Please help find a missing mum for Christmas

It’s been nearly a year since I posted on here, but I do think this is worth breaking radio silence for.  Whilst the campaign to find missing mum Elaine Harrison has received great coverage, perhaps leveraging whatever reach this platform still has might just reach some new people.

Elaine was last seen at around 15:30 on 9th December in the Castle Marina area of Nottingham where she has a houseboat.  She was wearing a grey fleece jacket with white fur trim, black trousers and white trainers. She’s large of build and short of height, with collar length grey hair and silver-framed glasses.

Please continue to look out for Elaine and if you do have any information that might help reunite her with her loving family in time for Christmas then please get in touch with the police on the non-emergency line 101, you can also keep tabs on the campaign by liking the Facebook page, and keeping an eye on the hashtag #FindElaine on Twitter.

Whilst football is completely irrelevant at a time like this it would be lovely to read that a fellow Forest fan has been reunited with his mum.

Thank you, Sean..

O’Driscoll sacked on Boxing Day having overseen a 4-2 win over Leeds.

A bout of illness has consigned me to bed and left me idly not bothering with Watford reports, Leeds previews or updates – but the news of Sean O’Driscoll being sacked was enough to rouse me from my pit of misery.  After an enjoyable afternoon of watching Forest beat Leeds this has brought the whole day right down.

When the news broke we’d be taken over by foreign owners I admit I was highly dubious – you don’t have to look too far to see mismanaged clubs in modern football, sacking managers on a whim, reneging on agreed strategies and alienating supporters into the bargain.  I must admit, I was quickly sold the idea that the Al Hasawi family weren’t going to be like that.

This would indicate I was wrong to be so ready to trust in our new owners – because let’s review where we are.  We’ve got a squad hastily assembled without a decent pre-season, we have acknowledged gaps in our squad, we are eighth in the table and just a point away from the play-offs.  For me, that puts Sean O’Driscoll comfortably in the ‘decent’ bracket, if not outstanding just yet.

However, I bought into the idea of building for a sustainable future – to allow a manager, coaching team and squad to develop over time.  That was the strategy we were sold when the new owners arrived, and no amount of flashy replay boards or electronic advert boards will make up for this change in direction that makes us look more like a Leicester or a QPR at their worst.

Not that the gaffer was perfect of course, many seem to think that supporting the idea of him building a team was a suggestion he was somehow perfect – a paragon of footballing brilliance.  Let’s face it, if there’s something Forest have struggled to produce consistently so far this season it’s footballing brilliance.

It will be intriguing to see the direction the Reds take now with the next managerial appointment.  One can only assume there is a candidate in mind, someone to make the necessary adjustments to the squad in January.  This episode has left me very disheartened and feeling let down by the empty promises of the new owners.

If we are to become a foreign-owned club whose owners tinker without consideration or expertise then I’m afraid that I will struggle to maintain my interest what is increasingly becoming an isolating sport for those of us who fell in love with the beautiful game before the dawn of the Sky Sports era of greed, impatience and anything but a sense of sporting fairness.

I’m going to use this opportunity to take a natural break from blogging about Forest.  It’s a decision I’ve been mulling for a while anyway, as pressures of life and other factors make finding the time for this difficult to achieve anyway.  I may yet return to active chronicling duties, but if we go the direction I fear under the stewardship of the Al Hasawis then I might well find myself drifting away from Forest all together.

To Sean – thank you for what I think you were trying to achieve at Forest, it’s fair to say you were some way off the mark as to where I had hoped we’d get to – but then, I’m sure you, much like me, expected you to be given more than a few months to achieve your targets.  All the best in the next step of your career – I bet you wish you’d stuck with Crawley.

To everyone else – thanks for your comments over the years, it’s been appreciated and whilst the last few years of supporting Forest have had more highs and lows, I’ve struggled to feel more aggrieved and pissed off than I do right now – so I’m putting the blog on ice until the dust settles.

Watford vs Forest preview..

I know I’m not big on issuing predictions, but this one’s really difficult.  The Reds have defied predictability over the last few games, whilst Watford seem even more tricky to second-guess even beyond us as they operate under a bizarre experiment with Zola as manager.

It seems highly likely to me that Simon Cox will be given the opportunity to add a bit more of a different type of energy to our attack – apparently Sam Hutchinson and Jermaine Jenas have returned to training too, but I can’t see either being risked for the trip to Vicarage Road – although the prospect of Hutch in particular returning is a tempting prospect.

