Words: Steve Wright
Safe standing appears to be getting closer with Shrewsbury Town, with the support of the EFL, applying for permission to fit rail seating in their stadium before the end of the upcoming season and a number of other clubs thought to be interested. Northampton Town Supporters’ Trust is talking to its club about the possibility and the Premier League has written to its members about interest in possible trials. Of course a number of EFL clubs, 21 to be precise, already have legacy old style terraces but the momentum to introduce safe standing across the country is growing.
Nottingham Forest holds a unique position in the debate being the “other club” in the Hillsborough disaster. Many of us were present on 15 April 1989 and what we saw will never leave us. We also have something special to offer, however, in both our understanding of that devastating day in the sunshine of South Yorkshire and more positively in the developing relationship between fan group Forza Garibaldi and the club. It gives us the opportunity to both care deeply that there is never another terrace tragedy and provide an ability to self-police and ensure any future standing privileges are not abused.
In Germany, a country we find ourselves envying for its fan culture as well as its consistent success on the pitch, organised fan groups are able to do exactly that. The ownership model is very different of course with members being the club and able to appoint board members, but other areas of fan engagement are still highly relevant. At Union Berlin, for example, the “Ultras” fan groups are given license to organise coordinated away sections, have free reign on choreographed displays in their ground and have been consulted on stadium development. The crucial element of all of these interactions being that the club trust its fans on these issues rather than trying to control or direct them.
The practical reality is probably that now is not the time for Forest to dive headlong into this area when others are better placed to trial schemes and essentially do the legwork for the game as a whole. If and when plans form towards any significant development of the City Ground though it is something to have firmly in mind. Atmosphere is a key ingredient of live football and something that many people feel has been lost in the post 1992 era so finding ways of bringing some of it back should be central to stadium design moving forwards.
With new owners in place the time is ripe for planning ahead and considering all manner of linked issues, such as how to fill a ground that has been under-utilised in recent times, how to differentiate pricing, improve match-day experience and so on, and safe standing could well have a part to play. The blossoming engagement of Forest fans in both Forza Garibaldi and the Supporters’ Trust should be central to that planning process and with positive noises about fan interaction from the club’s new hierarchy maybe we really can become an exemplar at the forefront of engagement and innovation in the game.
Subscriptions to Bandy & Shinty are now available here.
Words: Steve Wright
In her new column for The Guardian Suzy Wrack made a strong case for supporting women’s football and this is a topic that is increasingly relevant to Nottingham Forest. In his introductory letter to the fans new Chairman Nicholas Randall advised that the club would “seek to build links with the women’s game in Nottingham something which has incredibly not been done previously”. That’s not strictly true as under the ownership of Nigel Doughty the club actually helped to fund Nottingham Forest Ladies and actively supported them, but it certainly has been the case more recently.
Forest Ladies were formed in 1990 and have competed strongly and developed talent both with and without the support of their parent club thanks to the hard work of a voluntary team of grassroots football enthusiasts. As a new season of Women’s Premier League football approaches they have made an ambitious move to appoint Graham Abercrombie as manager and are setting ambitious targets for the development of the club. Now would be an opportune time for both the main club and its fans to get behind the ladies.
As Suzy Wrack explains, despite claims that the women’s game should live within its own means rather than asking for help from the wealthier men’s version the two sports do not operate on a level playing field and haven’t had the same chances to thrive. Indeed the male dominated Football Association actually banned women from playing the game in 1921 and only affiliated the Women’s FA (formed in 1969) in 1983, so reparations may well be due.
Irrespective of the history though, as football fans it seems totally appropriate that we should support opportunities for women and girls to both play the game and make a living from it and we can do that by actively turning up to watch games, putting our money on the turnstiles, or by playing a more passive supporting role by making funds available for the development of the women’s game and engaging with its progress at our own clubs. Afterall the women wear our badge with as much pride as the men and we all represent one city and one club.
As fans of Nottingham Forest we have rallied strongly in tough times with the formation and growth of Bandy & Shinty, Forza Garibaldi and the Supporters’ Trust and it would be great if as we head into what we hope will be much better circumstances we were able to reach out to our longstanding ladies club and offer the hand of friendship – a hand up rather than a hand out to coin a phrase. The women’s game is in a period of growth and Nottingham as a city with an innovative history in football should have a team in its vanguard. Hopefully over the coming seasons Forest Ladies, with the support of us all, will be that club.
