Whatever Will Be, Will Be
At 2.15pm he turned the TV off and stared at the blank screen. The dream was over; the impossible was finally impossible. It hadn't seemed so impossible just a few weeks before he thought. After his own personal triumph on the 2nd April, the cards and flowers and, most importantly, the money had come rolling in but it had now all but stopped. He had tried his hardest to get the job at Selhurst Park or, at least, Loftus Road but he hadn't managed it and this had made the club furious. 'What chance do we have now'? they had said but he was powerless; something he just couldn't stand. He consoled himself with the thought of a live TV game the next day but it was the Britannia and not Old Trafford he was heading to. He cursed Howard Webb once again.
Instead he had booked the day off and settled on the sofa. He had sent a good luck text but he had heard nothing back. Flicking between the two games, he watched in horror. He would never have sent him off and he would have and found a way to rule those goals out. They had never thought this was going to happen.
He got up and kicked the cat. 'Bastards' he mumbled.
Sixteen of us jumped off the train at Kings Cross at 9:51am Saturday morning with the whole weekend in front of us. It was the last day of the season in London and it was Hawkeye's stag do. It promised to be a great occasion. First though was the little matter of securing a play-off spot down in South London. PL and I left the others to head to Cags' house while they made their way, somewhat chaotically it seemed, to their hotel at Waterloo.
Having dropped our bags off, the three of us ventured towards Selhurst Park. Following a quick beer at The Clifton we joined an assortment of cartoon characters, maypole dancers, Smurfs and Osama Bin Laden in the away end. In many ways it was perfect type of scenario with little danger of things going wrong but the game still retaining a degree of importance.
There was probably more drama in the rest of our party's trip to the ground than anything that would come on the pitch. They had endured something of a nightmare journey and were lucky to arrive just on kick off.
It wasn't long before the game and the race for sixth was over as a real contest. Forest were one up against ten men and Leeds were losing. Despite their comeback, we were never ever going to lose and everyone was able to relax. In fact we were all so relaxed that I think I fell asleep and dreamt that David McGoldrick scored an absolute screamer from 30 odd yards to help Forest record a 3-0 away win for the first time since God knows when. Yeovil in 2007? We got promoted that seas... No, forget I said anything.
We still haven't learned from past mistakes though. 'We're going to Wembley' sang the away end while we all winced and exchanged sheepish glances. Maybe, just maybe if we are three goals up with a few minutes left of the second leg but not before. This is the play-offs and this is Nottingham Forest. It's never been a great mix up to now has it?
Mission Complete - The Start of the Stag
We decided to head to London Bridge after the game with us eventually finding the rather nice Old Thameside pub which, as the name suggests, is right by the Thames and offers a panoramic view across the river towards the City. Stood out on the balcony we found entertainment in waving to passing cruise ferries; even greeting once boat with a Mexican Wave! Our numbers were now over twenty with the Keyworth Crusader having travelled down in the car with a few of Hawkeye's old mates. One of those was David Chisnall, the sports presenter from Central News who added a touch of glamour to the proceedings.
A couple of ales later and we unfortunately had to go. Myself, Cags and PL once again branched off from the main posse to head back to get changed for the night. Having a had a few vodka and cokes at Caygill's splendid outside bar we then made our way to the bowling alley at Elephant & Castle. The couple hours apart had brought about a change in certain members. Most were just a little tipsy but it was Coy who had descended into anarchy. In fact, such was his state from this point on that it would be easy to concentrate only on him and his antics which would last twenty pages if described in full.
The bowling, in truth, went on for too long. By the end there was only a couple of people playing while most crowded around the punch bag machine and watched Hawkeye try to destroy it. We eventually left and the drink had taken hold. Forest songs echoed around the subways that took us back to the tube and then Hawkeye managed to set the station alarms off by being too heavy handed with the lift.
When we did finally reach the tube, we didn't move for an age. I was convinced that the police had been called to arrest the groom but we eventually moved away with the bright lights of Covent Garden our destination...
