Well I’ll be Damned, that was pretty good!

What to do of a Saturday when there’s no Forest match, well, this weekend at least a trip to the cinema to see The Damned United.  Longer term readers will know that I had severe reservations about the book, and some of you coerced me into reading it – which I did.  I did review my initial stance – it’s a good book, and in David Peace’s own words, it’s designed as a portrait rather than a photograph – well, as a portrait artist Peace is rather one-dimensional.  The book painted  a bleak and embittered character who upset the Clough family (and even his former enemies like Johnny Giles).  Here is what I made of the book.

The film is better.  Like any film based on a novel, much of the depth is lost for the screen adaptation – the ‘depth’ of Peace’s novel was basically darkness, despair, drinking, bad language and chain smoking.  So with less emphasis on negativity the movie gives us a much more tolerable portrait of Brian Clough.  It’s still a portrait, and I personally have no way of validating how lifelike it is, because I’m too young to have witnessed the events it covers – but in this film you find yourself liking Clough, indeed, whereas the book felt like it was casting him as the villain and Revie and Leeds as the heroes, the film turns that on its head.

So that naturally makes it rather more appetising for an unflinching Clough sympathiser such as myself.  I would be interested to read any input from Leeds fans lured into watching the film though.  For those of you who want no spoilers at all, don’t read beyond this paragraph.  I would recommend seeing this film, I enjoyed it – I think the principle trinity of actors, Michael Sheen as Clough, Timothy Spall as Taylor and Colm Meaney as Revie are all excellent in their portrayals of the football legends.  More detailed observations with some potential spoilage is below (although you all know ‘the story’ anyway!).

The first sight we get of Clough in the film is on a rain-lashed drive to Leeds, with sons Simon and Nigel in the back of his car, inconceivable singing “What’s new pussycat?” – I find that hard to imagine being anything approaching reality!  In another scene, after the fateful cup draw pitting Clough (then Derby manager) against Revie for the first time, chairman Sam Longston calls Clough to tell him to treat his family to a meal in a restaurant (rather than the fish and chips just brought back by Peter Taylor!).  “Chicken bhuna!” exclaimed Clough excitedly.  I never had Cloughie down as a curry man!

One distracting factor was that the actress playing Barbara Clough used to be in that godawful sitcom ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ with Nicholas Lyndhurst as a time travelling shop proprietor.  So it was a bit disconcerting when John O’Hare and John McGovern arrived at Derby in the film – because the latter had a distinct whiff of Lyndhurst about him (facially).  Aside from a touch of the ‘Rodneys’ the pair of them looked more like a couple of Hobbits from Lord of the Rings than a pair of footballers!

In another unexpected food-related outburst, when speaking of chairman Longston’s preference of refurbishing the decrepid Baseball Ground over providing him with a squad capable of contesting European games (particularly after an encounter with Revie’s Leeds left Clough and Taylor with an injury nightmare for their European Cup tie with Juventus), Clough utters the phrase ‘prawn sandwiches’ – I’m sure you’d have to roll forward a few years to have one of Clough’s signings to make that statement.  I could be wrong, though!

The only other quibble (and it is a quibble) that occurred to me was during a scene where Clough is arguing with Giles following him signing McGovern, O’Hare and McKenzie for Leeds and you catch a tantalising glimpse of Elland Road in the background – which looked far too developed for the 1974 timeframe it purported to be!  That really didn’t detract from the film or the scene, but just distracted me as a very picky person!  The only final thing that occurred to me was one of the rare things where I do have a basis for comparison in reality.

Annoyingly I can’t find a clip of the real interview featuring Clough and Revie after Clough’s sacking from Leeds.  But it was a scene in the film I was looking forward to – because it’s something I’ve seen, numerous times.  My recollection was a pair of men with body language and confidence at odds with their respective recent histories.  Clough was resplendant in typically pithy style, whereas Revie was awkward and straightlaced.  My favourite bit was where Clough admitted he wanted to win the league better than Revie, Revie was incredulous “You can’t win it better, we only lost four games!”, “Well I could only lose three!” replied Clough, in a heartbeat.  It was ace.

In the film this is turned on its head – Clough is as ever accessible to the media, who spring the surprise of Revie on him, I’m not sure if that’s what really happened or not.  Here though we have an under-par Clough who is bettered by his less media-savvy nemesis which is either demonstrably inaccurate or I’m seriously misremembering the interview (which I doubt, as it was on telly in the week during the Clough documentary on ITV).  However, given that compared to the novel Revie and Leeds suffer a bit more of a panning, perhaps this was a director’s concession to give them a bit of a saving grace.  I’m not sure.

