Football Rumours (Portsmouth – NFFC Programme Notes)

First of all I’d like to take this opportunity to end speculation about my future as a columnist for Nottingham Forest Football Club. You may have seen reports in the tabloids linking me with a move to bitter rivals Derby County, but I must implore you to ignore this pure fabrication. I’m totally committed to this club and wish to end my career here, when such time comes to pass.

Photographs of me sat in a seedy underground tavern with Nigel Clough, Nathan Tyson and Shaun the Sheep have been taken completely out of context. Furthermore, rumours about contract negotiations stalling because I demanded to have a programme stand named after me are grossly exaggerated.

With that in mind, I’m happy to announce that I’ll be returning to the helm of ‘The Red Revolution’ next year, with more obscure Jonathan Greening/Jesus references than ever before. I can’t wait.

Despite the fact that it’s been a disappointing season, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing for the programme this year. Regardless of this, I would never have left my beloved Forest, not even if Barcelona had come in for me. No matter how the team fares, us supporters aren’t afforded the privilege of jumping ship.

Unfortunately, with regard to the modern footballer, there is no guarantee of such loyalty. The harsh reality is that those who have shone in the Championship this season could well be prized away from us by the lure of the Premiership. Even if we manage to hold onto our star players, it’s almost inevitable that the squad for the 2012/13 season will be much changed from the one we have now.

This begs the question … when it comes to rumours about arrivals and departures at the City Ground this summer, how can we separate truth from fiction? How can we know which stories to believe?

Luckily, help is at hand.

Once the season is over I shall be casting aside my notepad and feathered quill, replacing them with a deer stalker, pipe and magnifying glass. Despite the advice of loved ones and paid professionals, I’m quitting my day job in order to start my own detective agency. The solitary aim of this venture is to scrutinise every single Forest related rumour that rears its head throughout the summer, filtering out reality from the vast sea of shameless fantasy.

Throughout my twenty-odd years as a football fan, I’ve never endured a pre-season without being subjected to a minefield of lazy journalism. Unfortunately now, with blogs, fan forums and social networking sites coming to prominence, it’s worse than ever before. It only takes one flicker of conjecture and before long a fully-fledged rumour has manifested across every available channel of information.

That’s not to say that there aren’t a few noble journalists out there, trying to get the truth about our football club out into the public domain. Unfortunately the informed voices often become mere whispers amongst a gabble of guesswork and deceit.

But fear not … here are some tips to help you in your quest for the truth:

 

  1.             As sad as it is, the vast      majority of national newspapers don’t really care about Nottingham Forest      anymore. Their attention is focussed solely on the clubs at the top of the      Premiership. You will occasionally see the odd two-line transfer rumour      about us … but such fragments must be treated with caution.

Language and content are very important. If the story is completely unsubstantiated, using jelly-like phrases such as ‘are thought to be interested,’ with no quote or justification to back it up, then it’s probably just been placed there to humour us attention-deprived Championship fans. You’re better off relying on local newspapers as a source of reliable transfer/takeover information.

  1. Beware      of rumours that seem altogether too convenient. If the story is one that      you could have conjured up yourself, then it might just be that somebody      else has done exactly that, and simply published it somewhere.
  2. As      entertaining as they can be, fan forums are full of sensational lies.      Rumours that start with lines like ‘my mate’s mum is a cleaner at the City      Ground and she heard …’ or ‘I saw Andy Reid in PC World and he told me’      are most likely to be utter tripe.
  3. Twitter      can be a great source of news. It’s often where stories break first.      Follow local journalists, Forest players and players who we are linked      with … but beware of fake accounts!
  4. As      boring as it sounds, nothing is official until it’s formally announced by      Forest. Sky Sports, BBC Sport and the Nottingham Evening Post are very      reliable sources, but sometimes you are best to ignore everything else and      just wait for things to appear on the official website. It can save a lot      of heartbreak.

 

I’d like to close by wishing you all an excellent pre-season. Thanks to all those who have used my Twitter account to pass on kind sentiments or suggest ideas for ‘The Red Revolution.’
Keep the Red flag flying high!

 

 

Follow me on Twitter: @Dave_Abbiss

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My Player of the Season (Blackpool – NFFC Programme Notes)

Placing my vote for the Nottingham Forest ‘Player of the Year’ award is traditionally one of my favourite pastimes. I’d usually lock myself away throughout the voting period, reviewing the footage from the season at hand and witling the squad down via a cruel process of elimination, before releasing white smoke from my chimney to indicate that a winner had been chosen.

