Rest in peace, Sir Bobby

It was with great sadness that I learned Sir Bobby Robson passed away today at the age of 76.  For me the memories I hold of him would be as England manager when we came so close in Italia ’90.  Others will associate him with West Brom, Fulham, Ipswich, PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona or Newcastle United.

A gentleman and definite legend who has long been battling with cancer, and a fantastic ambassador for the game who only this week was present at a charity re-enactment of that infamous World Cup semi-final from 1990 – this time having a chance to perhaps imagine what might have been, as the England side triumphed in a 3-2 victory.

Condolences to his family and close friends, and of course to all of football who will surely mourn his passing.

My favourite Bobby Robson quote is semi-Forest related, as it was made after Newcastle had signed Jermaine Jenas from us back in 2003:

WHEN NEWCASTLE UNITED travel to Germany to play Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League on February 18, Sir Bobby Robson and Jermaine Jenas will share a celebration. Precisely five decades separate the two men. “The birthday drinks are on me,” the Newcastle manager, who will be 70, said. “I’ll buy him a glass of milk in the hotel after the game.” Perhaps he knows that Jenas is not quite ready to be weaned.

Mixed Mills messages.. and a surprise?

The Evening Post run with Billy’s comments around the difficulties in securing a deal for Doncaster Rovers defender Matthew Mills.  It’s clear they value their asset very highly – certainly higher than Forest are prepared to pay for his services.  However, it appears that it could be a smoke and mirrors kind of exercise from the wily Scot.

But then we have had a fairly confident statement from Vital Forest, who’ve been pretty good on the transfer rumour front this season, and now LTLF appear to have got wind of a press conference in around an hour’s time as I type – so not long to wait for news, I suppose, at least!  It is thought this relates to Matthew Mills, although LTLF add a scintillating additional snippet in their piece.

I’ve heard rumours from so many places this season, and can’t rightly remember where I first heard whispers of a high profile signing that will have more wow-factor than the others.  But I had heard it, and now it’s resurfaced, purportedly direct from the City Ground.  Whether that’s linked to the press conference or not is unclear – but well, it’s quite exciting nonetheless!

As ever, folks, keep your eyes on the news feeds this morning to see what – if anything – transpires!

Reds earn friendly draw with Stoke..

Billy with tonight's goalscorer

Nottingham Forest – 1
Stoke City – 1

A good workout and a promising performance from the Reds against the Potters on a horrible evening which, at least, saw me acquire a new coat since I arrived at Trentside woefully ill-prepared for the weather!

Forest lined up in this kind of arrangement:

Camp
Gunter   Morgan   Chambers   Lynch
Garner   McKenna   Majewski   Davies
McGoldrick   Tyson

The first half in particular was really good from the Reds – again Majewski stood out in an impressive performance.  Garner, oddly deployed on the wing, had a decent game too – although he looks perpetually grumpy!  The two of them combined for Garner to loft a cracking cross over to Tyson on the back stick who finished emphatically, sadly he was adjudged offside.

Stoke had a cracking strike from range via Whelan, although it wasn’t a particularly difficult save for Camp.  Ex-Mansfield and Sunderland winger Liam Lawrence was close to opening the scoring, but instead struck the crossbar.  Shortly after this Forest were able to break the deadlock giving David McGoldrick a goal on his City Ground debut.

It was that man Majewski again who played an absolutely superb chipped ball over the defence – although it was by no means a simple chance for McGoldrick, who did well to get infront of his defender and delicately cushion a header beyond Sorensen in the Stoke City goal to give the Reds a deserved lead.  There was a late chance for Stoke in the first half, but Camp was on hand to make the save.

The second half saw McGugan replacing McKenna, and immediately Stoke looking a bit more lively than they had in the first half.  Indeed, they scored shortly after the second half commenced after Beattie sent Kitson clear to finish deftly past Camp.  It looked offside to me, but from a poor vantage point – it is undeniably possible that it was just rubbish defending!

Moments later Etherington rattled the crossbar with Camp well beaten, but then Forest started playing again.  Lynch, who’d had a few moments of discomfort in the first half, burst into the area through a couple of Stoke players which made me mindful of a Pearce burst (don’t misread me – I mean that incident, I’m not yet ready to declare Lynch the new Psycho!), his eventual shot blocked well by Cort.

