Four games in and last season is already becoming a distant memory. The strides that have been made in the last five or six weeks have been staggering and the manager and the owners should take credit for turning the tide so quickly and so dramatically. To simply put together eleven players seemed a difficult task but to put together a squad and, most importantly, make them perform as they are at the moment is an unbelievable achievement.
We've done nothing yet but results have been impressive enough while the displays are light years ahead of the McClaren / Cotterill dross. So far, every signing has looked the part. Two of them have cost us goals in the last two games but we can forgive that in view of the short term impact they have had already and the long term input they will no doubt have. Danny Collins, as I noted in the Huddersfield write-up, is nothing short of a collosus. If he can carry on in a similar vein, I predict he will go down as one the modern greats for Forest. I love him to bits. Cox has to be the other stand out addition, mainly due to fact that he is the striker that we have craved for so long. Some of our strikers, particularly one individual who left on loan yesterday, should be made to watch a video of the Bolton game with his eyelids taped back to see how a player can give his absolute all for the cause. Cox chased every ball like his life depended on it and you could see the agony when things didn't go his way; notably when he slapped the post late in the game when his header went wide. Another one who I feel will soon become a huge favourite.
Pre-match excitement got the better of me so I announced to my colleagues that I was off at just after half three on Friday afternoon. The route planner told me it would take me an hour to get to Bolton from Leeds but I expected it to take double that in Friday traffic. I arrived in Bolton an hour later.
Indeed, I was that early that the car park I had researched wasn't even open. Instead, I parked at the Beehive pub as Matt and Chris had done having arrived a short time earlier. This proved a better option, mainly because it was free. As the designated away pub, the Beehive was busy with red shirts soon enough. Trig and the rest of Family Bethell had no joy in a pub near to the ground so ended up at KFC. PL also made his own way up from work and we all met in the ground before half seven.
The Reebok is a cracking ground, even if it is a little symmetrical for my liking. I hadn't been for over ten years; my first visit actually being only the second of my run of god knows how many games. I was thinking about counting at some point, maybe when I can be arsed. That day Ian Wright played for Forest but I can't recall the score. It was possibly 0-0 or it was possibly 3-2. Like most of the time under Platt, I have confined it to a part of my memory that I call 'Do Not Disturb (Ever)'. Anyway, I digress...
A decent enough following of 1,366 were suitably impressed by the start we made and we were all ecstatic when Mcgugan rifled that shot into the top corner. We were right behind it as it flew towards goal. For a split-second or two non-one was quite sure if it had gone in. Then most people, including me, just jumped around shouting 'F*****g hell, f*****g hell!'. That's what I did anyway. While we didn't have the dominance we enjoyed on Tuesday, we were certainly looking the part again.
One obstacle that was making life difficult was Kevin Davies. I think the term obstacle is a lot more fitting than footballer because he certainly isn't one of those. His challenge on Harding in the opening seconds was ridiculous but it seemed to make him invincible as the referee was terrified of upsetting him any further. I wouldn't say there was any particular incident that warranted a second booking but considering Gillett was booked for something that Davies did all night long, including for their first goal, then maybe a red should have been a possibility. The referee lost control and turned to dishing out cards like Derby's goal against column. Bolton across the entire pitch were a dirty and cynical side. Several Forest attacks were halted by a pull of the shirt, a trip or a stupid sliding tackle that took all of the man and none of the ball. Davies and his comrades may get results that way but they shouldn't call themselves a football team. For Forest though it was another tick in the box from me. They overcame this and a goal deficit to still get the ball on the floor and work their way towards the home goal. Mouths dropped as Reid surged int the box. His shot was bizarre, people were actually groaning that he had ballooned it over but it thankfully clipped the bar the on the way in. For the first genuine time this season, there was pandemonium! I made my way down the aisle but was stopped by a stray fist to the collar bone. The goal didn't have the pizzazz that the first had but it was a fantastic goal all the same with neat work on the floor in the build up.
