Colin Barrett: One of Nottingham Forest's miracle men
7:30am Fri Jan 01, 2016
Living in a quiet part of Southwell is a man who scored one of the most important goals in the history of Nottingham Forest.
Colin Barrett with the book I Believe In Miracles, and a small replica of the European Cup.
Colin Barrett with the book I Believe In Miracles, and a small replica of the European Cup.
More than 37 years ago, Colin Barrett raced forward as Forest held a slender 1-0 lead in the first leg of their European Cup tie against Liverpool.

Football League champions Forest had drawn the holders in the first round of the 1978-79 competition and took the lead through Garry Birtles.

A chance came to add to the tally as Birtles hurtled down the left wing and was joined in attack by the unfamiliar sight of defender Barrett.

Crucially for Forest, Barrett’s charging run was on the opposite side of the pitch to his boss, Brian Clough.

“If I had have been next to him, he would have been shouting at me to stay back, and if I hadn’t scored then I’m sure I would have received a massive telling off,” Barrett said.

Birtles’ cross was headed back by Tony Woodcock, where it was met by the sweetest of volleys from Barrett, and Forest had a vital 2-0 lead.

In the return fixture, they held out for a 0-0 draw at Anfield and so began Forest’s memorable run to the first of back-to-back European Cup triumphs.

The remarkable story has been brought back into focus by Jonny Owen’s film I Believe In Miracles and the accompanying book, written by the Guardian’s chief football writer and former Advertiser reporter, Daniel Taylor.

“I keep hearing that Brian Clough built a lot of his sides on fear, but you cannot perform on fear. We were all in awe of him,” said Barrett, now 63.

“If you thought you were giving 100%, he thought you could give an extra 10%.

“And all of this happened like a whirlwind. We had something and we could go on and win things.”

'We still went to the cafe and had chip butties'

Barrett joined Forest when they were still in Division Two. He helped them to win promotion, was part of the Division One and League Cup-winning teams and can claim a part in club history thanks to that Liverpool goal.

The film and book detail the unusual and, at times, idiosyncratic methods used by Clough to bring the best out of his side.

“We would go in on a Monday morning and it was five-a-side, shooting practise, and that was it,” Barrett said.

“Sometimes he would tell us: ‘You are fed up of seeing me, and I am fed up of you.’ Then, he would give us time off.

“When I was at Manchester City we had dossiers on the opposition. At Forest, we never talked about them. Clough’s thinking was that if our dressing-room was right we didn’t have to think about their dressing-room.

“Ahead of that Liverpool match, we didn’t approach it any differently to any other game. We still went to the café and had chip butties during the week.”

The high of defeating Liverpool was soon replaced, however, as Barrett suffered a life-altering leg injury just days later against Middlesbrough.

It ruled him out of the return leg at Anfield and, ultimately, cut short his career at the age of just 29.

Barrett listened to the Liverpool game from his hospital bed and, although he played against Grasshopper Zurich and Cologne in the later stages of the European Cup, did not appear in the final.

“I played in the 3-3 draw against Cologne (in the semi-final) but I never really recovered after that,” he said.

“They were all finals going up to it (the game against Malmo). But because I didn’t cross the white line, I didn’t feel a part of it.

“You are a part of the team but you have not actually played in it (the final). I found it hard.”

'Being on the dole was pretty hard'

Barrett left Forest in 1980 for a short and unhappy spell at Swindon Town, before a short stint at non-league Andover, then retirement. It proved to be a culture shock.

“A phone call never came — no one wanted me. The hard bit was that on Monday morning I was not going to a dressing-room. I missed that part,” Barrett said.

“I remember going to the job centre. I queued up and then when I saw someone I told them that I was a professional footballer. They said: ‘well, we don’t get many jobs like that round here.’

“Being on the dole was pretty hard. We were in Swindon at that time but we didn’t want to stay there. We came back to where we’d had good times, which is Southwell.”

Barrett and his wife first moved to Southwell from Stockport when he signed for Forest. They moved back after his retirement from football.

Having worked at the town’s Crown Hotel before making a living by constructing and selling snooker tables, Barrett began a new career when a passer-by saw him painting the outside of his house.

He was asked to paint theirs and has stuck with painting and decorating since.

'I'm sure Brian Clough would have told Jonny Owen that what he was doing was wrong'

Owen’s film and Taylor’s book brought together almost all of the European Cup-winning squad for the first time since the final — and helped them to reminisce about their days working under Brian Clough.

“I once went into his office and asked for a raise, so he gave me a newspaper and told me to put some in my shoes,” said Barrett.

“I think he would have told Jonny Owen that what he was doing was wrong and I’m sure he would have told him what to do.

“But the film, and the way it tells the story from so many different angles is great.”

The renewed interest also allows Barrett to watch his famous goal again — after he was denied the chance for many years.

“I taped the game and was looking forward to seeing the goal,” he said.

“But I put the tape in, and found out that my wife had recorded over my goal with an episode of Dallas.”

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