Category Archives: The Red Revolution – NFFC Programmes 2011/12

These are articles published in the Nottingham Forest FC Matchday Magazine for the 2011/12 season.

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

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

Married to a Non-Believer (Millwall – NFFC Programme Notes)

For those regular readers of ‘The Red Revolution,’ who have grown accustomed to anti-establishment rants and chilling visions of football’s soulless future, I’m afraid this week I’m taking a break from all of that so that I can offer some invaluable relationship advice to those who need it.

Although I’m a happily married man, there is the slightest of blotches on our matrimonial parchment. My wife, Sarah, carries a dark disturbing secret that I was not made aware of until after I’d proposed.

She doesn’t like football.

I’ve been reliably informed, by friends and well wishers, that this is grounds for an annulment. After all, I was, technically speaking, tricked into this marriage under false pretences. Of course, I’m not going to go down this route; for a start, I don’t have a comprehensive enough understanding of how the microwave works.

But those obsessive football lovers amongst you, who are on the cusp of a new relationship, should take heed … if your partner doesn’t like football now, they probably never will!

I know what you’re thinking. I thought exactly the same. You’ll coerce them into coming to a game and their whole ideology will be transformed by one spontaneous moment of ingenuity from Andy Reid.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. These anti-football fiends are a stubborn bunch. You may think you can change them, but essentially you can’t. Believe me, I’ve tried everything.

The wedding itself should have given me a clue as to what being married to a non-believer was going to be like. I suggested having the service at the City Ground, with Frank Clark conducting the ceremony in the centre circle. I assumed that as chairman of a football club, much like the captain of a ship, he would have the authority to legally marry us.

I also wanted to get married in my Forest kit, with ice sculptures of the 1979 European Cup winning squad placed at strategic points as Sarah walked down the aisle. All of these ideas were rejected without consideration, and yet, according to Sarah, I was the one being selfish.

In fairness, she did try and add a few Forest touches to the day. In the church where we had the service, there were pictures and statues of Jonathan Greening everywhere. He’s one of my favourite players and it was very thoughtful of Sarah to arrange this.

Since that day I’ve tried everything to entice her into football but even a romantic midweek break in Doncaster didn’t do the trick. Personally, I can’t think of a better place to spend your honeymoon.

Her dislike of football can border on being unreasonable at times. I saw Christmas as the ideal opportunity to subtly indoctrinate her and decided to buy her some paraphernalia from the club shop. She burst into tears and threw the hilarious Nottingham Forest Goalkeeper Oven Gloves straight into the bin. Perhaps I should have bought her something else to go with it.

You may well be thinking Sarah and I need some marriage counselling but nothing could be further from the truth. We’ve spent eight happy seasons as a couple and, in that time, we’ve developed a number of ways to co-exist harmoniously, despite the fact that I love football with all my heart and Sarah has grown to pretty much despise it.

Crisis negotiations take place on an almost daily basis, in order to ensure I get my recommended football dosage. We have all kinds of little deals in place to help maintain the equilibrium. For example, I get to have my life-sized cardboard cut out of Stuart Pearce out in the living room and Sarah gets to name our first born child.

With the European Championships this summer, there is a household meeting planned, the like of which hasn’t been seen since the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

Of course, in this vastly advanced technological age, there is one other thing which has proved a great aid to a mixed marriage like ours. They say a successful relationship requires hard work and compromise. Personally, I think all you need is a Sky Plus box. The person who invented this devise deserves a knighthood. It means you can watch live football, without your significant other having to miss the Hollyoaks omnibus. Genius.

The only real wisdom I have to impart is that non-footballing folk cannot be converted. As hard as you may wish to try, they will never be quite the same as us football fanatics.

Though scientists claim not to have found it, there is such a thing as ‘the football gene’. If you have it you will absorb all the football you possibly can and it will never quite quench your thirst. If you don’t have it you will, at best, be apathetic towards the beautiful game or, at worst, develop a pathological hatred of it.

For anyone embarking upon a relationship with a dynamic that bares resemblance to what I have portrayed here, I would strongly suggest drawing up a formal contract, early doors.

It’s important to have all the necessary clauses in place so that you don’t find yourself monotonously trudging through the aisles of Ikea at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, having forgotten all that once meant so much to you.

Follow me on Twitter: @Dave_Abbiss

Seven Substitutes (Doncaster Rovers – NFFC Programme Notes)

In the recent match against Watford at home, I turned to have a gander at who was in the box above where I sit and thought I was having a religious experience of some sort.