You can find out more about ways to support Nottingham Forest Ladies at their website.
The Women's Euro 2017 tournament starts this Sunday with all games shown live on All4 and England and Scotland matches on Channel 4
Lewes FC have become the first professional or semi-professional club in the world to pay its female players the same as their male counterparts.
Subscriptions for Bandy & Shinty are now available here.
Words: Steve Wright
Just as the end to last season could not come quickly enough, so the beginning of this upcoming one is hotly anticipated. It is normal that football fans bounce back from disappointment quickly and by the following summer are once again full of optimism, but for Forest fans that good feeling is built on something more tangible than usual. The departure of Fawaz Al-Hasawi, who as owner oversaw a bleak period of rudderless ownership, lifted a cloud from the club that has since been well and truly blown away by positive noises and action from his replacements.
Whilst Evangelos Marinakis and Sokratis Kominakis have yet to be seen around the City Ground they have made some senior appointments that have impressed. New Chairman Nicholas Randall in particular has quickly set out a positive vision for the club’s future and engaged with the opinions of supporters. In return Forest fans have bought season tickets in record numbers, taking up the offer of a 10% reduction in prices, with reportedly a quarter of those sales being to new or lapsed fans.
In addition Mark Warburton and Frank McParland continue to run the football side of things and have themselves made some promising moves with the signings of Jason Cummings and Barrie McKay, both Scotland under 21 internationals brimming with potential and possessing a hunger to develop and succeed that all Championship fans want to see from their players. Over the last five years there has been a conveyor belt of new players (and managers) arriving each season with no cohesive recruitment strategy and as a result money has been wasted, the squad is imbalanced and Financial Fair Play (FFP) has bitten. Hopefully those days are over.
Whilst positivity abounds it is important that it is also managed. On his appointment Randall described the club as in “intensive care” and “not fit for purpose” and few fans would disagree with that sentiment, so it seems fair to say that patience is needed to turn things around. Forest is definitely in a better place than it was only a couple of months ago and fans are right to be looking forward with smiles and enthusiasm, but we also need to build on the unity and realism that has grown in adversity over the last year.
The boost in season ticket sales will hopefully underpin strong attendances and that needs to be converted into a positive atmosphere in which our players can express themselves and develop. Whilst a relegation battle will always be inconsistent Mark Warburton teased some fabulous football out of his inherited squad at the end of last season, most notably against Huddersfield and Brighton, and we should give the players space in which to be creative and brave in possession without fear of groaning and criticism from the stands. At times the City Ground has been known for a crowd that is quick to turn but this season let’s transform that view to become a place that backs its team from the first whistle to the last.
You can now subscribe to Bandy & Shinty here.
If we're stuck on this ship and it's sinking, we might as well have a parade.
Words: Steve Wright
As we perch precariously above the relegation zone just a single goal difference (and a few extra scored) better off than Blackburn and two points adrift of Birmingham it might seem odd to even contemplate that this could be “the best of times”. It has been a horrible season that has been played out under the shadow of a failing owner flitting between trying to sell the club and protecting his own ego.
Three managers have sat in the dugout in a single season (again!), players have arrived in droves (again!), several of them without any meaningful contribution on the field (again!), someone must be benefitting from all of these transactions but it isn’t us. The team has lacked an identity, a consistent style, any sense that they know what the plan is. As fans we have seen our club continue its relentless decline, each year a lower league finish than the previous one under Al-Hasawi and a greater sense of detachment. Now we find ourselves staring over the precipice of relegation.
Yet as fans we have stepped up to the plate. It is not for me to blow the trumpet of Bandy & Shinty but I absolutely can applaud the efforts of Forza Garibaldi and also the creation of a Supporters’ Trust. We have not only shown that we can organise and unite behind our club, we have also demonstrated that we have a talented supporter base that can positively contribute in a whole variety of different ways to Nottingham Forest.
It is this combination of best and worst that makes this the time to say enough is enough!
We do not have to sit and watch as everything we hold dear about our club is dismantled. If we want to do something about it we can and this is now our choice. It is not the case that we cannot influence the way the club is run, if we combine all of the skills that we have in the stands and we speak with one collective voice we can have our say and make it count. All we have to do is decide whether it’s really worth it.
