Good striker news just keeps on coming…

Hot on the heels of Will Hoskins making good progress with his injury, comes the great news from Forest that Nathan Tyson’s hamstring isn’t nearly as bad as first feared – scans undergone by Nathan have revealed there isn’t a tear there, and that he should be good to return to light training next week – given he’s only had a limited time out, hopefully he should pick up fitness quickly.

I’m a bit relieved I didn’t succumb to my first instinct and join the doom-mongers when both strikers appeared to be out for a significant chunk of time.  The calls for Smoulds to rush out and sign all and sundry to cover for players whose injuries were clearly not as bad as first feared – having both Hoskins and Tyson back sooner than expected are, after all, pretty vital to our aspirations of hitting second place.

Speaking of strikers (in the loosest possible sense!), Dobie isn’t able to play against us on Monday, and Carlisle also have an injury setback to Joe Garner too – which is of course sad for him – but he’s apparently impressed of late for our forthcoming opponents.  Back on Dobie, I was always under the impression that if a player is permanently transferred then the selling club can’t stipulate any ‘you’re not playing against us’ clauses except by a gentleman’s agreement.

That said, if I were offloading Dobie I would probably stipulate that he MUST play against me when the sides next meet!

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Hoskins injury better than first feared..

Forest have today announced that despite the doom-like prophecies surrounding his injury, Will Hoskins had made excellent progress in recovering from his back problem.  Rumours have been going around about the place that he was heading back to Watford, that we’d not see him again in a Forest shirt, and that he was somehow involved in last night’s Earthquake.

It transpires none of these rumours are true, and after period of recuperation the striker is set to return to training this week, and will hopefully feature in first team contention soon after Monday’s game at the City Ground against Carlisle – a game that Smoulds claims will probably come too soon for the recovering striker.

This is excellent news indeed – of course, a few days out of training will have done little for his fitness, which in terms of match-sharpness looked a little off prior to the injury, but with Tyson’s injury having Will available for selection sooner rather than later will be a huge boost given the kind of games we have coming up against fellow promotion-chasers.

Stoney: I was glad Cloughie retired!

Whilst Dobie (yes, him!) was busy firing Carlisle United back into second place at Crewe, I was blissfully unaware sitting in The Approach in Nottingham being merrily entertained by Chris Waddle and Steve Stone – both of whom were there as part of ‘An Evening with…’ format night with Darren Fletcher compering to a packed crowd.

Stoney quite bravely announced he was quite pleased Clough retired when he did, owing to the manager’s loyalty to Gary Crosby which prevented Stone from breaking into the side – which of course he did to some accolade under Frank Clark, and eventually enjoyed a promotion, a third place finish, England appearances and eventually another promotion under Dave Bassett before leaving us for Aston Villa.

Both guests provided plenty of entertainment over the course of the evening, initially interviewed individually by Darren Fletcher before being set upon by the questions written down by the audience during the interval.  Waddle in particular was very articulate and entertaining – particularly with his tales of the incredibly newsworthy Paul Gascoigne during their time together as England teammates, and as friends beyond their footballing careers.

The time when Bryan Robson injured himself by taking his toenail off during a ‘lifting up the bed’ prank after a sneaky piss-up prior to the 1990 World Cup was particularly amusing, the terrified Gazza being quizzed by Bobby Robson was very amusingly told by Waddle – who was rooming with Gazza at the time – brought plenty of laughter from the crowd.  Since I hold Gazza at least partially responsible for Forest’s current plight, it was hard to share the general sympathy being spat out from the stage for the recently certified lunatic.

Stoney too came out with a couple of pearlers – on the football front he recalled he, Scot Gemmill and Andrea Silenzi being substituted at half time in a friendly at Hastings, at which point the hapless Italian apparently turned to Stoney and said “I played with Careca, I played with Maradona, and now I’m shit!” – it’s a shame that Frank Clark hadn’t had that conversation with him before signing him!

My favourite revelations were probably Waddle talking about when he convinced Gascoigne on a Concorde flight to Saudi Arabia that a random passenger was Frankie Howard, leading him to end up stalking the man as far as passport control before announcing something like “Howay man, look how pretentious he is, he’s got a fake name on his passport!”, or Stoney admitting that when at Portsmouth he had Yakubu calling him shit for THAT open-goal miss against Reading!