However, with Ayala and Halford coming through the trip to Brighton unscathed it does give Sean options to choose from which had been limited in some areas of late.  Watford are likely to be missing the aptly-named striker Fernando Forestieri, which might just be a good omen!  The Hornets have struggled whilst he’s been out.

They are also likely to be without John Eustace in midfield and Nyron Nosworthy in defence, both have returned to training this week but are unlikely to have attained sufficient match fitness to feature.  Lloyd Doyley remains on the sidelines with a calf injury.

If you look at the science then it swings the balace in Watford’s favour – although comparing 20 home/away games is covering a long time in modern football, and both Forest and Watford have undergone rather significant changes since that sequence of games began.  That said, until a 2-1 defeat in their last home game, Watford were enjoying an unbeaten run at home.

Forest on the road have been – despite their best impression of the Keystone Cops in defence on occasions – in reasonable fettle on the road as well though over the last few games, if we gloss over the debacle at Portman Road of course.  So whilst I love stats and pretty graphs, I am hoping that the numbers in this case are doing Forest somewhat of a disservice.

In player news, James Coppinger is set to go back to Doncaster which is probably a good move for all concerned.  In a team crying out for wingers, for a winger – with a strong history with the manager – to have struggled to make an impact is an indictment that things ain’t really working out.  Thanks to him for his efforts and all the best to him as he resumes duties with Rovers.

We appear to have agreed a deal with Derry City to sign young winger Stephen McLaughlin though – presumably in January – after impressing Sean O’Driscoll in training.  A winger!  Imagine that!  Then of course we have the new big screens to look forward to for the Leeds game on Boxing day which, well, if it keeps the kids happy then I suppose that’s something…!

Brighton and Hove Albion vs. Forest preview..

I was looking at my schedule over the coming days and with Christmas threatening to break into full swing I probably don’t have time for my customary Thursday preview, or the increasingly customary last-minute Friday preview… so I’d better go for the ludicrously early Wednesday evening preview I’m thinking!

What could be excellent news is that Simon Cox is champing at the bit to return from injury well ahead of schedule.  Given the struggle we’ve had in creating lots of chances, his industrious work-rate would be much welcomed assuming it isn’t a step too far in his recovery curve.

Just having him as an option from the bench would be a huge bonus that I for one wasn’t expecting!  Having been granted a week off in the sun to recuperate he’s returned to the club in much better shape than expected.  A huge boost.

Brighton defy any kind of pattern – they started the season with a defeat to Swindon in the Cup, then followed it up losing to Hull, drew with Cardiff anf then won five on the bounce.  Then failed to win in six,  leading into an unbeaten November – with Peterborough, Huddersfield and Bristol City defeated, Leeds, Wolves and Bolton drawn with.

Right, things are picking up then yes?  Well no, they lost 3-0 to fierce rivals Palace at the start of December, and then another trip to London saw them only muster a draw with Charlton.  Earlier in the season they’ve clumped wins or lack-of-wins together so maybe that bodes well for us – or then again, maybe it doesn’t!

With the likes of Majewski and potentially Cox on the mend from their injuries we could see some pack reshuffling from O’Driscoll.  From a Brighton perspective Adam El-Abd – who is apparently a Forest fan – came through a comeback from injury against Charlton and should be fit enough to line up against us.

I’d like to feel optimistic about this one but have a nagging doubt – although we saw a much improved level of performance against Burnley in the second half, we still look susceptible to being nullified but a hard-working and industrious side which is what we’ve seen from the Seagulls in the past – it makes me sense an afternoon of frustration from a Forest perspective.

Hopefully we will find a way to impose ourselves and forge opportunities to net some goals whilst keeping it tight at the back, but – as ever – it ain’t going to be easy!

Forest vs. Burnley preview..

Right, let’s try that again shall we?  Two bad results behind us, and an opportunity to improve our trajectory with the visit of Sean Dyche’s Burnley side.  Oh, and it’s kids for a quid.

Bugger!

On the less over-reactive tack, we are still just four points adrift of the play-offs, whilst the Clarets are sitting in mid-table having just drawn with fellow Lancastrians Blackburn Rovers.  Of course, sitting in mid-table in reality means that they’re just a point below us – which rather underlines how tight this league is still (and of course, why further defeats would be a bad thing as we’d soon start to tumble down it!).