The first chant following the goal was chosen with perfection... 'We're Nottingham Forest, we play on the floor'. Of course, that chant had very different connotation last season when it was sang in anger by the A Block during a woeful first half against Coventry before being nicked by West Ham a few weeks later who used it against their manager in the way we used it against ours. Now though, it was a badge of pride. 'We're Nottingham Forest, we play on the floor'. We could have won it, but so could they. Owen Coyle must have been on the happy pills though if he thought Bolton could have had 'five or six'. I'd say the entire ground were happy enough with the point. One that keeps us unbeaten so far.
I didn't fancy getting stuck in traffic after a long day so I made for the exit right on the whistle. I was making fine progress until the 50mph zone kicked in on the M62; something that I didn't even notice at first as I whizzed through. The torrential rain got worse as I got closer to home. I had one little warning as I hit a puddle of water on the M1 just south of Worksop that gave me a brief heart stopping moment. Not long later I was listening to a truly odd story on the radio about the Yorkshire Bermuda Triangle which is being blamed for the disappearance of a number of racing pigeons! The owner was even in the studio being interviewed about his loss! A real strange one although nothing will ever compare to the late night version of We Can Work It Out by The Beatles which was 'sung' by a assortment of dogs and various farm yard animals. As I contemplated what the hell I was listening to I suddenly saw a number of cars brake hard in front of me. It's the type of braking that instantly makes you panic. I was in the middle lane and the car in front was suddenly looking very close. I hit the brakes but I, along with everyone else, was just aqua-planing. That was scary enough but then I saw a car facing me! 'Oh shit' I thought. Luckily it didn't take a great deal of swerving to go around it. If it had then there would have been a collision as there was cars all over the place trying to find their way around the stranded car. No-one had been able to slow down to a safe speed due to the sheer amount of water that was on the road. I trundled on at 50mph after that, as did the other involved cars. Hopefully the car was shifted before anyone did hit it. Quite how it had ended up there I'm not too sure but it is possible that he lost concentration listening to the story about missing pigeons...
See you in Leeds. Or maybe I won't. Either way I bet it's 0-0.
Driving away from Huddersfield sometime around 9:45pm I couldn't comprehend how we had only taken a point from the game. We dominated in a way that I haven't seen that many times from a Forest side away from home. It wasn't just domination though, it was a joy to watch and that is why I woke up the morning after feeling a hell of a lot more positive about things despite throwing the win away with a rash challenge in the final minute.
Collins and Cox stood out in an overall impressive display from the whole team but the biggest revelation was Gillett who put in a shift that I would like to describe as simplified brilliance. For the two previous games he ticked along nicely but he really stood out at the core of such a fantastic Forest performance. Cox left the pitch late on to the sound of his new chant... 'na na na na na na na na na Simon, Simon Cox' (to the tune of Baby Give it Up) which, in the typical Forest fans way, was rather ruined by it being sung too quickly. The double Simon also seemed to confuse a few poor souls. I mentioned to the Sea Beast that replacing the first 'Simon' with 'Super' would probably help the chant no end.
I have to say though that the support was awesome at the re-re-renamed John Smiths Stadium. 2,274 Reds made a din all night long and tormented the originally vocal home support to our right. My particular favourite was 'all you do is f*****g clap' in response to their continued rhythmic clapping to the drum while only a handful actually bothered to use their voices. Without wanting to sound too carried away, it was probably difficult to remain too upbeat when their team was being outclassed across the pitch. We have been there many times, especially last season and it isn't very nice. The delight on their faces was evident when they grabbed their undeserved equaliser in stoppage time.
