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!

… 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!

It’s going to be a long lonely summer..

Billy Davies: tactician on and off the pitch..

It’s hard to ignore the rumours doing the rounds, and indeed, the deafening silence from the City Ground.  Not that I think the powers-that-be should address every bit of internet-generated tittle tattle that inevitably gushes forth come the end of the season (and that I’m now adding to), but well, it would be nice to hear something.

Whilst other clubs announce their retained and released lists at Forest fans turn to Twitter to hear of Nathan Tyson’s mysterious movements up and down the M1, to intuit all manner of things in Earnie’s decision to change his profile picture from him in a Forest shirt (whenever I’ve checked his profile before he’s generally not in a Forest shirt then, either!).

One cheeky tweet seems to have spiralled into an impressive rumour based on nothing around Billy Davies being in the frame for the West Ham job.  Whilst Wee Billy might well not be heading to the Hammers, the persistent speculation surrounding the manager and his relationship with the board does perhaps stem from something rather than pure muck-raking.

Whilst I like Billy as a manager, it’s clear the man is a self-server, and that’s not always a bad thing – he wants to achieve things.  He doesn’t necessarily burn with desire to achieve things for Forest, but if he happens to be able to reach those ambitions whilst in charge here then everyone’s a winner.  For whatever reason, there does seem to be an obstacle to that happening.

Bear in mind this is my own pondering, based on a mixture of conversations I’ve had, observations I’ve made and something approximating a scenario I’ve – well – intuited I suppose.  A theory.  I suppose I’m pouring fuel to the speculation fire, but to be honest, as much as I’ve resisted and enjoyed a bit of down time since the play-off disappointment, I can’t help but write something.

I do think that the Forest board would like to part company with Davies.  I don’t think Davies would be too sorry to part company with them, but not without his contract being paid up.  The Forest board won’t want to do that, I imagine if a club like West Ham did want to take him on and pay us compensation it would delight the board immeasurably!  I wonder if they fell for ‘the rumour’?

When Billy arrived the remit was to initially save us from relegation, and then to develop a credible Championship club with a reasonable amount of investment, but definitely built upon youth and developing players – not continuing to throw bucket-loads of cash at the squad repeatedly.  As we’ve undergone two seasons where we’ve fallen short of truly challenging for promotion, you can see a source of frustration.

It’s pretty easy to understand why Billy must want more cash to sign players, indeed, it’s even easy to see why some supporters might decree that our rich owner should get his hand in his pocket and back the manager.  It’s easy to spend other people’s money in fantasy land, isn’t it?  In my natural guise of fence-sitter I can also see the wisdom in not entrusting a pick pot of cash with the manager to do as he will with.

So if my pontificating is true, and we have a board and manager at loggerheads, then we are potentially in for a summer of discontent – and, indeed, a season of such too should there not be a parting of the ways.  With the likes of Tyson, Moussi, Adebola and Earnshaw out of contract, with Wilson already gone, with the likes of Lee Camp being linked with Premier League moves (again, seems outlandish to me), it’s difficult not to get a bit downhearted.

With the only communication coming from the club post-Swansea being positive future messages from manager and chairman alike, and of course the prices we are expected to pay for our season tickets next season (I’m quite happy with a VAT-only rise in truth), it leaves the floodgates for internet gobshites (and I include myself in that definition!) to speculate.

Hopefully we’re all going a bit stir-crazy post season and our hysterical theorising is wide of the mark – however, if the above hypothesis turns out to be near to the mark then we could be in for a frustrating time.  All the more so if my headline managed to embed the Jason Donovan song in your head as it did mine when I wrote it…

Come on Forest, speak to the fans.  How many of you have renewed your season tickets yet…?

Don’t stop believing.. and is Warnock gonna get his comeuppance?

Same old Warnock, always cheating?

I was grumpy yesterday after the match, still am a bit.  A few have commented on the unusually negative match report – well, it was negative, second half at least – but I’m not about to join the doom-mongers just yet.  As Billy himself said, ten games to go, plenty of twists and turns to come in this season – inconceivably we’re still only four points from the automatic places despite an awful run.

