words: David Marples
When The Velvet Underground released their debut album, ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’ in 1967, sales were slow. Actually, sales were glacial in their movement. Two months after its release, the album squeaked in at Number 199 in the Billboard charts and sold only 30,000 copies in the first five years. Yet its existence laid down a marker for all aspiring musicians and set the tone for the course of alternative music. As Brian Eno put it, “I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band!" Although the astonishing album didn’t initially yield tangible rewards, it set down a very clear and definite marker of the band’s intentions.
Forest’s astonishing performance against WBA in their opening home game of the season might not have produced the much desired three points but if that’s an indication of how this team is going to play football this season, Nottingham might be flooded with 30,000 new five-a-side teams over the next few years.
All too often, the result is king. ‘It is a results business’ goes the mantra. Winning sure is good but a pulsating 90 minutes of football is just as satisfying. It is testament to Forest’s performance that few people exited the ground muttering about taking chances or defending better or not sitting back; instead they purred into the sultry night, imagining the results when the team fully clicks into gear.
The first half seemed to be composed of five-minute bouts – almost like a power play in ice hockey. Each team took it in turns to worry the other’s goal. ‘You done now? Great. My turn.’
If there was a concern that Forest might be bullied by more street-wise and battle-hardened opponents, that fear was quickly eradicated as Jack Colback nipped at anything that moved, allowing Adlène Guédioura to impose his authority on the game.
Although West Brom looked threatening with Matt Philips’ pace and Jay Rodriquez’s smart hold-up play, they couldn’t quite seem to piece it fully together – a moment when Rodriguez flicked a ball on expecting James Morison to have powered beyond the last man seemed symptomatic of their teething problems. Suffice to say, Morison looked perplexed at Rodriguez’s chastisement.
Aitor Karanka set about dispelling the defensive stereotype that is often applied to him in his team selection and his approach to the game. There would be no cagey cat and mouse strategy here this evening. The sight of Daryl Murphy, Michael Dawson and Ben Watson trotting down the touchline in an effort to warm up underlined Karanka’s approach – never mind the experience, here’s the sexy signings.
Murphy, Dawson and Watson - a more grizzled, battle-hardened, gnarled and Championship embodiment of Quint from Jaws that ever existed. You want to talk about the USS Indianapolis? Pull up a stool, grab some rum and let’s compare scars. Here’s where I scored 50 goals for a middling Ipswich Town team, and most of those were after my thirtieth birthday. This is where I captained Hull City to promotion to the Premier League. You want the crème-de-le-crème? This is where I scored the winner for Wigan to defeat moneybags City in the FA Cup final.
The approach was paying off. João Carvalho played a ball cuter than a meme kitty on Instagram to put Lewis Grabban through but he was denied. Carvalho was a constant threat; when he is on the ball, things happen. Good things for Forest; worrying things for the opposition. On occasions, especially in the second half, it seemed as if many Forest players were acting on the very simple instruction, ‘Give it to João.’
After ten minutes of the second half, it was confirmed to many that this is a team that will have a go and entertain in doing so. Forest went all out to nudge their noses ahead and applied some serious pressure. But it’s important to score at such times and just when it felt like the moment had gone, Adlène Guédioura found himself in possession with a sight of goal. ‘Shooooooooot’ the ground cried in unison, heart hoping the ball would break the net, head expecting the ball to trouble the upper tier of the Trent End.
So shoot he did - Guédioura was never one to decline such an opportunity – and the ball nestled in the corner after a slight deflection.
Yet with half an hour to play, this wasn’t going to be easy. Just as pleasing as the vibrant attacking play was the terrier-like pressing from back to front. This team carries no passengers and it seems crystal clear that the players are fully aware of this fact.
If Forest were guilty of anything, maybe a touch of over-confidence crept in towards the latter stages. There is a small but very clear distinction between confidence and arrogance and while never arrogant, Forest might be said to have occasionally played one short pass too many. Then again, read that last sentence back again and what a delight it is for that to be an observation on a Forest performance. Furthermore, Guédioura’s astonishing effort from his own half might well be deemed to be arrogant if it had sailed high over the bar. The fact that it came within a whisker of being one of the greatest goals scored at the City Ground confirms the confidence pulsating through the team.
Sometimes, it is simply best to sit back and lap up the entertainment on offer. The rest takes care of itself.
Issue 9 is now on general sale. You can buy it from MSR newsagents or click here to have it delivered. It features exclusive interviews with Ian Woan and Brian Laws and much more. We are also selling some lovely merch too. Have a look here.