Positivity and passion required, please!

I’ve read a few pieces by this chap, a couple at least about Forest, and whilst it can be dripping with cliche a little it did get me thinking that certainly I for one need to try to contain the threat of all-consuming negativity that engulfs us at the moment.  Indeed, their Forest section is generally a decent read should you fancy a different place to read about the mighty Reds.

The basic tenet of the article is that Smoulders epitomises the ‘playing not to lose’ mentality, which shackles us with a fear of losing as well as, perversely, a fear of winning as well.  Now, anyone who has attended The Office style business training might recognise this kind of language and start to cringe a little, but applied to football it has a much more realistic application.

Of course, the guide in question doesn’t get down to exactly how one goes about addressing this mentality issue – certainly being a defender, it is perfectly understandable that this art is the focus of Smoulderwood’s tactical machinations.  The Doncaster game is a good case in point, he approached the game talking the talk – eight wins in eight needed, automatic still the target, and then delivered a shameful performance (with a little help from the players of course).

We seem to play three quarters of a game with this ‘playing not to lose’ mentality, by which point we concede the inevitable goal and then – generally after a wait – we see the inevitable and shapeless hurling on of attacking players without any real gameplan to somehow try to force the win.  It’s as predictable as it is infuriating, and I hope not to see another repeat of it at Carlisle on tuesday!

So, Smoulders, should you be reading (which I doubt!) – let’s have some positivity from kick off, let’s play with some width (you do NOT achieve this by shoehorning two centrebacks into a wingback role), let’s have two wingers – if Commons isn’t fit, play Bastians, let’s have McCleary on the right, let’s let our strikers get in the box rather than having to come deep or wide to get the ball – let’s show some balls.

You’d have to be a complete mentalist to think there’s any hope in hell at all that we can reach second, but we can go into the playoffs on a good run – and guard against the very real danger of dropping out of promotion contention altogether, and both manager and team could do very well to deliver some decent positive performances to try to repair the seemingly broken relationship between fans and club.

Play positively and attack at Carlisle and us fans (at least the ones not wise enough to get a refund on their tickets upon postponement!) will respond in kind – the media may berate supporters for being ‘fickle’ or unreasonable, but I wonder if they were paying to watch such dirges they would perhaps be a little more sympathetic to our plight.

If the powers-that-be at Forest want the ugly scenes at Doncaster to not be repeated then it must start with a positive performance, after which Smoulderwood needs to get a grip on reality and not get carried away with talk of anything other than sensible preparation for the play offs.  If all this happens, I might – just might – stop moaning a bit!

Derby go down, are you singing?

As recently as last night you might have heard the old refrain ‘When Derby go down again, again, we’ll sing, we’ll sing’ as the huddled Reds fans tried to amuse themselves in the face of a shambolic performance on the pitch by Forest.

Well, the inevitable has happened in what was dubbed by the Daily Mirror as ‘the worst Premier League game ever’, which actually sounded reasonably entertaining from the internet updates I saw.  After having a chuckle at Paul Jewell’s sex tape antics, I imagine a few Forest fans are raising a consolatory glass of something mind-numbing to the first ever Premier League side to be relegated before March is out.

I can’t say it’s filled me with much joy, to be honest – because, let’s face it, no matter how desperate the Rams’ season has been as they plot a course for the worst points total ever, I imagine there’s some consolation that they not only netted a pile of cash for reaching the top flight, but they will get to trouser a load more in the form of parachute payments over the next couple of seasons.

Sure, a Derby relegation is always something to be pleased about for us – but put in context with our own situation, down to fifth now thanks to Southend winning today, in real danger of not even making the playoffs, it does make you realise that we’re really not in any position to be gloating about anything – which is a bit depressing!

So yeah, it may well be that the metaphorical Ian Moore scored a goal, and they can indeed shove their Hector up their hole, but frankly, I’m not sure I can muster up the enthusiasm now Derby have gone down again – because it doesn’t look like we’ll be playing ’em next year… that’s probably a good thing, considering.