Having received strongly worded letters from both neighbours and the local fire brigade, I decided to abandon tradition this year. Instead I will be unveiling my personal nomination in today’s ‘Red Revolution’.

Over the past couple of seasons it’s been particularly hard to pick a ‘Player of the Year’ for Forest, because there have been a plethora of worthy candidates. This season the process has been difficult for a completely different reason.

I’m sure our players would be the first to admit that things haven’t exactly gone to plan in the 2011/12 season … but I still genuinely feel there are a handful of players whose overall contribution deserves special praise.

After losing at home to Derby County, things appeared so bad that I thought I might be in with a chance of winning the award myself. I’ve only got a very small mantle piece and so it comes as a great relief to me that, since that day, five excellent candidates have come to the fore.

Before I reveal the five I feel ought to be considered for the award, it is worth mentioning that a few of the squad who have made exceptional contributions to the season have been reluctantly omitted from my thoughts, purely because they’ve only been available for half of the season.

Dexter Blackstock has been outstanding over the past few weeks, having returned from injury midway through the season. His tireless and intelligent efforts when leading the line have played no small part in our recent turnaround of fortunes.

Danny Higginbotham has proved to be a very shrewd January loan signing. He is a superb organiser with a wealth of experience, and we look a significantly better side with him in it.

Last but not least, Adlene Guedioura has been phenomenal since joining us on loan from Wolves. He’s like an Algerian Roy Race. I’d don a Derby shirt and ride a sheep bareback down the A52, if I thought it would convince him to sign a five-year deal with us.

These players have certainly been a major influence during the latter part of the season but my final five candidates have been selected because of their contributions throughout the entire campaign.

Chris Gunter has not only been Forest’s most dependable and consistent player throughout the season but has shown amazing spirit and endeavour in even the most hopeless of times. He’s as bombastic when thwarting wingers as he is when blitzing down the right flank. He’d be a very worthy winner.

Joel Lynch has had something of a breakthrough season. There was a moment in the season, as he nonchalantly glanced in the equaliser in the home tie against Ipswich, when Lynch looked a cast iron certainty for the award. He looked imperious on that day, throwing his body into challenges and arrowing forty-yard diagonal passes with pinpoint accuracy. He was like a modern day Robin Hood.

It’s been a landmark season for Lynch and I can’t wait to see him back at the heart of our defence next year. I guarantee he’ll get better and better.

Marcus Tudgay was deemed surplus to requirements by Steve McClaren and it’s testament to his ‘never say die’ attitude that he’s managed to fight his way back to prominence. It’s an attitude that is there for all to see on match days, as he relentlessly charges down defenders and leaps above people twice his size to win headers. Tudgay was particularly instrumental in Steve Cotterill’s opening few games but has scored some invaluable goals throughout the campaign.

            It’s also been a remarkable season for Garath McCleary. His legendary four goal heroics at Elland Road have given him every chance of being Forest’s top scorer this season, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he picked up the ‘Player of the Year’ award aswell.

His frightening pace and bamboozling feet have always made him a player full-backs fear to play against, but this season it’s his emphatic finishes that have ascended him to Championship stardom. In addition to his oozing talent, it’s also evident that he’s worked incredibly hard at becoming a better player when not in possession. He’s a truly excellent candidate for this prestigious award.

Despite the fact that I would warmly and sincerely applaud any of the players I have already mentioned, were they to be presented with the ‘Player of the Year’ award, my own personal choice would be none of the above.

I’m plumping for a man who has consistently galvanised the City Ground with calculated strokes of his left boot, a man who has inspired those around him and left gaping onlookers awestruck, a man who has single-handedly brought us victory with his craft and ingenuity. I am, of course, talking about Andy Reid.

Reid, who has racked up the highest number of assists this season, has also proved to be a true leader of men on the pitch. The combination of his ravenous appetite for the ball and his wand-like left foot has re-ignited his love affair with Forest fans; he may be seven years older but I genuinely believe he’s come back better than ever, which is perhaps the highest compliment he can be paid.

Andy Reid has given me a reason to renew my season ticket next year and, in my view, his contribution deserves the highest acknowledgement.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @Dave_Abbiss

 

My letter to Adlene Guedioura (Bristol City – NFFC Programme Notes)

Dear Adlene,

First and foremost, I would like to assure you that this is not a begging letter. Rather, it is a selfless attempt at offering you some valuable career advice, free of charge.