So, injuries – Daniel Ayala isn’t injured any more, but was ill for our last game – he’s now not ill, so presuming he’s not subsequently got himself injured again he could be available.  We are, however, without the services of Simon Cox, Raddy Majewski, Jermaine Jenas and Greg Halford all of whom are unavailable.  Our visitors are just missing defender Ben Mee.

Burnley have been quite mixed-bag-ish in their results of late – in six games they’ve drawn two, lost two and won two – there’s not even a home or away pattern, one of each result possibility occurred at home, and one of each away!  They show we aren’t the only side to lose at Ipswich though, and also suffered a home defeat to Charlton – with wins over Leeds and Hull, draws with Barnsley and Blackburn in their most recent games.

On paper you’d not worry too much, but of course (a) we’ve thought that before of late and (b) they might well be thinking that looking at our recent form.  With one-up-front-at-home-gate played out on Matchtalk, Twitter and other places online it will be interesting to see how Sean O’Driscoll plays this one.

Whilst I don’t subscribe to suggestions I’ve seen stating that the owners will be starting to breathe down his neck if he doesn’t get a favourable result, he will be I’m sure putting a degree of pressure on himself to oversee a turnaround in our fortunes.  A big factor in that will be how well we cope with Charlie Austin – the striker has snagged 21 goals this season already, 18 in the league.

The rest of their squad have only scored 14.

So now I’ve jinxed it – we’ll lose and Austin won’t score.  Ha!  Maybe not, but he’s a dangerous customer in this league for sure – so our defence will need to get a handle on him, and I don’t think they’ve been up against somebody quite so deadly on an individual level for some time.  I hope they’re feeling up to it, and that further up the field we forge a rather better link between our midfield and our own deadly marksmen.

Goalless draw?  Hey, don’t say I’m not an optimist!

Forest vs. Hull City preview..

Erm, we played Ipswich didn’t we?  It didn’t go brilliantly – unable to pass, unable to defend, Camp was lucky to stay on the pitch then unlucky enough to save a penalty whilst conceding the rebound – Dexter was alert enough to convert a chance.  One for us to forget, one for Sean O’Driscoll to remind the players of a lot in the preparations for the visit of Hull this weekend.

I’m going to skip over re-living the game with a detailed match report (although the main reason for that absence is life getting in the way a bit since the trip to Suffolk!).

The Tigers are sitting pretty in the play-off zone, just.  Three points ahead of us – so clearly not a side to be trifled with, although their form has dipped of late.  We haven’t beaten them for ages, but largely due to the fact we’ve spent most of that time in different divisions to them.  Their recent games saw defeat to Burnley and a draw with Palace at home.

We were unbeaten in five games before the Ipswich debacle – a debacle that might lure the gaffer into changes.  Cox, Majewski and Hutchinson remain sidelined by injuries, whilst Jenas, Ayala and Halford are doubts – so the manager’s choices in changing things around too much are somewhat limited.  It will be rather interesting to see what he comes up with.

So, as we are becoming accustomed to, our visitors will provide a stern test for us – they’ll be keen to capitalise on our stutter and try to kick start their own season back underway having missed the chance to win their last two home games.  For us it will be fascinating to see the response from the players – Tuesday’s trip to Ipswich prompted the first hint of anger for the gaffer.

I know I’m becoming a bit of a parody of myself in urging caution but Hull have enough about them to be worried about – and we just seem so tricky to second-guess at the moment, even when we see them week in and week out.  This is the kind of game where we might be able to extrapolate how things might pan out over that traditionally tricky winter phase we seem to struggle with.

Ipswich Town vs. Forest preview..

Having had a tricky start to November the Reds have been on a decent run of late, and travel to struggling Ipswich to reacquaint themselves with last year’s skipper Luke Chambers.  Since Mick McCarthy took over from the hapless Paul Jewell there has been a degree of improvement – but there’s been some pretty shambolic results nonetheless.

In their last six they’ve lost three, won two and drawn one – they’ve let in sixteen goals in those games, admittedly eleven of those came in just two rather disastrous defeats on the road against Palace and Leicester City.  At home they shipped three to the Owls, narrowly beat Burnley 2-1 whilst only mustering a 1-1 draw against struggling Peterborough at the weekend.

