Spencer crosses the river..

A mildly interesting development is that Spencer Weir-Daley has turned his nose up at a deal from Forest and gone over the river to Notts County.  It must have been a fairly derisory offer, and given that he’s even fallen behind Scott Dobie in the striker list, you can understand his fear of not getting a game! (Particularly since popular rumours seem to link us with strikers too – which would make him about 7th choice!).

With the Sadpies he’ll have a real crack at a regular first team slot – not least because Jason Lee is bound to spend at least half the season suspended!  We’ve seen too little of him in the first team to really judge him accurately, but if he’s not made it by now at his age with us, then it does make sense to let him move on and have an opportunity to hold down a regular first team place.

So good luck to you Spencer, hopefully you can bang in a few goals for the lesser half of Nottingham.

Forest seeking new ground?

I’d dismissed the rumours of a groundmove that have been circulating for a day or so as boredom induced storytelling.  But it does appear there’s something in this.  We’ll all know more after the 10:30 press conference, but it would appear there are plans afoot for Forest to depart the City Ground, our home since 1898, and move to a new purpose-built stadium close to the A453 in around six years time.

The crux of the movement appears to be motivated by England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup.  The new stadium will exceed both Derby and Leicester’s flat pack stadiums (apparently), and put Nottingham at the forefront for hosting international games.  Given the location it will also present a more attractive proposition for parking and access than the suburb-bound City Ground.  The initial capacity will be 40,000 – easily increasable to 50,000.

My initial reaction is I would be absolutely gutted to be leaving what I consider my spiritual home.  And I would much rather Forest be communicating about just how they see themselves justifying a 40,000 seater stadium on the pitch rather than unveiling grand plans of new grounds – imagine us playing in such an arena whilst still in League One?  But it will certainly be interesting.  Of primary importance to me is that there is some originality in the design, that it’s not just another plastic faceless Pride Park, Walkers Crispbowl or Riverside stadium (not to mention the countless others!), but I won’t hold my breath.

I also wonder whether a stadium move will see Nigel Doughty come good on his promise some time ago to ensure a more appropriate tribute to Brian Clough (and, if I had my way, Peter Taylor) at the new stadium – he always said he would entertain such a notion when the Main Stand was redeveloped.  I shan’t hold my breath.  Anyway, I’ll comment further when I have more information.  All together now..

Far we have travelled
And much we have seen,
Goodison, Anfield
Are places we’ve been,
Maine Road, Old Trafford
Still echo to the sounds,
Of the boys in the red shirts
From the City Ground,

City Ground
Oh mist rolling in from the Trent,
My desire, is always to be here
Oh City Ground.

Lennon signs!

And for us as well – a one year deal with an optional extension.  There’s confirmation on the Forest website and everything… cunning timing since the season ticket renewal packs went out yesterday, I suppose – but to have snagged a player who was captaining a side (albeit a Scottish one) in the Champions League last season, regardless of his age, is a great coup – particularly considering there was competition from Sunderland and Leicester in particular.

If nothing else he will provide cover for the ‘Ginger Midfielder’ role that Gary Holt vacated this year.  Lennon should bring with him his firey passion for the game, and hopefully give some of our lacklustre players a suitable kick up the proverbial.  If I was Ian Breckin I would be starting to wonder whether or not I’ll still have the captain’s armband next season too, because a player like Neil is very much captain material in my opinion.

So at last we’ve made a signing – and one which will hopefully bolster our attractiveness to other targets.  The Leon Best rumours trundle ever onward, as do the Jason Crowe ones.  The most interesting one I’ve heard so far is that somebody’s best friend’s uncle’s flatmate’s cousin’s clients saw Andy Cole at the City Ground recently.  Hmmm. Believe THAT one when I see it!

A friendly with Derby? You must be joking!

I think it’s a really bad idea to have a friendly (if such a thing is possible) against Derby this season. Now, obviously as a Forest fan I don’t have much time for Derby at all, but I’m not one of those irrational vitriol-filled people who seem to lose all sense of rhyme and reason whenever any conversation crops up about them. I even have numerous people I would count as good friends who feel the urge to support them.

Also I’m not jealous of their recent achievements, well, actually, I am a bit, perhaps even quite a lot – who wouldn’t be in our shoes? I’ve seen online conversations between Forest and Derby fans on this subject that makes me cringe for the majority of both sets of fans – the Forest fans speaking of “you’re going to get tonked every week next season!” to responses of “you’re just jealous!” – it’s all rather tedious and childish if truth be told.

