Friendlies fired…

"Wolves and Burton? You're fired!"

I’m not sure if it’s just me, well, actually, I know it’s not just me from my emails – but is anyone else completely baffled by what’s happening with pre-season friendlies?  I realise in the midst of a regime change at the club we’re likely to encounter differences in ideas about suitable opponents and suchlike, but to cancel already agreed fixtures does seem a tad drastic.

Accepting that the new arrangements broadly featuring a higher standard of opponent, the communication of who we are playing and when has been a bit misleading at best.  Please don’t take anything written in here as gospel, I’m trying to get my head around it as best I can – and would certainly welcome anything I’ve missed out or got wrong being pointed out in the comments..!

As far as I’m aware we’ve cancelled plans to play against Burton Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers – the Wolves game in particular makes sense as I was a bit concerned about how close that was ’til the start of the season proper.  Games against Lincoln City, Northampton Town and Tottenham Hotspur (the latter in Portugal) go ahead as planned, with more glamourous ties against PSV Eindhoven and Celtic added since McClaren’s arrival.

The Celtic game has been rumoured for a while, but after Lennon let slip about it there seems to be strong indications it will go ahead – most popular dates seem to be around the same time as the Northampton game.  So we’d best hope we make some signings if we’re expecting to be able to play two friendlies in one night as we have done a few times over the last few pre-seasons.  It will be interesting to say the least to see Wilson and particularly Commons return to the City Ground with the Bhoys.

Of course, aside from pre-season friendlies the most coveted information is that to do with transfers – the news today confirmed that McClaren is keen to speak to both Earnshaw and Moussi (and indeed has flown out to speak to the Moose in France) and get them both tied up, both of which would be welcome, but of course we also crave signings and aside from confirmation that we’ve had a chat with Giles Barnes there’s been little concrete on the rumour front.

I’m not panicking just yet, but it would be nice to get a few signings in the bag to get a full pre-season of preparations under their belts… also give the pubs of Nottingham an opportunity to order in extra stock if it’s true that we will be hosting Celtic for a pre-season friendly!

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… and so ends the reign of William McIntosh Davies

Billy Davies left us in a far better state than he found us on the pitch, that’s undeniable – and that’s why lots of Forest fans are still struggling to come to terms with the idea that he has been sacked.  He took over an ailing Championship side, struggling to adjust to a new league under beleaguered Smoulderwood, and delivered survival.

A season later and a target of consolidation saw periods of challenging for the top two spots, ultimately ending in a disappointing play-off performance over two legs against Blackpool.  Last season was less emphatic, but again a play-off finish was delivered but a spirited (and unlucky) two-legged affair with Swansea again saw us fail to progress to the final.

From relegation battler to twice-play-off contender is a success story.  If you follow the Davies doctrine then a lack of backing from the board caused Forest to fail to stagger over the finish line in both seasons, if you listen elsewhere you’ll hear tell of a stubborn manager who froze out players and rejected players who would have improved our impoverished-looking squad.

The truth?  I have no idea.  I choose instead to remember Billy for the positives – the dismantling of West Brom away in the year they went up, doing similar to Newcastle at the City Ground.  Doing the double over Derby including a first ever win at Pride Park, and some genuinely exciting football after years of – let’s face it – abject shit.

As the speculation mounted in the news though it had become abundantly clear that he wasn’t able to find a way to work within the confines he’d agreed to when taking on the post of Forest manager.  Certainly his relationship with the board appeared fractious from the outside, and whilst many will call for the board to step down, that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

That left only one option – and I guess that once it became apparent that a manager of the calibre of Steve McClaren was available and willing to come it might have accelerated the decision.  Billy had to go in order for him and the club to progress, although I can’t help but wonder if he might have damaged his reputation in the process.

A huge thank you to Billy – we had rare moments of light under Smoulderwood, which you delivered much more consistently.  Certainly he can claim to have left us in a considerably better state than when he arrived – at least on the pitch – and I for one would be happy to applaud him should he grace the opposition dugout at the City Ground in the future.

Despite feeling a little sad though, I do think it’s the best move for all concerned – and am struggling to understand the vitriol some fans seem to have for our new manager.  Sure, have reservations – but it sounds like some people actually want him to fail.  Which reminds me of when we appointed Billy Davies, ironically!

On a related-but-unrelated-note, but not really warranting his own piece, but Nathan Tyson was unveiled as a Derby County player.  I can’t find it in myself to dislike Tys – he was a highlight over some years of dross in League One, but has never really set the Championship alight (aside from when waving a corner flag).  Certainly had Forest offered him a three year deal I’d have been surprised.