Things were a great deal calmer as we supped our beers outside the White Lion. The one exception was the Keyworth Crusader who was proving to be something of a pain; not just to us but everyone else in the vicinity. He grabbed random people and kept repeating his new phrase 'Bang Tidy' at just about every single female who passed. He was particularly annoying the two Dutch girls who we were talking to who didn't seem very impressed by his various attempts to snare them.
Despite his state though he failed to produce as quite a comical line as Trig who was busy quizzing the the Dutch girls about various topics. 'Do you normally have holidays in Mainland Germany?' he asked much to everyone's amusement. Being Dutch, the girls were a little offended but even they realised that he actually meant Mainland Europe.
We soon found ourselves in Henry's a short walk down the road. At midnight we were surprised to find the light turn on and the bar empty up. We had expected it to be open for a while yet but we left, undeterred, fully expecting to walk in somewhere nearby. We were wrong. The only places open were strip clubs and the odd nightclub who would only admit mixed sex groups. After a full day on the beer since 8am, some started to drift away while we ploughed through the streets towards Leicester Square.
Things weren't looking good and, with a long journey back to South London; Cags, PL and I called it quits. The few that were left did soon find somewhere before a hardy bunch ended up in some strip bar until the morning with Hawkeye spending a small fortune in the process. Glen, Stemo and Big Rob had the most exciting journey back to the hotel though as they hitched a ride on one of the several thousand rickshaws who nip around the streets. After the mile and half journey the poor lad was apparently knackered! Glen has apparently whipped him the whole way home with his belt. He had picked up the technique in Frankfurt!
Everyone, including Coy, seemed to be in fairly good nick come Sunday morning. Dan, Adam and Trig opted to stay in the pub (It took six phone calls and a knock on the door for hotel staff to kick Trig out of bed) but the rest of us kitted up and hit the track.
After a thrilling hour and a half the final race got underway. I didn't feature in it 'cause I was shit although I did improve over time. If I hadn't crashed on the first lap every time I might have had half a chance. Instead, it was the celebrity among us, David who took the honours just ahead of the two Chris's; Mitchell and May.
The three of them received their trophies and took their positions on the podium. Eagle eyed viewers will have spotted 'Chis' presenting his sports report on Central News on Monday night with his winning trophy taking pride of place in the background! In fact, seeing the guy who you sat next to in the ground then present the goals a couple of days later was a rather strange one. Still, it could have been weirder, it could have been Boozehound!
The Last Leg
We were all reunited in the Euston Flyer in Kings Cross. The place was booming with people pouring in to watch the football. After some discussion we decided it was fitting to end the weekend in London at the Flying Scotsman, especially when it would be Hawkeye's first ever visit. There's never much to say about it really, it is what it is, a hole, but it has a certain cult status and has been the scene of some brilliant moments for us down the years. It's worth going in just to reminisce about that trip to Chelsea in 2007 and Mitchell's naughtiness with a marker pen. There were more chuckles this year when Hawkeye and Glen noticed the gambler was called 'BOOZEHOUND'!
We piled out at 6.15pm and into the off-licence down the road. Surprisingly, Stemo still had some cash left after all of those pound coins he had spent in the Scotsman. We said our goodbyes to Cags and Karl but the rest were aboard the 6.40pm train which was taking us home via a short change in Grantham.
The Curious Tale of Mr Tasty
As daft as it sounds the trip back was my highlight of the entire trip, one of the highs of the season in fact. It started well enough and got gradually better and better and by the time we left Mr Tasty I had tears of utter joy running down my face. I think in years to come those of us on that train will look back at the weekend and will instantly remember that half an hour from Grantham to Nottingham.
The thing is, it's not like I can really explain it either. It was certainly a 'be there' moment.
On the first train it was PL who was happy to take centre stage spinning his hilarious tales. By the end of his story (which I better not repeat), not just us but a large section of the carriage were also in hysterics. Some, in truth, must also have been rather disturbed! The yarns and jokes, aswell as an impromptu rendition of Happy Birthday for Deano's 31st, continued until we arrived in Grantham.
