And so to Swansea City…

It’s been too long since we’ve had any kind of actual football witterings on here, and it’s the eve of the day that Swansea City come to visit us.  Swansea come here as deserved table-toppers, and they’re on rip-roaring form.  We, however, have had dubious form and have singularly failed to strengthen so far in the transfer window – my understanding of the transfer system is that we’re now too late to field any last-minute signings against the Swans.

It’s true, however, that our home form isn’t half bad – depending on what mood the Forest side that faces Swansea are in, it could be a game to look forward to.  Equally, if we play at our worst and the visitors at their best we could be looking at a very depressing evening at the City Ground.  Swansea haven’t tasted defeat since the middle of November, and won’t want that record changing – a rout of Doncaster at the Keepmoat Stadium shows they travel quite well, too.

However, given our sketchy-at-best away form, we find that regardless of the calibre of our opponents (and I rate Swansea as amongst the best in this league), we need wins at home to maintain any kind of challenge at the top.  The Swans are already, count them, eleven points clear at the top, and with Carlisle, Walsall (where did THEY come from?!), Leeds, Doncaster and Orient breathing down our necks the pressure is well and truly on.  Pressure isn’t something we traditionally deal with.

The midweek fixture may do us a favour, less Swans fans will be making the journey than for a weekend game – only 1,200 tickets have been allocated.  I would expect double that for a saturday game, that said, those that do make the journey are likely to maximise the superior acoustics the Lower Bridgford End accords the travelling supporters at the City Ground, so the home side need to try to quieten them quickly.

With Forest being so difficult to predict, I’m not going to start trying – certainly we need to be at our very best to get the win I feel we need.  If we are at our best, then I think we can challenge any team in this league – we’ve shown that numerous times – but we’ve also shown that we’re capable of playing to a standard that allows any team in this league to be a challenge to us – which Forest will turn out tomorrow night?  Well who can say.

Lose, and any vague dream of snatching the title from the Swans is all but gone, barring a spectacular reversal in form for both sides – arguably win and it’s still the same scenario – but given how the results on Friday and over the weekend went for us, somehow still leaving us in second place – it’s certainly the duty of the boys in Red to make a decent fist of this game and help to at least consolidate our place in second.

I’m undecided whether I’m looking forward to this game or not, but it will be good at least to have a game after a cup-enforced break in proceedings for us.  Given our league form has stuttered of late it is a good opportunity to kickstart something again, it’s perhaps just a tad unfortunate that we face a side amongst the form sides in the league in order to do this, but it would be a great confidence booster to register three points.  Just as it would destroy it to get none.  Deep joy!

A half-arsed apology from the Mirror..

The good folks at Vital Forest were cunning enough to get hold of the email address of the Mirror’s editor, and appear to have illicited a response from him in regard to Brian Reade’s ill-thought out prattle about Brian Clough.  To be frank, it’s not much of an apology, which you can judge for yourselves below:

“Thank you for your note and the reflection of comments on your site. By its very nature Brian Reade’s column sails close to the wind as you will know. And occasionally he oversteps the mark.”

So apparently scandalously disrespectful comments not only to Clough, his family and those fans who raised the cash for the statue, are ‘acceptable collatoral damage’ from an egotistical bigot who has gained whatever reputation he may have through ‘sailing close to the wind.’  What a crock.

“I do regret that his comments – designed as a joke, however lame – have caused you and others such distress. For that I can only apologise. As you may imagine we assimilate and publish millions of words and pictures each week. Sometimes we get it wrong, as perhaps we did in this case although it is never our intention to upset or alienate readers.”

This is the cunning, and patronising bit.  Not once is there an actual apology there – he regrets they caused distress, well great – he even concedes that sometimes a newspaper of the Daily Mirror’s magnitude can occasionally get things wrong – however, in the case of Reade’s comments, this is presently merely as an example where perhaps they got it wrong.  Of course it’s never their intention to alienate readers, that would be silly since they pay for the scurrilous rag.

“Again, my thanks for getting in touch and making your feelings known. The Mirror is not normally in the business of upsetting readers, it’s not our style. And I hope you will see it as an error rather than an editorial stance.”

