Will one curse negate the other?

Congratulations to Smoulders, who deservedly picked up the manager of the month award for November for his guiding of the Reds to second in the league, just a point off the top.  Not only have the results picked up, but we’ve also actually had a bit of decent footballing performances to enjoy over the last month, so I wouldn’t argue with his award – and of course that means the side can feel very pleased with themselves too.

Of course, footballing folklore would have you believe that once your head honcho is in receipt of this kind of award, there will be a ‘curse’ in the form of bad results to follow – and given that we’re not playing again in November, it is interesting that our very first game of December is against the perpetual bogey-side Walsall.  Yes, a tuesday night trip to the Bescott Stadium is where the Reds must battle two curses in one.

I’m hoping that the ‘two wrongs make a right’ principle might happen, which would result in a long overdue Reds win against our West Midlands tormentors over the last few seasons.  It would seem that somebody with an added reason to make that happen might not be able to, former Walsall defender Julian Bennett remains doubtful for the trip due to the hamstring injury he picked up against Lincoln City – the good news is that the injury isn’t as bad as first feared.

Imps dealt with, but at a cost…

Nottingham Forest – 3
Lincoln City – 1

It’s been a bittersweet evening for the Reds really, the progression to the next round we all expected was indeed forthcoming against the Imps, but not without it’s cost, as Julian Bennett was forced out of the game in the first half with a possible torn hamstring injury.  This is very much the main reason I have for perhaps playing reserve or youth team players in games like this.

The first half wasn’t too much of a problem for Forest, the visitors mustering not so much as a shot on goal before the break.  After nine minutes Tys really ought to have scored, Commons found a great run from Bennett – who brought the ball back to Nathan around 6 yards from goal, but he was only able to fire over the bar.

It was more than 20 minutes before the Reds fashioned another chance, Tyson bursting down the left and crossing to find Commons in the box – but the midfielder was only able to fire over.  Shortly after this was Bennett’s injury – a characteristically robust tackle in the box from the left back on Dodds saved us from a Lincoln shot on goal, but left the defender prone and unable to continue – limping off to be replaced by James Perch.

Pleasure was to follow though, with Forest getting the first breakthrough – a sublime one-two from Commons to Cohen and back again saw Commons running through the defence, and able to direct his shot from around 12 yards past the Lincoln ‘keeper Marriott to give us the lead in the game.

The lively Tyson was almost on target straight after, Cohen again the architect with a clever flicked throughball to the striker, but the shot from a tight angle was straight at the keeper.  Davies too was close, good work from Commons on the wing evaded Nathan Tyson, and fell awkwardly for Davies leaving Marriott with a relatively simple save to make.

The second half started with a Forest chance created by Davies, the winger sent the ball right across the face of goal – but with no red shirt to convert the chance.  There wasn’t long for the second goal though, McGugan played Tyson through down the left, who beat his man with pace and then unleashed a tremendous finish from a tight angle.

Forest kept up the pressure, Wes Morgan headed just over from a Cohen freekick, and finally the third goal came when Davies delivered a killer ball to the nearpost where Tyson was able to get to the ball fractionally before Marriott – and see the ball just creep over the line with the Imps ‘keeper unable to intervene.

Forest, being Forest, started to let the Imps back into the game though, Frecklington hit a warning shot across the bow – forcing Smith into conceding a corner with a smart save.  Agogo was introduced for the influential Commons at this point, and as seems to be so often the case, a Forest substitution heralded a goal to our opponents (not that I’m suggesting it was the cause, of course!).

Forrester was on target for Lincoln after this – he ran through an incredibly static Forest back line to convert an easy chance from six yards out.  We thought we’d pegged them back immediately, with Tyson again finding the target – but alas a late flag from the linesman ruled out the effort for offside.

Lincoln certainly finished stronger, Forrester was close to adding to his first goal but just missed the target – but Forest too had late chances, with Agogo setting up Tyson for another chance at a hattrick, but the shot was blocked and the rebound hit by McGugan was aved by Marriott.  Tys should have perhaps had his hattrick but Davies dallied late in the area and lost the ball before finding the striker – leaving us to be satisfied with a 3-1 scoreline.