I do not say that flippantly though. It isn’t easy to run a football club and it won’t be easy even just to influence the people who run one. It will take our time and our energy, it will require us to sacrifice our personal egos for the benefit of the group as a whole, to find our place and be happy to do what we can alongside others who may be able to do more or less. We will need to share the load and work together, put aside personalities and conflicts. It will cost us all and no one should underestimate that, as if we try to do this through many disparate voices we will inevitably fail.
We are lucky that despite the poor leadership we have seen at Forest over the last few years we do still have some committed staff there holding things together. It is important that we don’t forget that or throw good people in with bad times and fail to recognise them. That doesn’t just mean football people like Gary Brazil, Jack Lester and their staff in the academy, but also those who have patiently stuck with it behind the scenes as colleagues have been pushed out or simply walked away. That commitment will stand the club in good stead and give it a route back from the mess it currently resides in.
So, whatever happens on Sunday and whichever league we find ourselves playing in next season now is the time to build bridges. As fans we need to come together and work out a collective vision for our club and how we can each contribute skills and time to living it out. We also need to reach out to the staff that are keeping the club afloat and the authorities and wider stakeholders who have a say in its activities and governance.
This work has begun within the Nottingham Forest Supporters’ Trust, but it can only do something worthwhile if everyone who has an interest is able to engage, contribute and shape its activities and (absolutely crucially) if once a consensus is reached we all commit to continue to work to that shared vision even if it isn’t exactly our own. We must find a vision that can inspire en masse and that will take both ambitious thinking and considered compromise. We will all need to speak and we will all need to listen and we must do so without rancour, accusation or abuse.
Football is a passionate sport but too often that passion is manifested in negativity. The example of Forza Garibaldi should guide us in transforming anger to positive, inclusive action so rather than rant and rave at what we feel is wrong we can actually progress towards the better club we want to be. It might be cathartic to shout abuse at an owner, manager or player who is perceived to be incompetent, failing or lazy but it doesn’t move us on, it just divides us. A genuine vision would hold us all to account not just “them”.
So, ask yourself what type of club you want to support and be honest about it because if all you want is to win no matter what that needs to be understood just as much as those who espouse a romantic Forest Way. When the dust settles some fans will feel like they don’t want to keep investing their energy in a football club, others might decide to take a break or try somewhere new, whilst some will be fired up to change this club.
None of those responses is right or wrong in itself, we all have our own stories and will make the choice that is right for us, but if we do decide to pick this club back up off the floor there is no point getting distracted by pointing fingers or apportioning blame, we need to describe a vision that can sustain us all through the times ahead, whatever they might bring.
Words: David Marples
At some stage late on Saturday evening, my body reminded me how desperately hungry I was and prompted my hazy brain – in desperation – to buy a cheese and onion pasty from a stall on the concourse of a train station. To paraphrase Gordie Lachance from ‘Stand By Me’, it had been a long day and too many things had happened – some great; others less so – leading to the utter neglect of replenishing my boozy body with any form of non-alcoholic sustenance.
No doubt the foodstuff eyed me up as suspiciously as I did it. Baked eons ago, it had probably been laid under a hot light for the best part of the day, just waiting for some desperate soul to put it out of its misery. It was a transient marriage of convenience. I fumbled for change.
For an additional 4p, I could procure a coffee to wash my tasty snack down. I was incredibly vulnerable to such an offer and re-doubled my fumbling like Vladimir Stojkovic handling a rudimentary low shot from the edge of the box.
I wasn’t thinking straight. I went straight in for the kill and bit into the pasty. The radioactive puss-yellow lava that passed for cheese oozed out, freed from the slavery of pastry. Hot hot hot. My tongue burned. I needed something – anything to relieve the pain. How about a 4p steaming hot cup of Americano to ease the discomfort? Sure – that’ll wash away the burning sensation.
It still hurts now. The burning sensation has subsided but the discomfort remains.
That is not to cast away into oblivion the collage of joyful moments from our big day out in London: A procession of red shirts topped with smiley faces bundling through the St. Pancras gates. Being informed about ticket mishaps…the resolution of ticket mishaps. Hesitating to order a pint at 9.30 in the morning…ordering a second pint without a moment’s thought 30 minutes later. Meeting a procession of friendly faces in the beer garden of the wonderful Latimer Garden bar. Seeing the various Forest flags draped with pride. Colin Barrett’s entrance. Colin Barrett’s song.