The pleasantries at the end are less contentious – interestingly they’re not normally in the business of upsetting readers, so sometimes apparently they are!  And finally we have a hope that we will see it as an error – which of course it is – although Mr Editor is cunning enough not to acknowledge it as such.  That leaves me far from satisfied, and I would like to see something both in print and on their website.

So for me, right now, this doesn’t change anything.  This isn’t an unequivocal apology, it’s a bunch of lame soothsaying without admitting anything.  I wasn’t holding out hope for an apology from the Scouse-sympathising Brian Reade himself, but I had hoped the powers-that-be at The Mirror would have done so more convincingly than this.  So keep sending emails – if you’d like to contact the editor himself, then you can do so by emailing richard.wallace@mirror.co.uk.

The secret diary of Terry the kitman.. part three

Another surfacing from the archive of our favourite curmudgeon – this time back from November when we are treated to his unique preparations for a bonfire night celebration with some youngsters…

Disclaimer time: this is, of course, entirely a work of fiction – largely for my own amusement.  Any resemblance between the characters portrayed, and any real person – be they an employee of Nottingham Forest or otherwise, are entirely coincidental!

Let’s make the Mirror apologise…

Okay, following on from my earlier vitriol – and with some sage advice from a comment there within – I have come to a more sensible way of thinking.  Whilst it may seem churlish, and – in the grand scheme of things – not particularly important, it is important to me and, I feel, the majority of Forest fans to see the Mirror respond to their columnist’s comments in the form of a written apology.

To that end, I would like as many of you as possible to send an email to mailbox@mirror.co.uk and request just that.  Rather than succumbing to the urge to send them a load of abuse, let’s be civilised in our anger at Brian Reade’s shocking comments, let’s be rational and request a not-unreasonable apology for his undignified slur against a bona fide football legend.  You see, he’s a football legend, not just a Nottingham Forest one.

So send your emails, I don’t expect for a minute that a man so cowardly that he’ll throw insults around at a deceased hero will apologise in person – but perhaps at least his editor will do so if he has any decency at all.  If you happen to read this, Mr Reade, then imagine how your beloved followers of Liverpool would have reacted had one of your colleagues published something so shameful about Shankly or Paisley, and consider yourself lucky.

The Daily Mirror are complete wankers!

Well, Brian Reade at least.  In his column he had the following to say, following the announcement this week of a sculptor being confirmed for Nottingham’s forthcoming statue of Brian Clough:

“It’s good to see that Nottingham councillors have finally decided on a bronze statue of Brian Clough to grace the city centre, but at a cost of £70,000 it seems a bit steep.

Couldn’t they simply have re-named a bottle bank after him?”

What a complete cock.  Ignoring the complete ignorance of the campaigning and fundraising that went behind the decision to have a statue, for a so-called sports journalist to belittle a man who contributed so much to the sport that now makes him a living through writing his drivel is quite distasteful.  It reflects badly on The Mirror (not that they’re likely to ever appear otherwise), since I’m pretty sure Clough used to do a column for them back in the day.

I shouldn’t really let the opinions of a pathetic tabloid sports hack rile me, but frankly, it has – so there.  How dare he sully the long awaited statue announcement with a poxy and ill-thought slur against the Great Man.  Now I’ve had a wee moan, though, I’m not about to propose a Liverpool-style mass-boycot of the worthless rag.  I never buy it anyway!

Speaking of Liverpool though, on doing a bit of research on him since I’m not a regular reader of his, it would appear he is a Scouse-sympathising arse-licker of the highest proportions… so it’s really perhaps not all that surprising he couldn’t find something more appropriate and gracious to say about Brian Clough.  What a twat.

Forest to get King windfall afterall?

Reports are infuriatingly absent of the fee, but Marlon King has signed a three-and-half year deal with Wigan – who presumably don’t have particularly rigourous medicals – which should hopefully see a slice of cash coming our way from the sell-on agreement we had with Watford upon allowing the striker to join them for a knock-down price.  The Watford site describes Wigan’s offer as ‘significantly better’ than the revised bid Fulham made, so there should still be a slice of that for us.