As we boarded the connection, Mr Tasty was fast asleep. That was until Mitchell woke him up. As we found some seats at the front of the train, Mr Tasty stumbled past and began knocking and subsequently hammering and kicking at the drivers door. I'm not sure how it started but we soon started singing songs about him which started strange and just got weirder and funnier as Mr Tasty got more angry. We believe he had overslept and missed his stop and was now desperate to get off the train at all costs.
To the tune of Jeff Back's/Alexandra Burke's/Dele Adebola's Hallelujah we made up lyrics as we went. We had so much fun that when Mr Tasty walked off, Adam went to get him on the premise that he had 'forgotten something'. Mr Tasty didn't have a clue but thankfully hung around for our songs to continue. I will never remember many of them but they all were beaten hands down by Ad's effort of:
Mr Tasty's hair is obtuse,
I blame it on child abuse.
Looking at the words now, it seems silly that we found it so funny but, even now, I cannot type for laughing. Seconds later, Mr Tasty punched the ceiling of the train. I had my back to him but, sat across from Mitchell and Dan, I saw them both collapse into laughter with the former having to spit his drink out on the floor. It wasn't us however that was making him angry; if anything he didn't seem to even realise we were there. He was just very, very mad.
I was very disappointed when the journey ended. We emptied onto the platform while the driver finally appeared and gave Mr Tasty a stern telling off for kicking his door!
Most headed down the Waterfront for another beer but I was done and headed home.
The play-offs are on us once again. It's going to be torture, it going to be hell, it's going to push every emotion to the limit and it will probably leave us as nervous wrecks before chewing us up and spitting us out on the floor as it has always done.
But... you know what? It might just be magnificent.
COME ON YOU TRICKY TREES
It's funny what a couple of 3-2 wins can do!
Suddenly things are looking a damn sight rosier in the top six garden and a win against Scunny will push us to the brink of the chaotic and dramatic ride that is the play-offs.
Four of us arrived in Bristol just shy of half twelve. It was a pain to even try and get a beer with the only two in the vicinity of the ground adopting a strict home fans only policy. We didn't even get through the door of the B3S bar; stopped in our tracks by the doorman who insisted he see our tickets. The Elliot next door did at least let us in but we soon had problems. Mitchell and I were served without issue and found ourselves a table in the beer garden only for Trig and PL to follow us with the news that we had been asked to leave. The barmaid had tried to take Trig's drink back when she discovered he wasn't a Bristolian but he had managed to keep hold of it although PL didn't manage to get served at all!
We drank slowly, fully aware that we were expected to leave as soon as we had finished. They couldn't throw us out as we had a 'contract' as such after money had changed hands. Eventually, we realised we weren't that keen on leaving so we thought we'd try our luck at getting another round. Neither Mitchell or myself had actually been told to leave so I headed up to the bar and thankfully wasn't questioned. It was only twenty minutes or so later when we were almost ready to leave that the same barmaid appeared next to our table. She looked particularly unimpressed with PL's treachery but we were told her that we were off anyway and she relaxed insisting that it was on police orders that away fans could not be served.
We were in the ground by 2.15pm. Past visits to Ashton Gate have taught me that this is necessary as arriving much later means you usually lose half of your view of the pitch behind an ugly metal pillar. We were soon joined by Hawks and his mrs who were heading back from Cornwall.
Come half time we were all delighted with how things were going. 2-0 up away from home (when was that last the case?) and the home supporters were getting restless from the second the penalty went in. The first many of us knew of the trouble was when a large steward flew down the aisle towards the front. He was heading to our left where police were piling in to a disturbance which I still don't know anything about. Hilariously, the said steward didn't make it quite as quick as he would have liked as he went for a little tumble right in front of the away end much to our delight.
Things seemed to be under control only for one bloke to vault the wall at the front and run onto the pitch while play was continuing at the other end. He ran past us to the Bristol fans in the same stand and began saluting them while a steward was hot on his trail. Inevitably he was caught and we witnessed our second tumble in a matter of seconds which brought about another large cheer. The invader was held right in front of the away end and was the subject of much ridicule.
