A series of shock slogans and mindless token tantrums..

A slightly over-dramatic headline, but I couldn’t resist the CRASS reference!  Twitter, the forums etc. have been a fairly angry place for Forest fans of late.  It was predictable really (and indeed, was predicted by me!), and in some ways leaves me questioning my own lack of complete outrage at another transfer window ending without the Reds doing business.

I am disappointed, of course – talk of kicking on, Mark Arthur telling us how much the likes of Whittingham and Pratley wanted to sign, rumours of all manner of things some of which I half fell for, I can see why people are talking of being mis-sold season tickets, why people are angry – why this new blog has publicised a very long letter he sent to Nigel Doughty to question his motives as our owner.

Despite all that I can’t really buy into the rage – and I’m not for a minute criticising those that have, plenty of my regular commenters (who I don’t know, but kind of feel like I do) offered similarly dissenting views on my earlier blog today, and I respect their as well as any other Forest fan’s views if they are well thought out.

I’m also in agreement that the wall of silence from the club is very frustrating for us as supporters, it’s something I dipped my toe in trying to address with a predictable lack of response.  Forest have always been pretty bad at this – indeed, when Mark Arthur did break the board-level silence on transfers he’s ended up with a considerable amount of egg on his face.

I suppose the bottom line is though, we’re Forest fans – we wear the badge, that’s our job.  If people genuinely believe a change is required at the top then the only course of action I can see that you could realistically take is by voting with your feet.  I don’t imagine many would want to do that – but seriously, if you really don’t like it, don’t go.

That’s not meant in a ‘you’re not wanted here’ point of view, just that all the complaining and debating and posting-on-forums in the world isn’t likely to change much.  I have no idea what Nigel Doughty’s agenda is, but I don’t quite see him as the hate figure many seem to, although I wonder how much of that is kneejerkery in the face of immediate disappointment.

If there’s a serious groundswell against the current regime then boycott, organise some action – because my experience of trying to get answers by emailing, blogging, tweeting or foruming is that they will certainly not be forthcoming.  I imagine the next announcements will be a near-infuriating revelation that the loan window will open soon, and that Premier League teams will be confirming their 25 man squads soon.

Which does beg the question, if (and this is NOT a rumour or based on any knowledge) we were to secure a couple of awesome loan signings would that quell a certain amount of the unrest?  I can understand why people feel the way they do, but to me it still rather smacks of over-reaction – for now – but then I am a fairly chilled out kinda guy.

Blimey, two rambling pontifications in one day – I do apologise, but I suppose if the bastards won’t give us any news to talk about we have to make our own!  I’d be interested in your thoughts too via the usual means… is everyone frothing-at-the-mouth angry or are a few more folks disappointing-but-getting-on-with-life?

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D-day?

There’s about 5 hours of the transfer window left as I type, and it becomes abundantly clear (as if we didn’t really know) that Forest appear intent to either rely on loan signings or, well, just not bother to strengthen the side that has yet to muster a win yet this season.  Naturally this will be met with differing degrees of dismay from the fans.

I usually try to be a bit moderate – by no means do I think anybody at the club is ‘out of bounds’ in terms of criticism, but often people can be drawn into fairly ill-educated stabs at pointing the finger – I at least like to attempt to have some foundation before levelling accusations, which is what makes these transfer windows very difficult.

Some people predict relegation, nuclear meltdown, a further global recession and a famine across Nottingham if we don’t sign several players – I don’t see it as quite that bad, but if Billy and the club’s stated ambition is indeed to ‘go one better’ than last season then it’s clear to me that we do need to add not just depth, but strength to our squad.

Our lack of wide options contributes to what many saw (self-included) as a poor performance from McKenna at the weekend – when he’s not fully fit under pressure he needs easy outlets for passes, that would usually be a wingers job.  The trouble is, we don’t have any wingers – so he’s left with the hopeful chip or poorly placed pass.  Wingers also provide chances for strikers.

In Dex and Earnie we have goalscorers – indeed, Earnie has managed to fashion himself three woodwork-bound efforts this season already – when he scored it was thanks to a goalkeeping error.  We’re not creating enough chances for our strikers – whilst I admire both his and Dex’s workrate in tracking back to be involved, we want ’em in the box on the end of crosses.

Perhaps this particular transfer window is compounded by Mark Arthur’s clumsy comments about the targets of Whittingham and Pratley.  Very uncharacteristic for Forest to be so forthcoming with their plans, and perhaps it isn’t surprising then to see that these plans appear to not be coming to fruition (although Mark Arthur did also say Forest were prepared to play the waiting game).