I’m not particularly close to the story, but my understanding was that Fulham had originally bid £5m for the striker, before his medical with the Cottagers put paid to the move owing to a dodgy knee.  Fulham did go back with another offer, which I heard was some kind of staggered payment based presumably on King’s ability to play.  So the actual amount I’m unsure of, Watford rejected it whilst stating King was no longer part of their plans.

So I’m thinking that Wigan must have made a decent offer.  Certainly significantly over the £500k Watford paid for him.  Again, I’m unsure of the sell on percentage we would have agreed, but given the loss we made on him in the short time he was with us, I imagine it was quite high (I realise I’m crediting Forest with some common sense here), so hopefully we are in for a bit of cash coming in that looked to have been unlikely after the results of Marlon’s Fulham medical.

Given my general frustration and impatience levels I’d be quite pleased to see us just chuck whatever cash comes in on top of the original offer for Leon Best, and make Coventry an offer they literally can’t refuse.  I can see what Forest are going for, Coventry clearly would prefer to sell the player now, and by leaving the deal late it puts us in the driving seat – but why do I fear them refusing to do business just to spite us?

See ya then, Lenny…?

The Nottingham Evening Post is claiming that Smoulders has told Lennon he can leave us should he wish, during the January window, in order to seek first team football.  Although apparently he is keen to keep Lenny on board for his experience to ‘bolster our promotion push.’  Quite how he’s supposed to achieve this when not even deemed suitable for the bench is beyond me.

Losing Lennon would be a mistake, in my opinion.  The snippets I’ve gleaned from various people are that he’s been an excellent influence in the dressing room – and personally, whilst he might not be up for 90 minutes in every game, I believe him to be a huge asset on the pitch too.  Particularly if the alternative to the holding midfielder role is shoehorning Perch there, who would be better suited in defence.

There’s not enough detail to really start casting assumptions about motivations – given that there is no quote in there to determine the source of the story.  One can understand Lennon’s frustration at going from a season of playing Champions League football as Celtic’s captain to being unable to even secure a place on the bench in the English third tier – however it wouldn’t be unreasonable either to expect him to fight for his place.

Equally, I can also envisage a motivation whereby a worried manager might feed such a notion to the local press through fear of a strong character in the dressing room undermining his authority – particularly at a time when it wouldn’t be unfair to question many of his tactical and personnel decisions on the pitch.  However, there’s not enough evidence to go down either route – so they both remain just theories.

Plymouth, Burnley and Stoke are apparently standing by – all punching considerably above our current weight.  Given the wages that lured Lennon here, it does reflect pretty badly on the club if he’s to not even last one season with us – even given our strength in depth in midfield.  Add to the “we’re looking to buy, not sell!” messages pre-transfer window – it makes us look quite silly when allowing Dobie, and now possibly Lennon, to depart without any incoming signings.

All in all, it’s a disturbing story – it smacks of some kind of conflict, either Smoulds wants Lennon out through the veneer of magnanimously offering him a way out, whilst claiming to want him to stay.  The other two scenarios are that Smoulds has made it clear to Lenny he has no role to play, so he understandably wants out, or finally that the player is frustrated and not prepared to work his arse off to win his place back.  None of the scenarios are particularly appetising.

Some basic physics lessons for Smoulderwood

 

I don’t want people to think I’m picking on Perchy.  I know he had a bad game last night, but overall I like him a great deal as a player – plus when searching for images of him on Google you’re often rewarded with great shots of anglers called James who have caught a Perch.  Okay, perhaps that’s just me then.

Anyway, amongst the comments from the Millwall match report – I started to talk about my fears of Smoulds and his propensity to play people out of position, which is what I think he did with Perch that night.  You see, not that long ago Perchy played excellently at rightback.  A position that Smoulders said he was going to get a shot at preseason.  Unfortunately for James, Smoulds prefers to play Chambers (a centreback) there.