Then the football happened.
On reflection, the performance probably wasn’t as bad as we think it was. I recall uttering out loud vacuous footballing clichés like, ‘well played’ and ‘right idea’, especially during the first half, but suspect this was more a case of bleary-eyed blind encouragement, without the basis of actual evidence. It ‘seemed’ like it might be alright and if we could make it to half time with the score goalless, we could give it a right old go in the second half. It seemed that the time spent worrying about grazed knees requiring Mr Bump plasters as a result of injuries sustained by a potent combination of densely packed seats with killer sharp edged protrusions of plastic alongside an actual away Forest goal might be time well invested.
It wasn’t. You know what happened. Those coals can remain unraked for the time being.
The fact that we go into the final game of the season a solitary goal away from relegation to the third tier isn’t a direct result of meekly succumbing to QPR. Our away record in 2017 – LLLDLDLLLDL and just the four goals scored – is a more substantial reason. The paltry two away victories we did chalk up prior to this dismal run were, in gloriously smug retrospect, more a result of a shockingly poor Ipswich home performance and a frankly gloriously weird and bonkers game at Oakwell.
But even this is only a small fragment of the big picture and when the smaller picture’s the same as the bigger picture you know that you’re in the mire. With the Fawaz era seemingly grinding to a chugging and screeching halt, all that remains is a crucial ninety minutes which may well define not only the short term future of the club but the longer term too. Exaggeration? Don’t think so: the ground we lost on similar sized clubs while in League One for three years can never be accurately measured – think attendances, think match day revenue, think attractiveness of the club to a prospective fan or player. Such things are dependent upon the level of football at which a club plies its trade.
We don’t know the extent of the damage done by the last five years under the current owner – it may take years to unravel. We don’t know what league we will compete in come August 2017. We don’t know for sure under whose guidance the club will be operating this time next week. We don’t know how the players will react to the pressure of such a crucial game when the moment comes for them to make decisions in the cut and thrust of the ninety minutes. We don’t know whether they will step up to the plate and turn in a career defining moment or buckle under the sheer weight of expectation.
We don’t know. We are well and truly in the realm of unknowns – more unknowns than a Donald Rumsfeld speech. What’s more, our defining moment will be played out on television, for ‘them’ to share in our relief or sneer at our failures.
What can we do? We can cheer. We can encourage. We can clap encouragingly when a mistake is made and let the players know that we know they care. Let’s save the blame-game for afterwards – and there will be blame, anger and tears; of that there can be no doubt – but while we can possibly influence the future direction of the club, let’s do so.
Admittedly, this might well sound like new age happy-clapper ‘good things will happen to good people’ crap when we should be wagging a finger and getting angry. Anger is good. Anger is an energy.
We may well need deep reserves of anger upon which to draw in the near future. Let’s save the anger for those who truly warrant it. But come Sunday, the only people who can get us out of this mess are the ones on the pitch – they need our support. Like ‘em, loathe ‘em, feel they’re lazy, feel they’re not up to it, simply want to bash their face in with a rusty spade when they misplace a pass, they need our support.
Whatever happens on Sunday, we’re all going to be guardians and fans of this bloody club of ours beyond June. Let’s treat it with the support it deserves. If it helps to see the current iteration of the club as a historical version, so be it. (Besides, doing so might ease the pain.)
The discomfort from that short-term, ill-advised pasty choice on a Saturday evening will no doubt last until Sunday and in all likelihood, way beyond.
In a documentary on The Pogues, one of the many musicians with whom the Celtic punk band collaborated spoke of how finding a gap or a space in the recording sessions in which to make a sound with their own instrument was quite a tricky thing. Given the sheer amount of instruments The Pogues used and how many were crammed into their recordings meant that one had to listen very carefully for a momentary space in a song and pluck or blow or clang or hit in order to get in there.
Similarly, the market for books with Brian Clough as the subject is becoming an increasingly cluttered space. This is no bad thing; more to state that with each publication, one wonders what new angle can be taken. Marcus Alton has found a space in which to pluck or blow or clang or hit his instrument though.