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To have had the opportunity to secure himself a long term deal, probably on better wages, without uprooting his family is an understandable move.  Whilst obviously I don’t wish him too much luck given his destination I don’t really bear him any malice either.  He’s often spoken of wanting to be a striker rather than a winger – now he has a chance to justify that assertion.

Thanks for your efforts, Nathan.

Is McClaren the right man for the job? What do YOU think?

A simple question – it’s interesting hearing people who are prepared to post comments, many in favour of Schteve, many against.

Without reading into my own thoughts, without taking influence from other commenters – what do you think?  It will be interesting to see the differences in opinion.  I’ve chosen the question carefully, because surely promotion has to be our aim – and anything below that is no better than what Billy achieved.

You have 24 hours to answer… go!  Thank you to whoever it was who suggested I do this, I’ve had so many contacts and conversation streams via different forms of social media I’ve lost track of you!  My apologies!

Billy’s gone, Steve McClaren to take over?

Well that was a surprise.  I was quite enjoying a sabbatical from blog posting, and resisting the urge to respond to the myriad of varying and wild-sounding speculation.  Of course, you’d have found me doing just that on Twitter or Facebook occasionally, but little else.  It was nice.

Of course, only picking up my season ticket renewal details yesterday (just two weeks before I’m expected to stump up my cash for another year), no news on players out of contract, and constant speculation surrounding meetings and more meetings between manager and board, it’s not easy to completely switch off and have a ‘vacation’.

But today’s announcement that Billy Davies has had his contract terminated (so Billy can say he’s never walked away from a contract, the club can say it was a mutual decision, yada yada) demands some kind of immediate update.  The fact they’ve named Steve McClaren as likely successor in the same announcement would indicate a degree of confidence in his future appointment.

Then again, we all thought that when our Chief Executive once boldly stated that Peter Whittingham and Darren Pratley were just absolutely desperate to sign for Forest, didn’t we?  And look how that turned out!

As for Billy – the romanticists and fans of his will point to his turning around our almost certain relegation under Smoulderwood, of two credible challenges on the promotion places subsequently.  The more critical will note the failure to maintain a push on automatic promotion and subsequent collapses in the play-offs (although this season we didn’t embarrass ourselves!).

Underpinning most of Billy’s stay was the rumours of a fractious relationship with the board – a reputation that has followed him around his previous jobs too, and ultimately – whilst I’m not in the critical camp – if he can’t find a way of working within the Forest structure that works for us, then perhaps he has to be the one to go.  There isn’t really much other choice.

That is not to say I’m happy about it, nor the way the club has handled it in particular.  I can only assume that the intentions and/or movements of their intended replacement for Billy have dictated this protracted period of uncertainty and fuelled the fire of the rumours the press have been – it turns out – probably been getting right.

However – Steve McClaren would be a coup for Forest.  There, I said it.  It’s all to easy to remember him as the wally with the brolly, or with the comedic pseudo-Dutch accent during his time at FC Twente – but he’s a bloody good coach, and one who I think would work more collaboratively within the structure at Forest to hopefully deliver a more mutually beneficial end product.

I would hope that in making the announcement that Forest at least intend to get him tied up quickly – and then do the same with the out of contract players which clearly needs input from the manager.  Tyson appears to already be gone and does Adebola – neither of which, fond of both though I am, am I too sorry to say goodbye to as Forest players.

Having just got together my season ticket renewal money I had intended on popping down to do the deed tomorrow.  I might just give it a few days now before I decide.

Huge thanks to Billy – despite his flaws I liked the guy.  However, let’s not be blind to those flaws, he was openly at odds with the board a number of times, he did spend a lot of time away from the club (whether working or not is irrelevant) and whilst he undoubtedly stepped us on from where we were, he didn’t seem to be able to build upon that – for whatever reason.

On a similar note, whilst we must resist canonising Billy it would be all too easy to remember the media-generated clown figure of Steve McClaren and forget the excellent work he did before and indeed since his England days.  The England job perhaps came too soon for him (indeed, is any England manager ever seen as good these days?).

These are very much stream-of-consciousness first impressions – I shall endeavour to get my thoughts in order more once there is more actual news forthcoming from the club.  So probably some time in July.

So, to renew or not to renew, that is the question… there’s only really one answer though isn’t there?  Forest is bigger than Billy Davies, it’s bigger than Steve McClaren.. and we are all Forest ’til we die.

On a lighter note – I wonder if Steve can do a Nottingham accent?