And it doesn’t end there.  We’ve seen Grant deployed very ineffectively on the wing.  We’ve seen a midfield four comprising of all central midfielders.  We’ve seen Wes, Perch and Wilson at left back.  We’ve all moaned about it indefinitely – so I’ve decided to make it simple, in picture form – Perchy is singled out for no other reason than he is one of several players who Smoulds doesn’t utilise to his strengths, and because I find pictures of anglers amusing.

We have a very capable squad of players, which Clough willing, we’ll be strengthening during the alarmingly diminishing transfer window.  I firmly believe that playing the best players in their natural positions, with a sensible and progressive formation (how does four four two sound?) will yield both performances and results.  It might not happen immediately, but it will eventually.  There, I feel better now.  I’m off to bed!

The temptation of Clough..

A little matter like his passing doesn’t keep Cloughie out of the headlines for any great length of time, so perhaps it’s not surprising that he’s made done just that locally twice this week.  I raised a few eyebrows today when announcing I was off to the theatre this evening, it would have done had I been to see a play, but the a reading of a play currently in rehearsal?  Well that just wasn’t like me.  Until I casually mentioned it was about Brian Clough, then eyebrows were restored to usual height.

I wasn’t writing the blog when Stephen Lowe‘s excellent “The Spirit of the Man” play was running – but, not being a theatre buff – I can confess that prior to tonight my last three visits to the Playhouse in Nottingham were to see this very production.  I loved it.  It was a tad on the cheesy side, but on all three occasions it never failed to bring a tear to the eye – so I was quite excited to see what I would make of a sneak preview of the sequel – “The Devil’s League”.

In introducing the reading, Stephen Lowe himself spoke of readings usually attracting fifty or so spectators maximum, there were considerably more people who had taken advantage of the free tickets this evening.  The play will actually be on in Derby, at their equivalent of the Playhouse – currently in the throes of financial problems, so perhaps a few folk from Nottingham visiting the play will help them out by making the short trip down the A52.

Colin Tarrant again stars as Clough, this time in a darker comedy than the first play which has more than whiff of Faust about it, with Robert Maxwell playing the Mephistophelian role of temptor – set in the backdrop of the miner’s strikes in the mid eighties in a Notts/Derbyshire bordertown.  Sound bizarre?  Well it most certainly is, but not necessarily in a bad way.

It’s not always easy to visualise a production with costumes, scenery and full props – but the improvising using their rehearsal set did enough to set the scene, along with narrative from Lowe where necessary.  Without giving too much away, the plot revolves around Maxwell’s attempts to woo Clough to return to newly-acquired Derby County from Forest – with cues from A Christmas Carol as well as the inevitable musical interludes (although not as music-heavy as the first play).

Now to me, a Forest fan, finding his way in the world during this time, Maxwell was always a bloated pantomime villain – a swindler who stole money, and who – to top it all off – was the chairman of Derby County.  Since getting back I’ve read up a little on him I realise how ignorant I was about his history as an escaped Jewish refugee, escaping to England whilst his family perished at the hands of the Nazis.  Inevitably given his eventual position – he was clearly a canny and shrewd man.

So it took a while for me to get into the idea of him being portrayed on stage as an eloquently charming (and very pompous!) agent of temptation for Clough, during a clandestine meeting in a dingy pub function room near Christmas in 1984.  Once I had gotten over this though, the script plays out quite pleasingly with a balance of darkness and the inevitable quality one liners.  The only thing that grated slightly was that Maxwell at times threatens to steal the show.

It was very enjoyable, though – if surreal – I will certainly be interested to see the finished production, even if that does involve travelling to the badlands in order to do so.  Should your interest be peaked then the play is expected to play in the Derby Playhouse from the 16th February this year, allowing – somewhat ironically – for their financial difficulties allowing it to happen.  So do pop down and hopefully help towards getting them back on an even keel.

Even more intriguingly, Lowe has intimated that – having portrayed such a popular character so successfully there’s every possibility of making it a trilogy of Clough plays.  That’s an interesting one!  Whilst ‘In the Spirit of the Man’ was quite Forest-centric, it shouldn’t have put off Derby fans too much from enjoying the show, so I would say the same for the Derby-centricity of this piece.  There’s plenty for us Reds fans to enjoy too, and indeed, non-football fans.  So go check it out!