My recommendation to you, based on the information at my disposal, is as follows: put in a transfer request at Molineux and join the Red Revolution, post haste. As far as I can see, it’s the only sensible option.

You may well think my attempts to lure you to the City Ground are fuelled by an ulterior motive but I can assure you that my only concern is your welfare. I genuinely think moving to Nottingham Forest will prove to be the best decision you ever made.

Ambition is one of the finest qualities a person can possess, when it is pure and well-placed. But too many footballers are driven by a dark ambition, namely the ambition to be in a higher league and to earn more money. Beware … all that glitters isn’t gold!

Don’t go the way of so many men before you, strangled by their own misplaced ambition – Macbeth, Mussolini and, to a lesser extent, Micky Quinn – instead sign a contract with the Tricky Trees and we can truly achieve great things together. It would fill me with great sadness to think of you in any other colour than red next season.

I implore you to realise that at Nottingham Forest you have found a place where you can fulfil your ambition, where you can flourish and become a timeless legend amongst supporters who have already taken you to their hearts. Looking at it from the outside, it would appear that you are very much at home here … and we are genuinely thrilled to have you! It’s a win-win situation.

Speaking objectively, Nottingham Forest is unequivocally, and beyond any reasonable doubt, the single greatest sporting club in the universe. When you consider the fact that we have won two European Cups, a League Title and the much sought after Zenith Data Systems Cup, the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers pale in comparison.

Furthermore, the city of Nottingham is the finest of places you could ever wish to live. It’s a centre of unrivalled culture, boasting Nottingham Castle, the Tales of Robin Hood, Ye Olde Jerusalem (the oldest pub in the world) and a late-night renegade Greggs that serves Festive Bakes all year ‘round.

What has Wolverhampton got that could rival this? It’s just a small town in Walsall, so I’m led to believe.

I suppose there is still an ever-fading sliver of hope that Wolves might just survive this season in the Premiership. If this happens I would, of course, understand you wanting to return to fight for your place in their starting line-up, but it’s worth mentioning that there are advantages to being a Championship player … especially as it would only be for one season, before our inevitable promotion.

There are 46 games in the Championship, compared to the Premiership’s pitiful 38. You look like a player who positively cherishes every second of game time and, if my maths is correct, there’s an extra 43200 seconds in a Championship season, compared to a Premiership season. Furthermore, by my reckoning, that’s approximately an extra 48 shots for you to belt goalwards, without remorse.

This leads me nicely to my next point: us Forest fans cannot get enough of your long range shots! We whole-heartedly embrace your speculative strikes from distance. Long have we suffered players unwilling to shoot from outside the six-yard box. Long have we needed a man, who can behead an otter from thirty yards, using either foot. As far as I’m concerned you can shoot from anywhere you like. I actively encourage it.

But it’s not just your emphatic shooting ability that we all love. You’ve intoxicated us faithful Reds with your magnetic midfield performances! Your tireless running, dynamic passing and gutsy tackling have made you an immediate fans’ favourite.

If you stick around long enough, you could be rubbing shoulders with Robin Hood and Brian Clough in Nottinghamshire folklore. If you stay at Wolves, the best they’ll offer you is sharing a bag of peanuts with Noddy Holder.

Nottingham is a modern city, right at the cutting edge of world affairs. The City Ground itself appears on the latest Iphone advert, and you can’t get much more cutting edge than that. By contrast, Wolverhampton was used to film the Mordor scenes for the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. They didn’t need to modify it or use computer graphics. It was more of a documentary than anything.

I should mention at this point that I actually live in Wolverhampton, so I’m legally entitled to convey untruths in order to convince you to sign for us. As you know, it’s really a quite lovely place to dwell, providing you avoid the gaze of that Giant Eye in the middle of town. Nottingham is better though.

Despite my initial claim, this did turn out to be something of a begging letter. It’s been a pleasure to have had you at our club. Your performances have brought a smile back to a face that has aged fifteen years in one season. I wish you luck whatever you decide to do next.

Yours Sincerely,

A Hopeful Fan

P.S. (Incidentally, if you need any help moving your stuff across the Midlands, I’d be more than happy to lend a hand.)