Using archive reports and analysis, Alton takes a unique look at some of the key matches that tell the story of the most charismatic figure the game has ever known. The author knows a thing or two about his subject too. Alton is a BBC radio journalist and has worked for the corporation for more than a quarter of a century. He began his career as a sports journalist and news reporter on the Newark Advertiser. In 2005 he was part of the BBC team that won silver in Frank Gillard Awards for its reporting of the death of Brian Clough and his memorial service. He is also the author of, ‘Young Man, You’ve Made My Day’, ‘Champagne Memories’ and ‘The Day I Met Brian Clough’. He also instigated the campaign for the bronze statue of Clough, which stands in the centre of Nottingham.
In short, Alton knows a thing or two about Brian and you are in safe hands with him at the helm.
The bitesize entries for each game are meticulously researched and offer team line-ups, context, a match report and perhaps most interestingly, an exploration of the significance of the game in terms of the man himself.
We all know about the big games as manager of Forest and Derby and you can no doubt correctly predict which games are selected for analysis. Of course, this doesn’t diminish the excitement of revisiting such fixtures. Yet perhaps the greatest pleasure comes from learning about Clough the player and goal plunderer for Middlesbrough and Sunderland and also his two appearances for England. Beyond his bombast, Clough was so nervous when dining with the national team prior to his debut that his breakfast of bacon and beans ended up in his lap. Luckily for him, Tom Finney came to his rescue in arranging for his trousers to be cleaned and returned to Clough within a few hours.
As he made his way in the management game, key games are covered too and again, learning more about the remarkable job he and his mate Taylor did with Hartlepools as they learned on the job on the ropes is a fascinating read. It would be easy to overlook the short stints at Brighton and Leeds but Alton tackles the 8-2 shellacking he received at the hands of Bristol Rovers while helming the Seagulls head on. No stone is left unturned.
Occasionally, Alton is perhaps over reliant on certain sources in covering the action of the matches selected: John Lawson of the Nottingham Evening Post does crop up on numerous occasions regarding Forest games, as does lifelong Derby fan Ron Stevenson regarding Derby games. Nonetheless, this is a trifling matter and each entry is enlightening and entertaining.
Besides, one can never read enough about Brian Clough. Ever.
You can buy Brian Clough: Fifty Defining Fixtures here
They might not have been the best but they gave their best and for that, Andrew Brookes is thankful. words: Andrew Brookes
Not all heroes are superstars. While Ian Storey-Moore, John Robertson and Stuart Pearce might command our adulation through supreme talent, there’s another type of hero that captures the imagination in a different way. Cult heroes are players that might not trouble the judges when it comes to the reckoning for the ‘best XI’ but, nevertheless, they still hold a dear place in our affections and deserve to be celebrated.
What makes a cult hero? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as ‘a writer, musician, artist, or other public figure who is greatly admired by a relatively small audience or is influential despite limited commercial success’. We could adapt this to say that a Forest cult hero must be ‘a player who is greatly admired by us – in a way that fans of other clubs won’t understand – despite limited success on the pitch’.
Don’t get me wrong, cult heroes have to have a bit of talent. Without that they’re just figures of fun or, worse, scapegoats for the boo boys. But, fundamentally, these are players that we ‘like’. Players that at least look like they enjoy donning the Garibaldi. Players who show a bit of passion. Players who we can identify with. Players who make life that bit less dull.
So who fits the bill? Three men come to my mind, all of whom are worthy of the moniker of cult hero and deserve to be celebrated in their own small way alongside the more illustrious names covered in this publication.
Marlon Harewood is a player that I can’t help but smile about. He’s exactly the sort of player that opposition fans might ridicule but one who earned the respect and affection of us Forest fans, causing us to bellow ‘Marlon, Marlon, Marlon’ every time we caught sight of him.
Marlon was capable of veering from the sublime to the ridiculous, sometimes in the same attack. Yet, while he might have been frustrating at times, he could also be devastating when he was on song – no more so than when firing four goals past Tony Pulis’ Stoke in one half in February 2003. His deft touchline flick, turn, run and finish against Crystal Palace in that same month displayed a skill that he wasn’t given the credit for.