PL and I had mentioned before the game that a draw wouldn't be a bad result but the manner of it was hard to take. We sat in the sun outside the Ropewalk which is sat behind the end opposite the away stand. Parking had been a real pain, not helped by my sat nav playing silly buggers while I was trying to navigate my way to the ground from my place of work in Leeds. My earlier thoughts that this was a home game for me were somewhat altered when I was stuck in traffic long after I thought I would have arrived. After trawling up and down a few streets I saw a sign that advertised parking behind The Gas Club which was basically the Huddersfield version of the Forest Sportsmen's Club across from the ticket office. If i'd been earlier, I might have had a bit more of a look around due to the slightly dodgy look of this place but I had had enough of driving so pulled in. The one positive to this was that it offered a quick getway after the game although the directions the doorman gave me turned out to be pretty useless as I was unable to take the left out of there as the police shut the road after the game! He must have known! He wouldn't even let me in the bar before, instead directing me to the Ropewalk. A couple of shandies later and after the bonus of actually seeing the two Pinnacle Lads in the same vicinity for the first time in years we were taking our seats in the away end. Jacob joined us before long and we all agreed that the stadium must have the greatest amount of advertising per m2 in the whole of the country. Home fans were walking round with Ginster's placards on their heads although I thought calling one end the Fantastic Media Stand was a step too far myself...
They also really need to sort their lighting out. The main one of the underside of our stand kept going off and on much to everyone's annoyance. This wasn't helped by the massive screen just above our heads which displayed a multitude of yet more advertisements. One advert in particular featured a primarily red background which wouldn't normally have been a problem but when this was combined with the aforementioned light being 'off' it bathed the stand in a strong red light. I described it as 'romantic' although Jacob was probably more accurate when he described the away end as having 'turned into a whore house'. Lovely.
I wasn't particularly looking forward to this season starting. After the turmoil of the 2011-12 season and the uncertainty that the recent months have produced, i'd found my usual early season excitement waning. A couple of hours after entering the turnstiles at Huddersfield, I certainly felt that football had returned once again. And the best thing of all... Forest are back.
What a summer it has been!
Of all the tumultuous periods in the club's history, the close season in 2012 will be remembered as a defining one for NFFC. I was sick of it all long before the takeover was formally announced. In a custom we have grown used to over the last few weeks, Fawaz al Hawasi broke the news himself through Twitter. I didn't know what to make of it then and I'm still not sure what to make of it now. The new owners are certainly welcome as we had little choice but my own opinion on them has swayed ever since the deal was signed.
Foreign ownership is certainly something I am wary of but there is certainly evidence of it working at some clubs. Yet these examples appear to be outweighed by instances where things haven't gone quite so well; disastrous in some cases. Some don't seem to have a clue and others are probably guilty of having ulterior motives. Then we have Cardiff; the extreme example of international investors treating a club and its supporters with little regard in their plans. Obviously, plenty of British ownerships have gone horribly wrong but there is something that seems generally safer about domestic owners. That and the fact that i'm just xenephobic, of course!
To date, I can't fault a great deal they have done. The press conference was impressive and they seem genuinely excited and almost humble about their association with Forest. The Cox deal also means they have used 'extra' money beyond that which was gained from the Gunter deal. I still hold some small concerns though... The raft of Kuwaiti trialists and little, tiny hints about their involvement stepping on the toes of O'Driscoll. And there was the circus that surrounded the managerial appointment; notably why did McCarthy turn us down? Was O'Driscoll even among the first few preferred candidiates? Among all of the hugely positive comments, I couldn't help but be drawn to one particular tweet from a Kuwaiti journalist who warned us of the Al Hasawi's and their intentions not quite being what they seem. Only time will tell but I, unfortunately, will remain ever so slightly subdued for now in the hope that all my concerns are shown to be completely wide of the mark.