Of course we’re jealous – however, unlike many Forest fans I don’t begrudge them their promotion – they finished 3rd, they topped the table for ages and finished 8 points or so ahead of West Brom who they met in the playoff final. Given that the playoffs are a moneyspinning addition to make the league ‘more interesting’ and not remotely steeped in fairness, perhaps this season is a rare example of when they have been. 3rd placed Derby promoted, 3rd placed Blackpool promoted. Perhaps if we had been less negative in our last game against Crewe we might have finished third and gone up – although I doubt it!

The simple fact is, and I’ll be perfectly honest here, I don’t want to play Derby right now because I think they will beat us fairly convincingly. My stomach turns at the thought of the away end being full of Derby supporters getting a cheap trip to have (yet another) laugh at our expense – only this time in the flesh! If the boot were on the other foot I’d certainly be partaking in it, but for us to encourage such a thing by arranging this fixture would be a farce – which is why I worry that it might have some legs! Imagine a Lower Bridgford end packed with ‘Forest Wembley 2007′ t-shirt clad Derby fans watching their side stroll to victory against us.

I don’t think it will happen simply for the obvious logistical problems of needing to have a high police and security presence to prevent the almost inevitable clashes between the undesirable element amongst both our sets of supporters – whilst undoubtedly there would be a bigger crowd that for a normal preseason friendly, the cash made from this would need to be offset against the increased cost in providing sufficient safety measures – so hopefully common sense on all levels will prevail and this disaster waiting to happen will not go ahead – if it was ever going to anyway!

A preseason date with the scruffy Magpies..

Forest today announced another addition to the preseason friendly schedule, against dearest neighbours Notts County.  To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this game with the Magpies, probably coming down on the side of negative overall.  I do think in general the preseason plans are probably sensible, certainly the tour of Scotland will be a good chance for the team to spend time together away from Nottingham (assuming they behave, of course!) without turning into the disaster that was that tour of America.

But anyway, Notts County.  I quite like them in some ways, not in that patronising way that Notts fans accuse us of, I just see a local team who’ve been through the mill a bit and I like to see them do well – of course, that is helped by the fact that for the last few years they’ve mostly been in leagues beneath us, but I think a city the size of Nottingham has room for two teams doing well – something that both sides have certainly starved the good public of Nottnigham for more years than I care to remember!  The other massive positive is the chance to see Jason Lee again!

The negatives are that this could, of course, become “Sir Charlie Palmer Day” mark two.  As I’m sure most fans are aware, Notts fans (judging by a few acquaintances and some of the folks who call in to Matchtalk) quite enjoy reminding us of this – ultimately inconsequential – defeat at Meadow Lane way back in 1993/94.  Of course, that season under Frank Clark we were promoted anyway – but that hasn’t stopped the day being a cause of constant celebration, indeed, being released on video at the time!  I suppose you have to take your pleasure where you can!  You can read the details in loving detail just here.

The second thing that makes me feel ambivalent towards County fans stems from more recent events.  When Notts were in absolute financial dire straits there was a groundswell of support from fans from all over the country, not least Forest fans (who also used to swell the ranks of Magpies on their trips to Wembley in the playoffs under Warnock, I might add!).  Animosity was cast aside as fans and players (I remember David Johnson donating cash to them too) helped out our neighbours in their hour of need.  But what happened when the Trent End loan debacle happened?  Whingeing Sadpies on local radio and in the papers demanding the council evict Forest or force us into administration or all manner of punishment.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect hostilities to cease, I understand that we’re not exactly the favourite of Notts fans, but the timing and the similarities of the situations was quite grating at the time.  Of course, I realise that comments on programmes like Matchtalk or in the fans talk sections of the local rag are not representative necessarily of the entire population, but nonetheless, it leaves a sour taste and makes me unsure whether I want to contribute to a preseason friendly to put more money in their pockets, if that’s how we were thanked for offering a helping hand previously.

But anyway, I digress!  I probably will head on down if nothing else to see Jason Lee again – whilst never the most gifted footballer, I admire his staying power and refusal to give up the game, and have fond memories of him in a Forest shirt all those years ago.  The preseason fixture is shaping up like this, and it promises to be at least mildly entertaining:

17th July – Ilkeston Town
18th July – Rushden and Diamonds
21st July – Chesterfield (Steve Blatherwick Testimonial)
24th July – Kilmarnock
26th July – Dunfermline
28th July – Motherwell
30th July – Notts County
4th August – Sheffield United

Jack’s a Spireite, and the Spireites don’t like me very much!