Less than 7,000 watched the game, which opens a big can of “I told you so” to whoever the greedyguts was who decided on the ticket pricing policy, but at least those who did brave the elements and the denting of their wallets got to see a bit of entertainment and a decent result!  Now we have an almost equally uninspiring away trip to administration-blighted Luton to look forward to.

Bennett’s injury is bad news though, he’s been on great form lately – at least Lockwood is getting close to full fitness though, much as I like Perchy I don’t want to see us sticking people out of position at leftback again as we have done so often in recent years.  Let’s hope Benno’s injury isn’t as serious as it could be.

The other amusing thing was one of the Radio Nottingham commentary team almost referring to Kenilworth Road as a shithole, before checking themselves – top work!  Top work also the Reds, sure it was an expected win – but it was a win with some quality for the first 70 odd minutes too, and yah boo sucks to Lincoln for forcing a rip off price, and missing out on a better attendance!

So, is Megson after Commons or what?

Or is it just a case of lazy journalism?

Megson’s obviously new into his role at Bolton Wanderers – and indeed, fresh from a rather honeymoon-period-inducing defeating of Manchester United of all people.  He wasn’t really at Leicester for long enough to have developed any designs on their squad, so it would make sense for journalists trying to find one of our lads that might interest the ginger one, with January looming.

Commons is the easy choice – he’s the archetypal lower-league flair player enigma.  He’s someone we’ve seen make monkeys of Tottenham Hotspur in the cup, he’s also someone who we’ve seen go absent without leave against more lowly opponents.  However an impressive selection of edited highlights can sure have the ‘Barry Cogan’ factor for our Fleet Street friends.

Upon reading this rumour, and rumour it is – and very unsubstantiated at that – I did a little bit of digging around my limited collection of sources (sources always sounds like someone who is claiming to know something nobody else does – this isn’t the case here!), and the alternate rumours I hear are that it is another midfielder that Megson has designs on.

Of course, one tempting factor with Commons is he won’t command a big transfer fee – he’s only signed up at Forest ’til the end of the season afterall.  That said, he’s also worked with Megson before, at reported what was apparently an incredibly tumultuous time off the pitch, so I can’t think he’d be in a hurry to do so again, Premiership opportunity or otherwise!

But anyway, my random questionings and investigating suggest it is a first-time-Forest goalscoring Sammy Clingan who has been catching the eye lately, and it’s no surprise really.  Sammy’s looked excellent this season, and has also been eye-catching at international level with Northern Ireland of late.  Hopefully this is just a bollocks rumour, too, because I’d be gutted if we were to lose Sammy.

Top award for Clough author Hamilton..

Great news for author Duncan Hamilton, his book has won the coveted award of William Hill Sports Book of the Year today – which is thoroughly deserved, not that I read all the other nominated volumes of course!  Graham Sharpe from William Hill said “The judges were as close to unanimous in their decision as any panel is ever likely to be.” – high praise indeed.

Incase you missed it last time around, I wrote a piece about the book back in May shortly after it was published, and basically gave it rave reviews – as did the guys at Left Lion, and Jonathan Stevenson over at the BBC, when interviewing the now award-winning author.  There’s a rather splendid new interview with Hamilton on LeftLion now, too – which is well worth a read.

So there you go, a bit of off-the-pitch glory for the mighty Reds, kind of – but on a less flippant note I’m chuffed as hell than Hamilton’s excellent portrait of such an over-caricatured man has gained some much deserved recognition.  Perhaps it will encourage filmmakers eyeing up Clough as a potential movie opportunity to consider this approach rather than the entertaining-yet-fictional parody that David Peace created in his ‘The Damned United’

So, if you’ve not gone out and read it yet, then bleeding well go and get a copy!

A 2-0 Reds win is flattering to Crewe..