Of course to have failed to capitalise on games in hand, on games against struggling teams – to not have made a more convincing bid to keep hold of that second spot and keep pushing QPR, all these things are hair-tearingly-out annoying.  But we have to keep a sense of perspective – other teams around us are dropping points left-right-and-centre too.

So with that sense of perspective in mind let’s not get carried away with the negativity and – whilst I have no problem with people (including me!) venting their spleens in writing, let’s not let it affect the backing we give the boys at the weekend and beyond.  They need our support now more than ever, and hopefully we can play our part in delivering a much needed morale-booster against Doncaster at the weekend.

One unexpected twist-and-turn which has yet to twist-and-turn its’ way to resolution is the revelation that QPR have been accused of fielding an ineligible player (Faurlin).  More information is here – an interesting development for sure, and one that could result in a points deduction (unlikely, since the football powers-that-be are spineless as demonstrated with their dealing with Cardiff City).

If he is deemed ineligible according to FA rules, then this could result in a three point deduction per game he’s played in – which apparently is six games.  Eighteen points.  It could be certainly ironic that Neil Warnock – someone who had a massive tantrum about similar conduct by West Ham – proves to be the man at the helm of a club found guilty of the same thing.

Certainly I’ll be keeping tabs on that story with increasing levels of interest, as I’m sure will the clubs around us!  Of course, pending the findings this is something that has the potential to blow the race for promotion even more wide-open than it already is!

Deadman walking..

Yesterday’s refereeing performance (which probably contributed heavily to the length of match report – sorry!) is still consuming my every waking moment.  I was infuriated during the game – and it seems that mostly people are thinking along similar lines.  Whilst I rarely have praise for match officials, I’m struggling to think of a poorer or less consistent performance for some time – so I decided to do some digging.

It would seem that Darren Deadman is a yearly affliction that strikes the City Ground every January or February – he officiated home games against Swansea in 2007/2008, Queens Park Rangers in 2008/2009, Reading in 2009/2010 and finally of course against Preston North End last night.  He has risen from the lower leagues, so it would seem that promotion is our only likely vaccine against getting another dose of the Deadman this time next year.

My main issue with him was his awarding of fictional fouls repeatedly, playing advantages for Forest where no advantage existed, and inconsistencies like booking Morgan for kicking the ball in the air after we scored, but ignoring the more devious kicking aways the likes of St. Ledger et al were performing throughout the game.  He didn’t clamp down on timewasting and, whilst this was to our benefit, he missed two cast-iron penalties for Preston in the second half (and one for us in the first half on Ando that I wasn’t so sure about).

Trawling through old match reports, he didn’t warrant much mention for our game with Swansea in 2007/2008, however by the time we reach the QPR game in 2008/2009 certainly I point out some issues with him.  He ignored an incident which saw Tyson withdrawn needing stitches to his head, he gave us a penalty – but didn’t red card the offender who was the last man – that man then went on to score both QPR goals.  He later booked Wes for a tackle in which he won the ball when operating as an emergency striker.

Against Reading in 2009/2010 we won 2-1, but were denied a penalty for a hand-ball in the area (that’ll sound familiar to Preston fans!), in this game he also sent off Nicky Shorey and gave a penalty to Reading when the offence looked outside the box (certainly Billy Davies thought so in his post-match comments).  Didn’t have much issue with the red card at the time, although other fans in the comments called it harsh.  Lee Camp saved the penalty.

So when next year’s fixtures are out, cast your eye for home games in January/February time and mentally steel yourself for the City Ground once again falling foul of a nasty case of Deadman.  Hopefully the assessor at the game last night saw enough of his nonsensical decisions to perhaps recommend he get bumped down a few leagues and we never have to see him again!