After a moment’s reflection I realised it was Jonathan Greening, sitting alongside Radoslaw Majewski, Lewis McGugan and a whole host of other available players.

Unfortunately, Championship managers are restricted to naming just five substitutes. This inevitably means a number of talented match-fit footballers are forced to watch from the stands on any given game day.

Last season the Football League allowed teams to select seven substitutes per game, but after the 72 clubs themselves opted to revert back to five substitutes, the rule was changed for the 2011/12 season.

I have spoken to Forest fans (and fans of other Championship clubs) who simply cannot comprehend why this is the case. To many supporters it seems like a step backwards.

These opinions should not be ignored. After all, it’s these same supporters who effectively pay the players’ wages. The majority would much rather see those who don’t make the starting eleven running up and down the touchline, as opposed to eating a chicken balti pie in the stands … and I’m quite sure the players would agree with this sentiment.

Most Championship clubs have a squad of 20+ full professionals and it seems a waste to have several of these players completely redundant on match days.

Furthermore, the introduction of extra substitutes would mean managers have more options at their disposal. It means that the game can be changed in a greater variety of ways. This can only be a good thing!

Substitutions are a massive part of football. A well timed substitution can change the course of a tie; it can even transform a team’s entire season. It’s part of what makes our sport so exciting.

Just because someone is the seventh choice substitute, that doesn’t mean a situation won’t arise whereby that particular player can change the game. Surely having as many players involved as possible is in football’s best interest.

With things as they stand, it’s not only members of the first team squad who are likely to suffer. When is a young player ever going to stake his claim for a place in the starting eleven, if he hasn’t got the remotest chance of getting on the bench?

There is a huge problem with the structure of modern football; young British players are not getting an opportunity to perform at the highest level. Having seven (or more) substitutes in a matchday squad would certainly present opportunities for these youth players, whose careers may go unfulfilled otherwise.

The worst part of the decision to decrease the number of substitutes is that, in every other respect, Championship clubs are encouraged to have massive squads. The restrictive transfer window system means that clubs have to have an excess of players so that they aren’t left short by injury and suspension during the season. Furthermore, there is a grossly congested fixture list for these clubs to contend with.

All this leads to the fact that clubs simply have to have big squads in order to survive within the modern game. Increasing the number of substitutes allowed on the bench seems like the next progressive step.

Of course there is another side to this issue; it’s the reason why the majority of Football League clubs opted to reduce the number of substitutes back down to five during the summer. Not all clubs in the Football League can afford to have a squad that is big enough to cope with fielding seven substitutes per game.

Championship clubs are considerably better off than their contemporaries in Leagues One and Two and the decision was made by all 72 competing Football League clubs, many of whom have threadbare squads and feel that the availability of additional substitutes puts them at a disadvantage.

Furthermore, with the introduction of Financial Fair Play regulations looming, it may be that all Football League teams have to start cutting back on the number of playing staff they employ. The reduction in substitutes may therefore have been implemented to encourage a more prudent approach to squad building over the coming years.

My feeling is that, despite the forthcoming FFP regulations, the game would benefit from Championship clubs being able to select as many substitutes as possible. If clubs have to strip back their first team squads in order to balance their books, they should instead fill their bench with youth players. This is, in my opinion, the key reason why we need to have at least seven substitutes sitting in the dugout.

I do accept that clubs in the lower leagues do not necessarily benefit from having to field extra substitutes on match days and am not proposing that they should be forced to do so.

Instead I am suggesting that each league should vote separately on the issue. There is a huge difference in the infrastructure of clubs, dependent on which league they happen to be in, and this should be represented in the number of substitutes they are allowed to use on match days.

There are so many benefits to be gained by the game of football if Championship clubs are allowed bigger match day squads. In my opinion, the current restrictions only serve to waste players’ talents and supporters’ money.

The Loan Market (Coventry City – NFFC Programme Notes)

I woke up in a cold sweat last Sunday night, having watched West Bromwich Albion demolish Wolves in the Black Country derby earlier that day. I suddenly became anxious that if Mick McCarthy were to lose his job, the next Wolves manager may well wish to recall Adlene ‘Pep’ Guedioura and George Elokobi from their loan spells at the City Ground.

After extensive research I discovered that whatever happens at Molineux we will be keeping Guedioura until the end of the season. After his Zidane-esque performance against Watford, I’m sure this will be a source of great encouragement for Forest fans.

Another reason to be cheerful is that Danny Higginbotham, Scott Wootton and Greg Cunningham are also here for the remainder of the season. However, after 28 days, George Elokobi could well be recalled by his parent club. This is because we signed him on an ‘emergency’ loan.

