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When Lee Westwood won his first tournament on the European Tour, John Major was still Prime Minister, the Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’ had just hit the charts and a certain Tiger Woods was still an amateur. So one can only imagine the trials and tribulations the Worksop golfer has had to endure over the last 26 years following his beloved Nottingham Forest.
Two relegations from the Premier League and a runner-up finish in League One in 2008 are as good as it has got for faithful followers of the Forest. Meanwhile, since Westwood’s breakthrough victory at the Volvo Scandinavian Masters – where he saw off Paul Broadhurst and Russell Claydon in a play-off – the Englishman has chalked up a further 24 wins on Tour (as well as another 16 across the globe) to make him Europe’s all-time leading money winner with a little over £32million in the bank. Talk about contrasting fortunes…
However, the $100 he picked up last week from his old pal Ian Poulter would have tasted just as sweet, if not sweeter, than any of the cheques he has pocketed for his exploits on the golf course.
The ‘three-figure’ win came courtesy of a bet when Westwood’s Forest took on Poulter’s Arsenal in the third round of the FA Cup – the traditional post-Christmas graveyard for English top-flight sides as the 'also-rans' from the Championship and lower leagues line up to write their names in cup folklore. And so it was, with Lewis Grabban netting Forest’s winner in the 83rd minute to send the Championship side through and Poulter reaching for his wallet, with the money being handed over just before last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
“It was one of those days that remind you why you fell in love with football in the first place,” Westwood said. “And, of course, it gives me the bragging rights over that 'Gutted Gooner' Ian James Poulter.
“We had a £50 bet on the result, and Poults doesn't carry English money around with him these days, as he lives in Florida. So when we met up in Abu Dhabi, he gave me a $100 note. I think he was expecting change – but no chance! I've been waving that $100 under his nose at regular intervals and it won't get old for a while yet.”
$$$ @IanJamesPoulter @NFFC 🔴⚪️🔴⚪️🔴⚪️🔴⚪️🔴⚪️ pic.twitter.com/1hgRp5lD0IJanuary 17, 2022
To help celebrate his win – and to help him gloat over his victory – Golf Monthly caught up with Westwood to discuss all things Forest and why, despite the dark times on the pitch, he'll never turn his back on the club he started following over 40 years ago...
What started the love affair with Forest?
As a kid from Worksop you had a few choices – most of the local kids supported Sheffield United or Sheffield Wednesday, which were the closest big clubs, and a few latched onto Leeds. But when I had just turned six I remember seeing the footage of Forest arriving at East Midlands airport clutching the European Cup, and the trophy was bigger than me! I thought ‘they look like a cool club to support', and they went on to win the European Cup again the following year, so it was a good choice.
Brian Clough was in charge, and of course he was a great, larger-than-life character. I'd hang on his every word when he was on TV. I didn't know back then that it was as good as it was going to get. But I was hooked, and I've stayed faithful to my first sporting love.
What was the first game you went to?
It was against Manchester City at Maine Road, in October 1994, when Forest were still in the Premier League, and we drew 3-3. It was an absolute cracker for your first match. That Forest team included some of the club's greats – Stuart Pearce, Steve Stone, Scot Gemmill. It's funny how your memory plays tricks on you, because I'd have sworn Roy Keane was in our team that day as well. But I looked it up, and that game was not too long after we sold Keane to Manchester United, for the princely sum of just £3.75million [a British record fee at the time]. A lot of people forget he had three great years at Forest before he went to Old Trafford. What would he be worth these days?
And your favourite game?
Funnily enough, it was another match at Man City, the last time we played them, in the FA Cup, in January 2009. They had moved into the Etihad Stadium by then and had just become 'Moneybags City' after they were bought by Sheikh Mansour from Abu Dhabi – which is where we are doing this interview, so I'd better be careful what I say!
I went with a load of mates who were City fans, and as we were walking up the steps at the back of the stand we bumped into Wayne Bridge, who they had just bought from Chelsea for £12million, but wasn’t playing that day. I don't know if he recognised me, but I was wearing a Forest scarf and he gave me a sort of sympathetic look. But we won 3-0 and the celebrations are still a blur. I can't wait for Forest to get promoted from the Championship so I can go back there and reminisce.
Any other stand-out memories?
I did train with Forest about 20 years ago, fairly light stuff really. But I ended up taking penalties against Dave Beasant with a bit of coaching from another of my favourite players, David Johnson. I tucked one or two away quite nicely. I played football as a kid and I was a winger on the school team. But I think I chose the right sport!
David brings a wealth of experience to Golf Monthly as a freelance contributor having spent more than two decades covering the game as The Sun's golf correspondent. Prior to that, he worked as a sports reporter for the Daily Mail. David has covered the last 12 Ryder Cups and every Masters tournament since 1999. A popular and highly-respected name in the press tents around the world, David has built close relationships with many of the game's leading players and officials.
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