The best thing about this film was the focus on Clough’s relationship with Taylor, it’s one of my favourite soapbox topics that Peter Taylor’s contribution is not valued highly enough in general – in the film it is made dizzyingly clear, numerous characters reference Clough’s effectiveness without his right-hand man was compromised – and the fall out/making up scenes are probably the only parts of the film that prompted any genuine emotion from me – and the fact that they fall out, then make up at the end of the film gives us a nice end.

We are then treated to a montage of what they go on to achieve together – making a certain team called Nottingham Forest, hitherto unmentioned, the ultimate happy ending for this football tale, replete with clips of celebrating Nottinghamians from real footage of Clough and Taylor’s glory years.  Oh yes, certainly it offers a tantalising opportunity for a sequel – and certainly over a longer time period Clough’s tenure of Nottingham Forest does offer up the potential for a great story – although one that would end sadly.  I doubt we’ll ever see it, though!

I did enjoy the film, I was almost pleased when Derby were doing well – almost.  As I said, Sheen is excellent as Clough, and I did find myself genuinely liking him, he also looked surprisingly like Clough for a man who patently doesn’t – he must’ve practiced the mannerisms a lot! However, whilst this was an enjoyable and more sympathetic yarn about somebody I idolise, the ITV documentary had skin prickling and tears pricking, which this film was never in any way close to achieving.  Much like the book, it shouldn’t really have outstanding status – but it is certainly not without merit either.

I’m not sure if the Clough family will relent and watch the picture or not – I can’t imagine how odd it must be to see what you feel is an inaccurate portrayal of a loved family member on screen, but I imagine they will take to the film more readily than the family of Billy Bremner, who along with Revie do really come across as the villains of the piece, certainly much more so than the novel casts them.  I would recommend seeing it, because football based films are generally absolute horseshit, and this one isn’t!

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Dexter Blackstock in on loan, no recall, VERY pleased. Well done everyone at Forest! Too hectic for a proper update.

Maybe tomorrow?..

No, I’m not breaking into the Littlest Hobo, but tomorrow does mark a deadline – if not for settling down – then certainly for loaning players.  Something we apparently want to do quite badly (despite having a considerable number of loans already).  Billy Davies has even admitted he’d like to loan Dexter Blackstock, but there are questions over whether or not the striker is up for a relegation battle with the Reds, or the risk of a permanent move that could lead to League One oblivion.

Or maybe he’ll sign, who knows?  As ever though, Forest will be leaving whatever business they hope to conclude to the very last minute – something keeping the forums rife with speculation and ‘inside information’ – most of which has proven to be wholly inaccurate – perhaps not all that surprisingly, given our experience of such matters!  It’ll be a pity if we can’t add Blackstock to the ranks, though.  He sounds like the kind of player who could be really effective with our current set up.

During this break of matches, the other ‘big news’ is that Barnsley have cunningly offered a discounted ticket price for their home support – but not extended the courtesy to Forest fans.  Ironically we did offer discounted tickets to Barnsley fans back in our league game with them.  Their excuse is the ‘suffered Burnley go half price’ offer Forest announced – which doesn’t really stack up since that is costing Forest money, not Barnsley.  It is apparently not against Football League rules, it’s just bad manners more than anything.

Forest have said they will learn from it, so expect them to work out new ways of favouring visiting fans over their own!

Billy after QPR striker?

According to The People, Forest have apparently picked themselves up from Marlon Harewood shaped disappointment to target want-away QPR front man Dexter Blackstock.  The former Southampton striker is struggling to agree terms with the Hoops for a new contract which apparently has sparked us to pounce with a bid to loan him until the end of the season with a view to a permanent move in the summer once the window is open again.  For a rather expensive sounding £2.2million.

Joining Southampton from Oxford United, for a compensation fee of £275,000.  He was elevated to first team status earlier than planned due to an injury crisis which saw him net a hattrick against Colchester United in the League Cup.  After falling out of first team plans he was loaned to Plymouth and latterly Derby.  His involvement with Southampton was limited by the arrival of handbag-snatcher Bradley Wright-Phillips, and he ended up leaving for QPR for a fee believed to be around £500k.  So the inflation for somebody approaching the end of their contract is rather outrageous!

In 2006/2007 Blackstock finished with 14 goals for QPR, and came second in their player of the year award, and won goal of the year for a strike against Preston.  He has been recognised by Stuart Pearce as a talent too, featuring for the England under-21s.  Last season was less impressive for him, netting just six goals in thirty six games – although four of them came in the final seven games of the season.  So it would seem that a fresh challenge might be on his agenda, and I imagine if the price The People are quoting is anything like true, it would be a good bit of business for QPR too.

