The news is there ain’t no news..

Pondering...

Isn’t close-season dull – as England go through their customary underwhelming preparations for the World Cup in South Africa, all things Forest become very quiet.  And when the news is quiet, the rumours go into overdrive.  Despite rumours of a rift and an impending departure for Billy, he and Nigel Doughty have met and agreed their joint purpose going forward, and now comes the inevitable focus on player signings.

I think it’s safe to say that Pratley remains a key target for the Reds – and to that you can add any number of names.  Cardiff City’s impending financial meltdown appears to have been delayed through new investors – that said, the amounts being touted might well keep the wolves from the door, but I’m not sure it will sustain the maintenance of such a talented squad amassed with money they didn’t have in the first place.  Certainly from a ‘sense of fair play’ perspective I would hope not.

Other definite news since my last post is that Millwall elevate themselves back the Championship via the play-offs, so congratulations to them and commiserations to Swindon Town – their opponents.  This gives us a complete picture of next season’s Championship participants – unlike last season, the bookies are struggling to pick clear winners this time – with the Reds in the mix amongst the early favourites after last season’s third placed finish.

Of course, early odds are just that – an early indicator.  Our activity (or lack thereof) in the transfer market will determine our real chances, although given our earliest transfer activity was announced in late June last season – we might have a wait on our hands in that respect, and a great deal of rumour mongering before that, I would imagine!  Boyd, Snodgrass, Beattie and whoever else we’ve been linked with will have to wait!

I’ve picked up the below odds from Betfair today just to illustrate the earliest view (Betfair betting is very sensitive to how actual punters are backing teams), it’s interesting – if a bit worrying given the clear weight of expectation the betting public have on us – and how we tend to quail under too much weight of expectation historically!  Then again, I always was a pessimist…

Nottingham Forest 10 Middlesbrough 10.5 Cardiff City 11 Queens Park Rangers 11.5 Burnley 12.5 Leicester City 14 Reading 15 Portsmouth 17.5 Ipswich Town 18 Hull City 18 Norwich City 19.5 Leeds United 21 Bristol City 23 Sheffield United 23 Swansea City 26 Derby County 26 Coventry City 30 Preston North End 36 Barnsley 38 Doncaster Rovers 38 Millwall 48 Crystal Palace 48 Scunthorpe United 48 Watford 50

So early indications would be a close old time of it – certainly I would expect Middlesbrough and Reading to pose a much bigger challenge this season than last, perhaps Queens Park Rangers will finally fulfil their potential under a more stable management team, Cardiff, Burnley, Ipswich, Leicester are all potential contenders – far from being a division not to fear, I see a lot of potentially well matched teams.

Throw in the inevitable unexpected risers (of which we and Leicester were amongst last season) and you could have a Leeds or a Derby elevating themselves beyond expectation too.  Equally you have the unexpected fallers – indeed, it’s quite normal for vanquished play-off competitors to fall back to the obscurity of mid-table in the hang-over season.  Which is why the levels of expectation upon the Reds worries me a bit – Billy too, going by his comments.

Hopefully that’s just me being my usual cautious self though – but next season is going to be tough, although I’m not about to start worrying about it or making serious predictions until we’ve seen a bit more activity in the transfer market.  Until then, I shall try to rouse my interest levels in the World Cup – difficult to get excited by over-experimented-in friendlies (and indeed, I’d suggest difficult to get worried by them too – take note, British Press!).

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Nottingham’s rallying cry for the World Cup..

I’m a bit of a grinch when it comes to football music, unless of course it happens to be these spectacular efforts – or, indeed, if it involves John Barnes rapping.  So I quite surprised myself to actually enter into the spirit of fun that appeared to be involved in this Nottingham-themed World Cup song by Phil Rostance and the Marshall band.

It certainly fits the bill of feel-good cheese, and with involvement from Forest, County, Mansfield, The Nottingham Panthers, Carl Froch and the Trent FM guys (even Billy Davies is there on the vid), it’s certainly endorsed well by local sporting and media luminaries.  It even has an unlikely almost-rap section – sure, it’s no John Barnes, but you can’t have everything.

Should you want to possess this masterpiece (and I’m not sure I do, really, sorry guys!), then it can be purchased here.  You can pick up physical copies at the Tourist Information Centre in Nottingham, the Forest reception, County club shop, Mansfield Town, the Panthers shop at the Ice Arena or at the Vic Centre information desk.

