Ben Fisher has already filed his match report, classy operator that he is, so I’m going to wrap this blog up. Commiserations to Huddersfield, whose defeat will leave a sour taste, but warmest congratulations to all connected with Nottingham Forest.
Thanks for your company and emails - today and, on behalf of all the Guardian football writers, throughout the domestic season. See you in August! (Or on Wednesday for Scotland v Ukraine.)
An emotional Forest captain Joe Worrall speaks
“I’m just so proud: of the players, the staff, the fans. We’ve been fantastic all season. I thought we were really unlucky not to go up automatically. We play with honesty, we play football the right way.
“We’ve been really good. I’m not saying we’ve been good in the previous seasons, because we haven’t, we’ve been shite(!). It’s been a long time coming for this club. We’ve seen a lot of good people come and go and they’ve all added a little bit.
“It’s such an honour to captain Forest. We don’t mind suffering. We’ve suffered for a long time off the pitch, so half an hour today is nothing compared to that. I just want to say a big thanks to everyone who’s helped us – everybody.
“I’m so, so proud, especially for the manager. Such a nice bloke, and he’s failed twice in the playoffs before. I’m absolutely made up for him. You can see it in his eyes, when he talks to you. He calls me on me days off. He’s fantastic, a really nice, genuine man.
“He’s given us belief. I keep using the expression of a whipped dog. If you treat any dog with kindness, they become a nice dog. If you mistreat one, they’re aggressive. We were, we’ve been a mistreated team. He’s given up hope and belief. He’s killed us with kindness, and the fans absolutely adore him. He’s been immense.”
The Forest players are all doing a silly dance to Freed From Desire. It’s the most euphoric scene, a day the players and supporters will never forget.
“The best thing about VAR,” says Yash Gupta, “is that we get a Peter Walton explanation for something which even some scientists wouldn’t understand, never mind a dumb football fan like me.”
It’s a stain. If I was a Huddersfield fan I’d be foaming with impotent rage.
I’m not saying Forest are the best team in the playoffs, but they’re in the top one.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST ARE BACK IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE!
Full time: Huddersfield 0-1 Nottingham Forest
That’s it! For the first time since 1999, Nottingham Forest are a Premier League side. They’ve taken a spectacular shortcut under Steve Cooper, who took over in September when they were bottom of the league.
You have to feel for Huddersfield, who should probably have had two penalties in the second half, and especially their teenage defender Levi Colwill. His unfortunate own goal just before half-time settled a scruffy game in which there were only two shots on target.
90+4 min “A simple message to all the MBM’ers all around the world,” writes Mary Waltz. “Have a lovely summer, use sunscreen, see you in the Fall.”
I know they’ve had a lot of unlikely members down the years but I didn’t realise they were making a comeback.
90+3 min O’Brien, on the edge of the area to the left of centre, curls a lovely cross that just evades both Russell and Rhodes in the six-yard box.
90+3 min Huddersfield have tried everything, and should have had two penalties, but they still haven’t had a shot on target.
90 min There will be six minutes of added time.
89 min: Forest substitution Samba claims O’Brien’s cross and then falls on the ball. It’s his last touch of the game - Ethan Horvath replaces him. Samba is limping off the field in instalments, and Huddersfield are understandably angry that he hasn’t just gone straight off behind the goal.
88 min The Forest keeper Brice Samba is really struggling - I think he’s pulled a muscle - and may need to be substituted.
87 min Duane Holmes has energised Huddersfield since coming on, but they are running out of time. Pipa wastes a bit more by blootering over from 35 yards, a ludicrous attempt.
85 min The good thing is that when they eventually introduce video replays, it’ll eradicate the kind of mistake that could cost a team hundreds of millions of pounds.
84 min I don’t blame Jon Moss for that one, as his view was obscured. Quite why VAR didn’t get involved I don’t know.
83 min That should have been a penalty as well! Lowe tackled from the wrong side, and kicked through O’Brien’s left leg. I’m not even sure it was checked by VAR, which is ridiculous if true.
83 min Huddersfield appeal again for a penalty, this time when Lowe makes a clumsy challenge on O’Brien. I’d like to see that again...
82 min Another Thomas corner is headed wide by Rhodes, under a lot of pressure ahead of the near post.
81 min HAVE YOUR SAY. It’s the front-on angle that is clear and obvious, I think.
79 min Huddersfield have lost a bit of momentum since that penalty appeal was turned down. If they lose they will be filthy, understandably so.
77 min “Can anyone explain to me why that wasn’t a penalty against Colback????” asks Rob Coughlin, four times.