The absolute highlights for me though were Waddle’s tale of Gazza’s revenge (he talked a lot about Gascoigne!) for Waddle hitting him in the face with a cake – which basically involved Gazza offering to make his teammate a coffee, which turned out to be spiked with the hotel toiletry selection.  And from Stoney, it was a tale of him indulging a fan and signing her breast in the Black Orchid in Nottingham only to find his wife walking past him!

All in all, a top night, so if you didn’t heed my call at the start of the month then you missed out!  I’m still intrigued to know what Stoney might have got upto in a Biffa Bin behind Ritzy’s back in the day – a crowd question asked it, but he was suitably coy as to not ‘fess up to anything on the night.  He also wouldn’t retract his claim on the Gary Charles own goal at the Baseball Ground all those years ago… some people have no shame!

An April fool’s date with Carlisle..

The second attempt at rearranging our game with Carlisle United at Blundell Brunton Park (my bad!) has been confirmed as the evening of tuesday the 1st April according to their website (no mention on Forest’s just yet, though!), so with a bit of luck I might get a bit further than the centre of Nottingham as I did a few days ago before heading back home again!

Just prior to the rescheduled game, on the friday, we travel to Doncaster – so it’s a pretty damn important few fixtures.  Of course, we’ll have a chance to familiarise ourselves with Carlisle prior to that with their visit to the City Ground early in March.  With a month and a bit before the game, it also gives us valuable time to either get a striker fit, or perhaps one in on loan.

Carlisle of course did us a favour at the weekend by beating Doncaster at their place, although that of course means that their formidible home run is still intact.  Whether or not it remains with visits from Brighton, Luton and Northampton remains to be seen, before we eventually contest a match with them which was originally scheduled for November!

Have we loaned another crock?

Having offloaded the football league’s most notorious warmer of treatment tables in Scott Dobie, it appears that we’re in danger of losing our latest loan acquisition – Will Hoskins – to the back injury he’s be struggling with lately.  Of course, this injury was caused by actually playing, rather than tripping over his shoelaces, but all the same it’s very disappointing – particularly given Tyson too being injured.

There’s a chance he may return to Watford for treatment, or not – we have to wait and see on that front, however it leaves Smoulds with some work to do in sourcing a replacement, in my opinion.  We haven’t had a great deal of joy out of the loan system under Smoulderwood – I think the only other player he’s loaned in was James Henry from Reading, who lasted all of two minutes on the pitch as a late sub before being sent back again!

Hopefully the injury to Hoskins is less serious than seems to be feared – he looked useful in the short spells we’ve seen of him, and add a bit of match fitness and sharpness to those performances and he would be a real asset to the side.  If it is more serious then I seriously hope Forest will mobilise themselves quickly to secure a decent replacement loan signing… hope being the operative word here, because we don’t have a good track record of dealing quickly in the transfer market.

Away day hoodoo dispelled with a win at Orient..

Leyton Orient – 0
Nottingham Forest – 1

It didn’t need to be pretty, but boy did we need three points today – and we got them thanks to, I was going to say a daisy-cutter, but frankly, even an average daisy would’ve stopped Agogo’s shot, so let’s call it a pea-roller that somehow squirmed into the goal to give the vital victory to the Reds in a game that, whilst they dominated, struggled to convert half-chances into decent attempts on goal.

Junior tested the Orient keeper within the first minute with a shot from 20 yards, but it wasn’t enough to cause any great trouble to him.  After the game had settled down a bit on the ten minute mark, the 12-year-old Demetriou had Orient’s first effort of the game, similarly straight at the ‘keeper leaving Smithy with an easy stop to make.

Wilson picked up an injury which looked serious, and saw us playing with 10 men for a spell with Sammy slotting in at the back to cover – fortunately he was able to return to action and so Forest reverted to the back three system, although today it did look more like a 3-5-2 rather than 5-3-2 formation thanks to the endeavours of Chambers and Bennett pushing forward down the wings.

Despite having possession, Forest were struggling to create chances – Commons shot from the edge of the box but it was an easy save, and then a series of dangerous deliveries into the box just seemed to evade any of the black-shirted Forest players, which is a shame as Orient’s defending on crosses was absolutely shambolic, alas, so was our attacking of them, it seemed!

Further chances before half time fell to Cohen, who shot wide, and from Agogo who drew another save from Nelson.  Much like at the City Ground, Orient played into our hands by showing us far too much respect – Forest, for their part, worked hard at harrying and closing down the home side to limit their opportunities to get into the game.  It wasn’t pretty, or convincing, from Forest – but it was a damn sight better than what we’ve seen lately away from the City Ground.