More substitutions and the increasingly grim weather disrupted the game.  A cracking ball in from Lewis was headed goalward by a Stoke defender with Tyson making a nuisance of himself on the back post, a left footed Gunter strike after more good work from Majewski curled just wide of the post.  Stoke applied some late pressure but the last chance fell to Forest on a quick break, Tyson looked to have finished well but Sorensen just stuck his leg out which managed to put the shot over for a corner.

A good run out, some moments of really nice football – good to see, certainly more reassuring than the preseason games I’ve witnessed so far at Rotherham and Notts County.  It’s also always rather nice to reacquaint ourselves with the sacred City Ground – now proudly sporting a Victor Chandler Corner.  I was hoping for something a bit more imaginative, but still.  Looking forward to saturday now!

Are the Reds still playing catch-up? I think so.

ned_billyBilly Davies’ latest words in the press have had me pondering a bit.  Much like many Forest fans I know or have read comments from, I’ve been somewhat blown away by the quantity and potential of the signings we’ve secured so far.  It would be a downright lie to say I haven’t gotten really rather excited at times, p’raps not as much as some have – but then I am a grumpy sod.

Generally I then regain some semblance of reality, and modify my expectations to be a bit less ambitious.  Not that my expectations really matter!  However, I think Billy raises a good point – I’ve seen talk of playoffs, Victor Chandler of course enhanced that by offering free season tickets should we win the league – hell, I opened an account and placed a bet on the said same event for a double-bonus should it happen!

But Billy’s right, I think.  Last season we went into the Championship criminally ill-prepared, our squad was not only below the standard required in terms of quality, we didn’t have sufficient quantity when the injuries and suspensions started to bite.  By adding the loanees brought in to steady the ship as well as adding the likes of McKenna, Rajewski et al has – potentially – caught us up.

Of course, it’s in Billy’s interests to manage our expectations – should the season not start in rip-roaring fashion he will be only too well aware of how fickle we are, but I don’t think this is just an arse-covering exercise.  Given that he still wants to add to the squad – clearly a left back is on the agenda with a move for Fox, with supposed links with Mattock, and with a bit fat vacancy at squad number three.

I’ve often said – to some reasoned criticism – that I’d be delighted with a safe mid-table finish.  Of course, I wouldn’t want Billy to be saying things like that, though.  Watching some of our shortcomings in finishing off chances against Notts County was a useful reminder that there’s work still to do.  Unfortunately I can’t make the Stoke friendly, but hope to see the side sharpened up against Birmingham on Saturday.

Hopefully with those one or two signings Davies has been hinting at!

Is this the new Forest kit?

Having had a busy day I’ve been catching up on Internet rumours, and came up with this little gem courtesy of the LTLF Forum.  Certainly it looks consistent with the sneak previews we’ve seen on the official Forest website – the circled logo, the white bits near the neck/shoulders – of course, it’s not long to wait ’til we can confirm whether or not it proves to be accurate!

A computer representation has some margin for error, but if it’s not radically different to that then I quite like it!  that said, I’m still trying to work out who the player is supposed to be – which may or may not bode well!  The Victor Chandler logo looks quite classy on there, too.

On a related note, keep an eye over on LTLF tomorrow as they’re going to have a well-placed snapper on hand to upload pictures of the new kit upon launch tomorrow.

Mills set to sign?

I’ve heard it from a couple of places now that Forest’s not inconsiderable courtship of Matthew Mills from Doncaster Rovers looks likely to be consummated over the next couple of days.  Certainly still very much a rumour rather than a confirmed fact, but has been mentioned by folks who’ve proven reliable on such matters in the past, including Vital Forest, who seem to be experiencing a few technical glitches as I type.

If it proves to be true then this will hopefully prove a cracking signing – certainly Rovers have not been keen to sell, but Saturday’s defensive frailties served as a reminder that the one position that Billy hasn’t made a signing for so far this summer is also in need of strengthening, so the acquisition of Mills would be good news indeed.

He signed for Rovers this time last year, having previously been on loan with them from Manchester City.  If the figures of £2m+ are to be believed, then Donny would make a more than healthy profit on the £300k they paid for his services just a year ago.  He’s a popular figure with the Rovers fans, and stood out particularly during their playoff final defeat of Leeds United to gain promotion after we’d snuck ahead of them into second place.

I never got to read the details on the Vital Forest site, but whispers of tomorrow or wednesday for the news to be confirmed means it won’t be long before we learn whether or not this rumour has any basis in fact.  Hopefully it does!

Sponsorless shirts to be available..

Forest have confirmed what most of us probably realised already – namely we will be able to attain the new home kit without the sponsors logo on it.  A couple of factors have undoubtedly conspired to make this happen – the main one being the nature of business our sponsors operate in.