It’s the ‘clear and obvious’ threshold that saved Forest. But the more you see it, the more obvious it becomes. It was a foul.
74 min The issue with Colback’s challenge on Toffolo is whether it was a clear and obvious error by Jon Moss. Personally I think it was a foul, but I’m not sure whether it was clear enough for VAR to overturn the on-field decision.
74 min: Forest substitution Max Lowe replaces Philip Zinckernagel.
74 min: No penalty! Colback dangled a leg at Toffolo, who beat him to a loose ball just inside the area. If there was contact it wasn’t particularly heavy - but Toffolo was running at full pelt so that’s irrelevant. I think Huddersfield have been hard done by there.
73 min: Toffolo booked for diving in the penalty area! I’ll be honest, at first glance I thought Jon Moss was going to give a penalty. It’ll be checked by VAR. I think this is a foul you know...
72 min “It’s not just their illustrious history that would make Forest a great addition to next year’s Premier League, it’s also the tantalising nominative determinism their squad offers,” says Peter Oh. “Zinckernagel is Danish for zinc nail. Between him and the goalkeeper Samba, they would spice up the top tier with a combination of tough, cold hardness and artistic, rhythmic lightness. Don’t get me started on the potential that Cafu brings. And then there’s the nostalgia of ‘Colback is back!’. All signals are pointing to Forest going up!”
70 min A rare Forest attack ends with Johnson’s speculative cross shot drifting a few yards wide of the far post. He almost Valverded it into the path of Surridge, but the angle of the shot wasn’t quite the same.
68 min It’s all Huddersfield now, at least in terms of possession. Brice Samba still hasn’t had much to do, but Forest are taking a risk by inviting so much pressure.
67 min: Double change for Huddersfield Duane Holmes and Jordan Rhodes replace Danny Ward and the disappointing Danel Sinani.
66 min: Forest substitution Sam Surridge replaces Keinan Davis up front.
64 min Thomas, who has been excellent, beats Colback with ease and drives a low cross that is cleared by McKenna. His positioning at the near post has been immaculate.
62 min It can’t be long before we see Jordan Rhodes. Huddersfield have been better in the second half but they still haven’t really looked like scoring.
60 min Garner picks up a loose ball 30 yards from goal in the inside-left channel. This time he definitely does shoot, and Nicholls moves across his line to make a comfortable save.
58 min With Colback out of the game after a mosey infield, Russell plays a good ball inside Garner to find Thomas on the right. His cross is cleared at the near post by the well-positioned McKenna.
57 min: Huddersfield substitution Jon Russell replaces Naby Sarr, which means Jonathan Hogg will drop into the back three.
56 min Thomas’s corner is headed over at the near post by Hogg. I think the ball came off his shoulder in fact.
56 min Thomas’s dangerous cross is chested behind for a corner by Spence. This is a decent spell for Huddersfield...
56 min Thomas’s free-kick just evades Sarr, who is well blocked by McKenna.
55 min Zinckernagel is booked for fouling O’Brien 35 yards from goal. I’m not sure that was a yellow-card offence, though he got away with one earlier.
53 min Davis nutmegs Lees on the left and curls a dangerous low cross towards Johnson. Colwill gets in front of him to clear.
52 min Plenty of huffing and puffing from Huddersfield since half-time, though it has yet to amount to much.
49 min Huddersfield have started the second half with more intent, as you’d expect after Colwill’s own goal. Sinani and Thomas, the two No10s, have switched sides.
46 min Peep peep! Huddersfield begin the second half. No changes on either side.
I did James Garner a disservice. His ball that led to the goal was a cross/pass, not a shot, and a bloody good one. It had a bit of Trent about it.
“No, I don’t think Forest are universally loved, especially in Derby, but, despite the 1970s era when there was a song starting ‘we hate Nottingham Forest’ as a prequel to all the other hated teams, that was just a matter of scansion,” writes John Starbuck. “Certainly, despite not liking Derby (or Leeds) us Forest fans didn’t have any problems with Leicester City’s ascent. We used to be OK with Arsenal, whom we lent shirts back in the day; Liverpool, because of shared history at Hillsborough, and Manchester United, for whom, post-Munich, we supplied a lot of players, but probably all clubs have these complicated relationships.
“What we do have is two stars on the shirt and that’s kept us going through the barren years. Mind you, my brother-in-law is mad keen and rejects anyone bar the Reds.”
Half time: Huddersfield 0-1 Nottingham Forest
Forest lead through an unfortunate own goal from Levi Colwill. It was a cautious, tense first half, with hardly any chances for either side. But then James Garner decided to try his luck from distance - a bit optimistically, or so it seemed - and Colwill diverted the ball into his own net.