I’d half forgotten to mention Jack Lester’s move to Chesterfield following his release from the Reds in Smoulderwood’s cull; so I’ll mention it now since I have Chesterfield on my mind for other reasons (as I shall explain below).  Whilst I think that letting Jack move on was a sensible decision (dependent on summer signings, of course), I was a little sad to see him leave – whilst he has questionable traits he certainly showed a willingness to work and was a tricky customer for defenders.

So naturally I wish Jack well with his new club, a localish one so presumably that minimises the need for him to move etc, which I’m sure is a relief.  I was surprised he didn’t opt for a League One move, he’s obviously opted for convenience over league as I’m sure he would’ve found a club at this level – but it’s for the Spireites he’ll be turning out in League Two, so fixtures depending, he not be far away should anyone have any withdrawal symptoms of his diving antics!

The reason this came back to mind was because I got a snooty email from the webmaster of the Chesterfield FC website owing to a couple of pictures I had saved way back in February following our visit there – when one of the photographs taken by Tina Jenner had a caption referring to on loan midfielder David Prutton as “a random tramp” – which whilst unprofessional, was certainly amusing – but it seems my pointing this out and posting a screenshot of this didn’t tickle the funnybone of those in charge of the content on the website, as such I’ve removed the pictures at their request.

Pity really, and I bet none of you would’ve even looked at that particular article had I not just drawn attention to it again!

In memory (or discovery?) of Stewart Imlach..

If, like me, you are feeling the lack of football already this summer then I may have a short term fix for you.  I’ve just finished reading ‘My Father, and other working class football heroes’ by Gary Imlach, son of former Forest winger Stewart – who played a starring role in our 1959 FA Cup win.  To me being the age I am, Imlach was a familiar name from poring through old programmes and statistical histories as a child, but I must admit to otherwise being utterly ignorant – so this was a voyage of discovery for me.

So too, it seems, was it for Gary whilst writing the book – being a youngster he felt he’d missed out on his father’s career and it wasn’t until after his death tha the realised there was so much to discover, and so much he had wished he had asked.  So for me I felt instant empathy.  I won’t go into loads of details as frankly I’d only get it wrong – but this is detailing an era when footballers were basically slaves beholden to clubs, and whilst I regularly bemoan post-Bosman player power, it does make me realise how badly some of our past legends were treated professionally.

The other thing is that I didn’t really follow the positions.  You see, my generation were brought up on 4-4-2 formations, they were the default but there are all kinds of tantalising things like “an attacking W” mentioned here, Stewart Imlach was an outside left – which was basically a left winger as far as I can tell, but perhaps more advanced – he relied on an inside left to provide him the ball where he’d either cross or cut inside to have a shot.  He was a grafter, a hard worker and won man of the match in the 1959 FA Cup final when we played with 10 men for the majority of the game after Dwight broke his leg.

He was discarded in strange circumstances – and in this I discovered that, not for the last time, a successful side was harshly and crudely dismantled rather than being built upon – this time by Billy Walker.  This is the first documented instance of this I’ve come across, but not the last – that’s for sure!  There are snippets about Jimmy Hill being a campaigner for player’s rights, and there’s me just thinking of him as the buffoonish pundit with a big chin that made me laugh as a child.

All in all, he overcame many examples of poor treatment at the hands of football managers and chairmen, didn’t get paid particularly well even compared to the working class folks spectating, yet carried on through determination and a love of the game – much like many of his contemporaries.  What an appealing era that sounds like – where passion was as fierce on the pitch as in the terraces.  But of course, with the distasteful underpinning of knowing that the players who provided this were being treated harshly.

I thoroughly recommend picking up a copy – I am really tempted to pick up a dozen from Amazon and posting them to Smoulds to give some of our primadonnas to have a read through – it will help them realise how privileged they are to be paid so handsomely for playing the game we all love.  So yes, if you’re suffering from a summer without any meaningful football then why not avail yourself of a copy – there’s plenty of snippets of interest I’ve not mentioned at all to make it well worth your while!

Click here for the paperback from Amazon.

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