He needs carting off to the loony bin…

Sometimes a good night’s sleep can change your perspective on things, well after a not particularly good night’s sleep owing to an early start today, my perspective remains as it was last night.  The end of the tether has been reached, and with no news of resignations on the radio I went about my morning chores with all things Forest cast from my mind, which is surely the best way to be?

Until I saw a copy of today’s Evening Post, of course.  In which, not only does our esteemed manager refuse to give up on automatic promotion, he actually described last night’s game using phrases such as ‘hard earned’ (had their goal not gone in, it would apparently have been a hard earned point – only hard for poor Smithy!), and apparently we also ‘ran and chased.’

He finally admits that there is a real danger of us dropping out of the playoffs altogether, and there’s still the Leeds United points appeal factor that could easily have a bearing on this – but to bang on about almost being pleased with a ‘hard earned’ point the day after spouting off about winning all remaining eight games is laughable – he has no credibility, he has lost the fans and I think the players too.

I tried to imagine what I wanted to read from him, and to be fair – aside from “I’m going to resign” there isn’t a lot he could really say to console us, but to come out with the same old tired claptrap after every disappointing performance (apparently the two games prior to Doncaster were ‘excellent’) is getting incredibly tiresome, roll on the end of the season since seemingly that is the only time we will be rid of him.

“We’re shit, and we’re sick of it”

Doncaster Rovers – 1
Nottingham Forest – 0

The anguished and pain-ridden cry of a frustrated supporter gives me my headline, and it was taken up by a fair proportion of the travelling Reds fans as an apt anthem for the performance, and how this season is turning out to be.  Indeed, it should be a fitting epitaph to Smoulderwood’s last game at the helm of this once proud and now so bedraggled football club.

How silly those words of a target for 100% win ratio between now and the end of the season must feel to him now, as he shuns the media after leaving the field with his ears burning from a tirade of chants demanding his removal from the travelling Forest fans who have reached the end of a very long tether – and whilst Smoulds may be a very nice person, he is rapidly turning himself in to a figure to be pilloried.

With a sacking seemingly unlikely, I find myself like so many other desperate souls craving for him to do the decent thing and quit with what little dignity he has remaining intact.  I’m not irrational enough to say I hate him, to call him a wanker, or whatever other choice words I heard him described as today on a chilly night in Doncaster, but I can say I hate him being our manager – and I sincerely wish he wasn’t any more.

It’s a relatively short drive to Doncaster, but I bet there’s not one of the 3,000 fans who went there in reasonable spirits to support the team who felt that the performance on offer tonight was in any way worthwhile of the travel – yes, we can bang on about tactics and formations (argh!) but there wasn’t really a performance that stood out throughout the squad with much merit – perhaps aside from Smith who made a few decent saves, but equally had a scary night distribution-wise.

For the first ten minutes or so the fans were up for it, after Forest set the tone for what was to be a pathetic performance we were quelled – with a few pockets of backing well into the second half, but to travel to an away game and hear chants struggle to get off the ground, to have the majority of the fans voluntarily sitting rather than standing, and just the general malaise that has now infected our travelling support as well as our home support is deeply worrying.

Smoulderwood spoke still of going for automatic, well surely even he can concede that isn’t going to happen now – on current form we’ll be lucky to make the playoffs at all, Southend could overtake us at the weekend – and then of course we have an impossible-seeming trip to Carlisle to contend with.  You might have noticed I’ve not actually mentioned the match at all – because, frankly, it isn’t worth reporting on.

The only shot on target we had was blown up for a foul, and it was a Chambers header practically straight into the floor that never looked like going in anyway.  McGugan had a great opportunity after Thornhill fed the ball to him but conspired to miss the target (Thornhill too could have had a shot I thought), other than that, we created bugger all.  To compound matters Ormerod received lengthy treatment before going off with some kind of injury.

That really is about all there was to cheer about – and whilst I’m not a fan of berating the team or manager during play, I do confess and unshamefully that I joined in the chanting tonight.  We were dire – we were shapeless in formation throughout the game, we had no width, the strikers had no service and despite supposedly having 5 men in defence were completely overrun by the lively Doncaster side facing us.