45 min There will be one minute of added time.
The goal came after a long passing move from Forest. Eventually Garner moved inside from the left and tried a pretty optimistic long-range shot. It bounced up awkwardly in the area, was missed by Yates and kneed into the roof of his own net by Levi Colwill. That’s a desperate moment for the teenager Colwill, who had no option but to challenge Yates and ended up scoring himself. Garner’s shot turned into a very difficult ball to defend.
GOAL! Huddersfield 0-1 Forest (Colwill og 43)
Forest take the lead just before half time!
42 min “I am sitting in my house here in Alicante in the midst of a heatwave, with 37°C in the shade,” weeps Ant Ashworth. “The longer this stays at 0-0 without a great deal happening, the more likely it is that I succumb to the delights of my swimming pool. I see it’s sunny at Wembley, too - so why is Keinan Davis wearing gloves? My palms get all sweaty just thinking about it.”
Superstition, apparently. You should see his grundies.
41 min It’s tight, it’s tense, it’s the Championship playoff final.
39 min “I can safely assure you that Forest are not universally loved,” says Bert Fill, who has clearly had his surname of that particular suggestion. “And I say that as a Leicester fan. Derby fans are probably still recovering from the absurdity of the notion.”
38 min: Chance for Ward! Garner’s crunching tackle on Ward gives Huddersfield a corner on the left. Thomas slides it deliberately away from goal, where Ward runs round the ball and hits a first-time shot that deflects over the bar. That was a really neat training-ground routine from Huddersfield.
37 min “Based on what you’ve seen on James Garner so far, do you feel that he might stand a chance in Erik ten Hag’s New Manchester United?” says Hans Petter Hustveit. “ s far as I have seen he seems to be a popular player amongst the Forest fans, and a player who has consistently played well for the club this season. Though he’s more of an eight than the six most MUFC supporters would hope for.”
From what I’ve seen, which in truth isn’t that much, I would try to loan him to a lower mid-table Premier League club next season. A lot depends on who United sign – I suspect he’s already good enough to be a back-up/cup midfielder, but not yet a regular starter in the league.
34 min Thomas slips Worrall on the left, moves into the area and cracks a low cross that is pushed away at the near post by Brice Samba. He looks a big threat on the break, especially when he pulls out to the left.
32 min Thomas, the most confident attacking player on either side so far, nutmegs Zinckernagel in midfield but then overhits a reverse pass to Ward. Nice idea though.
30 min Now Zinckernagel has a shot blocked by Hogg.
29 min McKenna’s long-range shot is booted clear by Sarr.
29 min It’s not a great game to watch. I’d be a loath to criticise the players or managers for that - it means so much that you can understand the relative caution. Truly, it needs a goal.
28 min Penalties, anyone.
26 min This is a better spell for Huddersfield, with Thomas and O’Brien more involved in open play.
25 min Zinckernagel is lucky not to be booked for a poor challenge on O’Brien.
24 min “Quite sad that this is the final MBM of the club season,” writes Will Lane. “This my first as a regular MBM follower and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I am smugly listening to the match from a Valencian beach, a bag of beers next to me and a belly full of tapas (including some delicious wafer-thin pork). Enough braggadocio, I’m cheering on the reds with text updates from my brother who’s sat in Wembley having the time of his life.
“Would Forest be the first universally loved team to be in the premier league? Even the Leicester fans I know are rooting for them. People are indifferent to Southampton, Palace, Brentford etc. but it feels like there is genuine goodwill towards Forest. As a part-time fan (I am at least from the Nottingham area so not glory supporting) and thinking of upping my hours to a permanent contract it’s a pretty good feeling to be rooting for such a popular team.”
I’m not sure any team (or, indeed, any thing) are universally loved, not in the modern world, but Forest are pretty close. There’s one man to thank for that.
23 min A decent Huddersfield break. O’Brien finds Thomas in a bit of space on the left, and his cross is well blocked by Worrall.
22 min In the last 10 minutes, Forest have had 86 per cent of you-know-what.
21 min Yates shimmies neatly away from Sarr on the edge of the area but then shoots miles over the bar. He had Johnson in space to his right.
18 min The match has settled into the expected pattern, with Forest having a lot of the ball and Huddersfield trying to sting them on the counter. Yates’s header remains the only chance, clear or otherwise.
16 min Colback’s corner is a bit too deep and drifts behind for a goalkick.
15 min Forest are starting to dominate possession. Spence plays a slick one-two with Johnson and wins a corner off the covering Toffolo.