Having said all of that – the perception that we have taken some kind of backward step is perhaps taking it too far.  We certainly haven’t made much of a forward step – the addition of Bertrand is very welcome, and making Raddy permanent – but I don’t see a much more intimidating Championship than the one we faced last season.

Newcastle’s role has probably now been picked up by heavy-gamblers Cardiff, there’s isn’t an obvious ‘West Brom’ (maybe Middlesbrough, but they don’t convince me).  Outside of that is much of a muchness.  This season we don’t have the ‘unknown quantity’ element we had at times last season, and so far teams have found it fairly easy to contain our play.

But then we started slow last season too.

So let’s not be too downhearted – I really wanted us to strengthen too, desperately so, and was almost drawn into some of the rumour-mongering that the mischief-makers of the Internet have been peddling.  If nothing else, this summer has been a lesson in who you can and can’t believe – and basically, my conclusion is you can’t believe anyone!

Of course, a little bit of me is publishing this prior to the deadline closing in the hope that some surprising news this afternoon makes me look silly as Forest snag the stellar signings that Billy (and I agree with him) feels he needs to deliver Forest’s ambitions this season – but well, I’m pretty confident when I press the button I won’t be made to look too foolish…

Reds lucky to earn a point against impressive Norwich..

Nottingham Forest – 1
Norwich City – 1

All in all, a frustrating afternoon at the City Ground.  Forest struggled to make too much impact against an impressive Norwich side, who threatened more than the scoreline suggests.  It’s true that we could have nicked a very ill-deserved three points but for the woodwork, but if we’re being totally honest, we were quite fortunate to end up with the point we did get!

Probably the most disappointing thing about the afternoon for me was the reaction of some supporters when Billy made two substitutions – when Raddy was withdrawn there were boos, when McKenna was taken off there were cheers.  For what it’s worth, I thought both substitutions were the right move given the way the game was going.  Scattered boos at full-time are also unhelpful at this stage of the season.

So anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself really aren’t I?  Back to the beginning and Billy started with a fairly predictable line-up:

Camp
Chambers   Morgan    Wilson    Bertrand
Cohen    McKenna    Majewski     Anderson
Earnshaw     Blackstock

We actually made a promising start early doors – well, very early doors -Chambers crossed a ball in well but we couldn’t get anything on the end of it and it was cleared by a Norwich defender.  Minutes later they were breaking, Chris Martin made mincemeat of Kelv and unleashed what looked like a certain goal only for it to crash back off post.  Then he hit it again after a freekick.

Norwich were not only breaking quickly and dangerously but they were doing a great job in holding up Forest trying to reciprocate, so it was a pretty frustrating time of it from a Reds perspective! Raddy pushed a throughball to Anderson but his cross was deflected back to their ‘keeper, in the meantime Camp needed to be alert to save from Korey Smith.

On a foray forward the ball was loose in the area with Dexter heading to it before being hacked down by a Norwich player, unbelievably the referee – in a great position – gave nothing, the Forest players were so shocked it took them a while to realise play was continuing.  I will be very interested to see the replay should it feature tonight on The Championship.

Minutes later I think the referee might’ve run a mental replay – because Paul Anderson took a tumble under a fairly soft looking challenge by Russell Martin and this time the referee did point to the spot.  Dex immediately claimed it, and put it low to the right – it needed to be in the corner too as Ruddy had guessed the right way and wasn’t far from making the save.

Forest didn’t capitalise on this piece of luck though – and Norwich grabbed a deserved equaliser only a few minutes later.  From our point of view a soft goal to concede – a fairly soft freekick was awarded which was played into a crowded penalty area – it was eventually flicked to Andrew Crofts who looped it into the goal – Camp looked to get a good hand on it but couldn’t keep it out.

Half time, and 1-1 felt a bit flattering to the Reds – we’d had one shot on target which was, irrespective of the earlier faux pas of the referee, a pretty fortunate penalty decision.  We’d struggled as we have lately to look particularly deadly in the final third and were getting cut open at the back rather easily.  Not exactly a comfortable place to be!

Moments into the second half Grant Holt – who’d been pretty quiet so far – attempted a pretty laughable dive to try to get a penalty, the referee waved this away but didn’t opt to book him.  Cohen had an effort from range which was always heading wide for me, but did seem to give Ruddy a bit of a last minute panic as he dived to make sure.

Indeed, Forest were looking better if not good.  Norwich continued to threaten mostly down their left where Chambers was often looking horribly out of position.  In midfield we struggled to keep possession, and without wanting to pick out scapegoats, Paul McKenna in particular really struggled to pick out his passes and doesn’t look particularly fit.