The plan seemed simple. Hold out for the first fifteen minutes and we would be able to move out from there and hopefully grab a killer third to finish them off. Typically, fifteen minutes in and we were looking like we would be going behind! We were rocking for a while but were still having the odd chance. Earnshaw should have scored when he twisted onto a floated free kick but it looked like a point would be our best hope at that stage.
From somewhere, though, the Reds found some much needed resolve and it was magnificent when Chambo looped that header in to restore our lead. The away support was naturally delighted but you had to wonder with our current defensive record whether we could hang on.
We could have had another five and they could have had another couple but we weren't bothered that the score remained the same. The disallowed goal for them was a horrible and confusing moment but by the end of it I was stood on my chair and jumping around out of pure relief!
At full time, Billy huddled his players together (once he had managed to stop Chambo going absolutely mental with the fans) and they had an impromptu meeting in front of us. 'We love you Forest, we do' we sang and there was a sense of real excitement among us; one which has been missing for a long time now.
Our destiny is well and truly back in our own hands and we couldn't wish for a better game to kick on with then the one we have next. If we don't win that one then we don't deserve to make it.
COME ON YOU REDS
Away Days will return following what I expect will be quite a weekend in London over the 8th and 9th of May! In fact, considering one of our fellow travellers for the weekend, it might even find its way into the local ITV sports news on the Monday night.
DISGRACE, DISGRACE, DISGRACE
Sometimes football just isn't fair. If there was any justice then we would have won that game at a canter; both Grayson and the ref would have bumped into some psychopathic Forest supporters on their way out of the ground and the home stands would have collapsed taking all of those animals with them. Unfortunately dirty teams like Leeds with their cheating players and management can get away with somehow winning a game 4-1 that they had no right to. They should build shrines and rename the ground for the referee and his linesman who really got them out of the shit.
I generally refrain from using the scum in footballing terms; there are far more deserving individuals for that title (those smashing up London last week spring to mind) but Leeds come as close as any club can possibly get.
Things were looking good until that moment on thirty-six minutes. We were sweeping forward and looked likely to score any minute; especially when Raddy turned two defenders and pulled it back to Tudgay who, with the goal at his mercy, tapped it along the floor rather than hammering the ball as hard as he possibly could. Even if it hit someone at least it might have done a bit of damage. If only...
Cohen had every right to go for the ball. He got there first, he went in with only one foot and made full contact with it and did not touch the man. The Leeds player actually stands on the ball if you watch again and goes for a little flip in the air while Cohen gets up and carries on. By this time, Grayson is somehow on the pitch and there is a swarm of players pushing and arguing.
1. Why was Grayson on the pitch? His reaction was the primary reason the red came out in my opinion. He is a dirty Yorkshire bastard and I wish someone had planted one on his smug face in the middle of the riot.
2. The ref was not sure enough to make a decision. The standard process with such an incident is always to be sure of the offence but it was the linesmen who made the call. They got it badly wrong and lacked the bottle to upset Grayson and co.
3. Why is there this stupid issue everytime that there is a TV game that we seem to have a Premier League referee, As ever, Premiership officials coupled with a live audience spelled trouble.
4. The BBC commentary team, after originally blaming it on Chris Gunter and undertaking a twenty second character assasination of him, saw the replay and changed their verdict. They, like the ref and Grayson, decided to ignore the cracking challenge it was. Proof that these people have no clue about football. 3,000 Reds could see it for what it was and no bias was needed.
5. Grayson stipulated the challenge was two footed - no it wasn't, you prick. Watch again.
6. Grayson said he took the ball and the man - no he didn't. Watch again.
7. Grayson claimed if it was his player that had committed the 'foul' then he would accept - of course you would, you would actually be holding your head in your hands like Billy Davies.
In the aftermath of the dismissal and down to ten, the Forest players adapted well and were still the better team. There was hope that the game could still be won. Unfortunately, Mr. Mark Halsey still had other ideas...
His crimes are far too numerous to recall but many were just plain cheating. At 2-1, we had his team on the ropes until he decided to give a ridiculous foul (and an even worse yellow card) to Wes for something on the half way line. The ball in could have been dealt with better but inevitably it went in to all but kill off our short lived revival.
