It was my intention to combine the Watford and Burnley games into one account; primarily due to illness depriving me the opportunity to write something following our win at Vicarage Road. Now, however, that victory seems to pale into insignificance against that horror show at Turf Moor. Make no mistake, it was horrendous. I think it may just have ousted some of the old 'favourites' like Plymouth and Chester out of the way in the 'Worst Ever' category. It was a shameful, pitiful performance that probably didn't get the abuse it deserved from the travelling fans, maybe due to a marginally improved second half performance and our collective surprise that we didn't concede another four goals.
There was not a single player that could claim to score more than a 3/10. They couldn't pass, they couldn't tackle and they certainly couldn't defend. There must be an all so easy instruction drilled into opposition players... cross it into the box. Their inability to defend a ball into the box is almost laughable. Many seem to follow a similar route too with a long, high cross nodded back across goal and converted with ease.
At 3-0 the game was all but over and the Forest fans turned. Instead though, they decided to sing about removing Mark Arthur. It was blatantly obvious that he was the wrong target as were the subsequent 'sack the board' chants. The players and management have to take FULL responsibility for such a spineless performance. The chairman and Chief Executive cannot be blamed for yet another misguided pass or another conceded goal from a cross. If last night showed anything it was that our current problems lie on the pitch. These are fundamentally the same players of the last two seasons who are now doing their best to undo everything they achieved in that time.
They were subject to a level of abuse at half time that I don't remember experiencing since Megson. What a load of rubbish. The favourite theme of conversation during the break was listing the numerous comparisons between the two sides. Top of everyone's list was the belief that these players weren't trying for their manager. A nasty little problem if so as we found before. You have to wonder if McClaren's comments about the current side during his disappearing act a few weeks ago are playing on their minds a little too.
The farce even continued at half time although it wasn't all the fault of Forest. The players were back on the pitch very quickly while SMC took a place on the bench leaving the impromptu training session to Rob Kelly. Their early presence, however, played havoc with a large-scale performance from some kids which had planned to take up the entire playing surface. These poor kids ended up having to dance around the players while Burnley officials remonstrated with them to shift. They appeared to be told in no uncertain terms by Rob Kelly to 'Piss Off'. The home fans added to the pantomime by starting to boo the Forest team. I was relieved when the whole thing ended.
During the second half the support once again slid into protest but this time Billy and a desire for a refund were the hot topics. We crawled towards full time, most with our head in our hands for the majority. The players trudged past with a few raising their arms to clap but were roundly jeered. Then SMC nervously endured his walk past. To his credit, he stopped and clapped while he was loudly booed before carrying on with sagged shoulders. I wouldn't have been surprised if he had quit within ten minutes and I wont be surprised if he is gone by the weekend. That said, I think he will still be in charge on Sunday but I think this display may just be the beginning of the end.
I don't usually like to call for the managers head, especially this soon into a tenure but there is obviously a major problem at NFFC. Say what you like about failings at the top but not many teams have spent more than we have and we have a stronger squad than the one that managed to secure top six finishes for the last two seasons. Quite simply there is no excuse.
Aaaah, a penalty! 'Silly 'keeper' I mused. Just point at the spot, ref. What a wanker, he isn't going to give it but no bother as the linesman is. Hang on his flag his pointing the wrong bloody way. YOU ARE JOKING ME! A yellow card for diving? An utter, utter, shambolic, awful, cheating, bottling decision. For all his poncing about and pointing his finger Kelvin Davies will know that he had gotten away with murder. Actually the act itself was more akin to rape as he attempted to grope Derbyshire into submission. He didn't even manage to execute his initial lunge very well at all, missing both the man and the ball but, unquestionably, his leg completely took Derbyshire out at the second attempt.
All this happened yards in front of 1,777 Forest supporters and I don't think I have ever been so sure about a decision in my life. Most were beginning to celebrate. I believe that hesitation from both the referee and his assistant cost us. Each wanted the other to make the call but neither wanted to make such a big decision in front of a big crowd so close to the end. I believe it was simply easier to upset 1,777 people than 22,000.
And of course they went up the other end and scored. Absolutely marvellous. Forest are masters of sticking to the cruelest of scripts and so no-one was surprised when we conceded moments later. Added to our earlier woe of conceding an equaliser a minute after taking the lead it was the perfect summation of how things are going for us at the moment. And i'm not talking about luck. The non-penalty was our one moment of bad luck; the rest was, and has been, just plain crazy defending.