Whilst musically it might not be my bag (rap section notwithstanding), it is raising money for two great causes – so I will be availing myself of a copy.  The Shine Foundation and the Nottingham University Hospital Charity are the great causes being supported by this single release.

A message to you, Blackpool.

Good luck at Wembley!

Whilst naturally the nature of our demise in the semi-final of the play-off wasn’t easy to bear witness to, there’s no denying we bowed out (with a whimper) to the better team over two legs.  I genuinely hope you can go one better and overcome Cardiff at Wembley.

Fingers crossed that Ian Holloway and your lads can work their magic again, certainly I can’t believe they’ll be playing with any fear!

‘Uneasy truce’ or just ‘sorting a few things out’ ?..

After their much publicised meeting in London, Forest chairman Nigel Doughty – and his manager, Billy Davies – part amicably having reassured one another they share the same objectives for the club.

Is it indeed an ‘uneasy truce’ as has been suggested, or are fans and media alike reading too much into everything?  Probably somewhere in the middle, as these things usually are.  Certainly Billy will probably be focused on the lack of transfer activity in January – let’s face it, it’s a nice smokescreen to take questions away from his tactics during our tricky away run.

From Mr Doughty’s point of view, I imagine he might well – as well as offering Billy whatever assurances he required with regard to the signing of players – will have had a thing or two to say about Billy’s media conduct.  Whilst it’s wound many of you up more than me, I can see how almost advertising your availability in the media isn’t going to be most people’s cup of tea.

Whether Davies’ relationship with Mark Arthur is really as bleak as people suggest, or indeed whether there really is a “Billy versus the acquisition panel” is – in my opinion – pure speculation.  Billy knew the score when he arrived, and whilst he may well desire things to be different, he can’t really complain that they’re not – he came to this job with his eyes open.

Whilst he’s undoubtedly a talented manager – leaving another club under a black cloud would make his CV read like a recurring dream, which perhaps is another reason for him and the board to settle their differences.  And compromise isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the board need to deliver signings faster in January if we are in dire need, and Billy needs to stop gobbing off in the media quite so much.

Rather than call this new era an ‘uneasy truce’ I imagine it was really a case of the two men sitting down and ‘sorting a few things out’.  Let’s hope it’s worked (plus it was a blatant excuse to put in the cartoon – why is it so hard to find a decent picture of Doughty?!).

Billy to stay, players targeted – and thanks a million (nearly)..

So it seems that after their ‘crunch meeting’ Forest owner Nigel Doughy and Billy Davies are – after all – singing from the same hymn sheet.  The nature of their relationship and any supposed gripes are obviously all in the realms of speculation anyway, but clearly both men have the same end goal with the Reds – if not always the same ideas about how to get there.

Tagged tantalisingly on the end of the piece in the Guardian which seemed to be the closest to the actual event, there’s news that Forest intend to resume their pursuit of Swansea midfielder Darren Pratley.  This would be a great move in my book, Pratley is young yet with considerable Championship experience, and he’s impressed the majority of times I’ve seen him against us (aside from the unnecessary diving).

Also a target is a left back (HALLELUJAH!) in the form of Chelsea reserve Patrick von Aanholt.  He’s previously spent time on loan at Newcastle and Coventry, so certainly has first team experience, and Chelsea seem open to him gaining more.  Certainly early confirmation of signings such as these would provide a very welcome distraction from this largely unsavoury speculation over the manager and his commitment to the cause.

Forest have also been busy organising pre-season friendlies – opting to again defy those fans who like to claim every game by playing two friendlies at the same time.  Twice!  July 24th sees the Reds playing one game at Peterborough and one at Kidderminster Harriers, on the 21st July one Reds side will visit Tranmere whilst another has the shorter trip to Mansfield.

In more personal news it’s been another great season for visits for the blog – I tend to count ‘years’ as August-July as I started way back in August 2006 – so we haven’t finished ‘this year’ yet.  Year to date though visits are up 16%, and assuming Forest can muster some blog-worthy activity between now and July, I’ve projected I have a good shout of smashing the 1,000,000 visits mark before next season starts.

That would be amazing – so a huge thanks to all of you who visit, and especially those of you who interact by commenting, or on my haphazardly updated Twitter and Facebook pages too – for me that’s what makes this all the more interesting, rather than just being my self-indulgent prattling about Forest.