According to his profile page on RefWorld, Darren Deadman believes that to be a good referee requires man management and leadership skills.  I think perhaps a hasty refresher in these areas, as well as basic observation, the rules of the game, dealing with timewasting and spotting a dive are probably in order.  Am I being too over the top or was this refereeing performance one of the worst we’ve seen in ages? (And there’ve been some bad refereeing performances for us in recent years!!).

I’d be very interested to hear your collective thoughts too – indeed, those from any passing Preston fans too as I can’t imagine you guys were too happy with some of his decisions either!

Is Forest’s transfer sluggishness paying dividends?

It’s that time when the transfer window is  starting to creak closed – and so the rumours go into overdrive.  I’ve long since opted to try my best not to rehash them, because – well – frankly often when I have passed on information I’ve heard in the past it has turned out to be wrong – and, frankly, I’d rather just wait until Forest confirm whatever’s happening.

Certainly I’ve not bothered reading much into Billy’s “let’s see what the next day or two brings” type comment to Robin Chipperfield – you see, aside from the assumption that deals are imminent for the mighty Reds, our wee fella has plenty of things to be cheerful about.

2011 has seen Forest register an impressive run of results, and despite the mythology surrounding our own fans around the strength in depth in our squad, I can’t help but notice a number of managers commenting on the kind of quality we have on the bench.  Not only are we starting games with a line-up that can cause any side in this division difficulties, we have players waiting in the wings who can come on and make a difference.

Cotterill said it after we beat Portsmouth at the City Ground (unsurprisingly really, he could only name four subs!), although I couldn’t help but think that was a bit rich coming from someone able to call on the likes of Kanu, Utaka and Lawrence, to pick on just three of their squad who showed real quality on the pitch.

Nigel Clough, amidst his rabid-foaming after either of our recent wins against them pointed at some fanciful figures at how much we’d spent on players, but did have a reasonable point that we had players on the bench to change things.  Earnie came off the bench to net the winner at Pride Park afterall.  He not only had a bench full of second-rate players, he had to start with them too!

The latest manager to do the same was Bristol City’s Keith Millen – after the game he too said the same kind of thing.  Yet perusing most of the notable Forest forums our fans seem to be clamouring like ants after a mound has been kicked for us to be signing players from here, there and everywhere.

I can sort of see why – it’s exciting to sign players, of course – and oddly we do seem to be ‘getting by’ with players playing in positions you wouldn’t expect them to thrive in.  Lynch has stepped up admirably to fill the left back berth, we still seem to have an extra central midfielder and only one winger at any one time, and we’d be a bit screwed if certain players picked up a suspension or injury…

… but it’s kind of working.  It’s kind of working, I think, because of the increasingly evident team spirit our squad seem to have.  They are a very tight group, they work for each other – they seem to care.  Would that be the same if we hoovered up every loan, free transfer or even paid-for transfer available just to get some bodies in?

I’m not sure it would – indeed, Billy Davies – much more calm and good natured in recent interviews – does talk of the need to make sure that we get the right players in.  He doesn’t just mean players with the right ability, but the right character to not upset the dressing room spirit he’s engendered in his players.

That isn’t to say I wouldn’t welcome sensible acquisitions before the window closes, of course.  Some clarification over players out of contract in the summer would be nice for the fans – although the recent performances of Nathan Tyson, Robert Earnshaw and particularly Guy Moussi would suggest that playing for a contract isn’t necessarily doing us much harm!

Down the A52 it looks like ex-Red Kris Commons is heading north of the border finally, to don the green and white hoops of Celtic having audaciously priced himself outside of Rangers’ spending power!  Ultimately he seems to leave teams beneath the one he left them for – Stoke soon overtook us when we signed him, and as he leaves Derby they must strain to look up the league table to us.

Once the deal is done have a bet on Rangers to win the Scottish Premier next season as he sends Lennon’s Celtic into decline, where of course he’ll be joined by his former team-mate Kelvin Wilson, who the Reds seem keen to keep hold of until the end of the season for cover (when he doesn’t have a mystery ‘injury’ or ‘illness’).

