Desperate times for former Euro Champions – not such a funny old game!

4 02 2012

It might be ‘a funny old game’ but there has not been much to laugh or cheer about  down at the City Ground this season. 

It has been the most desperate of times for Nottingham Forest fans. The ‘Trees’ have been anything but ‘Tricky’, felled by a series of decisions at board and management level that have made a joke of a once famous club.  

In 49 years as a supporter, I have never felt so despondent. For the second time in seven years the once proud, twice European Champions, are hurtling towards the Championship trap door.

There are still eighteen games to play but, never the less, there already seems to be an air of resignation around the City Ground and a grim feeling of inevitability.   

If Forest were not already in crisis, before their mid-week home defeat to Burnley, they certainly are now. The following miserable facts are inescapable :

  • 23rd  – one place off the foot of the Championship.
  • 24 points from 28 games.
  • Currently 6 points away from safety.
  • 43 points is a likely minimum safety target – if so Forest need 19 more points 
  • 22 goals scored, is the lowest in the Championship.   
  • 46 goals conceded is the 2nd highest.
  • 0 goals scored in the last six home games while conceding 12.   
  • Steve Cotterill’s record in charge now reads: Played 19, Won 5, Drawn 2, Lost 12.
  • Cotterill’s win rate, 26.32% – relegation form in anybody’s book.   

I was never happy with Cotterill’s appointment. I wish I could say I had been proved wrong, but no, he is clearly out of his depth, tactically inept, negative and uninspiring.

Desperate times require desperate remedies. If Cotterill stays in charge Forest will be relegated – of that I have no doubt. He’s not the type to step down, no matter how bad things get, and for the time being Forest apparently can’t afford to sack him, having already paid out compensation to Portsmouth to acquire his services (when they actually wanted to get rid of him anyway) – now that is a joke! 

Ironically, former Doncaster Rovers boss Sean O’Driscoll, with something of a reputation for encouraging an attractive and attacking style of play, and who many thought would have been a good choice to replace Steve McClaren (who, by the way, is back to winning ways in Holland) has now been brought in to act as Cotterill’s assistant.

If he hangs around long enough he might find himself in the top job, but only, I suspect, following relegation and a poor start to next season – unless new chairman Frank Clark is prepared to grasp the nettle and act sooner rather than later. Clark, who has worn the shirt with pride, truly  has the club at heart, of that there is no doubt. Why else would he have taken up the position following Nigel Doughty’s resignation? Nobody else would would have wanted to sort out the mess, but at the moment he is operating with his hands financially tied. 

Centre back Wes Morgan, a local lad with 402 first team performances in ten years at the club, left this week. He’d had enough, could clearly see the writing on the wall and would not be persuaded to stay, joining local rivals Leicester City in a  1 million pound move (payable in 2 x 500,000 instalments) – perhaps a decent deal but still a bitter pill to swallow. But you can’t blame him. He’s been a great servant and I hope he does well – even if it is with the Foxes.  

Patrick Bamford a product of the Forest Academy, an exciting 18-year-old striker with huge potential, has been lured to Premiership Chelsea after just two first team performances. He has been sold for an initial fee of £1 million with a further £500,000 payable should he eventually become a Chelsea first team player. It seems all we can aspire to now, is developing young talent for the Premiership. We are officially a feeder club!       

In a fairly desperate last throw of the dice, as the January transfer window drew to a close, three players were brought in, on loan, until the end of the season: Adlene Guedioura an attacking Algerian midfielder from Wolves, the experienced Danny Higginbotham a rugged defender from Stoke City, and Manchester United youngster Scott Wootton, an emerging talent, who can play in central defence or midfield.

I hope they can make the difference but somehow I doubt it will be enough.

Personally I would rather use the money, that has been generated this week, to pay of Cotterill – ridiculous as it might seem to change three managers in less than twelve months. My prefered alternatives then would be either:

  • make a move for Neil Warnock while he is still available – his proven championship record is every bit as good as Billy Davies.  
  • bring back Billy – who has openly stated he has ‘unfinished business’ and is still on the Forest payroll until the end of the season!
  • give Sean O’Driscoll the manager’s job – initially until the end of the season.

None of this will happen of course.

On Sunday, Forest travel to Pride Park to take on ‘the Sheep’. Tickets are normally like gold-dust for this most bitter of local derbies, but this time I’ve actually managed to get one. It really shows how bad things are.  

I would normally be delighted, but I’m feeling very pessimistic – it is likely to be a painfully embarrassing excursion. Anyhow, weather permitting (and there is heavy snow forecast for the weekend – which might be a blessing) I’ll be headed up the motorway for the lunchtime kick-off, keeping everything crossed and still clinging to the old football adage that it is ‘ a funny old game.’  

It’s becoming increasingly hard to keep the faith, but – ‘Come on you Reds…’

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