Season ticket prices announced..

Some months after other clubs get their pricing tied up, Forest announced their season ticket prices today.  Modest rises all round seem to be the order of the day, which is most definitely tolerable.  Unless you happen to be in the Under 21 age bracket then you’re looking at a heftier rise.  That said, I always struggled to see why Under 18 and Under 21 were so close in price before the massive jump to adult prices.

So I’m quite content with that really.  You have until June 26th to renew your seat after which they become available presumably for ‘transferring’ season ticket holders to move to.  Forest are offering the usual short-term loan option to pay by instalments, and seem to have finally done away with the ludicrous % surcharge for using Visa-backed debit cards to pay up front for your ticket.  All in all, a grumble free zone for this writer!

I will grumble a little bit about the away membership scheme – which is a complete and utter con, but one those of us who travel away a bit must be party to because it’s basically a glorified queue-jumping mechanism.  A slight rise in this, £32 for those of us renewing, £37 to new entrants to the scheme.  As Forest have already demonstrated their ability to prioritise tickets based on away attendance records, I don’t see why this system is in place other than as a cynical cash-raising exercise.

But still, that’s a relatively small gripe mostly in an announcement full of positivity – to get over the idea I tend to consider the away membership as part of my season ticket cost.  It still doesn’t see me paying the most expensive regular season ticket cost, and gives me peace of mind that – combined with my ‘games attended’ list, I’m unlikely to not be able to attend a game I would like to go to.  All the information you need should be at the end of this link.

Billy: Should I stay or should I go?

"Whoa! Calm down! I only said I'd consider other jobs!"

I must admit that come the end of the football season I’m ready for a ‘rest’ from it.  I like switching off and not worrying about Forest for a while, I don’t check news feeds nearly as often and don’t check out the forums with nearly as much regularity.  But it’s hard to ignore the continued speculation surrounding Billy Davies.

If you remember back to last time we were without a manager I was dead against Billy, and I’m delighted to eat humble pie and say he proved me wrong completely.  I’d be very disappointed if he sought pastures new after affecting a remarkable turnaround in our fortunes – elevating us from 19th to 3rd inside a season is no mean achievement, and if he’d had his way in January arguably we might’ve pushed automatic further.

Having said that, I can’t quite subscribe to the anger some fans are feeling regarding his recent comments in the press.  As far as I can make out, all he’s done is said that he’d consider other jobs – he’s also said he relishes the challenge at Forest.  Sounds like a perfectly healthy and ambitious attitude for a manager to have to me.

When I pick up publications at work or the Evening Post I tend to have a check on the job pages – not because I’m unhappy in my current role, but it would be folly not to consider there might be something better out there.  I don’t see why Billy shouldn’t do the same, particularly in an industry where very little security nor loyalty is forthcoming to him from above.  It would be churlish to expect him to reciprocate it.

That’s no reflection on what he feels towards the fans or the ‘club’ as an organisation.  Time and again he’s praised the Forest fans for the backing we’ve given him, he appreciates us – of course he does – but for some fans to expect him to come out with unequivocal commitment to Forest and no other team are being a bit on the naïve side.  His attitude towards his employers (the board) is totally separate.

I really hope that Billy isn’t considering seeking new pastures – but I’m not churlish enough to plead he stays for the fans.  He should stay for his own ambitions, to improve his own achievements – and I truly hope that he feels they can be fulfilled here.  Let’s not forget the greatest manager we’ve had was an ambitious man, he wanted the England job, and constantly bitched and moaned at the boards he worked under.

Whatever happens, I would certainly wish Billy well wherever he ends up (within reason).  If he leaves he leaves us in a better place than when he took over – and certainly I think the acquisition policy deserves some credit for this too.  Sensible acquisition has given us a talented, young side on a modest budget – with a talented manager to get them working together.  That’s the model I like to see Forest operating – within our means.

Let’s hope we can continue with Billy still at the helm – but to expect him to show some kind of outlandish show of loyalty seems a bit unrealistic, it’s certainly not something that he is likely to get from the powers-that-be at any football club.  If it’s not to be, then Billy isn’t irreplaceable either – although I wouldn’t want to have the job of trying to find that replacement.  For a little man, he’d leave big shoes to fill.