I wasn’t really sure where I was going with this when I started – it’s very much a stream of consciousness mingled with observations.  Basically I suppose it’s a warning of sorts against the kind of panic that always ensues at this time of year.  Certainly if you were to hand me a Bertrand or a Shorey I’d be delighted (with no disrespect to Mr Lynch)… but well, things ain’t so bad as they are, are they?

If you can keep your head…

I didn’t really like this video much when Forest released it, it had more than a faint whiff of cheese about it in my head – but it did set the tone for a rather splendid affair at the City Ground.

It is a bloody great poem.

European cup challenge to come to Forest..

“I’m a firm believer that in life you are defined not by what happens to you, but how you react to it.  And in this respect, Angus is an inspiration”

I love stories like these – positivity in the face of life being a bit of a bastard sometimes, raising money for fantastic causes and – bearing in mind the subject matter I write about on here – it involves the mighty Nottingham Forest, and a few other notable clubs.  Have a read of this and click the links to find out more, I think it will leave you feeling good.

Angus is a seven year old lad, and he has a condition called microtia – which, amongst other issues means he only has one ear and a sub-mucous cleft palate which impacts his speech.  His dad, Robin, urges us not to feel sorry for him though – despite these setbacks Angus has faced these challenges with bravery and resilience that belie his tender years.

The positive way in which Angus has dealt with the hand life has given him has inspired his dad to take up a fairly epic challenge himself, and that’s where we come in.  This is his mission-statement of sorts:

“I want to show Angus that if you surround yourself with good people, approach things with the right attitude, and work hard you can achieve anything.  It is these principles that won the 21 clubs the European Cup; it is these principles which will see us succeed in the EuroChampsChallenge; and it and it is these principles that will allow him to be whatever he wants to be.”

So, the challenge.  Robin is going to travel with five friends 7,000 miles by road in a fortnight – this journey will take him to the stadium of every football club to have won the European Cup (or now Champion’s League).  That’s 21 clubs, 20 cities in 16 countries.  At each venue they want to meet a ‘Medallion Man’ – a winning player from one of the teams.

Robin has already made contact with Forest and they are helping him with the logistics of this part of his journey, which is fantastic.  The journey starts on 15th May at Celtic Park in Glasgow, from where he heads south to Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Birmingham before crossing to the continent to take in Holland, Germany, Romania, Serbia, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal.

The grand finale will be at Wembley Stadium on 28th May at 7pm in the evening, just before the 2011 Champions League final kicks off there.

The ultimate aim of this epic journey is to raise £100,000 to be split between two great causes that have been pivotal in giving Angus the opportunity for a fairer start in life.  The Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh, and Changing Faces – an organisation that assists with facial disfigurement.

I’ve found the whole story really moving – but more overwhelmingly inspiring too – what a tremendous way to take positives from adversity.  I hope you are inspired too and can find a few quid to sponsor the team on their mission.  Given the timing it’s only a shame we won’t see them at a game – but hopefully we can all show our support as representatives of one of the European Champions by making a donation.

For more information, please see, or for a direct link to donate to this fantastic project then please click here and make a difference to some fantastic causes.

A trip back in time..

Jack Burkitt receives the FA Cup from the Queen

Usually Reds fans of my age lament missing out on the European Cup winning era – but they might have overlooked an earlier side of significance.  It’s one I’ve mentioned a few times, and having missed out on the late 70s and early 80s it’s one I most definitely missed out on.  Thanks to the generous Tikabooson, I had a chance to relive the 1959 FA Cup Final in full.

The first thing that strikes you is obviously the black and white coverage – a Wembley Stadium with no advertising hoardings, and just a lone commentator talking about – well, the match!  No inane babble from a clueless sidekick, no instant replays, and only occasional reminders of the scoreline by way of on screen graphics – not so much as a clock on screen.