The second half kicked off and Orient were much more positive – which worried me incase we’d expended our positivity and energy in the first half.  Smithy dealt well with a cross coming in, and Wes characteristically threw himself infront of everything that came his way.  Bennett broke forward despite being fouled, the referee waved advantage and he found Cohen who’s cross was well dealt with by Nelson.

Our first chance proper came in the form of a freekick, Commons was felled on the edge of the box – and took the kick himself, curling a powerful shot over the wall and on target.  Nelson saved well, but made a meal of it, and conceded the corner.  From this point Forest really turned the screws on the home side, building up the pressure – Commons and Agogo combined well, but Holt could only direct his shot on the turn straight at the keeper.

The goal came as a result of ‘one of those’ forward forays by Wes Morgan – with a series of bamboozling and clumsy stepovers, he managed to beat two players after which the ball broke for Agogo who hit an incredibly tame – but thankfully accurate shot – goalward, which somehow crept into the bottom right hand corner.  The excellent travelling fans paused for a second, in disbelief it had gone in, before celebrating along with pretty much the whole Forest team.

Pleasingly Forest continued to come forward, Chambers crossed excellently and it was good work from Nelson to get back to conceded a corner.  After creating the goal, Wes almost gave Orient one back when a sliced clearance ended up hitting our own post – after a bit of kerfufflery in the penalty area that had our hearts in our mouths, the ball was cleared at the expense of a corner.

Brecks – who had an excellent game (despite the idiot behind me slating him during the entire game despite it being evident he was having a good game!!) – picked up a daft booking after booting the ball into the stand after it had already crossed the line, a bit silly, although the referee didn’t see fit to punish the Orient player who kicked the ball away after the whisle earlier.  Needless to say, it was – as ever – a shite ref.  Brecks will now miss the Carlisle game.

The increasingly tired looking Agogo was withdrawn for McGugan, with Commons pushing upfront with Holt, and Lewis slotting into midfield – probably a sensible move given the lack of comfort in the scoreline, rather than chucking Sinclair on.  Although some characteristic ‘trying-to-be-too-clever-when-a-simple-pass-is-available’ goblin nearly struck him straight away – gifting possession to Orient who certainly finished the game stronger.

Davies was introduced for Commons, and immediately got involved with some nice touches and skills – which is good to see.  Given his lack of pitch time for us it’s difficult to make my mind up about him, but he looked lively, and teed up a half chance for McGugan which the youngster unfortunately spannered wide, there were also moments where he linked up with his old Yeovil teammate Cohen in promising fashion.

Forest did still have the odd foray forward though, a cross from Chambers was met by Grant Holt, unfortunately the fact he was moving backwards to get it and the cross was floated meant he couldn’t get much purchase on it to get power – so it ended up a fairly soft header straight at the ‘keeper again.  Perchy was introduced for Chambers (Perchy? At right back? Fookin’ hell!), I was expecting him to replace Bennett who’d pulled up with cramp, but Jules soldiered on to the final whistle.

As the whistle went there was much-longed-for celebrations amongst the players and fans alike, it was a bit cheesy but nice to see the squad and staff come over with arms linked to give a bow to the travelling Reds fans who’d been on pretty good form themselves over the course of the afternoon.  With Carlisle beating Doncaster it puts us back into the automatic promotion spots, which has to be a good thing!

On the way back to the tube I was listening to the home fans, who were quite rightly saying things like “I don’t think if we had 2 days of stoppage time we’d have scored” – it’s true that Orient didn’t really remotely threaten us, which could take some shine off a win, or – and this is how I see it – reflects really well on how we shut them out of the game.  Of course there was fortune in the manner of our scoring, but we certainly deserved to win.

The state of the game..

Hopefully some of you took up the offer of a place at the discussion this evening at the Nottingham Council House I mentioned last week.  It was an interesting hour-and-a-bit setup as part of the by the Speakers’ Corner Trust to enable football fans to do just that – speak.  To share their thoughts, opinions, hopes and fears about the state of the game.  Given the state and standing of both Nottingham football teams (or all three Nottinghamshire teams, for that matter), it’s a provocatively apt venue for it to take place!

