producing miracles and upsetting the odds.

The days of Clough and Co are long gone, though, and an exciting new era is being ushered in by a talented group of players who know nothing of the pain of the past. Where a weight of expectation has proven too much for many down the years, there is now positivity on Trentside that is borne out of playing without fear.

There is still one more hurdle to clear, with Huddersfield not about to roll over at the home of English football, but fate – following an epic penalty shootout victory over Sheffield United – appears to be favouring the Reds once more.

It has been over 30 years, 11,000 days and 1,500 games since Forest last headed to Wembley, and they have never graced the upgraded version of that venue that threw open its doors back in 2007. Another date with destiny is now on the cards, with a loyal fan base that has been starved of success ready to start making happy memories for the 21st century.

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