The loan deadline is this coming Thursday, so not too long to wait for confirmation either way.  Certainly the lack of goal-scoring threat against Wolves demonstrated a need for another dimension up front to give us a bit more attacking potency, whether Blackstock fits the bill, I’m not right sure!  I was quite excited to find his personal website, alas it hasn’t been updated since December last year – possibly a sign that he’s out of favour at the QPR?

Unlucky Forest felled by league leaders..

Big Wes: Big performance.

Big Wes: Big performance.

Nottingham Forest – 0
Wolverhampton Wanderers – 1

Wolves fans will merrily forget the eighty odd minutes of tension they endured before their team scored the only goal of the game giving license for the nigh on six thousand travelling West Midlanders to actually find their voice.  That it was a bit fortunate won’t matter a jot as they open up a lead at the top of the Championship on the way to what looks like an inevitable promotion.  For Forest it was a disappointing suckerpunch when a lapse of concentration let Kightly, unmarked in the box, slot the ball into the net to get the only goal of the game.

Davies made five changes to the side that embarrassed us all at Burnley – Wilson, Anderson and Lynch available after injury, McGugan given the chance to prove he’s not a fatty to the manager, and Iain Turner replacing Paul Smith in goal.  The first half was scrappy, lots of unforced errors by both sides – Wolves looked dangerous on the break, but never quite broke through – Forest looked eager but short on imagination.  Iain Turner did have the opportunity to claim a cross, and also shank a clearance.

After half an hour or so it started to open up more, a Turner clearance found Anderson in a clearly offside position, the loan winger brought the ball down with a lovely bit of control, before deftly lobbing the ball over Hennessey.  A wee bit foolish, as it was not only abundantly obvious he was offside, the whistle had gone some time earlier though, and as such Anderson picked up an inevitable and foolish booking.  Forest did start to look more composed from this moment.

Some good work by McGugan gained us possession, before finding McSheffrey who then played the ball on to Anderson who was cutting in from the left hand channel.  He had what was probably technically our only shot on target – it was a cross-cum-shot that Hennessey not only saved, but held too – with Earnshaw lurking in the six yard box presumably praying like the rest of us for a spill to happen.  Shortly after Wolves had their only shot on target of the first half, which was from distance but hit with pace, Turner made the save and held the ball after some initial flappery.

Right after half time I thought we’d got a penalty when Berra felled Cohen who had latched on to a long ball by Wes Morgan – alas it was just outside the area, so it was a freekick and just a yellow card for the Wolves defender.  McGugan took the freekick which looked better positioned for a left footer to me, and promptly spannered it into the wall, hitting a second shot from the rebound which ricocheted out for a corner thanks to Earnie marshalling the ball out of play.

The impressive-yet-quiet Wolves following were tense as Forest continued to take the game to them, but there wasn’t much end product from the Reds in terms of either final passes or chances on goal – McSheffrey had a snap-shot which went over, and shortly after was withdrawn along with the tiring Anderson for McCleary and Tyson to give the Reds more pace upfront.  Unfortunately rather than giving Forest a new dimension to break the deadlock, the inevitable opposite happened.

Ebanks-Blake was left by Wes after he’d forced him wide, allowing him to cross in to Vokes who had the simplest of passes to lay off to the completely unmarked Kightly in the Forest box, who was able to comfortably slot the ball into the far corner across Turner to finally wake up the large following of Wolves fans, and whilst Forest continued to fight and try, Wolves were started to look more threatening again as Forest were still lacking ideas, and starting to lack energy.

Garner came on for the largely ineffective McGugan, Wes – who I would name as man of the match despite his bad judgement in the build up to the goal – ended up in an attacking role as the Reds tried desperately to try to dig a goal out of something.  Nothing really broke for us though, and Turner needed to be on hand to keep an Ebanks-Blake shot out, as did Lynch who cleared an effort off the line – before the end Keogh almost embarrassed the debutant by lobbing him from over 40 yards, fortunately he was off target because the keeper was beaten.

A bad result, not great results elsewhere either, but I feared a lot worse than this today – to have come home feeling hard done to in not getting a draw is – perversely – quite a good feeling.  We certainly didn’t deserve a win today given the lack of chances created – but the same would be said for Wolves, our defence just didn’t concentrate for the whole game, and theirs did – and they took their chance well.  The performance from the lads does give me some heart, though, which is good because I was proper grumpy before this afternoon!

Project f**k up reaches a new milestone..

Marlon: On loan to Wolves, not Forest.