Follow me on Twitter: @Dave_Abbiss

Euro 2012 (Brighton and Hove Albion – NFFC Programme Notes)

As you may have gathered from reading previous editions of ‘The Red Revolution’, I have something of an obsessive personality. This frightening disorder is not confined within the parameters of Nottingham Forest Football Club either.

I’m prone to compulsive behaviour in all aspects of life and, after getting in with a bad crowd a couple of years ago, I developed a dangerous addiction. It’s an addiction that could well have resurfaced by the time June 8th comes around.

Though the Championship season is drawing to a dramatic close, there’s no need to fret about a long vacuous summer without football this year. We are only 77 days from the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. However, I must admit, I have mixed feelings about the tournament.

On the one hand, I am brimming with hungry anticipation at a feast of knockout football … but on the other, I am fearful that an old habit might consume me once again.

It was around this time of year, back in 2010, when I bought my first batch …       What harm can it do? Everybody else is doing it. You only live once.

Those were the whispers and taunts of my so-called friends, as I handed over the money. £1,247 later and I was irreversibly hooked.

I am, of course, talking about the dark and disturbing evils of the Panini sticker album.

The most annoying thing was that, even after all that pointless expenditure, I was nowhere near spiritual fulfilment. I’d got the entire New Zealand squad and 84 Dirk Kuyts … but half the album was still blank.

As for my beloved England, I managed to get most of the squad, but despite my best efforts Wayne Rooney remained missing throughout the entire tournament. I suppose it did give me an insight into how Fabio Capello must have felt.

This compulsion of mine might have been deemed socially acceptable had I have had some sort of child to palm blame onto. I did suggest that creating one might help with the project, but those close to me insisted it was unethical to bring a child into the world solely for the purpose of sticker collection.

The problem was that, being a mature young adult, I had no associates to swap unwanted stickers with. Spending weekday afternoons loitering around the local schoolyard, dealing Emile Heskeys to Year 6’s was frowned upon by the lunchtime supervisors … and eventually, having run out of money, hope of finishing the album was lost.

Of course the sticker addiction is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg; I make no secret of the fact that I am unhealthily besotted with football at every level. Although I realise that, when it comes to internationals, not all football fanatics are quite as enthusiastic as me.

Over the last decade or so, international tournaments have sorrowfully wilted in the shadow of the ever-expanding domestic game. It might be that the game is so generic throughout the world these days and subsequently the styles of play don’t differ between countries like they used to. Furthermore, the majority of players on show at tournaments are seen regularly in the Premiership or Champions League, which takes something away from the excitement when international games come around.

The biyearly disappointment of seeing England flunk out at the hands of cheating foreigners, far earlier than is ever hoped, has finally taken its toll on our country’s most ardent football fans.

Or perhaps, to put more realistically, it’s the fact that the English national team has given us absolutely nothing to shout about since 2002, when we last took a meaningful scalp by beating Argentina 1-0 in a fiercely contested group game.

At a click of my nostalgic fingers I will always be able to travel back to that day. After watching the wonderfully tense English victory, a bunch of us played football across the main road, cars triumphantly beeping their horns as they weaved their way around us. ‘Three Lions’ blared from every available stereo, as the nation proudly puffed out its chest and jubilantly waved the flag of St George for all to see. The tangible air of victory still stings my nostrils when I think about that famous day. We were invincible, if only for a moment.

Ten years on and, with regard to England, I’ve felt nothing like it since. Personally, I think it’s about time we made it happen again.

If I’m campaigning for anything it’s for the nation to rekindle its love affair with international football. That alone could be all that’s required for England to be great once more.

I implore you all to embrace Euro 2012 with every working limb, or else these precious international tournaments may one day be a thing of the past.

Throw a football themed party to coincide with the opening ceremony. Make all your guests dress as representatives from each of the competing countries. Put on a spread that embraces all sixteen cultures and ply your guests with intoxicating Polish lagers that will make them want to somersault through the streets when Radi scores the opening goal of the tournament.

The games are on terrestrial television at 5pm and 7.45pm, so there’s no excuse to miss a second of the action. It’s not like when the tournament was held in Japan and Korea and you had to reset your biological clock just to negotiate the erratic match schedule. There’s no need to feign leprosy to get days off work … just crack open a bottle of Tyskie and let the tournament consume you, body and soul.

But be warned, if you find yourself preparing to remortgage your house for sticker money … you’ve probably gone too far!

 

Follow me on Twitter: @Dave_Abbiss