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!