Marlon: On loan to Wolves, not Forest.


And so, after a reported week of negotiations with Forest, Marlon Harewood will be strutting his stuff at the City Ground on Saturday.  In a Wolves shirt.  Whilst I’m not convinced loaning all and sundry is the way forward given that you can only play with five loan players, I would’ve been happy to see Marlon back – many fans had taken this to a new level of ‘second coming’ type proportions borne of desperation at our seemingly worsening plight.  The reason that I haven’t really mentioned the ballad of Marlon otherwise in passing was because I was utterly convinced it wouldn’t happen.

Sure enough, it hasn’t – earlier indications were that Martin O’Neill put the kibosh on it, but given that he has since gone on to join another Championship team would suggest that perhaps that wonderful acquisition panel of ours has once again flexed its very effective muscles.  They should be renamed to the fuck-it-up panel, because that’s all they ever seem to do after Davies has identified the player he wants, as well as presumably getting them to want to come here – no mean feat given the state of the place.  

So when Marlon makes his inevitable debut will he score against our own debutant in goal?  Probably, we will have the same incompetent defence in front of him – perhaps Forest fans will find Turner an intolerable goalkeeper as well?  One thing is for sure, after another week of embarrassment off the pitch sparked off by humiliation on it, there will be a frosty-at-best atmosphere at the City Ground, drowned out by more than 5,000 Wolves fans who have sold their allocation to roar their team on in their title challenge.  

Generally speaking (probably not including Mark Arthur and David Pleat, who I don’t understand the point of) I have always been supportive of the regime at Forest, but I am starting to question it now, because clearly they are not providing Billy Davies with the basics he needs to keep Forest in the Championship, let alone challenge at the right end of it in the future – and that’s a worry, Davies was reportedly absolutely fuming about the Harewood saga, presumably he was when we arsed up signing his targets in January too, how long before he loses patience altogether?  He’s an ambitious man, and clearly Forest are not matching those ambitions.

It all smacks of the incompetence article a number of you have pointed me to via comments and emails, we are basically run by a bunch of clowns – we are an embarrassment, presumably other clubs are rapidly starting to see us in a less-than-serious light in off-the-field matters, and more importantly and dear to our own hearts as fans we are becoming an absolute laughing stock for the way we’re being run – and there’s only so much of that road to ruin that most fans will be prepared to put up with before abstaining from further frustration.  Watch us go an win tomorrow, now.

And so, is it farewell for Paul Smith?

Is this the end for the maligned Smith?

It seems to be on pretty good authority that Forest will complete the loan signing of Everton’s Iain Turner, somebody I hadn’t heard of until rumours started circulating.  Reluctantly I think the ballad of Paul Smith has reached an inevitable and self-fulfilling end.  A promising keeper who I still maintain was improving weaknesses in his game was undermined by unnecessary criticism from the stands.  Admittedly, other players have endured such criticism and shone through regardless – but clearly that confidence level thing is something that did wear away.  Coupled with the Keystone Cops in defence, it was only a matter of time before it all came crashing down.

So, we get to see if Turner can tap into the magical ‘Lee Camp Syndrome’ with some of the intelligentsia in our fanbase, or whether a couple of mistakes or hesitations will be so mercilessly leapt upon so as to hardly give the lad a chance.  His most notable past action is whilst on loan with Brian Laws’ Sheffield Wednesday, where an eleven game stint saw the Owls unbeaten.  He returned to Everton where he’s signed up ’til 2011 – but an injury curtailed any claims he might make on the first team, so he’s not exactly match sharp!

Either welcome on board, Iain – or massive apologies for prematurely posting something that turned out to be a pile of rubbish!  Bear in mind that we can only have five loan signings in a match day squad, so one of Anderson, McSheffrey, Osbourne, Lynch or Gunter will have to miss out should this turn out to be true and Turner is in goal against Wolves at the weekend.  Another would have to miss out if the rumoured courting of Marlon Harewood ever comes to fruition.  And that still leaves us with the same inadequate defence we had had in the first place.  Ho hum.

As I’m sure regular readers will realise – whilst I acknowledge that Paul Smith does have his faults, his treatment by some of our supporters – and some of his teammates – has been shameful in my opinion, and personally I would – if this is to be the beginning of the end of his Forest career – thank him for his efforts which I believe have been significant, certainly in contributing to our promotion last season, but also in some of the points we’ve managed to grab this season too.  I don’t buy into the scapegoating, but if Turner works out better for us, then so be it, because for whatever reason it doesn’t seem to be working out for Smithy at the moment.  Cheers Smudge.