If you weren’t the kind of uber-paranoid person I am then you’d feel quite confident – the Reds on decent form, heading to a team low on confidence – but well, I am uber-paranoid.  The kind of form Ipswich have been on is likely to improve – they have a decent squad and a decent manager at this level.  So it wouldn’t do to be over-confident.

Which is something not many would accuse Sean O’Driscoll of, anyway – he’ll have a cunning plan I’m sure.  With Cox out our only real option up front now is Blackstock – I’m sure he’ll relish the opportunity to go head to head with former Reds skipper Luke Chambers, who left for greener grass that so far this season has looked a little parched and dead.

Elsewhere in our squad we missed Halford, Reidy and Jenas through injury in our last trip to Wolverhampton – so they’ll be assessed for their fitness to see whether they can feature in Suffolk tomorrow evening.  Our hosts are likely to be without Nigel Reo-Coker who injured himself in the weekend game against the Posh at Portman Road.

A win would be a third on the bounce for us – something we’ve not managed for a year and a half years, so would represent a decent achievement.  Of course, it could also be a result that could push us into the play-offs should other games finish favourably in that regard.  However, so far all I’ve got is a basket full of eggs and no chickens!

The thing to watch out for is that man DJ Campbell.  Remember him?  He’s on loan (along with about nine others) at the Tractor Boys and well, we all have our own bad memories of him don’t we?  Forest should approach this game with confidence and I’m sure they will – but I do think that Mick McCarthy will start to turn things around there.

Hopefully on a selfish note he’s not quite had enough time yet…

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Forest preview..

Wolves isn’t a happy hunting ground for the Reds typically – I’ve certainly never seen us win there, and the only time I can remember us doing so was in the League Cup I think back when Frank Clark was in charge. So there’s always two ways of looking at that – firstly is being pessimistic and saying “We never win there!” or being more positive and saying “Well, it’s about time we did then!”

Hot off the press for us is the loan signing of Alan Hutton from Aston Villa on loan. With Sam Hutchinson injured presumably indefinitely the right-back comes in until 2nd January – which presumably spells the bench for Moloney – assuming Harding is fit to resume duty (having returned to training following his injury) it could see Halford returning to the centre of defence too.

Wolves haven’t gotten off to the kind of start they would like this season – sitting down at 16th in the table, admittedly only four points behind the Reds in what is still a pretty tight league table. They haven’t won since the start of October away at Blackburn, and have lost four of the seven games since then – so if there’s ever a time for the Reds to get the balance back at Molineux then this is it.

With the away allocation sold out there should be good backing for Sean O’Driscoll’s men. The gaffer is hoping that Andy Reid and Jermaine Jenas are fit for action having both gone off against the Owls at the weekend with injury. Wolves will have Berra available after his red card was rescinded by the Football League (why are our appeals never successful!) – they are likely to be without Boukari, Margreitter and O’Hara.

It would be great to pick up an away win here – but whilst Wolves form is undoubtedly bad, we’ve not been exactly deadly when it comes to taking chances – so I’m sure it won’t prove easy. Whether Adlene Guedioura will take the opportunity to shine at his old club remains to be seen. With this game being followed by a trip to struggling Ipswich you would certainly hope we can add to our points haul.

The other news of note that isn’t Forest related admittedly is the return of Karlton Watson to the professional football scene. The defender – released by Steve Cotterill after recovering from a serious injury – has earned himself a contract with Leicester City. He came through the Forest system with much promise and hopefully his career is back on track now having been cast aside by the carrot cruncher.

Book review: The Glory of Forest..

There are so many Forest books out there – there’s been a real glut of autobiographies in particular at the moment, I’ve still got somewhat of a backlog of books to read through which I’ve struggled to find the time to do – so in many ways the last thing I wanted was a preview PDF a new Forest book by Alex Walker (of LTLF fame).

The premise of this tome is a collection of Forest-inspired lists celebrating what is good about Forest’s history (let’s not forget that Alex was part of the team that brought us the LTLF fanzine that rather optimistically attempted to put the fun back into supporting Forest!).  Let’s face it, our history is a rich vein of amazing feats or strange innovations.

So I figured that I could skim-read a few of the entries to get enough of a view to pen a review of the book and go back later to look properly.  I must admit, I did get a bit absorbed and have read nearly all of it – there’s a great balance of things-what-I-already-knew told in a witty manner combined with a few new things I’ve learned (and I think a couple of mistakes, which Alex was delighted to hear about from me!).