Rather than go into an attempt to document everything that was discussed (because I can’t remember!), I’ll try to summarise how it left me feeling afterwards.  I’ve written before on here about the ultimate futility of being a football supporter – particularly a lower league football supporter.  Painful though it is to admit, that is, as Forest fans, what we are.  If you break down exactly what it boils down to, people would be quite fair in questioning your sanity.

The whole 39th game nonsense which kicked off recently is the final proof – as if any were needed – that the Premier League is only interested in money, in maximising their markets, in exploiting the revenue potential in territories they only have a limited opportunity to penetrate.  Did you notice the language I used there?  It would be more suitable in a business briefing document than a sport book – there lies the nub, football is no longer a sport.

We go to watch our teams, Forest in our case, out of a mixture of blind faith, family ties, whatever originally pushed us into our alliegence.  We pay (in our case) over-inflated prices for the level of football we occupy, and we will our team to win.  If our team wins enough, we earn much needed promotion – which puts us into the Championship (division two).  It was this thought process that lead me to a fairly horrible thought, which isn’t new as I’ve written it before on these very pages.

You see, given how ludicrously uncompetitive the Premier League is, I don’t want to see us in it.  Because we wouldn’t compete.  We’d be like Derby are this season, getting a right royal spanking every week – on the face of it, for us, that’s quite funny – but it’s indicative of what a ridiculously unbalanced system our national ‘sport’ is built upon.  It wasn’t that long ago that Frank Clark (a panelist at the discussion) promoted Forest then finished 3rd in the top flight – a feat that at that time didn’t warrant a ‘Champions’ League place.

Can you imagine say, Watford doing that next season?  Whilst perhaps not impossible, it’s highly improbable without an obscene amount of investment beyond what we’ve already witnessed.  Which begs the question, what is the point in being a football fan at all?  Cynically I suppose you’d say it’s to line the pockets of players, agents and owners who bank on your loyalty to turn up regardless.  Simon Jordan said not that long ago that football is the only business where you can serve up shit and still get the punters coming back.

What a depressing state of affairs that is!  Keri Usherwood, the chairman of the Notts County Supporters Trust, raised the notion of allowing the ‘big’ clubs to breakaway to form their lucrative and greedy ‘super leagues’ – and frankly, the idea has more appeal the more I think about it.  Let them bugger off and leech as much cash as they can, and leave us with a league structure which is truly competitive for reasons other than just how much cash you have.  Of course, that’s never likely to happen, but it’s a nice pipe dream.

The other interesting notion he raised was that, funnily enough, about Supporters Trusts.  A chap present piped up that apparently some kind of meeting of minds is planned prior to tomorrow’s trip to Leyton Orient to start to think about just that kind of thing for Forest fans.  I struggle to rationalise how this can work, having some experience of reading the numerous Forest message boards, it would be a strong character who could deal with the routine barrage of insults, childishness and sniping that would inevitably ensue should such an organisation exist – let alone if it attained a presence in the boardroom at Forest.

I hadn’t heard anything relating to this suggestion before, the nature of the gentleman’s comments prior to this were very much in line with the kind of stuff you read on the ‘Free Forest’ website – which I partially have some sympathies with, although their slogan of cutting out the spin could well be back applied to their selective use of the financials on occasions.  But it’s something that has certainly piqued my interest, so I’ll be keeping an eye out.

Ultimately as fans we are the most important people, as a collective, the game has – without us there wouldn’t be one.  I hesitate to say we are consumers, but if Sky couldn’t sell us satellite TV on the back of football games, would they pump the money they do into the game?  Absolutely not.  As such, it is wholly appropriate that every club should have supporter representation on their board – but personally, I find it hard to imagine a group of supporters such as ours (and probably everyone else’s, I just know ours better!) ever being happy united behind any particular supporters trust structure, let alone an elected board representative.

I’d be happy to be proven wrong though.  So yes, basically the upshot of the discussion was it’s a pretty fruitless pursuit being a football fan these days – the trips to Wembley, the visits to places like Old Trafford with a realistic feeling of getting 3 points, all those things feel like they cannot be attained by a side that’s fallen as low as we have now – the game is so different now, and so uncompetitive.  It does start to make you wonder why you bother, of course, until matchday comes around again!

Speaking of which, it’ll be all quiet on the blog front ’til some point on Sunday when I’m back from what surely must be the turnaround point in our away form?  Mustn’t it?  Come on, we have to believe, don’t we?  Otherwise, what is the point of it all?