words: David Marples
The desire to find a darkened and quiet room in which to emit a loud, visceral and guttural primal scream was overwhelming around tea-time on Boxing Day.
Christmas can sometimes do that to you. Yet the urge to let it all out was born of a stronger force: bloody football.
Like a dog bounding in to the house with muddy paw prints, stupid stick in stupid mouth for the gazillionth time but then licking your face before curling up at your feet, there is something deeply frustrating yet at the same time deeply loveable about this team.
Will it ever learn? Maybe. Probably.
Does it comfort you and bring you joy? Definitely.
Does it entertain you? Absolutely.
Faults? Some. A few. Numerous. You know them. You’ve watched them. Some more serious than others.
Yet there is much to love too. Joe Lolley doing his best Arjen Robben impersonation in that we all know what he’s going to do when he receives the ball out wide but watching the panic on the defender’s face as he also knows yet just can’t prevent it happening. Matty Cash ploughing a deep furrow up and down the line, generally falling over when through on goal but then coming up with deliciously sweet diagonal strikes from the edge of the area. Jack Colback the second before he goes into a fifty-fifty challenge – Jack Colback really loves a fifty-fifty challenge, perhaps more than anything in the world. Lewis Grabban holding the ball up under difficult circumstances then laying it off for João Carvalho before ghosting beyond the defender’s shoulder. Jack Robinson and Tendayi Darikwa bounding forward with the enthusiasm of five year olds running around during a game of musical chairs while that song about small diminutive sharks plays ear-splittingly loud. Seeing the whole Forest bench clear and applaud Cash in encouragement when he was eased off the ball at the last minute after going through on goal. Costel Pantilimmon celebrating a save like he’s just done a Jimmy Glass. That third goal.
The fact that this team was a whisker away from leaving Carrow Road with three points after scoring three goals away from home against a team riding the crest of a wave isn’t surprising. They do this; they always come out fighting after a poor performance. Naturally, it would be preferable if the poor performance didn’t exist in the first place but we can’t get a bike for Christmas every day.
Conceding three goals in 21 minutes isn’t great. Conceding two goals in nine minutes of added time isn’t great either. Losing a three-goal lead looks bad. Such things suggest various things about this team. But at the same time, taking a three goal lead away from home on the back of an inert performance against QPR also suggests various things.
Of course, the game should have been closed down. Yet watching a team bombing forward away from home while 3-0 up is a sight to behold. Watching your own players feigning injury and rolling off the pitch to buy time is most surely a thing of the past. Sticking on three defenders in place of attacking players with twenty minutes to go isn’t something we’ve seen for a while. Trying to score goals is certainly preferable to talk of ‘game management’.
Maybe ‘game management’ might win you more points but those teams going hell for leather to score goals (Norwich, West Brom, even Leeds and Sheffield United) are the ones reaping the rewards this season. Middlesbrough might not concede many but they certainly don’t score many either. For the sake of a few places in the league, I’d rather be us than them at this stage.
As for the ‘other stuff’, let’s deal with that if/when it comes knocking on our door. For the moment, I want to keep on enjoying this team. Idealistic? Probably. No doubt they will drag in an excrement-smeared stick on occasions - behaviour falling well short of expectations – but as long as they make amends and snuggle up at our feet with doe-eyes that scream ‘best intentions and all that’, they should be given a warm hug rather than a kick in the chops.
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.
Get your exclusive, hand crafted Forest calendar here.