As it stood their goal was a bit poxy, a soft freekick that appeared to be hit low but nestle in the far corner (it was at the other end so my visibility was poor), but they had plenty of chances that they should have done better with, most of which fell to Jason ‘Tina Turner’ Price who managed to miss in an array of spectacular and, were it not for our own shitness, hilarious attempts on goal.

I can’t seem to find the words to express the kind of mixture of despondant rage I’m feeling – the taunts of the Doncaster fans were water off a ducks back to us tonight, we’re so low now that we can’t be drawn any lower – all the hope, optimism and pride for this season has finally been extinguished leaving us feeling like empty shells, with insults and jibes bouncing off us, unfelt – because the team we support has beaten all feeling and passion out of us.

Like so many Forest fans this evening I will take to my bed desperately hoping that I wake up in the morning to Smoulderwood’s resignation.  Sad in many ways, because I have enjoyed constructing a character around him, but unfortunately the caricature of a clueless buffoon that he has cultivated for himself has become much more compelling than any bronzen womaniser I could try to poke fun at.  If you’re reading this, Colin, please do the decent thing.

Smoulds has been on the crack pipe again…

In the latest official site bulletin Smoulders has issued an eight win challenge for the remainder of the season.  A 100% record, including the two forthcoming away games at high flying Doncaster Rovers and Carlisle United.  Certainly I would agree with him that this is the only conceivable way for us to scrape automatic promotion, but given that we haven’t yet managed more than two consecutive wins, it seems somewhat fanciful.

It’s very reminiscent of last season when Smoulderwood banged on about catching Bristol when they were pretty much uncatchable.  He’s in a tricky position, I concede – he can hardly come out and say “Yep, that’s us doomed to a playoff finish again!”, it wouldn’t exactly be very positive and would likely yield him criticism from all quarters – having said that, anything he says right now would be criticised I would have thought.

In other news, our fantastic ability to spot injury-prone players to loan has struck again, with loan keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos picking up an injury in training, rupturing his achilles tendon.  This leaves Forest with the options of either not bothering with a substitute ‘keeper, using Richardson or recalling Dale Roberts from loan – given rumours of Smith carrying an injury that needs an op, I suspect one of the latter two will be the route taken.

After January I decided to competely ignore yesterday’s deadline for loaning in players – and it appears I was vindicated in my decision!  Whilst retrospectively I’ve seen the usual rumours and sources had been touting their knowledge about who would and wouldn’t be signing, it transpired that – as per usual – Forest did nothing to strengthen their squad despite looking decidedly lightweight upfront once again.  But it’s to be expected, isn’t it?

In supporters we trust?

I was handed a flyer before the Brighton game by a very nice chap, sadly just before kickoff so with no time to stop and chat, detailing a forthcoming meeting being held by a group of supporters keen to set up a Supporter’s Trust for fans of Nottingham Forest.  Judging by the number of folks I saw handing out flyers, I imagine many of you came into possession of such a flyer.

Must confess that my knowledge of Trusts of this nature are confined to ones that have been setup in emergency situations, to bail clubs out of financial meltdown – of course, Notts County have one, and Swindon Town – setup largely to deal with the crippling problems faced by those clubs on a financial front (I believe) – although a quick Google search suggests they’re a lot more commonplace than I had realised.

Being a reasonably frequent visitor to message boards and the like, I find it really really tough to imagine a significant group of Forest supporters to ever find a situation where they are in accord with one another – so it is hard to imagine a single organisation or entity being able to truly act in the interest of all supporters – however, I do applaud the proactive stance in taking action if folks believe things are amiss.

The flyer mentions four agenda points that they are presumably hoping to address through the formation of a supporters trust for Forest fans:

To encourage the club to take proper account of the interest of it’s supporters and of the community it serves in it’s decisions.

To develop a formalised and structured relationship with the club.

To strengthen the bonds between the club and it’s communities.