Nottingham Forest – 2
Crewe Alexandra – 0

I like to use the random conversations I overhear in the scrum on the way back to the car as a barometer for the performance.  Of course, like any football fan I’m confident what I’ve witnessed and my ability to describe it, but when I’m plotting reporting wholly positive things, it’s so unusual that a few extra opinions to factor in is often quite a useful commodity.

On a day where two pairs of socks still made it an uncomfortably cold-of-feet afternoon, it was quite important to me at least that the game provided at least a modicum of cheer to warm the old cockles, and I wasn’t to be disappointed – two great goals (first goals at that!), five rattlings of the woodwork, a goal-line clearance and a decent performance in goal were the difference between the 2-0 game we saw, and something more like a cricket score.

Crewe didn’t really offer much in reply, I don’t recall Smith ever having a serious save to make – and whilst Alex had the ball in the net from an apparently offside position, our visitors offered very little resistance to a slick looking Forest side, with no bad performances at all to single out – so all in all I’m very happy with today’s showing!

The first half started very positively, although the first opportunity was to the visitors, a long range effort was pretty much straight at Smithy, who made no mistake in gathering the ball.  Forest had a freekick shortly after – McGugan grabbed the ball from Clingan, and promptly spanked it over into the Bridgford End!

The first rattling of the woodwork took place almost immediately after – Cohen played an absolutely fantastic ball to Tyson who looked to have done everything right with a powerfully goalbound drive, but the ‘keeper did well to get a hand to it, which did enough to deflect the ball onto the crossbar and to safety.

The ball hit the woodwork again on 16, Lewis McGugan did tremendously well to hit a shot towards goal, the ball rebounded from the post and fell to Chambers who, to be fair, should’ve done better with the rebound – but was only able to put the ball wide – that said, he is a centreback by trade so perhaps that is forgiveable!

Cohen came surprisingly close – just outside the D he hit an audacious lob, seemingly without even looking up to see the keeper off his line, which was only just off target.  Shortly after this Commons crossed from which Davies unleashed an effort that was palmed onto the bar to register our third attempt to hit the woodwork!

On a rare foray forward Crewe did have the ball in the Forest net from a Cox header, but a number of players were in an offside position so fortunately the goal didn’t stand.  Tyson burst through after this, but from around 12 yards his effort was over the bar.

The goal came in first half stoppage time, Bennett played the ball to Commons – he cut inside well and found Davies with a cross who hit a low powerful drive from around 20 yards into the bottom left corner of the goal, giving Forest a lead they more than deserved – and registering his first competitive goal for the Reds.

The second half started with another abortive netting by Crewe, this time it was Church who was the victim of an offside decision.  He followed this up with another shot shortly after, which was straight at Smith in the Forest goal.  This was probably the last meaningful attacking threat that Crewe were to pose in the game.

We were awarded a freekick on the edge of the area when Tyson was felled by Woodards, this time Sammy managed to keep hold of the ball to claim the freekick, and what a good job he did, because he hit an absolute peach around the wall and into the net to claim his first goal for Forest – and give us a 2-0 lead.

McGugan was the next victim of the woodwork, it appeared to be cleared by a defender onto the crossbar – by which point Crewe were back in numbers to prevent us from capitalising on the rebound.  From this point Forest started to apply pressure, and once again the crossbar came to the rescue for Crewe from a Chambers header – then a Tyson effort was cleared off the line by a defender.

Crewe did look set to get an unlikely lifeline when Roberts played a great throughball to Moore, but Bennett did superbly well to get a block in to prevent the shot causing any damage.  Davies brought an excellent save from the Crewe keeper from the edge of the box, and Clingan too clearly fancied another goal – bringing a decent save from the keeper from 30 yards.

Davies was withdrawn for Grant Holt, having played excellently – from the limited time we saw Grant, he certainly looked a lot more mobile which is great news.  Wes came on as a makeshift midfielder for McGugan with 5 minutes to go, a strange move given that Lennon was also on the bench – but it did not real damage, and his interesting choice of a long-sleeved white top under his short-sleeved Forest shirt was amusing for a while!

