Paul Smith

'The Winner Is Football' – When Leicester Let Forest Score

It's kick-off at the City Ground and Nottingham Forest strikers Junior Agogo and Nathan Tyson are joined in the centre circle by goalkeeper Paul Smith. To the astonishment of all in the stands, the Forest 'keeper then walks the ball towards Leicester City's goal unchallenged.

He strolls past Foxes midfielders James Wesolowski and Stephen Clemence, then defenders Gareth McAuley and Paddy Kisnorbo, before shot-stopper Márton Fülöp stands aside too, shaking his hand, and then allowing Smith to tap the ball into an empty net. The score is 1-0 to Forest after 23 seconds. 

This extraordinary gesture would quickly make headlines around the world. Twenty-one days earlier, a more routine kick-off had taken place, involving the same teams at the same venue in the second round of the League Cup.

It was a clash between Championship side Leicester City and League 1 outfit Nottingham Forest. Three days earlier, the Foxes had secured a hugely impressive 4-1 victory over promotion favourites Watford on Filbert Way – involving a home debut for left-back Clive Clarke, who was on loan from Sunderland. 

Martin Allen had endured a rocky start to life as City's manager, but that success over Watford seemed like a turning point to the outside world. There was turmoil behind the scenes, however, and reports suggested that his relationship with chairman Milan Mandarić had become fractured.

Expand photo
Clive Clarke
Clive Clarke

Clive Clarke in action for Leicester City during the first half at the City Ground.

28 August, 2007 was all about bragging rights. The Foxes were a division higher than Forest and Allen's side had their sights set on promotion after a summer transfer window which had seen the Club's arrivals tally hit double figures. Forest had been in the third tier since 2005.

It was a typically fraught encounter with both sets of supporters demanding nothing but full commitment, but to the surprise of some, Forest led as the teams headed down the tunnel at half-time through Agogo's goal. Allen's team talk, however, would be cut short in distressing circumstances. 

Unknown to the spectators who were collecting their half-time snacks in the concourses, paramedics had rushed down the tunnel and were headed for the away dressing room. Clarke had suffered a heart failure. After life-saving work in the dressing room, he was later moved to Queen's Medical Centre.

Expand photo
Leicester City
Leicester City

The Foxes squad react to the events at half-time on the pitch in Nottingham.

On the pitch, following a delay to the second half, Forest manager Colin Calderwood, joined by Allen, addressed the home crowd: "We are afraid that due to the serious illness of a Leicester player both clubs have agreed to postpone the match."

The supporters headed home, anxious for news. Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn and manager Roy Keane also sent their best wishes to Clarke – along with the wider football world. Eventually it was made public knowledge that the on-loan defender had been saved.

"I know I am extremely fortunate to be here," Clarke said later. "I sat quietly in a corner of the dressing room and felt a bit queasy. I can recall Patrick Kisnorbo talking to me, but it wasn't really registering. Then I just passed out."

"Clive was very seriously ill," said then Leicester chief executive Tim Davies afterwards. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Clive and his family. I would like to say a big thank you to Nottingham Forest for dealing with the matter so fast."

A night which had promised an enthralling night of League Cup action had come to a close in unsettling circumstances. It was eventually determined that the tie would be replayed on 18 September, 2007. Forest's one-goal advantage presented a problematic subtext though.

Expand photo
Gary Megson
Gary Megson

Gary Megson had agreed with Colin Calderwood before kick-off how the clubs would approach the gesture.

Gary Megson, previously an occupant of the home dugout at the City Ground, was now in charge of Leicester City. Shortly before kick-off in the replayed clash, the Manchester-born manager approached Calderwood and announced the Club's intentions. They were going to give Forest their goal back.

"The chairman and the chief executive spoke to me about it a few days ago now and asked what I thought," Megson said. "Having given it some thought, I thought morally it was the right thing to do."

Calderwood, on the other hand, told reporters: "It's an unusual gesture but very, very honourable. I think the winner is football because both clubs came out of the fixture with a lot of credit."

Expand photo
Stephen Clemence
Stephen Clemence

Stephen Clemence would eventually win an enthralling replayed tie, which City won 3-2 at the City Ground.

It was Megson who selected Smith to put the ball in the net – "I didn't think there was much chance of anyone putting money on him for the first goal" – and history unfolded 23 seconds after kick-off. 

Despite voluntarily going a goal down, it was the Foxes who emerged safely into the next round, as a stunning free-kick from Alan Sheehan was followed by late goals from Richard Stearman and Stephen Clemence at the City Ground. The scoreline, though, was a footnote in the morning's reports.

Clarke would not play a competitive fixture again and soon retired, eventually going into work as a football agent. 

"Leicester's actions are a demonstration of football at its very best," said a Football League spokesperson after the game. "The sporting attitudes shown by Nottingham Forest and Leicester City across these two matches reflect extremely well on the game of football."

For more information about heart health and responses to an emergency, please visit Heartwize.

LATEST HEADLINES

LATEST PHOTOS

LATEST VIDEOS

Leicester City Crest

LATEST HEADLINES

LATEST VIDEOS

LATEST PHOTOS