To give supporters collectively the opportunity to acquire and have a stake in the club.

Certainly the first three points are all noble aims – I’m not quite sure how they will be achieved.  Arguably the interest of Forest supporters is to see Forest win – preferably in an entertaining manner.  Now, I think it’s obvious to say that this particular point hasn’t been a rip-roaring success for a number of years now – but I don’t think that the powers-that-be have massively different interests.

That said, more specific concerns that are usually confined to message board moaning could easily be raised with a more formalised relationship between the decision-makers at Forest and representative members of the fanbase – whether it be the over-draconian security staff who supplement the matchday stewards, the continued placement of away fans in the loudest bit of the ground, all that kind of stuff.

The opportunity for acquisition of a stake in the club seems more fanciful, and in idealistic terms would seem a good thing – assuming the eventual Trust was truly representative of the club.  The problem here is that acquisition will require investment, which means that perhaps membership will be dependent on disposable income – something we all have less of thanks to season ticket prices!

You only have to glance over the river to see how the Trust model can go wrong – their need was more dire than ours, but even now the Trust is seen as an exclusive clique who are riding a (fairly meagre) gravy train, holding out on potential investment to retain their ‘power’ and generally not really doing a great deal to improve things – whether that is true or not, or the bitter machinations of supporters of the ‘Pies who didn’t get involved, I couldn’t say.

Knowing the nature of our supporters and how keen they are of forging divisions between one another over the pettiest of issues, I do struggle to envisage how a Forest Supporters Trust could work out without either a clique-like mentality developing, or being built upon the foundations of a particular viewpoint or stance – to the detriment of those who may have different views – at which point, of course, it would alienate those supporters who may have a different perspective.

Now, in fairness, the communications I’ve seen from the folks organising the meeting have been very inclusive – and they seem to be genuinely interested in ensuring they get a good turn out of people across the spectrum of Forest supporters to vote about the establishment of a Trust – certainly they are talking the right talk, and with plenty of notice I shall be making an effort to attend to learn more – as I’m happy to admit I’m pretty green about the whole issue of Supporters Trusts.

So if you fancy learning more about the proposal on offer, then you can check out the website for the proposed Nottingham Forest Supporters Trust, which will give you the details you need for the meeting which is taking place on Monday 21st April at The Village Hotel in Chilwell – which just off the road to Long Eaton on the retail park with Porcelanosa and Halfords on it.

The secret diary of Terry the kitman.. part five

Terry is full of rage after being shunned and humiliated in his own domain during the Walsall match, and Smoulderwood’s positivity-drive is hitting him hard in the pocket as well.  Woe is the world of our favourite kitman, it seems!

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 or persons – be they an employee of Nottingham Forest or otherwise – are entirely coincidental!

This ground, is coming like a ghost ground..

A, how shall I put this, ‘limited’ atmosphere at the City Ground isn’t particularly new news.  Indeed, any of us lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you see it) enough to visit other team’s grounds reasonably frequently will know well that home crowds don’t generally generate particularly good atmospheres compared to their concentrated travelling counterparts.

But this afternoon was a new low in terms of volume from the home support, and this isn’t a criticism of the fans – merely an observation (although jibes of ‘worst support we’ve ever seen’ from a team who play at home in an atmosphere like a school sports day did bring a wry smile as I sat there wondering why I’d bothered getting down to the ground).

Now, I can remember when I was a kid – we’d get geared up to head down the City Ground, and we’d be excited.  I’d get that tingling feeling as we cleared the buildings at the end of Trent Bridge and get a first glimpse of the ground, ‘FOREST’ clearly visible in the Executive Stand seats over the old Trent End cowshed.  The air would be buzzing as we walked down by the river to our turnstile.

As the players warmed up before the game they’d each get a chant in turn, before returning to the changing room for any final words of wisdom before being sent out just before kick off – where of course, we had the massive atmosphere-boosing experience of ‘the Psycho salute’ – something that I’m so grateful to have experienced, so sad that I probably never will again.