Gambling companies aren’t allowed to have their logo on kids shirts, and obviously because gambling is forbidden by religions active in the UK it means that adult kits have to be available without the logo on.  The late nature of Forest’s negotiations with Victor Chandler will also have meant they probably had the kits produced without a logo in place too.

So now, should you want a kit with a logo you must buy it from the club shop to have it affixed at the time of purchase.  If this operates like the number/name technology then that would be a worry as it would be peeling off within a matter of months.  It also begs the question why Forest didn’t make their kit available sooner – given that presumably they’ve had the shirts awaiting the sponsorship news.

Personally I’m pleased as I like the idea of having a shirt without a sponsor on it – and that’s not down to any particular objection with our new sponsors, I just like having the option – back when I was a lad I remember the kids at school actually paying to have Home Ales or Shipstones printed on their shirts because they came sponsorless by default!

The shirt is due to be unveiled on Wednesday 29th July, and will be available to preorder from then – finally going on sale on 7th August.

Charity update from Clough Statue miniatures..

Nottingham’s bronze statue of the legendary football manager Brian Clough has helped to raise thousands of pounds for good causes. The sale of hundreds of miniature replica statues of the Master Manager has raised £20,000 for the Brian Clough Memorial Fund, which is run by his family and gives money to the types of charitable causes he supported.

A cheque will be officially presented to the Clough family on Tuesday July 28th at 5pm, next to the original bronze statue in Nottingham city centre.

The limited edition miniature figures, made from resin, were designed by Les Johnson, the world-renowned sculptor who made the impressive nine-feet high bronze statue which was unveiled by Mrs Barbara Clough in Nottingham last November. That statue, costing £70,000, was paid for by fans who set-up a fund raising campaign, smashing through their target in just 18 months.

Following the unveiling of the statue, the miniature figures were put on sale for £100 each. Almost 1,000 have been sold. After artist and production costs are taken into account, all profits are going to the family’s memorial fund. The sale of the replicas was managed by the Nottingham-based firm The Media Group. There are just 30 replicas left. They can be ordered at http://www.themediagroup.tv/brianclough.

The chairman of the Brian Clough Statue Fund (which raised the money for the original life-size bronze statue), Paul Ellis, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that the miniature statues have raised so much money for charity. It’s fitting that the proceeds are going to the family’s memorial fund. It goes to show that the memory of Brian Clough can still help good causes, just as he did when he was alive.

“The impressive bronze statue continues to be a fantastic success story. Hardly a day goes by without people stopping to take photographs of it. In helping to raise money for good causes locally, the statue remains a fitting tribute to a remarkable man.”

The Statue Fund was administered by Nottingham City Council. The Council Leader, Jon Collins, said: “The statue is lasting recognition for a remarkable man who did so much for Nottingham and Nottingham Forest. It’s fantastic that fans have in some way been able to give something back to Brian, by helping to support the charities that were close to his heart.”

‘Sir’ Lee Hughes day is born..

Sir Lee Hughes celebrates what turned out to be the winning goal

'Sir' Lee Hughes celebrates what turned out to be the winning goal

Notts County – 2
Nottingham Forest – 1

Probably the most interesting bit of the afternoon would’ve been the chance to see Sven unveiled to the crowd, unfortunately like many Forest fans I was stuck queuing outside as the Notts County turnstile operatives had a nervous breakdown at actually dealing with more than one person every half an hour.  The kick off was delayed after Forest fans continued to pour into the Jimmy Sirrell stand with no seats remaining – ending up in the Family stand to the left.

With the laughably cringeworthy ‘Two Pies on a shirt’ playing on the tannoy, it became apparent that despite the dawning of a new era at Meadow Lane, Notts fans are still rather more obsessed with us – and their victory today will I’m sure endure long in their memories, much like their last victory over us on their own turf – with the same scoreline – has over the years.  For us it’s perhaps a useful reminder that despite good signings, there’s still work for us to do!

Forest lined up thusly:

Camp
Gunter Morgan Wilson Lynch
McGugan McKenna Rajewski Tyson
Adebola Earnshaw

Certainly no B team line-up, this.  The Notts team included former-Reds John Thompson and Craig Westcarr, and loanee-from-Forest Brendan Moloney.

The game was pretty rubbish from both teams, with both sides having occasional good moments permeating mostly fairly lacklustre play – Billy Davies described games like this as an opportunity to drive fitness, but to be honest, only County really looked to be busting a gut to make any headway.  Majewski was impressive in midfield but often looks a few seconds ahead of his colleagues.