Perhaps the moment that best summed up Marlon, however, came on the opening day of the 2001/02 season. Leading the line for a young Paul Hart side, Marlon was clearly pumped up for the visit of Sheffield United. So much so that when he fired home the first goal of the campaign he wheeled away in celebration and proceeded to pole axe a linesman that he been too overjoyed to notice.
Clumsy, energetic, excitable, explosive, funny – that was our Marlon.
When it came to ‘cult hero’ strikers at the City Ground, Marlon was following in the footsteps of Jason Lee. The thing that stood out most about our Jase was his superb attitude. Well, OK, maybe that wasn’t the thing that stood out most visibly. That was, of course, the infamous pineapple mop that earned him ridicule at the hands of Fantasy Football’s Frank Skinner and David Baddiel.
But still, we loved the fact he put absolutely everything into his performances, gave defenders a tough time, didn’t let criticism get to him and actually came up with a few goals too. Outsiders might have compared him unfavourably with Stan Collymore, the last striker we’d plundered from Southend, but we largely appreciated him for what he was. We also actually loved the haircut too (well I did). When we sung ‘he’s got a pineapple on his head’ it was with genuine affection, just as ‘he’s got no hair and we don’t care’ was for Steve Stone. Such quirks can be part of the make-up of a cult hero.
It’s also worth noting that Lee did extract revenge for the ribbing he took on the telly. As he told the BBC in 2007: “I went to Chelsea the season after it all happened, with Forest, got some stick but scored our equaliser and I knew Baddiel was in the stands so that was a great day. I milked it for all it was worth.” His goal cancelled out a Gianluca Vialli strike. Not a bad thing to be able to say either.
Marlon and Jason might both have been wholehearted performers but even their passion to perform was outweighed by that of Julian Bennett.
The Meadows born defender rightfully earned the player of the year crown for his dynamic displays in the 2007/08 season, with a tough-tackling, no-nonsense spirit that briefly filled the Stuart Pearce shaped left back hole that we’ve long-struggled to address. He ensured Colin Calderwood’s side weren’t bullied in the tough environment of League One – even if that sometimes got him into trouble - and played his part in a side that earned 24 clean sheets.
If Marlon’s linesman bashing antics and Lee’s Baddiel baiting sum up their respective characters, Bennett’s lasting legacy is summed up by a goal that will always be among my favourites.
The strike in question was the first in a 3-2 win over Yeovil on the last day of the 07/08 season. The goal came after Bennett himself emphatically won a tackle so thundering that it deserved its own storm name. He then jumped up, stepped around the prone body of his victim and, with the outside of his left foot no less, hammered the ball into the corner of the net from 25 yards out. It was a magnificent moment and all the sweeter coming from a home town boy who really relished pulling on the shirt. It was just a shame that injury robbed him of the chance to try to kick on and flourish at a higher level.
These aren’t the only three cult heroes to grace the City Ground. Others may point to the short-but-sweet loan stints of George ‘he’ll eat you alive’ Elokobi and Gary ‘Twitter fan’ Gardner or maybe the Derby-defying penalty heroics of Lee Camp. I’ve always had a soft spot for ‘Big’ Jon Olav Hjelde (although I’m not sure how widely that is shared).
Yet Harewood, Lee and Bennett are the three best examples of what it takes to be a cult hero. Each has the perfect mix of talent and character and, through that, has forged a long-lasting connection and affection with fans that lasts to this day.
So, cult heroes, we salute you. You might not have been the best, but you gave us your best and we love you for it.
Things are not great at Nottingham Forest, no one can deny that, but as we try to urge our team on to survival in the Championship we also need to look ahead to the legacy we will leave to the generations of fans to come. What follows is not the answer, but I hope it is the continuation of a conversation. Do join in wherever and however you feel you want to. Steve Wright
In all honesty the current situation at Nottingham Forest is draining. Fawaz Al-Hasawi has taken us on such a bewildering and chaotic journey through his four and a half years as owner that the club has lost all sense of direction and fans have lost any faith in him to plot a realistic and sustainable course. The breakdown of a proposed takeover by John Jay Moores and his consortium, whether or not it was ultimately in the long term interests of the club, has therefore left us in a vacuum and that cannot be a good thing.