Correct me if I’m wrong but, in this case, the use of the word emergency is probably something of an exaggeration. An emergency is when your head is rolling down a dual carriageway and you’re hopelessly chasing after it with a sewing needle in your hand. Last season, Cardiff City were signing ‘emergency’ players just to polish Craig Bellamy’s boots. It made a mockery of the whole system and, to some extent, the Championship itself.

And that’s not a dig at our Welsh comrades, but rather a realisation that the whole transfer system is fundamentally flawed. The emergency loan idea is simply a half gnawed tail bone that Championship clubs have been tossed to pave over the cracks left by the ill thought out transfer window.

It is a concept that helps Premiership Clubs unload unwanted or inexperienced players; reducing their astronomical wage bills and leaving a host of Championship clubs to fight for the scraps. Not to mention the fact that these loan signings can be hauled back to their owners at the click of the mighty Premiership Club’s fingers.

I personally think Forest should try and cling onto George, the colossal left back, regardless of the rules. Once the 28 days has passed, the club should reject all calls and hide him in the trophy room if someone from Wolverhampton pulls up on the car park. They can have him back when the 93 day emergency loan is completed.

93 days is an amount of time that has quite clearly been plucked out of the air and scribbled onto the back of the fag packet that the whole transfer system was written on. It means that clubs have to carefully manipulate the loans so that they are not left short either at the end of the season or during the playoffs.

All this means that the clubs who get promoted and relegated may not have a better team than their rivals; they may simply have the most loan players left available by the time the end of the season comes around. This, in my opinion, takes something away from the magic of Football.

So far – and we are only two weeks into the emergency loan window being open – there haven’t been as many ‘emergency loans’ as in previous years, but I’m certain they will play their part in both promotion and relegation battles before the season is out. Besides, ‘normal loans’ have been used as frequently as ever before.

This season, every single Championship club has signed at least one player on loan, and who can blame them? With Financial Fair Play regulations forthcoming and budgets tighter than ever before, being able to secure the services of a top class player, with no long term financial implications, is the perfect solution to a Championship club’s problems.

In terms of bringing loan players in, Forest are ahead of the game this season. With a potential restructure of the squad due to take place in the summer, it would have been foolish to panic buy during the January Transfer window when you can simply loan players of Premiership quality.

The impressive performance against Watford was largely due to the four loan players Steve Cotterill drafted in, and it could be these same loan players who keep us up. Guedouira, in particular, looks a class above this division. I would probably pay double for my season ticket if I thought he might be here next season, but in reality a player of that calibre is only available to us because of the existence of the loan market.

It may seem hypocritical for me to be slating the current system on one hand, and applauding Forest for signing so many loan players on the other. Unfortunately, whether we agree with it or not, the effective employment of loan players will be vital in the quest for Championship survival.

I think what I’m really trying to say is that we need to be realistic about what the Championship has become. The term ‘emergency loan’ is an attempt by the powers that be to dress up the fact that borrowing Premiership players is an integral part of Championship football. Furthermore, the whole idea has been invented because of the crippling restrictions that the transfer window creates.

And the result of all this is that Championship clubs will live or die by the strength of their connections, the whims of premiership cast-offs and the form of players who are only temporarily part of the cause. This does not sit well with me.

Nigel Doughty (Watford – NFFC Programme Notes)

A person’s life should be measured, not by length, but by what they choose to do with the time they are given – the things they achieve, the people they touch and the memories they forge. With that in mind, I think it’s appropriate to focus on the special life of Nigel Doughty, rather than the tragedy of his death on 4th February 2012.

Former Prime-Minister Gordon Brown was quoted as saying: “He will be mourned by many who never knew him or met him but were beneficiaries of his commitment to good causes.”

To Nigel Doughty, Nottingham Forest Football Club was undoubtedly one of these good causes.

I never met him but, like the majority of Forest fans in the stadium today, I will be eternally grateful for the contribution he made to this football club.

When he took over the club in 1999 we were on the brink of administration but, under his stewardship, stability was eventually restored. There were many highs and lows during his reign as Chairman (which included a relegation, a promotion and three separate playoff campaigns) but Forest are unquestionably in a much better position because of his continued investment and shrewd approach to the ever-changing business of football.

It was Nigel Doughty, the loyal supporter, and not Nigel Doughty, the successful businessman, who bought Nottingham Forest Football Club. His business brain would no doubt have told him to steer clear. His heart won out.

