words: David Marples
*What’s black and white and red all over?
Pride Park is a funny old place. Every single high street food outlet you care to name and a defunct Toys R Us yet only one highly generic modern pub whose main existence is to serve extremely bog-standard meals surround it. Built into the stadium are both a Greggs and an up-market coffee shop, The BackYard, from which you can purchase your usual array of deep filled muffins, toasted focaccias and chai latte with a whisper of cinnamon. Curiously, the Greggs was closed while the queue for a festive latte snaked out of the door.
That’s not to say it’s a bad place or lacks atmosphere or authenticity; we all whine about substandard catering facilities at the football. It’s more to say that such a scenario is increasingly typical of a modern away day.
*The goalless draw at Pride Park meant that Forest have now gone two games without scoring, collecting only a single point. Yet there is no talk of losing ground in the push for the play-offs, no demands to get someone in to bolster the numbers in January, no lamenting the team line selection and no scapegoats. Nor should there be. Against Preston, Forest played well enough but couldn’t chalk up a goal that would probably have turned the game in their favour. They followed this up with a clean sheet and a point away at promotion and local rivals. Owing to the nature of the performances on the pitch and the enthusiasm and support from the stands, it feels better than it probably should.
There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, the Reds’ record at Pride Park is simply dreadful. Crude calculations suggest that Forest have enjoyed the lead for only 43 minutes from approximately 1440 minutes in this stadium since Derby County relocated from the Baseball Ground. To put it another way, Forest have lead for only 3% of their time spent playing at Pride Park. Against this record, a reasonably comfortable goalless draw is to be applauded.
Moreover, the atmosphere in the away end was as good as it has been in a long time. It seemed to be a case of a collective mentality of ‘whatever happens on the pitch, let’s out-sing the home fans and support the team’. There was – as far as I know – no ransacking of the toilets and no arrests. After the distasteful chanting from both sets of fans last season in this fixture, the atmosphere here was no worse for the state of affairs described above – in fact, it was better.
Following Forest away is a truly fun thing to do this season.
*Danny Fox being in with the away support was incredibly pleasing. John Thompson was also there and last season, Julian Bennett sat in the scruffy seats. I also have a vague memory of Michael Dawson sitting in the away end at Leicester around the time he first broke into the first team. When the squad bunch around Fox like giddy school children sat on a carpet in the cosy corner awaiting a story to ask him about what it was like in there with those fans, he will no doubt tell them in no uncertain terms how much the fans are behind this team. His presence seemed to inspire the away throng to up their game even more. Just by being there, Fox made it clear to the fans that the players get it– they understand what it’s like to pay your money and travel away. And even if they didn’t, they will now.
*With the usual defensive line decimated by injury, eyebrows were raised with the announcement of Saidy Janko at left back and Jack Robinson shuffling to centre back to partner Michael Hefele, with Ben Osborn starting at the expense of Matty Cash. It was initially difficult to see how it would all slot together since the starting eleven comprised of at least four full backs (Robinson, Janko, Tendayi Darikwa and Osborn).
We should have known better. If we have learned anything this season, it is that this team rarely lets you down. It turns in increasingly consistent and solid performances. That nagging, quiet little voice in your head that tells you it will all come crumbling down in an ignominious defeat is at risk of being told to do one. It will always exist and will never truly disappear but it is currently being kept gagged and bound to a chair in a quiet and darkened room.
*When the away fans chanted ‘Sky TV, fucking shit’ (and perhaps the home fans joined in?), the chant was drowned out by fake crowd noise dubbed by Sky like an unnecessary remix with added break beats of ‘Hey Jude’.
Given the competition for Premier League fixtures from BT Sport and the loss of La Liga to Eleven Sports, Sky has set its targets on the Championship in order to maintain some sort of foothold in the increasingly competitive market. Yet there is a sense that supporters are quickly reaching the end of their tether regarding the tinkering with fixtures for TV. Fans in Spain and Germany have made their displeasure very apparent, to the extent that Monday evening games are to be discontinued in the Bundesliga.
Such Orwellian tampering with the noise of actual live football will only turn match-going supporters against Sky. Rather than ignoring, nay, drowning out the problem, they should acknowledge it and seek to solve the problem of fan dissatisfaction with increasing fixture changes.
Issue Ten is out now and available to buy here and MSR newsagents on Trent Bridge and Angel Row where you will also find loads of Forest books and memorabilia to stick on your Christmas list.
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