Lee Hughes had netted for Notts but was very offside (and knew it well before lobbing into the goal), and later some good play between Rajewski and Adebola set up Earnie with a cracking chance which Hoult did well to save from around 12 yards – would really expect Earnie to have made it more difficult though.  Shortly after Earnie successfully charged down Hoult, the ball broke for McGugan whose shot from the edge of the area was over.

Half time saw Wilson withdrawn for Chambers, due to injury, and immediately in the second half Notts were on the offensive.  ‘Mini-me’ Luke Rodgers did well to escape the attentions of Joel Lynch and beating Lee Camp with a low drive – only to hit the post – and the Reds were able to clear it.  It was a clear warning that Forest didn’t heed though.

Wes missed (not the first of the game, either) a header, Chambers fell over for no apparent reason, allowing Rodgers to stroll clear and stroke the ball expertly into the far corner with Lee Camp not exactly quick off his line to close the angle.  One nil and life was breathed into the half empty home sections.  It must have felt like Christmas come early for them only a few moments later..

Poor defending allowed Craig Westcarr (yes, him!) to get down the right and whip in an excellent cross, Lee Hughes beat Chris Gunter in the air inside the six yard box to head it past Lee Camp to give the home side a 2-0 lead.  Certainly it was the kind of cross I regularly heard Paul Smith lambasted for not claiming by some of our fans – that said, I don’t think the ‘keeper should have come for it – I do think Chambers or Morgan should have been marking the dangerous Hughes, though.

Forest chucked on McGoldrick, Blackstock, Anderson and Mitchell for the injured Chambers – and looked, as you’d expect, fairly disjointed from there on in.  Dexter had a chance but made it easy for the ‘keeper, McGugan eventually got Forest’s consolation with an accomplished drive from range – admittedly the ‘keeper should’ve kept it out, though!

Another chance fell to Blackstock who went for goal rather than putting the ball in to the back post where McGoldrick and Anderson would’ve had a tap-in.  The sense of urgency was never really there from Forest though, and with Notts resorting to time-wasting (in a friendly!) it never really looked like it was going to be our day.

So Sven’s era at Notts starts with possibly the result most County fans dream of most, and the controversiality of Lee Hughes has had a significant PR boost by snagging the winning goal, no doubt!  I thought Notts’ goals were very well taken, but as a result of poor defending – so I hoping that Billy has been reminded sharply that we do need a leader in the centre of our defence, as I don’t think we have one currently.

Well done to Notts though, they took their chances well when they came – certainly Rodgers and Hughes will bag plenty of goals for them in League Two.  I’ll tell you who played bloody well for them too, Brendan Moloney.  He kept Tys very quiet all game and was very accomplished at right back.  A good result for them, a poor performance from us, but it’s not quite as worrying as it might be.  It will certainly remind Billy – and the players – that they still have plenty of work to do this preseason.

Season long loan of Majewski confirmed..

It’s been talked about for a while, was all but confirmed yesterday – but is now official, Polish international Radoslaw Majewski will be on loan at Forest for the duration of the 2009/2010 season.  Indeed, his career as a Forest player started this evening, where he scored within two minutes against Rushden and Diamonds!

The 22 year old is widely regarded as one of Poland’s rising stars, which has earned him five caps for the Polish national team.  Billy commented that we’ve been watching his progress for some time, and confirmed the convenient way to refer to him is Raddy which will come in handy for those of you trying to think up chants for him!

On the official site, he said:

“We’re delighted to have Raddy on board. He’s a player we’ve been watching for a long time and a player that has produced several good performances at international level.  I’ve spoken to several people close to international football who have had nothing but good things to say about him.”

“And having seen him play, watched several DVD’s and closely monitored his progress, we certainly think we’re bringing in a player that has got an excellent footballing brain and a wonderful touch.  He certainly has the ability to create and score goals and on his day can be a real handful.  He’s a very fit young man and is another young player with great potential who will only get better.”

So that’s more good news!  One thing more negative folks have mentioned is the lack of creativity in the team – personally I would point to McGugan, Anderson, McCleary, Adebola (from a ‘flick on’ point of view) as well as Tyson and Earnshaw as options for this – as well as McKenna in a ‘setting up’ the creative players.  But Majewski apparently provides this role more blatantly.  Will be great to see how he settles in!

Welcome aboard, Raddy.  Anyone else lost count of how many players we’ve signed?