Al-Hasawi did act quickly once the purchase fell through. He sacked the manager, which surprised no one given his track record on that front and the team’s league position, and more importantly appointed an experienced Chief Financial Officer in Sam Gordon, who will hopefully be able to address the financial records described this week as “rather modest, at best” by Moores. Despite this apparent decisiveness it all feels like a case of deja-vu having seen apparently strong appointments quickly leave the club in the past.
So, on the one hand it feels like we are left simply waiting to see what will happen next as a seemingly reinvigorated owner once again sets about imposing his will on our beleaguered club, but on the other if we ever hope to reclaim it for ourselves and those who will follow us we need to prepare and reimagine a hopeful future. If the latter is to happen we will need to find a way to truly unite behind a common cause, there can be no room either for egos seeking to put themselves into the limelight or for sniping from the sidelines at those who do step forward to help. Sometimes that feels like the greatest hurdle we have to collectively overcome.
We do have some existing mechanisms to try to unite behind. Forza Garibaldi continues to be a beacon of positive support for the team and their efforts to rally fans behind the players and staff will be crucial as we face up to the reality of a relegation battle. We also have a Supporters’ Trust which is now open to members and stands at the beginning of its journey to be a safeguard for the club’s future, providing crucial support, challenge, checks and balances, whoever the owner is for as long as we have a club to support. Or at least it could be.
Ultimately all any of us want to do is support our team. None of us started following Forest to get embroiled in finances and governance, but the game has changed to such an extent with individual wealthy owners taking control of community clubs for their own ends (whether financial or otherwise) that we now need people who are able to bring those skills and experiences to the table to step up and do so. When they do step up we should welcome them and try to support them as they seek not to represent us so much as to assure us that our club is being well managed by safe hands.
This is what governance is all about, providing assurance to the wider community that an organisation we are all tied to is doing the right things by us all. The club needs a publicly available plan that lays out its vision and its values and explains what its aims are for the future and how it intends to go about achieving those aims. The fans, along with other key partners like local councils, need to have a say in the construction of that plan and also access to the club in a way that allows them to be assured that the plan is being actioned in line with our shared vision and values.
This is why I do not just want to see an executive and football structure put in place, with the positions that we all agree on of CEO, CFO, Director of Football, Head Coach, Head of Recruitment, Academy Manager etc., but also a non-executive board either directly attached to the club, or if that is not legally possible via the Supporters’ Trust which would in an ideal world give it a broader reach, to provide that assurance and governance. This board would not be adversarial, it would be there to work alongside the club’s executives to set and achieve the vision, but it would have an independent eye to keep the club true to itself, not a temporary owner.
All of this remains in my mind true and relevant whoever owns the club today, this summer or into the future. I hope we can work collectively to put something in place that can give the fanbase the assurance it needs to simply head to the City Ground stands with a sense of connection and pride in their club to do what we all wanted to do right from the start – support our team.
The following article appeared in the official matchday programme - Forest Review - on Saturday 5th November for the game against QPR
Words: David Marples
And so it goes on. Another fruitless away day at Reading yielded yet another two-goal concession and deep unrest in the away end.
Apart from last season’s 3-0 walloping and a 1-0 Lewis McGugan inspired win in 2009, Reading has generally been an unhappy place to visit as a Forest fan. Since 1997, the Reds have visited Berkshire on 12 occasions and left with that winning feeling only twice. Incidentally, the game in 1997 took place at the much-missed Elm Park and featured that miss from Steve Stone in a 3-3 thriller.
If we’re talking unhappy away grounds (and we surely are), then Walsall’s Bescot Stadium must take a bow. The last flicker of a smile next to the M5 came in 2000 when a goal from Dougie Freedman (remember him?) helped us to a 2-0 win. Since then, five straight defeats and no win in 12 matches against the Saddlers, with only four measly draws, are all we have to whisper quietly about.
Gillingham’s Priestfield feels like a worse place than it actually is. Some truly horrifying trips down there overshadow a Jack Lester hat trick in 2000, a Darren Huckerby inspired 4-1 win in 2003 and even that rarest of things, a Spencer Weir-Daley goal in a 3-1 victory in 2005. In concession, no one in his or her right mind relishes a trip to that rickety old temporary uncovered stand in Kent.
