words: David Marples
We live in an age obsessed by how measurable things are: your output in the workplace, a child’s progress through education, how much alcohol you consume and even the amount of crisps you can stuff into your gob at any given time.
Yet not all things are and should be measurable. It is impossible to know how much the ‘City Of Rebels’ display influenced the electric start to the game or indeed, the precise impact of the rousing renditions and scarf twirling in the closing stages of this contest on the team’s determination to secure the win.
Just because such things cannot be measured, their impact cannot be underestimated. We cannot know the precise impact of the existence of nail-clippers on our day-to-day wellbeing but we can safely say they make the world a better place. There is no mathematical formula for specifying such things and nor should there be.
Like that scene in Dead Poets Society in which Mr. Keating encourages his students to rip out the graph from ‘Understanding Poetry’ by Dr. J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D and chuck it in the bin, mathematically charting how we appreciate beauty or passion is for the birds. What is undeniable is that the crowd and team were cheek by jowl all evening.
Martin O’Neill acknowledged this to be the case: “It was a cauldron and the crowd were fantastic for us. As we saw the game through, the crowd again were absolutely terrific. I think the players and the crowd fed off each other.”
While the occasion roused Forest, perhaps it overwhelmed Derby. They had the lion’s share of possession but the pre-determined narrative was that Forest would allow them to do so yet with hard, solid pressing in the right areas at the right time, Forest would have the pace to not only disrupt Derby’s rhythm but bag a goal or two. Failing that, there was always a decent chance they would nick one from a set-piece, what with this being a Martin O’Neill team and all that. This is pretty much how it all played out.
While the deciding goal did arise from a free kick, Joe Lolley once again showed that he could function as a one-man, entire defence-bothering rocket. One wondered how he would fare against the vastly experienced and one-time outstanding Ashley Cole – a man who once shackled Cristiano Ronaldo in his pomp – yet after some evenly contested early scuffles, Lolley had Cole on the back foot. In the first half, Derby did their very best to double-up on Lolley but in the second, they did what they could to ensure three men were in close proximity to him. And even then it didn’t seem to matter.
It was a ballsy performance, the likes of which Diego Simeone would whole-heartedly approve: defensive rigidity and discipline coupled with the razor sharp incisiveness of a pacy forward. For Antoine Griezmann, read Lolley. Of course, O’Neill would never be so uncouth as to provide such a visual representation of such a performance even though it certainly was one. It would though be a disservice to reduce the win to a good old fashioned blood and thunder crazy gang/culture club scenario. Frank Lampard said of Forest “They are a good organised team, who like to sit back and counter-attack” – a statement that recognises the quality Forest have both in defence and on the break. Rarely has a central defensive partnership flourished so quickly like that between Alexander Milosevic and Yohan Benalouane. Besides, Forest arguably created the clearer chances and despite Derby’s possession, looked more in control of the game.
Football matches, especially ones like these, are battles: battles for local supremacy, for bragging rights, to assert one area’s dominance over another’s. Ryan Yates embodied that determination to win the battle in order to assert superiority. Perhaps Helen Watts put it best: “If we don’t fight for it, no one else will”.
Issue 11 is out now.
In conversation with...Steve Sutton (David Marples)
If it happened in the ‘80s, Steve Sutton saw it – and probably saved it.
Mass Distraction (Phil Juggins)
Outmoded, outdated, outstanding: a football forum love affair.
“Derby County is Life” (Paul Severn)
Our nearest and dearest on Clough, Attwell, and being ‘shithoused’ by QPR.
You Must Have Come on a Skateboard (Neil Syson)
The only living boy in New Cross, and the only Forest fan in the New Den.
The Song Remains the Same (Nick Miller)
Breaking up is hard to do. Caring in the first place is becoming even harder.
There’s a Circus in the Town (Julie Pritchard)
My family, and other animals: the anatomy of a rivalry.
Who Are They? Exactly (Nigel Huddlestone)
It’s 300 miles from Sussex to Accrington. What do you do when the warning lights are blinking?
My Generation (Matt Oldroyd)
The story of what 1,000 (almost) consecutive games does to a man’s mind and his soul.
Kicking Shins (Steve Wright)
Why a football club should be so much more than just a football team
“God is a Concept by Which We Measure Our Pain” (Richard Harrison)
One day you’re the giant, another day his killer. A world without cupsets is a world we don’t want to live in.
The Football Factory: Pt 1 (Pete Blackburn)
Examining academy life, and what became of two of Forest’s brightest young stars.
Click here to buy it or pop into MSR newsagents.