Moussi was introduced on the hour for the clearly-flagging Majewski who’d had little impact in the second half.  Some Forest fans apparently didn’t notice this as there were smatterings of discontent at the change, personally I thought it wasn’t a bad shout – I might’ve considered McGugan as a more like-for-like change, but still, those that booed, get a grip, please!

Again going forward, Earnshaw did well to find Anderson who was denied a goalbound chance by an excellent block from Barnett – this ended Anderson’s game apparently with a medial knee ligament injury – he was replaced by Nathan Tyson, who continued the theme Forest are developing of pressing and having possession, but not converting it to chances.

Norwich, on the other hand, whilst not dominating possession were able to fashion good chances – a great run from Holt left him clear on goal but Camp was quick off his line to block the angle and made a great save to deny the former-Reds striker the winning goal I’m sure he was desperate to snag for his new club.

Billy’s final change was to introduce McGugan at the expense of the flagging McKenna.  He’s not been the same player for me since just before his injury – he was very wasteful with the ball today and slow to move it on, hindering our attacking.  Having said that, the reaction of some of the crowd in cheering his departure was shameful.  Utterly shameful.

Earnie – working hard on very limited service from the midfield – had a chance with a snapshot which looked to be heading over but dipped viciously and looked to have the beating of Ruddy, but didn’t dip quite enough.  At the other end Drury played a delicious ball across the face of goal that no Norwich player could quite reach – the linesman tried to give a corner, but the referee overruled him.

It ended up quite end-to-end, Norwich continued to press and it looked like we might get a chance to hit them on the break when the ball fell to Tys on the left, but he couldn’t get his cross past the Norwich defender. We could’ve snatched an absolutely stolen win at the death when Earnie worked a bit of magic to fashion a bit of space in the area at an angle and unleash a shot but he saw his shot rebound off the post and back into play.

As the full-time whistle sounded there were chunterings and the odd boo, I can understand the frustration – at times this was a dull, dull game from a Forest point of view.  Norwich deserve credit for playing positively whilst also nullifying our play – and I imagine that the sizeable number of Canaries who made the trip will feel hard-done to that they didn’t leave the City Ground with three points.

Derby’s Clough and Taylor statue..

It looks great – much better in person than the pictures I’ve seen online. I can’t help but have the impression that Clough looks a bit older than he should for his time at Derby, but just as at Middlesbrough and Nottingham the likeness is unmistakable.

Peter Taylor stands beside him, and with their arms about each others’ shoulders they hold the Division One Trophy between them – elevated on a nine foot plinth in Unity Plaza. With a compass style arrangement beneath pointing to notable football landmarks including our very own City Ground.

Definitely worth popping down Brian Clough Way to see – it’s just the kind of effigy Forest should have commissioned – obviously both men a little older and holding a different trophy. Huge congratulations to everyone involved in making it happen, it’s a monument to be proud of.

I don’t imagine the attached pictures do it justice, but they’re there for what it’s worth – now back to Nottingham we go to hopefully see off the Canaries!

Forest vs. Norwich City preview..

The Reds will be looking to turn performances into points against the Canaries at the City Ground on Saturday.  Despite moments of encouraging play in our opening three league games, Forest have yet to notch a win due to a melting pot of inconsistency, wasting chances and slight-too-wide goalposts.  Norwich have a had a decent start to their return to this league, so certainly won’t prove easy opponents – having notched wins in their last two league games against Scunthorpe and Swansea.

With the predictable complete lack of news relating to signings, I suspect Billy won’t have any new faces to factor in to his selection ahead of the game.  McKenna is still in some doubt after feeling a hamstring twinge at Reading, given that we’ll lose some players for International games soon I guess if there’s any doubts around him he’ll continue to be rested.  Gunter remains suspended thanks to the zealous FA, and of course McGoldrick remains on the long-term sick list.

Norwich are a bit short in defence with Whitbread and Nelson suffering injuries – although new loan signing Leon Barnett may well slot in for a debut at the City Ground.  Drury and Crofts were rested in their midweek defeat in the Carling Cup to Blackburn due to slight injury concerns – but both are likely to be fit and ready to face Forest.  Of course, there’s the ex-player factor here for both sides with Earnie likely to feature for us – and former striker (or right-winger in Smoulderwood’s befuddled mind) Grant Holt for Norwich who will both be eager to impress against former clubs.

Holt has made a real name for himself amongst Norwich fans – indeed, when he first arrived at Forest I really liked the bustling frontman – unfortunately he was marginalised when then manager Smoulderwood opted to play him wide right.  He’s certainly been amongst the goals for the Canaries though, and I’m sure he’ll be keen to give Wes and Kelvin plenty to think about at the back.