Worse than Gilligham? Oldham Athletic. Where to start with quite possibly the coldest away end in the football league? Just typing the words ‘Boundary Park’ brings convulsions of horror and hypothermia in equal measure to this writer. Since 1975, Forest have had the displeasure of playing there on nine occasions. The club has failed to chalk up a win in any of these games. Perhaps the highlight is a tedious 0-0 draw on Boxing Day in 2007 on a day that was so cold that penguins in the Greater Manchester area are said to have gathered around the fire sporting hats and specially made flipper gloves. A 5-0 reverse in 2007, a 3-0 hammering in 2006 and a farcical 5-3 defeat in 1992 are infamous games forever seared into the consciousness of any Forest fan unfortunate enough to have been there.
A trip to Portman Road is looming and despite some memorable wins there, a joyful hop, skip and jump to the car/train/coach after the game is becoming an increasingly rare phenomenon. A 6-0 shellacking in 2005 still smarts a little.
For supporters of an older vintage, a visit to Anfield to see Forest come away with a win is approaching something akin to bucket-list dreams. Time and space doesn’t permit how bad our record at Anfield is but suffice to say, it’s bad – really bad.
Of course, however grim our record at Anfield is, it pales in comparison to today’s visitors’ record here at the City Ground. Infamously, QPR have yet to chalk up a win Trentside. With Philippe Montanier’s men yet to win on the road, it is increasingly urgent that Forest pick up points at home.
*If you are reading this at full time and an enormous duck has been smashed to pieces with shards scattered all over the City Ground, I can only apologise for mentioning this whole thing in the first place.
here to edit.
You can subscribe to Forest Review and receive your copy on the day of the game. Click here for further details.
The following article appeared in the official matchday programme - Forest Review - on Saturday 22nd October for the game against Cardiff City
words: David Marples
Hildeberto Pereira’s goal against Birmingham here at the City Ground just over a week ago was a special moment for those lucky enough to witness it.
Ranking goals in terms of their quality seems like a futile exercise given the absolute lack of agreed criteria to do such a thing. Nonetheless, were there to be a Hall of Fame for special goals scored at the City Ground, this would certainly stroll in there, arms aloft and fists pumping. There may well have been more important ones down the years but in terms of sheer quality and breath-taking excitement, this one ticks the requisite boxes.
It isn’t the first goal to bemuse and delight the home crowd in equal measure and leave them scratching their heads and wondering how exactly he just did that. Lewis McGugan’s 35-yard free kick against Ipswich Town back in October 2010 was a special strike with dip, swerve and verve. Not content with scoring one, McGugan also played a beautiful ball to Simon Cox in September 2012 – also against Birmingham – for Cox to pull a peerless Dennis Bergkamp impersonation out of his hat to deftly control the ball and tap the ball into the goal all in one fluid movement.
Looking further back, you can take your pick from any one of Stan Collymore’s numerous goals from 1994-1996 – perhaps his efforts against Manchester United and Wimbledon being the strongest contenders – and of course, any piece on great goals scored at the City Ground should include, by law, Johnny Metgod’s thunderous strike against West Ham United in 1985. Deservedly so too.
But the sheer thrill of Pereira’s goal brought back memories of Michail Antonio in full flight.
The young Portuguese player entered the fray four minutes after Birmingham had pulled a goal back and were looking for an equalizer. One wonders whether his instructions included bombing forward on the break and surging upfield. Probably not.
With Forest under pressure in the 83rd minute, Pereira mops up a Blues attack in his own penalty area and then, just for good measure, nonchalantly lobs the ball over an incoming Jonathon Grounds. And he’s off.
He surges through the centre circle, channeling the spirit of Stuart Pearce and Viv Anderson in galloping from the full back area, with an added touch of Archie Gemmill (“He hasn’t seen him. HE HAS NOW!”)
Weirdly, he doesn’t seem to quite have the ball fully under control but this matters not. Space is now at a premium. He dinks the ball out to Ben Osborn 40 yards from goal. But he’s not done – he keeps running.
Osborn – on his 100th appearance for the Reds – has the nous to keep the momentum moving and after a touch forward, knocks the ball into the area for the onrushing Pereira to slot home 8 yards out. The ball resides in the Trent End a mere 15 seconds after Pereira’s first touch back in his own box approximately (and beautifully) and around 8 yards out from the goal he was defending.
A sensational goal from a thrilling player.
You can subscribe to Forest Review and receive your copy on the day of the game. Click here for further details.