With numbers lacking, PL and I joined the regulars aboard Tricky Tree Travel (formerly the Test Match bus) which departed at 8am from the Brian Clough Stand car park. The coach was only half full although we still had to pick the organiser in chief, Uncle Al, up from Junction 21 of the M1. This was achieved following a telling off from a traffic officer who wasn't too pleased that we decided to park on the slip road waiting for our final traveller to arrive!
It was only half eleven when we arrived into Southampton. The group usually pre-plan a pub several miles away from the ground to stop off on the way but this had been shelved on this occasion due to travel warnings with both the football and a popular boat show taking place on the same day. A quick straw poll conducted over the bus microphone decided that we would instead head to the marina.
There didn't seem to be much about other than a Wetherspoons so we all headed in. While the rest stayed put, PL and I opted to make a slow walk towards the ground taking in a few pubs on the way. Our first find, the Royal London, turned into something of a disaster. From the outside it looked decent enough apart from the lack of punters inside. As we stepped inside the only other customer was a middle aged fellow sporting a very tight looking vest. 'This isn't a gay bar is it?' I asked. Despite Freddie Mercury over there I said it more in jest than anything. We continued our slow, hesitant walk towards the bar. I can only thank God that the barman wasn't stood there waiting to take our order, as we soon began to learn the true horror of the place. Pictures of drag queens adorned the walls along with various other homosexual trinkets and paraphernalia. 'Let's get out of here' I announced and we hot footed it out of the place probably leaving the vest man with a grin on his face I expect. Or maybe he was disappointed! *Shudder*
The Grapes sat just down the road and I don't mind admitting I entered with no small part of trepidation. Was this a gay area that we had set foot into? I could see a young blonde girl serving drinks behind the bar and on closer inspection she looked to be a genuine female so we headed in. Thankfully, everyone seemed to be human.
I believe it was in this bar that the two of us began a conversation about creating a Forest XI based on players that for whatever reason have just never quite made it. These could be players who we have signed but never made an appearance or who only ever featured sparingly before leaving. We were able to create about half a team but needed more time to build the rest. These can't be players who were given a chance but never made it because they were shit, but more that their time with the club just became a mystery. Our effort to date looks like this... Any further suggestions on a post-card.
LB: Davy Oyen
CB: David Tarka
CB: Benjamin Gavanon
RW: James Henry
LW: George Boyd
After asking a local for directions and potential pubs we eventually found the Chapel Arms a short stroll from St Mary's. It was more a living room than a pub and the bar was more like a temporary version that over enthusiastic people sometimes set up at house parties consisting of a spare sheet of MDF and some beer crates / assorted domestic furniture. Still, there weren't many other options about unless we wanted to return to Michael Barrymore's Fun House. We eventually drank up after getting sick of watching the SPL on TV and headed into the away end.
Despite another defeat we can take big positives in the performance at least. We absolutely battered Southampton in that second half and I cannot believe we didn't win. To leave with nothing whatsoever was a horrible experience. I thought that, for the first time this season, there was a sense of pride in the team again from the supporters. It's always good to see that we can give the players such a good ovation at the end even in defeat and show that a good performance will be recognised.
What wasn't so pleasing to see was a few people who had gone to the trouble to produce anti-Doughty t-shirts which read something along the lines of:
'F**k off Doughty'
'11 years of being conned'
It's all very well smiling proudly wearing a stupid t-shirt like your the clubs saviour but none of these people seem to be able to put forward a sensible solution as an alternative. Where are we going to find someone else who continUously injects his own money into the running of the club? The transfer fees we have spent do not come from Nottingham Forest, they come from the bank account of the chairman effectively. This is a man with no vast personal fortune in comparison with some and I honestly don't think many people would carry on wasting their own money on it. I don't think I would. Mistakes have been made unquestionably but I really do fail to see what we would do without him. And I would honestly rather rot in this league for years than sell our soul to some foreign owner. An argument rumbled along on the coach home between anti and pro Doughtyist's which I refrained from entering. The anti-Doughty argument consisted on lets get rid of him and hope for the best and the lad placed his beliefs in the downright crazy viewpoint that 'someone' would bail us out. WHO? WHO? WHO? WHO? WHO? WHO? That to me seems to be the fundamental question to ask those in this camp. Doughty has said himself that he would never rule out selling the club but only to the right person. If he were to cut off his investment tomorrow as many apparently want then I guarantee that losing to Southampton or failing to sign a player on deadline day are going to be the least of our problems.
As for next week, its the proverbial watershed moment for the manager, his players and perhaps the board. Win and it takes a lot of this pressure off but lose and it will be a lot, lot harder for them to win many of the fans back onside. The latter isn't something i'm even willing to contemplate. Let's just destroy the bastards.