Sleeping giants: Nottingham Forest, Sunderland and other English clubs who should be better

Everyone loves a sleeping giant - unless you happen to support one, of course. English football is not in short supply of them either.

For football fans of a certain age, no matter who you support (unless it's Derby) there will probably be a little sadness seeing Nottingham Forest sack another manager and now take up residence at the bottom of the Championship.

Forest now begin the hunt for another manager to take the wheel, and there's no shortage of willing takers it seems, according to the lastest odds.

It's a club that the brilliant Brian Clough established as one of the very best in English football and, indeed, Europe.

That European history alone makes them a veritable sleeping giant of English football, but they are not alone.

Here, Planet Sport examines some of the biggest clubs currently languishing a long way from the Premier League.

Nottingham Forest

Let's start with the club inspiring this discussion - Nottingham Forest.

There is, of course, a seemingly eternal debate about what exactly is a big club. Some cite history, some cite success, some say fanbase. The truth is it probably needs a dollop of them all.

For Forest, it can be tough to judge because all their pedigree is intrinsically linked with one man. Before Brian Clough arrived at the club, Forest had no real sustained success. Since he left, ditto.

However, the bit in between was a trophy-laden whirlwind of winning. They won the league title and the European Cup, twice. They even went 42 games unbeaten once. Which is frankly staggering for a club of its size.

Forest broke the transfer record for a goalkeeper, and they also signed the first £1million player in English football.

All down to Clough or not, there is no denying Nottingham Forest have some serious pedigree to their name.

Derby

As if we are going to fall into the trap of mentioning Nottingham Forest and then not make the same acknowledgement to Derby County.

Derby are another club associated with Brian Clough, and there are many who believe the Rams would have become one of English football's most prestigious dynasties had they not lost him.

Before he transformed Nottingham Forest, Clough delivered two league titles to Derby. The European Cup success didn't follow, but probably only because Clough quit due to a bitter dispute with the club's owner.

The Rams haven't had a lot of joy recently, although they did have it before Clough. They contested, though couldn't quite win, the league title in their early history, and came runners-up in the FA Cup three times too - a competition they eventually won.

The fact they were able to attract a name like Wayne Rooney is testament to the size of the club, and the former Manchester United man is currently fighting some serious financial problems to keep Derby in the Championship.

The immediate future does not look great, but it's a club capable of so much.

Sheffield Wednesday

If there is one club in English football that seems to have seized the mantle of the perpetual sleeping giant of English football then it must be Sheffield Wednesday. They seem to almost revel in it now with a strange stubbornness about the whole thing.

Sheff Wed have four league titles and three FA Cups to their name and they have come close to adding more on numerous occasions. Historically, they're a big club with a famous stadium that houses a large fanbase.

You don't have to go too far back to find some success either. In 1991/92 Sheffield Wednesday won the League Cup and finished third in the top division. A year later they were runners-up in both cup competitions and seventh in the Premier League.

They boasted legitimate quality players like Chris Waddle and Des Walker, and they were a fun team to watch.

A few years later, they were the first of the Premier League clubs to financially implode and they have been trying to recover ever since, even though you'd not actually think it's possible. They are in League One now following relegation last season.

Sunderland

Speaking of big clubs currently in League One, we need to talk about Sunderland.

How Sunderland got themselves to such a low level is no secret. They spent ten years in the Premier League, recruited a little bit cheaply every year until the money eventually ran out and they could no longer stay up.

They fell so hard they plummeted straight through the Championship in one miserable season. Now they've been trying to get out of League Once for three years, twice failing in the play-offs. Wading through a mile of treacle probably seems like an easier challenge.

Historically, Sunderland are one of the most successful teams in the country. In fact, only six clubs have won more league titles than the Black Cats.

They have six to their credit, the same amount as Chelsea, although they are very firmly in the past now.

What makes Sunderland such a perpetually big club, however, is the fanbase.

Sunderland are currently averaging nearly 30,000 crowds this season - in League One. Three years ago, they attracted a home gate of 46,039 for a match against Bradford, which remains a record for England's third tier.

Imagine if they were ever actually good.

Blackburn Rovers

There have only been seven clubs to have won the Premier League. Blackburn are one of them.

No one is going to deny that was more to do with Jack Walker's money and generosity than anything. It was. Perhaps it was also largely down to Eric Cantona taking himself out of the title run-in by kung-fu kicking a fan at Crystal Palace.

Whatever the reason, Blackburn are a bona fide Premier League winner, and that shouldn't ever be forgotten or taken from them.

They also have a fine history that shouldn't be forgotten either.

Rovers won league titles in the 1910s and have claimed an impressive six FA Cups, admittedly with five of them coming in the 1800s.

Blackburn have a League Cup crown too, with that coming relatively recently in 2002.

Recent times have not been all that kind to Blackburn, with them dipping into League One for a while, but they are a club who deserve to be associated with success and no one would be surprised to see them rise again.

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