If nothing else there promises to be a bikini scene (alas denied us in this non-costume version – and it’s not Colin Tarrant in the bikini thankfully!), as well as a section of football commentary from the leading lady which was positively orgasmic – so there, if I can’t tempt you with culture, maybe smut will do the job!

Winning Clough statue sculptor announced..

I’m delighted to report that the sculptor chosen to take on the mantle of sculpting a legend is Les Johnson.  The pose and bust that Les submitted were my favourites by some distance, so I’m thrilled he’s earned the opportunity to create the sculpture to be unveiled later this year in the centre of Nottingham.  You can click on the picture to see a larger version of it.

Just to clarify, as there seem to have been misunderstandings on the messageboards from when the designs were submitted, the figure is to show the pose, the bust is larger and to show the sculptors ability to capture the likeness.  I can’t wait until it’s finished!  To keep up to date with all things statue-related, then keep an eye on both the local media, here and of course www.brianclough.com.  Here’s the official press-release that goes with the announcement:

International sculptor Les Johnson has been chosen as the artist to create the bronze statue of legendary football manager Brian Clough in Nottingham city centre.

A selection panel including Mr Cloughs wife, Barbara, agreed unanimously that the prestigious commission should be awarded to Mr Johnson. He was one of three artists short- listed after a group of fans raised £70,000 for the project.

Les Johnson, who is based in Hampshire, was also the most popular choice in a public consultation which involved an exhibition at the Council House and views submitted by e-mail to the tribute website www.brianclough.com, the official site of the Brian Clough Statue Fund

The two other short-listed sculptors were Keith Maddison from Northumberland and John McKenna from Ayreshire in Scotland.

Mrs Clough was accompanied at the selection panel meeting by her son Simon and daughter Elizabeth. Her son Nigel had visited the display at the Council House to see the work submitted by the three short-listed artists.

It was a very difficult decision because the submissions by all three sculptors were impressive, said Mrs Clough. Id like to thank all three artists for taking part in the selection process.

I am absolutely delighted that the panel all agreed that Les Johnson should be awarded the commission. There is something very instinctive about his work and I feel confident he can produce a first class statue.

I was very impressed by the likeness of the bust he created – it captures a lot of Brians character. I also liked the pose with Brians hands clasped above his head. It conveys a sense of sharing a celebration with the fans.

Mrs Clough added that she was very pleased about where the statue would be placed, at the junction of King Street and Queen Street. I think the location of the statue is very fitting, being close to the market square and the Council House, the scene of those trophy celebrations.

I would also like to say a special thank you to the volunteers who helped to raise the money for the statue fund. On behalf of all my family I can say we are all very proud.

Mrs Clough said she was also happy to advise Les Johnson on re-creating the facial features on the final statue, as she did for the sculptor Vivien Mallock for the statue of Mr Clough in Middlesbrough.

Les Johnson said he was delighted to have secured the commission. This is a most prestigious project. Brian Clough is such an iconic figure. He was unique and deserves to be commemorated. I am so pleased to be involved in celebrating his life.

Les explained his inspiration for the pose of the statue. It is one of celebration. He is acknowledging the crowd – saying we have done it together. It symbolises his links with the city. Nottingham has done a lot for him and he has done a lot for Nottingham.

Councillor David Trimble, Portfolio Holder for Communities, Leisure and Culture, was part of the selection panel. Les Johnsons work was by far the best quality, particularly the animation in the maquette and the finesse of the detail of the eyes in the bust, bringing out that cheekiness.

The success of the statue fund in raising the money for this project has underlined just how loved and admired Brian Clough was. He was made a Freeman of the City and this statue will be a lasting tribute to the achievements of a legend who, along with Robin Hood, is undoubtedly one of the most famous people associated with Nottingham.

So great news – and movement on a project that I’m sure we’re all keen to see come to fruition!  As soon as there’s any news on progress and likely dates for the unveiling, then I will be sure to let you all know!  It’s cheered me up slightly after failing to beat Millwall yesterday, anyway!