Pan forward to today – I trudged out of bed having indulged a little more than I intended, feeling tender headed.  Cursed slightly as I realised I had a Forest game to attend, found my season ticket, drove to park the car up and continued the trudge to the ground – timing it to get in as close to kickoff as possible, feeling none of the anticipation or excitement I described above.

As the players warmed up all was silent, as they came out for the game there was no Psycho salute – indeed, captain Kelvin lead the team out at such a slow pace he was overtaken by his teammates before he’d crossed the line pretty much!  The players were greeted with what is best described as a polite ripple of applause perhaps with a smattering of ‘You Reds!’ cries from those who’d had a few pre-match beers.

Tired of years of underachieving, tired in particular of nigh on two years of dire Smoulderwood-inspired defensive dirges, uninspired and irritable, the fans await the players to ignite them into enthusiasm.  This is a Mexican standoff that would make Miss Havisham’s hermitage in Great Expectations* seem like a short-lived reaction to extreme disappointment.

The players line up in shapeless uninspired formations, presumably acting on shapeless uninspired direction from team talks before the game and at half time, and ultimately deliver disappointing performances with occasional glimpses of the potential we know that they can deliver on their day.  More and more teams come to the City Ground knowing exactly how to stifle us, and frankly, it isn’t rocket science.

As this goes on, the local media – or in particular, the Evening Post – chides the fans into playing their part, into making the City Ground into the cauldron that I can never remember it being in my visits there, to back the side that lets us down irrespective of the level of commitment being shown – it’s insulting, irksome, and frankly, it would seem that supporters are just too fed up of it all to comply blindly if today’s atmosphere is anything to go by.

Coupled with the lack of compulsion to get off your seat and make a load of noise, there’s always the underlying threat that if you did just that then there’s every chance you’d get hoiked off your seat by the nearest steward and end up with your season ticket confiscated, I’ve had a few emails now and a few personal experiences of seeing people ejected for literally just standing and chanting – nothing abusive either.

So whilst Smoulds on the radio or some self-righteous reporter** in the local rag are suggesting we should be backing the boys vocally, perhaps they should investigate the draconian policies being enforced by Alan Bexon’s warriors in yellow before recommending this – there’s scant reason or motivation enough for us to be chanting or singing, without the threat of being chucked out if we do!

With six wins so far this calendar year (out of seventeen), we are on a run of form that sees us in more danger of dropping out of the playoffs than chasing the automatic promotion places we crave so badly.  With the second best home defensive record in the season, thank heavens we’ve managed to get a backup goalkeeper in on loan, eh?

* – no pun intended!
** – this coming from an amateur self-righteous reporter!

Forest sign a loan keeper…

Given that today we were confounded by a Continental ‘keeper – perhaps the strange timing of signing Dimitrios Konstantopoulos isn’t so strange!  We’ve apparently signed – or are about to – sign the Coventry goalie on loan until the end of the season, with him having dropped out of first team reckoning for the Sky Blues since the arrival of Coleman at the Ricoh Arena.

It’s true that a decent competitior to Smithy has been a longstanding gap in our squad – with the 87 year old (sic) coach Barry Richardson standing in on numerous occasions as substitute goalkeeper, and with a likely torrid run in to the end of the season, culminating in the inevitable stress-fest that is the playoffs, having a backup incase of injury to Smith is a pretty sensible step to take.

It still seems a strange move though, and hints at perhaps contingency planning should we lose Smith in the summer upon failing to go up again.  It’s just typical of Forest though to have lost a striker and gained a reserve goalkeeper in the space of a week – just when we’re struggling to score goals but seem okay at preventing the conceding of them…

Forest done like Kuipers in disappointing home draw..

Nottingham Forest – 0
Brighton and Hove Albion – 0

I was willing to stem my optimism that automatic promotion wasn’t out of reach if we won all our remaining games – but a gap of 11 points to Carlisle up in second place now looks insurmountable in eight games for the stuttering and inconsistent Reds.  All in all, a frustrating and disappointing afternoon against a dogged Brighton side who ultimately came to get a point – even when they had a three-on-one break in the second half!