Some lists are straight-up fact based, most are more emotive as most football-related rankings will always be – some are downright controversial.  I mean, a whole book of lists inspired about Forest and not even an entry, let alone an entire list, features Brian Rice!  You’d think that 21 lists of Forest facts with a bit of blurb would be short – but there’s plenty in here.

Obviously some notable figures feature more than once in the lists – and it’s great to see figures from throughout Forest’s colourful history looming large throughout.  Contrary to what folks who support other clubs would have us believe, life did not start nor end with the arrival and departure of a certain Mr Clough at the City Ground – although that particular figure of course features heavily throughout.

For just a tenner and a convenient release date just before Christmas it would make a great stocking filler for any Reds fan – you could read it cover to cover, or dip in to the lists that tickle your fancy at any point.  It can be ordered from this website (where you can also find extracts), or you could buy directly from Alex in the Trent Navigation Inn after the Hull City game on 1st December where the book is being officially launched.

I’ll close with some of Alex’s own words – probably my favourite passage from the book (although there were a few contenders), from the list covering our top five wingers.. I will let you guess the subject of the paragraph, and indeed where he might have featured in his particular list…

If you were writing a fictional film about football and had as the lead character a man who liked a drink and a smoke, was over-weight, generally scruffy-looking and had recently suffered a cartilage injury, then you had this man revive his career in a Second Division promotion campaign, you’d have something that might go in the same gritty realist bracket as This Sporting Lift.  With a bit of artistic licence, you could maybe stretch the realms of possibility to have this loveable rogue be the key creative force of a team that stormed the First Division and won it with games to spare.  But even Hollywood execs would laugh you out of the door if, for the final act, you had your hero go on to set up the winning goal in one European Cup Final and score the winner in a second… even if you had Brian Clough among the supporting cast!

A highly enjoyable read that absorbed me much more than I had time for it to do, so now I find myself frantically finishing things off I was supposed to be doing whilst basically reading the whole book rather than skimming it as I had intended.  Thanks a lot, Alex!

Forest vs. Sheffield Wednesday preview..

I like Sheffield Wednesday.  Not sure why, always have – so I look forward to playing them, and with 4,500 travelling fans there should be a boosted atmosphere at the City Ground as we tend to lift our game in the midst of a decent set of visitors.

November has been a stuttering experience for Forest after an excellent October (an October that sees Sean O’Driscoll up for manager of the month award – well deserved, although I bet he’s under tough competition from Kenny Jackett of Millwall).  We’ve not picked up a win since beating Barnsley 4-1 at their place, so hopefully another South Yorkshire visitor will be amenable to us snagging the points.

On the team front there’ll be no opportunity for Marcus Tudgay to haunt his former club, he’s been loaned out to Barnsley to get first team action.  The timing of this could be risky, as Simon Cox picked up an injury during the Republic of Ireland’s defeat by Greece last night – hopefully he’s okay.  Guedioura came through Algeria’s game unscathed.

Daniel Ayala may have a chance of returning from injury, although Dan Harding remains a doubt as he continues to recover from his hamstring injury.  Sam Hutchinson remains unavailable too.  As for the Owls, they have O’Grady out and a possibility of Lines returning from his injury.  They’re supposedly after Connor Wickham on loan from Sunderland – hopefully not in time to face us!

After a promising start to the season Wednesday have been faltering somewhat of late – and seem particularly prone to dropping points on the road.  They’ve picked up just five points from a possible twenty-four.  Whilst we are draw-heavy, we’ve only lost one in the last eight run-outs so the form book would suggest that we ought to be able to win.

Said that before though, haven’t I?

Forest’s defensive uncertainty continues to be a concern – that’s no disrespect to our defenders, but the constant chopping and changing through injury is somewhat less than ideal in helping these players build and understanding.

The other thing to look out for is the Owls fans who are hosting an impromptu ‘Semedo Day’ in honour of their midfielder – this apparently involves them donning Semedo masks, and bringing inflatables and props in the colours of Portugal.  Pretty random, huh?  Sounds like fun though – fair play to ’em.

I’ll be disappointed if we don’t see a considerably improved performance than we mustered in our last game at the City Ground (and indeed away from it), and if that happens we should be able to get the result we want.  Then it’s off to the Arena to hopefully witness Carl Froch give Yusaf Mack a damn good panelling too!