Normally, soccer clubs that experience the most continental glory are those that regularly claim their domestic league trophies, and it’s just assumed that any given team will experience more domestic success than continental. However, one has gone against that assumption.
In fact, Nottingham Forest, an English club based in West Bridgford, just south of Nottingham, has won twice as many European Cup trophies as First Division titles, and all of those championships were claimed in an incredible three-year run for the team, which has played outside of England’s top league since 1999.
What set the stage for this glorious period in Forest’s history was a third-place finish in the 1976-77 Second Division, a placement that allowed it to be the last of three teams to move up to the First Division, now known as the Premier League, for the following campaign.
Incredibly, the Reds then completed a rare feat in winning the top division title the first year after achieving promotion to that level. And they won their initial and, to date, only English top-division championship with ease, clinching the trophy with four matches to play.
That accomplishment qualified Nottingham Forest for the 1978-79 European Cup, the predecessor of the Champions League, and the successful run kept going as a 1-0 win over Malmö FF in that competition’s final clinched the club’s first continental trophy.
Although the Reds could not repeat their First Division title, finishing second the following season, they were still able to participate in the 1979-80 European Cup as a spot was reserved for the defending champion. A 1-0 victory against Hamburg in the final that year made it two European titles in a two-year span.
Hopes for three straight were quickly dashed in the following season as CSKA Sofia knocked Forest out in the first round, 2-0 on aggregate. The club has not returned to Europe’s top competition since.
The Reds have also not finished in the top four in England’s top league since this period ended. In fact, they even played in the third-tier League One from 2005-08.