In terms of the game itself – well, much has changed – tackles from behind, use of elbows did result in freekicks when spotted but little else, backpasses to the ‘keeper – indeed, even goalkicks were often played to a defender and back to the ‘keeper for a long punt, there appeared to be men having a picnic near one o the corner flags – goalkeepers were afforded very little protection!

Those are the differences – much of the game hasn’t changed as much as you’d think.  I saw nutmegs, stepovers, backheels – Forest played an offside trap and a fast-paced counterattacking game.  I suppose the formation they played would be very close to the 4-3-3/4-5-1 you often see today.  Forest played some excellent stuff in the first half – a really hardworking and talented side.

Forest take an early lead – Imlach plays a great ball to Dwight who lashes it into the net.  Wilson doubles the lead after not too long – shortly before taking a firm clearance into his gentleman’s region.  Legendary commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme was a little more diplomatic in his description of why Wilson might have found himself writhing in agony on the floor for a while.

Moments after Luton taking the worst corner I’ve ever seen (and I’m a Forest fan, remember!) a long clearance heads towards Dwight who collides with Town defender McNally.  The referee waves play-on, Imlach taps it out of play and the physio is summoned – amazingly even after this the intent is to carry on before Dwight collapses again and is stretchered off.  It turns out with a broken leg!

There aren’t any substitutes back then, Forest play on for more than half the game with ten men.  Luton don’t throw the ball back to Forest, as is clearly not the custom yet – Forest don’t do so either later in the game when Luton appear to put the ball out of play when McDonald is down injured.

Another classic Wolstenholme moment is his apologising for the periodic score caption reading ‘Notts Forest’ – commenting that there’d be no need to write in and complain now!  With the lack of modern acoustic recording equipment the crowd noise is very much in the background so you can’t really pick up much beyond the cheers and a dull background noise, aside from a moment when you can hear the Forest fans singing ‘Robin Hood’!

As the game wears on the Reds tire and make more mistakes, and pick up injuries too – Burkitt had been on the deck, Whare was also troubled by a knee problem.  Both played on, but the increasing pressure from Luton paid dividends, a short corner wasn’t anticipated allowing the Luton left-back to put a ball in which found its way to Pacey at the back stick, who makes no mistake.

Chic Thomson in the Forest goal didn’t have a great deal to do in the first half – but was on hand to make a smart save from Luton’s Morton.  Allan Brown – who would go on to become Forest manager – threatened our goal with a strange diving header but missed the target.  He would ultimately become the man that sold Duncan McKenzie to Brian Clough’s Leeds United – only to find himself replaced by Brian Clough shortly after!

Forest were suffering with a lot of injuries and cramps – although there wasn’t any real foul play at all.  Gray was a victim of cramp for Forest and was moved out to outside left whilst Imlach switched to outside right.  Brown again threatened with a diving header but puts it wide with the final whistle beckoning.  The assorted injuries conspiring to see referee – Jack Clough – add on a fair amount of time.

Thomson needed to be brave again to make a save – and finally the whistle came to end the game and give Forest the victory.  A real game of two halves – Forest totally dominant before Dwight’s injury and understandably less so after, although still eager to play decent counter-attacking football throughout despite being a man down for most of the game.

There were no ceremonies or messing around – the Forest team were straight up the steps for captain Jack Burkitt to claim the FA Cup from the Queen – as well as the medal for absent Roy Dwight.  The runners-up followed, finally Jack Clough and his assistants collected their medals and that was that.  I quite liked the no-nonsense approach to coverage compared to what we endure now.

Whilst replays have benefits to help you see what happened, this approach was more wholesome somehow.  There were times when it seemed clear a throw-in was given the wrong way – Wolstenholme didn’t challenge the referee, he just faithfully reported what was occurring.  Whilst there wasn’t much by way of contentious decisions, the players never challenged the referee either.

It just goes to show, the game has changed in many ways – often for the better, but this was a real eye-opener to see that much hasn’t, these were skilled players – athletic and brave – and of course, these were players that earned comparable wages to the hundred thousand people crammed into Wembley Stadium to watch the match.  It really is worth watching the match.