Pondering the play-offs..

Billy: Few in the game are as well versed as he is when it comes to the end of season play-offs!

I’ve not had an expansive ramble about nothing in particular, well, I suppose the play-offs are rather a hot topic amongst Forest fans.  A sub-tournament enough to bring a Forest fan out in hives, isn’t it?  Sheffield United, Des Walker own goal, Yeovil Town, an embarrassing collapse.. there’d be no surprise if Reds fans were looking on our bonus mini-extension-of-a-season with abject fear and dread.

I’m not, though.

Of course, if any of the above scenarios are repeated against our eventual opponents it will be gut-wrenching and heart-breaking, but with the knowledge that this season has shown us dramatic progression in the right direction.  Unlike in League One, where promotion was – frankly – something we desperately felt we needed (if not necessarily expected), this season it is most definitely a bonus.

Whilst I may have jumped at the chance to get a free season ticket from Victor Chandler in exchange for the Reds winning the league, I had some empathy with the West Brom fans who laughed when the announcement was made over the City Ground public address system at the start of the season.  Even though we’ve come some way short of that achievement, I’d have laughed almost as much at seriously considering a top six finish.

The hard work that Billy and his team have put in, and the work of the maligned transfer panel (in the summer at least) can’t – for me – be over-praised.  The players too deserve enormous credit for applying themselves to their new training and instructions – a real team effort from top to bottom.  I’m sure even Terry the Kitman has had his part of play in our dramatic change in fortunes too.

There have been moments this season when I’ve almost fallen into that fickle trap of thinking “Argh, we’ve thrown away automatic“, and I imagine as the season draws to a close and we enter the play-offs the mood will switch to what we have to lose.  But I’m going to try and be more positive – we have nothing to lose, and everything to gain – because surely nobody really expected to be right here, right now?

It’s brilliant, and as such I’m going to set out to enjoy it.  As I’m sure Billy is telling the team, we have nobody to fear in this league on our day – if anyone, maybe West Brom – who we comprehensively dismantled at their place, and were unlucky to lose to at home, and Newcastle – who we beat at least once!  Well we don’t need to worry about those, both ascend automatically.

So I’m going to try to keep a positive attitude about it all, and hope that the mood around the City Ground both in the stands and in the dressing room match.  If we get through them then hell, we’re in the money – if we don’t succeed, then my God we’re in a lot better place than we were this time last year!

Oh Harry Harry! Harry-Harry-Harry-Harry-Harry Hodge!

I was quite unashamedly excited by this prospect, for some reason.  Steve Hodge isn’t a name you often see on the ‘Evening with..’ circuit, indeed, he’s not one that you often see kicking around at all compared to other former players.  And he was my first ever ‘favourite’ player (he was quickly usurped by a certain Mr Pearce as my fickle childhood love affair with Forest blossomed, but still!).

He had two spells with Forest in the eighties under Brian Clough, and was a key member of what many consider to be Clough’s second great Reds side.  Of course, playing in an era when European football was not available to English clubs for much of the time, ‘Harry’ Hodge was limited with his opportunities to test his skills in Europe, although of course he was distinguished with England caps to his name.

A Nottingham lad, he joined the Reds in 1980 as an apprentice and debuted in 1981-82, before making a place in midfield his own the following season.  He was a cracking goal creator, and also chipped in with a few himself too.  1985 saw him move to Villa for £450k, who sold him on a little over a year later to Tottenham for £650k where he played alongside the likes of Chris Waddle and Ossie Ardiles.

He also travelled to Mexico for the World Cup in 1986 – and not only played in that game against Argentina, he managed to snag Diego Maradona’s shirt after the match.  He resisted the urge to burn it (or worse!), and it is currently on an indefinite loan to the National Football Museum (although I didn’t notice it when I was there back in March).

Then he came back to Forest just in time to make an impression on this author as he started out his life as a Forest fan, cast out of the England team he was integral in the Reds haul of trophies in the late eighties, seeing us win numerous trophies – and earn a recall to the England squad for the 1990 World Cup in Italy, but an injury meant he game home having never had a chance to contribute on the pitch.

After the emergence of a certain Mr Roy Keane it became increasingly tough for Hodge to force his way into the Forest side ahead of him, he only appeared as a sub in the 1991 FA Cup final against Tottenham before being sold on to Leeds for an impressively large £900k, ending up on loan at Derby before being released to QPR then joining Watford, and having short-lived dalliances in Hong Kong and finally at Leyton Orient.

So it’s the 18th May he will be appearing at The Approach – and for a £20 ticket you will also get yourself a signed hardback copy of his new book ‘The Man with Maradona’s Shirt’ – which should hopefully be a good read!  I’m really looking forward to both the evening and getting my mits on a copy of his book too.  You can book tickets online through Gigantic by clicking just here.

Get all the details by clicking on the flyer graphic above, or just here.