However, we are at home – and without being disrespectful should certainly be expecting to get the better of Norwich.  That’s not of course to say those expectations will be met – but that’s where I’m at.  I would like to see us get that first win, and get it reasonably comfortably too – however, Paul Lambert is a canny manager and won’t make it easy for us, so we need to be on our game preferably for more than the 20 minutes or so we managed against Leeds..

In more random news, if you want to be in with a chance to win a signed Forest shirt – then you can click here and donate some cash towards a raffle.  £1 per entry (I think Justgiving insist on a minmum £2 donation) – so you can be all charitable as well as giving yourself a chance of snagging a great prize to boot!  Be sure to click that your donation is in exchange for raffle tickets as this has implications over Gift-Aid.

Support British Red Cross..

On Saturday there is a celebration of 100 years of British Red Cross in Nottinghamshire – since getting in touch with Max (the unfortunate Forest fan running the Great North Run dressed as Robbie Savage thanks to some merciless friends!) I’ve been in touch with them about the event, which includes a raffle for a personalised and signed Forest shirt.

If you’re at a loose end before the match then the event starts in the city centre on Smithy Row from 11am.  There’ll be entertainment in the form of stalls and live music, along with first aid demonstrations as well as information about the history of the great work that British Red Cross do.  Definitely worth checking out.

Keep an eye on the blog too, as we hope together to be able to source some great prizes to help raise some more cash, probably raffle entries in exchange for donations – watch this space, but in the meantime, you might want to donate to poor old Max to help him reach his target to make his Savage-based humiliation that little bit more bearable!

As well as providing first aid training, British Red Cross provide essential support and preparation for disasters both in the UK and overseas, as well as providing social care, reuniting families estranged by disaster or conflict and support for refugees.  Basically, they’re bloody well rock, and are a great cause for our support.

Speaking of fundraising, after you’ve checked this out and are heading to Bridgford for the match, pop in to the Stratford Haven where one of my regular readers is raising money for another excellent cause – Help for Heroes.  A signed replica 1979 shirt is on offer for just £2 a ticket (with a wristband thrown in), so pop there too – and go to the match with a healthy glow of being charitable.

All this goodwill shall surely propel the mighty Reds to their first win of the season (although any Norwich fans reading feel free to donate too!).

An evening with Birtles, Woodcock and Robbo!

Click the small picture for the full flyer

A trio of Forest legends are on offer for your entertainment pleasure – quite literally a 9, 10 and 11.  Garry Birtles, Tony Woodcock and John Robertson to be precise – and it’s actually quite the bargain too.  Whilst at first glance £13 might seem an odd price – this includes a copy of Garry Birtles’ new book ‘My Magic Carpet Ride‘ which will be signed by all three.

So, the time – from 6:00pm, the date – Thursday 16th September, and the place is The Approach on Friar Lane.  It should prove an entertaining evening, if not just to heckle Birtles for his rubbish column in the Evening Post – plus even somebody too young to have seen them play, you just can’t help loving Robbo – the guy is just an absolute legend and a gent!

You can pick up tickets either from the venue or by clicking this link and ordering one online from Gigantic.com.  You could treat yourself to an enhanced ticket which includes a three course meal and waitress service for £35.

Even though as a pundit he gets on my nerves a bit, the Birtles story is Roy of the Rovers stuff – plucked from obscurity to glory by Clough, from Long Eaton United for a mere £2,000.  After a stuttering start he established himself as a quality hard-working forward, and snagged himself a couple of European Cup Winners medals along with a sizeable haul of other silverware.

Of course, he then departed to Manchester United for £1.25m – quite the profit for Forest.  At the time he was their most expensive signing.  He turned out, frankly, to be a bit crap – and was the subject of national jokes – United finished only 8th and their manager Sexton was sacked as a result.

A second spell at Forest saw him sometimes appear at centrehalf, but retained a goalscoring streak from 83-84 and through to 86-87 – playing alongside the players who started to come into the side and develop into my first Forest heroes.  The likes of Neil Webb and Nigel Clough (spit!).  Finally he was released on a free and ended up with a black and white theme with stints for Notts County and Grimsby Town before hanging up his boots.

Now he’s very much the pundit, often co-commentating on Sky Sports and writing a column in the Evening Post.  From carpet-fitter to European Cup winner, to obscurity and then a homecoming – that’s quite a story to go through, and he doesn’t even have to get on to the punditry!  So it should prove to be a fun evening, with the not inconsiderable bonus of Woodcock and Robbo thrown in.