The date 25th April 1998, the place, The City Ground, the match Nottingham Forest Vs Reading. This was the Classic Moment when Nottingham Forest returned to the Premier league after a one season absence. Forest needing a win to gain promotion defeat for Reading meant relegation to Division Two.
That season turned out to be a three horse race with both Forest, Sunderland and Middlesbrough fighting to gain that top spot. It was also a season that saw plenty of goals from all over the pitch with both Kevin Campbell and Pirere Van Hoojidonk blowing there competition away to become the best strike partnership in the country. At that time they had scored over 53 goals between them. Van Hooijdonk managed 34 goals and Campbell scored 23. Subsequently Van Hooijdonk was named the Player of the season. By the time that final home game against Reading came about, Forest had already defeated Middlesbrough by winning 4-0 in front of the Sky cameras.
It came down to this, the big game, Nottingham Forest knowing that nothing but a win would do. It was a game that had it all, both Forest and Reading kept each other at bay for long spells in the match. It appeared that the chance of promotion would have to go down to the final match of that season.
It was a packed sell out City Ground of 29,302 and also in front of the Sky cameras that saw Forest win promotion back to the big league.
Chris Bart-Williams Vs Reading 25th April 1998 was one of the biggest goals ever to be scored at the City Ground in recent times, as nails were being bitten right down to the ends the clock had passed the 85th minute when Colin Cooper sent a beautiful ball into the Reading box for Bart-Williams to control, turn, spin and shoot all in one movement and the ball was sent hard and true into the Reading net. The wild celebrations both on and off the pitch were epic to see and Martin Tyler said on Sky Sports during commentary:
” And here is Bart-Williams and he’s in here and in the end Forest will say it don’t matter how you play as long as you win it and has Bart-Williams goal done the trick”
The Bart-Man (as he was known to fans) had done it , his goal had won not only the match but promotion back into the big time after just a one season absence. Forest, however, still had to wait for confirmation as to whether they had done it as both Sunderland and Middlesbrough still had a game to play. To the relief of Forest supporters they need not have worried as following a draw and a loss for both Sunderland and Middlesbrough it was made official, Nottingham Forest were Champions.
Forest had one final game to play away to West Brom, But that game did not matter as Forest were already Champions it was party time and a crowd of over 25.000, all of them happy of what had been a fantastic season, West Brom Players provided a guard of honour and over 5000 fans paid their tribute. The score ended 1-1 and Forest had finished the Season with 93 points 82 goals and a place back in the Premiership, They were Champions of the First Division.
So that was a magic game that Forest fans will always look back on with happy memories and say that I was there when we won promotion back into the Premiere League.
Forest have not been promoted to the Premier League since that day and fans would’ve been dreaming of that ending in this current season. Now though it is conceivable that even if Forest end there long exile from the top division, fans won’t be able to witness it due to Covid-19.