A great performance, a good win against Crewe – who’ve been on decent form lately – and it takes us up to second place behind Orient, who also won today.  So it’s very much a case of onward and upward for now – and the icing on the cake, Chelsea beat Derby 2-0 at Pride Park too – sure, it wasn’t the shoeing we were hoping for – but still another defeat for ’em – so that’s all good!

Three lions – 2008 version

If Frank or David are reading – I have a suggestion for a third iteration of ‘Three Lions’.  Yes, I’m still angry, and still bored!

We’re staying home, we’re staying home
We’re staying – England’s staying home

We’re staying home, we’re staying home
We’re staying – England’s staying home

Everyone surely knew the score
McClaren is a bore
We just knew
Were so sure
That England’s gonna throw it away
Gonna blow it away
Lamps and Gerrard can’t play
And we remember

Crouchie on his own
Macca’s teeth still gleaming
Relying on Israel
England leave us screaming

So many jokes, so many sneers
They’ve fulfilled all our fears
In one night
At Wem-bley
I still see the first goal Kranjcar scored
Olic rolling it home
Petric belting the ball
And Carson helpless

Crouchie on his own
Macca’s teeth still gleaming
Relying on Israel
England leave us screaming

I know that was then,
But it could be again

We’re staying home, we’re staying home
We’re staying, England’s staying home

We’re staying home, we’re staying home
We’re staying, England’s staying home

Three lions on a shirt
Jules Rimet much faded
McClaren, Barwick f**k off
Lest we get more jaded.

Hmm, there’s a reason why I’ve never made millions as a song writer!  Amends welcome!

McClaren must go now, but let’s not stop there..

Sorry, I’m going to have a little rant about non-Forest things again!  Well, despite the suspiciously convenient results at the weekend, England have still managed to bugger up their opportunity to qualify for the European Championships.  So Paul Parker perhaps got his wish – and for us Reds fans we have the ignominy of a general level of humiliation at both club and international level.

Fair play to Croatia – what a lesson they gave our hapless multi-millionnaire players in how to play the game, how to work for each other, how to keep the ball, win the ball – and pretty much any other measure you care to name.  They certainly deserved the win, and probably by a greater margin than they did in the end.

So Euro 2008 will not feature England – surely this must spell the end of McClaren?  However, McClaren is a mightily convenient scapegoat for the whole situation.  Let’s consider who appointed him – heads should roll there too, lest they simply replace the current manager with somebody of a similar (lack of) calibre.  It’s not just managerial appointments either.

The game needs looking at in England, why aren’t we creating sufficient young English talent?  Why do players who excel at club level look like a bunch of strangers when they congregate at International level?  Why do they preen and fart about rather than just put in some decent graft like we’ve seen from Croatia this evening?

I know some people who actually wanted this to happen to force some of these changes (will it really, though? probably not) – I could never want that.  What kind of summer will it be next year without any England interest in the tournament?  It will be rubbish, so I take no glee in the failure to qualify, just slack-jawed, wide-eyed disappointment and anger.

Still, I’m prepared to live with it if it means that we see some meaningful changes at all levels involved – the powers-that-be at the FA, the manager, the players – they’re all culpable for what has happened over this qualification phase, and all levels need addressing  – it is NOT enough for the FA to just sack McClaren, not nearly enough.  It would be a good start, though.

I’m also prepared to live with it if fate decides that this disappointment means that I deserve some joy from my club – I’ve always been a club before country man, and us Forest fans are so desperate for something to be proud of from our team, so I pray that this season Smoulds and the lads are capable of delivering sufficient cheer to make the long summer seem a little more bearable.

The ‘lost weekend’ leaves Forest in third..

Since the internationals postponed our showdown with Carlisle, Forest moved down to third – after Orient picked up a point against Brighton, so we remain just a point off the top.  Carlisle remain on top of the pile, and of course but for the postponement they would have been our opponents today.

Perhaps more concerningly, Leeds are still marching on together and are just a point behind us again – sitting in fourth place, having played an extra game.  Without the fifteen point deduction, the Yorkshire side would be top and an unlucky thirteen points clear of second – so to be already up to fourth is a pretty phenominal achievement.