That said, the Seagulls were certainly up for it in the first half – after four minutes a mix-up in defence with Wilson gifted Nicky Forster an open goal which he somehow (and luckily for us) conspired to put wide under pressure from Wes Morgan.  After the shaky start Forest started to gather some semblance of composure.

Commons had the chance of the half from our perspective, he did well to ride a challenge or two before eventually beating the last man and find himself through on goal – but his right-footed shot was at an easy height for Kuipers to deal with in the Brighton goal, at the cost of a corner to the Reds – it had looked easy for Kris to slip the ball under him.

Tyson did well to head a Bennett cross across the goal, but Thornhill could only strike the post at a tight angle rather than actually hitting the target.  Tyson was looking fast and dangerous but the Seagulls took advantage of a soft referee and basically took him out at will – eventually one such ‘challenge’ on the striker warranted a booking.

A header from Chambers was planted well, but unfortunately straight at Kuipers – the ball rebounding to Chris Cohen who also couldn’t defeat the big ‘keeper.  Again, Commons managed to wriggle free in the box after good work from Ormerod and Thornhill, but the goalkeeper was again equal to it and made the save to concede another corner.

Brighton finished the half with rare forays forward and could’ve taken a cheeky lead with a corner in the closing minutes of the half, an effort from Elphick (amusing referred to as Michael Elphick on Radio Nottingham on the way home – his name is Tommy!) which forced Smith into a rare save, tipping it onto the crossbar.

At half time I made the call without much argument from my neighbours that it was going to finish 0-0.  Forest had looked good in spells, but their end-product was atrocious and the weight of expectation would only make that worse as the game goes on.  Brighton were really only interested in defending and hitting us on the counter-attack, so didn’t appear to pose much threat going forward.

The second half again started with the Reds rolling out the red carpet for Brighton to attack, but quickly we picked up possession again and eventually forced a corner with which Commons found Bennett who flicked on to the back stick where Thornhill missed the gaping goal from four yards by volleying over the bar – the writing was pretty much on the wall from this point.

Morgan headed well from a Commons freekick, but again the Seagulls ‘keeper was alive to the threat and made a diving save to the right to give us another corner.  I suspect this was the ‘worst corner in the world’ moment, a terrible short corner from Clingan to Commons was eventually lost and cleared without so much as an attempted cross into the box.

Brighton continued with a series of playacting in order to falter our play, and eventually Clingan did play the ball out to the outrage of the home crowd, only for the player writhing on the floor in agony to hop up in a sprightly manner and carry on as though nothing was wrong – naturally Brighton returned the ball to us by hoofing it back to Smith.

Ormerod did everything right until the shot, making a great run before hitting a scuffed effort straight at Kuipers.  It was clear that we weren’t looking likely to break down a dogged and defensive Brighton side, so Smoulds made a double-substitution bringing on McGugan and McCleary for Thornhill and Chambers.

The ‘four four two’ formation of the first half (without anyone on the right wing, of course) was now a three-five-two with McCleary on the right – and to be honest, it looked just as disjointed as before with no real shape to the midfield at all, and the players seemingly uninterested in making play easy for each other by making space or even moving on occasions!

In a rare moment of brilliance in the half, Lewis McGugan did brilliantly to beat a man on the edge of the box and unleash a terrific shot that finally saw Kuipers beaten – unfortunately the woodwork denied him as the shot struck the inside of the post and headed across goal in agonising fashion before being cleared to safety.

The final throw of the dice from Smoulds was to bring on ‘couldn’t look less interested without not being there’ Junior Agogo for Cohen, at this point the Seagulls had practically everyone behind the ball and Forest had neither the guile nor effort to break them down.  Even on the break Brighton were more interested in taking the ball in the corner than trying to get a winner.

As the fulltime whistle went the away side celebrated their achievements whilst the home fans and players were probably forced to finally concede that there isn’t a hope in hell of us reaching Carlisle now, and the playoffs is about the best we can hope for.  A frustrating afternoon indeed for all concerned with Forest.