12 min: What a chance for Yates! Garner flips a gorgeous free-kick onto the head of Yates, whose glancing header from eight yards goes just - and I mean just - wide of the far post. As Don Goodman says on Sky Sports, he missed an almost identical chance at Bramall Lane in the semi-final.
11 min Zinckernagel is cynically flattened by Sarr, who is a bit fortunate not to be booked. Free-kick to Forest on the left wing...
8 min It’s all a bit hectic. Huddersfield have probably settled better, though there’s very little in it.
4 min Nothing much to report so far. These playoff finals often take a while to get going; some of them never really do. The last classic Championship final was probably Swansea’s 4-2 win over Reading in 2010-11.
1 min Yates fouls Thomas 35 yards from goal, which allows Huddersfield to send their big lads forward for the first time. Thomas hits it straight out of play for a goalkick. He’s a lot better than that.
1 min Peep peep! Ryan Yates gets the Championship playoff final under way.
The pre-match thoughts of both managers
It’s a pleasure to report that both teams are wearing their proper colours - blue and white for Huddersfield, red for Forest.
“I had no idea this was Jon Moss’s last game,” says Joshua Reynolds. “I thought it was the on the last day of the PL season. Good for the owner of the Vinyl Whistle ending it at Wembley.”
Here come the players. For most, it’s the biggest game of their life so far. For many, it’s the biggest game they’ll ever play.
“Compared to many of your readers, I am sure I am a relative newcomer to the Premier League,” says Joe Pearson. “I’ve only been an avid follower since it became available to watch here in the USA! in the early aughts, or should I say the ‘noughties’? Anyway, even I know the Premier League would be better with an historic club like Forest in it. Come on you Tricky Trees!”
A reminder of the teams
Huddersfield (3-4-2-1) Nicholls; Lees, Sarr, Colwill; Pipa, Hogg, O’Brien, Toffolo; Thomas, Sinani; Ward.
Substitutes: Blackman, Pearson, Anjorin, Rhodes, Holmes, Turton, Russell.
Nottingham Forest (3-4-1-2) Samba; Worrall, Cook, McKenna; Spence, Yates, Garner, Colback; Zinckernagel; Johnson, Davis.
Substitutes: Horvath, Figueiredo, Lowe, Surridge, Mighten, Cafu, Lolley.
Referee Jon Moss.
“I messaged before the semi-final second leg vs Luton and predicted that Sorba Thomas would come on a make the difference - he did,” says Alistair Harris. “This time I’m less confident of a victory but, if we win, it will be our set pieces that do it. Come on you Terriers!”
From afar, the first goal feels even more important than usual. Both teams are very good on the counter-attack, and both have insecurities that will be exacerbated if they go behind.
Pre-match music (Forest version)
Of all the individual duels today, none are as exciting as the one between Harry Toffolo and Djed Spence, two of the Championship’s finest wing-backs.
The two captains have been chatting to Sky Sports
You don’t have to be a Forest fan to have the softest spot for this man. At his best, either side of Italia 90, he was as good as any England defender in my lifetime. And he used to sing “You’ll never beat Des Walker” at Gary Lineker when they played against each other.
It looks like Jonathan Hogg will move back into midfield for Huddersfield, though you never quite know with Carlos Corberan.
There are two changes from the second leg victory over Luton: Naby Sarr and set-piece master Sorba Thomas replace Jon Russell and Duane Holmes.
No surprises in the Forest team. The only decision for Steve Cooper was whether to pick start with Keinan Davis or Sam Surridge up front. He’s gone for Davis.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of the Championship playoff final between Huddersfield and Nottingham Forest at Wembley. We’re contractually obliged to call this “the richest game in football”, and what a thoroughly miserable viewpoint that is. This game is about money, of course it is, but it’s also about glory, euphoria and the creation of eternal memories.
By tonight, one of these teams will be a top-flight side – Forest for the first time since 1999, Huddersfield for only the second time since 1972. There is such goodwill towards Forest, particularly among us older farts, and the world will feel slightly less deranged if they are back in the Premier League next season. But there are two teams playing today, and in many ways Huddersfield being promoted would be an even better story.
Since relegation to the Championship in 2019, Huddersfield have finished 18th, 20th… and now third. Carlos Corberan, in his second season at the club, has done the most spectacular job. But then so has Steve Cooper, who took over in September with Forest bottom of the league. They are both intelligent, modern managers, and next season one of them will count Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte among their peers. How exciting is that?
Both teams have got here on the cheap – Huddersfield with a squad that cost around £2m, Forest through judicious use of the loan system. In a plutocracy they have no real place being at Wembley. But this game is about so much more than money.
Kick off 4.30pm.