One thing I will always be grateful for is the immediate sacking of Cotterill. It needed to be done and it was certainly the right decision to make. Cotterill's statement carried on in the same bizarre fashion that we had become accustomed to; revealing his 'excellent' relations with the supporters. I wouldn't say he had a terrible rapport with the fanbase but to call it excellent is almost disturbing it's that far off the mark. His dismissal drew a particularly depressing chapter to an end. One that had started with the sacking of Billy Davies and quickly developed into a nightmare. For all my pleasure at Cotterill's sacking, I don't hold him in contempt like I do McClaren. A man that caused absolute carnage in his three months and, in fairness to Cotterill, left him with a ridiculous amount of work. It still angers me that he saddled us with expensive flops and a large backroom staff who we are still lumbered with long after his departure. And yet he complained about the lack of backing from the board. Whether that was true or not, it was certainly wise not to give him any more money.
Cotterill was a buffoon, not even a likeable buffoon like many buffoon's are. He was given a difficult task by his predecessor but he should have been capable of much, much better with what he had. I'll forgive him selling two of our assets, partly because both wanted to leave and we got good money for them and also he signed Guedioura. But we still had numerous embarrassments to contend with and some staggeringly bad decisions to endure. The few highlights of his tenure such as Leeds, McCleary and Guedioura were all impressive but still overshadowed by some appalling footballing coupled with some appalling results. He should have been sacked after the Leicester game in the cup and, if we had any money at the time, he may well have been. Of course, another highlight of his time was the appointment of O'Driscoll...
The decision to bring him back was both strange and pleasing; perhaps the most universally welcomed choice. When hearing some of the names linked such as Keegan and Hoddle, I was even more delighted when SOD was announced.
The hard work that has gone in over the subsequent weeks was vital. Without it there simply wasn't a team to put out. During a game on FIFA in June, I couldn't even put a team out with the players available in real life! Things were looking bad but it is to everyone's credit that we could put out a decent looking side for the first game of the season at Fleetwood. I don't ever recall a season starting with a cup game. I know it happens in Scotland but it was certainly a first for me.
Two cars departed from Nottinghamshire early afternoon. Matt and I enjoyed a decent run, arriving into Fleetwood at 4pm while the other endured something of a nightmare journey after getting stuck in horrendous traffic on the M6. It was apparently my fault according to Trig but I won't go into that here!
Fleetwood couldn't be more different to neighbouring Blackpool. There is nothing there, not even the sea which seemed to had disappeared. The odd trader lined the promenade but I couldn't fathom how they made any money, there was just no-one about. The only real sign of life was on the high street which was the main place for the handful of pubs. Either side of our fish and chips we tried a few of these while we waited for the others to arrive.
The stadium is very neat and tidy although there are inevitable signs of their recent non-league status. I asked a steward for directions to the away end and her response was rather odd... 'Errrr, I think it's that way. I'm not sure where we are putting away fans'. What? You don't know? Are you not a steward? I wanted to ask. In the end, we found it after a bit of a trek around the ground. The stand to our left was rather odd as it had been erected without the previous structure being pulled down. This left the bizarre sight of two stands effectively spooning on the side of the pitch.
A healthy contingent had made the journey from Nottingham, no doubt helped by the new ground factor and that it was the opening day of the season. We gathered on the terrace while various inflatables whizzed over our heads before kick off. The dulness of the opening half is best demonstrated by the fact that these inflatables resurfaced long before the referee blew for half-time. One particularly large rubber ring was doing the rounds and it was briefly amusing as the odd victim was hooplaad! Inevitably, I got it right in the face from a particularly vicious throw but luckily it just bounced straight off with no damage!
The second half proved to be a much better spectacle than the first with Forest possessing a greater attacking threat which nearly paid off immediately. Despite our dominance, we had to settle for just the one goal but nobody really minded. Ayala and Reid were both very impressive although Reid was probably just thankful to still have a head after the game after a Fleetwood player jumped on his back and tried to decapitate him. Despite the stupidity of the challenge, it probably only warranted a yellow which he got but it was the stamp that followed which should have got him a red. An idiotic piece of behaviour.
The rain bucketed down as we left the ground back to the car. We couldn't really have asked for much more from a team that has been cobbled together in a matter of weeks. Derby's hilarious capitulation shows that we should just be thankful to be in the next round.