Back at Forest, we’ve had good news on the injury front – Grant Holt has successfully undergone his operation and has recovered strongly.  Oddly Smoulds said something like “You can see why he sometimes looked like a farmer carrying a barrel of milk.”!  I’m not quite sure that’s how I would have described him, but hopefully we’ll start to see more from him now he’s back to fitness!

The other sicknote is of course the largely forgotten Matt Lockwood, who featured in a reserve appearance where Forest annihilated a previously unbeaten Stoke reserve side 8-0!  Matt will have a job on to displace Julian Bennett, who has been really sticking it to his critics (self included!) lately with some barnstorming performances – so the pressure is on him to keep it up now.

Of course, England limped to a 1-0 win in a friendly on friday evening too, and rather remarkable – perhaps, even suspiciously, all the results in their qualifying group went exactly according to plan – so despite Paul Parker’s comments, it looks very much like the national side will stagger into the European Championships and the FA will be neatly able to brush their shambolic national game under the carpet yet again!

Paul Parker: England failing to qualify would be a good thing

There’s an interesting outburst from former England rightback Paul Parker hitting the media at the moment.  Basically he’s flat out come out and said he wants England to fail to qualify for Euro 2008, because the England team needs a wake-up call.  I for one find it difficult to disagree with his sentiments.

Since we’re short on Forest-related things to talk about with postponements, it something interesting to pick the bones over.  If (when) Russia defeat Israel at the weekend, it will be pretty much nailed on that we won’t be going through to the European Championships – which will surely make the already unpopular Steve McClaren’s position untenable as England coach.

However, this shouldn’t be used as an excluse to further malign the admittedly useless England gaffer.  The players need to take a look at themselves too, as do the powers that be in English football – because it’s a right royal mess from top to bottom.  The FA are a crumbling and bureaucratic pain in the arse, resistant to change and not open to any kind of risk-taking.

The appointment of McClaren is a product of this – admittedly he was a rush decision after the first choice let them down, but he was a very poor choice in anyone’s language.  The players – supposedly the best of a generation for England – are a bunch of over-paid nancyboys whose lavish lifestyles have lost their hunger and work-ethic for the game.  And don’t get me started on the media…

You’d have to be mental as a serious manager to take on the England role – because the scrutiny and expectation levels placed on the role is insurmountable.  All in all, it’s a quite uninspiring time to be following the national side, and I must confess that my interest in them is increasingly fleeting – Forest will always take precidence over them for me anyway, but I remember a time when I actually cared about how England got on – and I felt that the players did too…

It’s not quite as simple as capping foreign imports because young English players aren’t coming through, although I suppose that’s a factor – but there does need to be some revolutionary thinking at the ivory towers of the FA headquarters if they seriously think England are ever going to be anything other than a quarter-finals-at-best team for the foreseeable future – and that’s only if they qualify!

Local charities profit by £100k from Brian Clough game..

The bean-counters have taken an age to calculate the gains from the inaugural ‘Brian Clough Trophy’ contest between Forest and Derby back in July.  The great news is that £100,000 has been raised to benefit local charities – which is probably the only good thing to come from the idea from our perspective!

Regardless though, it’s fantastic that the legacy the great man has left to both clubs is able to be leveraged to benefit charitable causes local to both Nottingham and Derby.

The cash has been split a number of ways, with £25k going each to Derby, Forest and the Brian Clough Memorial Fund’s nominated charities, with the remaining £25k to be split equally between the East Midlands Air Ambulance and the East Midlands NSPCC.  Derby’s and the Brian Clough Memorial Fund’s nominated charities haven’t been detailed – Forest have nominated the Danielle Beccan Memorial Trust as their sole charity.

Of course, assuming we get our finger out and maintain a serious promotion bid this season – it looks as though we’ll have an opportunity next season to contest the trophy next season in the league, as Derby look increasingly out of their depth in the Premier League this season – let’s hope it’s more of an even contest than the pre-season shambles this year!