More silly and attention seeking yellows were happily dished out while Halsey also decided to bring a ball back 35 yards for our 'advantage'. By now, you could only laugh. How could we compete with this? It was somewhat similar to the Oldham game a few years ago with Kevin Friend but that day we all knew we would have lost anyway. I seriously do not think we would have lost that game if we had a competent official in charge.
Forest have decided to appeal and I would love to think this may be one of those rare occasions when action is taken against the referee but we are bound to be disappointed on both counts. How likely is it that anything will be done against Halsey so soon after his return from cancer? Not in a million years. The whole system is corrupt and there is nothing that can be done. He should have stayed on his sick bed.
Our season now lies on the verge of tatters. Not all down to this one game admittedly but it had hardly helped! Down to seventh and Reading still have a game in hand. We have to beat them next week. Anything else is not going to be good enough.
COME ON YOU REDS.
It was perhaps the late goal which persuaded many of the Forest fans to stay behind and clap their players off the pitch. It was a generous ovation which, like the scoreline, was more than they deserved in truth. I clapped out of pity more than anything I think. These players just don't seem capable of achieving what we thought they could just a few weeks ago; another pathetic performance makes that even clearer. I would dearly, dearly love to be wrong and look back and laugh at my over-reaction to this 'blip' but it's hard not to come to that conclusion. They seem to know it aswell.
I had started the day in a positive spirit. A rare midweek break had helped freshen my outlook and I believed a win was on the cards. Four of us left Gadsby HQ at 9am; Trig was at the wheel with myself, Mitchell and Parrot Lad. It's a fair old journey but we made good time and were only twenty miles away from Swansea by 11.45am.
On our visit ever visit to the Liberty we had stopped off at a Harvester somewhere along the way and it was this same pub we visited again. Over lunch, Trig was sceptical about the corn on the cob which sat on the side of his plate. He eventually decided to give it a try... 'It's quite nice actually, tastes just like sweetcorn' he announced!
Following a brief stint of retail therapy at the nearby shopping centre, we carried on with the remainder of the journey. We pulled into the park & ride at half past 1. As park & rides go (and i'm no expert) this was somewhere down on the bottom of the scale. It consisted of a large gravel space which housed an assortment of gypsies around the perimeter. Knackered toys discarded by the gypsy children could be seen all over the place including a baby doll with no head! This was certainly a new experience following Forest around the country! We were in the ground just after 2pm having a beer and praying that our car would be left alone.
Our new found ineptness on the pitch has inevitably led to an increasing level of dissent from the terraces over the last few weeks. At Swansea, it started to just about reach an audible volume as people began to lose their patience with what they have been witnessing of late. Unfortunately, the worst aspect of this is the few morons who spout absolute bollocks and obviously have little idea about what is actually going on.
I found myself in two separate arguments during the game with two of these types. The first was at 2-0 down when, despite our truly horrific defending, one bloke decided it was all Kris Boyd's fault. I questioned his reasoning when it had been our defenders that had allowed the Swansea attack to wander through on two occasions and score. Boyd's subsequent goal did have that little extra edge after that although I resisted the urge to give a quick glance behind me.
The second incident had me even more worked up although I will admit that developments on the pitch contributed more than a little. Lewis Mcgugan was stood on the touchline ready to come on when he went to sit down and got his track top back on. Julian Bennett duly stood up and took his place ready to come on. The standard humans in the away end realised this was because Konchesky had suddenly signalled to the bench that he needed to come off. This was lost on the idiot just to my right who jumped to his feet and began to remonstrate against Davies for his indecision. Another then jumped up and the two of the began to sing 'You don't know what your doing' at the manager. I revelled in revealing the reason behind this to them after as the two slumped back into their seats.
For me, second place is all but gone. It's going to take a monumental run to make up the points now and you'd have to ask where our next win is going to come from at the minute. The main focus should now shift to keeping ourselves in the top six. Falling out of those would be a major disaster as we would struggle to get back in there.
This international break could not come soon enough. See you in Leeds.