The league kicks in this weekend and that same old feeling is returning once again. I wasn't even that excited before but the cup has galvanised me somewhat.
Come on You Reds.
Trig did his best to miss the train but just made it with seconds to spare; joining PL and I aboard the 09:34 to London Kings Cross via Grantham which, incidentally, must be one of the coldest spots in Britain. We arrived well before midday and made the short journey to Shoreditch to meet Cags and took in a couple of bars; The Bricklayers Arms and The Last Blue Spot. Trig was visibly shaken at having to pay £4.15 for a pint!
The only pub in sight between Upton Park station and the ground was the Queens but, after queuing for a short while, we decided that it simply wasn’t worth it so we headed inside. A short line had formed at the turnstiles where two burly looking chaps were frisking selected individuals with serious intent. I initially thought I had been spared this moment of intimacy but, as I sauntered by, one of them grabbed hold of me to stop my progress and, without a single word, thrust his hand in the direction of my jacket pocket and squeezed so he could determine the contents. If I had had a carton of Capri Sun in there I swear it would have exploded such was the force used. As I continued on my way I remarked that some forewarning would have been nice and this caused him to shoot back some angry but inaudible comments at the same time as performing the process on PL, whose programme plastic wallet was sadly destroyed by the ferocity of the search.
A healthy enough following from Nottingham was joined by an annoying contingent of Cockney’s. I have nothing against the majority of these people but a few of them are absolute clowns with little grasp of the basics of football. I think they stand out mainly because Cockney’s are generally loud and abrasive and have ridiculously stupid accents. We were unfortunate to have one of these types behind us who continued to shout ‘ABSALUTE CLARSE’ after every simple pass was made. While a completed Forest pass was certainly a shock to us all, this guy was taking it to extremes.
The performance was 100% improved from Leicester but that doesn’t really mean we were fantastic. At times, we looked very good and created numerous chances that were wasted. Mcgugan and Tudgay (twice) were the primary culprits and, as in previous games, we failed to turn dominance into testing the opposition ‘keeper. As things began to settle immediately before half-time we were all stunned to concede a penalty for handball. It is up there with any of the bad decisions we have witnessed this season and the replays on the giant screen during the break were enough to produce a collective groan from the away contingent.
We failed to maintain the standards in the second half but still could easily have grabbed that elusive goal. Instead, we went two down through another handball. I never saw a thing and nobody appealed but the linesman flagged. Nobody panicked at first and then PL screamed that a penalty had been awarded. I couldn’t believe it. Trig insists it was the right call but I never it although TV replays, which I am yet to see, may show it more clearly. Either way, it was game over. The last minute goal brought some slight relief but, even though it ended our drought, there was little delight from us Forest fans.
I couldn’t bring myself to clap them off at the end due to my anger still existing from Tuesday but it had undoubtedly been a vastly improved effort and I won’t often ask for much more. If we had lost most games like that I sincerely doubt I would be anywhere near as disappointed with either the players or the manager. While welcome, I unfortunately possess little faith that it will be repeated in our next game against Burnley because I cannot recall us putting in two acceptable performances on the spin all season. We are now entering the category of games that will be labelled ‘must win’, especially at home and anything else is unlikely to be good enough. Despite the positives we are looking in deep peril more than ever due to other results. It was definitely better but things are now looking far worse. If the four point gap gets extended we are going to find it ridiculously difficult to climb out of danger.
After that it is Pride Park. It is hardly a game many of us are going to relish but I would hope that the players see this as a major opportunity to win back some favour and show that they possess some fight for this club. And I don’t care how crap we are, how embarrassing it may be or that it’s on the television; everyone should be making the effort to get themselves there. If we can’t sell this one out then we, as fans, are simply not doing our bit. For me, everything else goes out the window for this one.
COME ON YOU REDS.
Written by Oldroyd