He did it to indulge a lifelong hobby. He did it because he cared so much for this football club and its supporters. He did it because he wanted to see the club, which had brought him so much joy over the years, become great again. He certainly didn’t do it for personal gain.

Only a fool would think that any money can be made out of buying a football club in the modern age … and Nigel Doughty was no fool! He was an intelligent and remarkable man with a hunger and passion to succeed. He wanted to make a difference wherever he could.

Away from football, Nigel donated generously to the Labour Party (another cause close to his heart), as well as contributing millions to the various charities he supported. He was a man who gave so much and asked for little in return.

Part of the reason for his huge investment in Forest was that he truly believed the club to be an integral part of the community. He could not stand idly by and watch it crumble, for he was a true supporter who loved nothing better than to be amongst his fellow Reds. Over the years he invested over a hundred million pounds into this football club; money that he never wanted back.

There are thousands of loyal supporters, who pay a lot of money to follow Nottingham Forest, but if any of us were lucky enough to become millionaires, would we give up our personal fortune for the benefit of the club? After all, being the major benefactor to a football club can be a pretty thankless task at times.

His death has brought into sharp focus the unbelievable impact this Forest fanatic has had on our club, and yet it’s only now that he is getting the gratitude he truly deserved.

One regret Nigel Doughty may have had is that he never took Forest to the promised land of the Premiership, a desire I heard him speak of with great zest on so many occasions. However, I would urge fans who think this a failure to consider where we would be without Mr. Doughty’s investment and leadership.

As we have witnessed over recent months, there are not a queue of people wanting to sacrifice their money for the good of a football club these days. Without Nigel Doughty, I dread to think where Nottingham Forest would be today.

Furthermore, I firmly believe that when we eventually return to the Premiership, it will be in no small part down to his influence. He has improved the infrastructure of the club, stabilised our financial future, and developed an academy that could well prove to be the greatest part of his phenomenal legacy.

I will echo the sentiment of many other Forest fans by suggesting that the academy ought to be named after him, for he believed that therein lies the future of our great football club. Though, in my opinion, no tribute would be too great for the man who saved that which brings us all so much joy.

Perhaps the most fitting tribute would be for us all to pull together in this time of great need and ensure that Nigel’s club moves forward in the right direction.

It’s true to say that when tragedies like this occur it puts our relegation struggle into perspective. But Nottingham Forest meant the world to Nigel Doughty and nothing would give him greater pride, as he watches over the City Ground today, than for his fellow supporters to be united and sing their hearts out in his honour.

Thank You for everything, Nigel. We will keep the Red flag flying high!

 

Reasons to be Cheerful (Burnley – NFFC Programme Notes)

After defeat to Leicester in the FA Cup Fourth Round Replay, I needed to cheer myself up. It was the kind of performance that made you question why you bothered getting into football in the first place. I searched deep within my soul to find reasons to be cheerful. Once I got going it was easy.

So here are ten reasons to sing loud and proud for the Reds tonight, and for the rest of the season:

SEAN O’ DRISCOLL

The introduction of Sean O’Driscoll (a football purist with a formidable record for getting the best out of his players) as First Team Coach was a very shrewd move indeed. If his achievements at Doncaster Rovers are anything to go by then this move will be a turning point in our season.

He could prove to be the missing piece in the proverbial jigsaw of Championship survival; the ying to Steve Cotterill’s yang! I welcome him, and his football ethos, with open arms.

YOUNG PLAYERS:

Although they are yet to feature heavily on the first team scene, some excellent prospects have recently emerged from the academy.

Patrick Bamford is just one example of the talent that we can look forward to seeing over the next few years. He has already made a name for himself as a natural goal scorer, netting five times during the 9-1 win against Wigan in the Fourth Round of the FA Youth Cup.

PORTSMOUTH:

Portsmouth could well be docked points for failing to pay taxes, dragging them deep into the relegation quagmire. Rumours that a former Pompey manager tipped ‘Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ off are as yet unfounded.

THE BENEFITS OF BEING AT THE BOTTOM:

I’ll freely admit that Forest have been pretty abysmal this season. I’d be a fool not to. However, luckily, you don’t have to be very good to win a relegation battle, because all the other teams you’re fighting against are rubbish as well.

We have only won one of the last ten games and yet we’re still only a couple of wins from safety.

If we were in a promotion battle we’d have to win the majority of our games just to stay in touch with the other teams. That sounds like a lot of unnecessary pressure to me!

HARRY POTTER:

Harry Potter was in a far more precarious situation than we are and he managed to prevail, against all odds. Even in the darkest times there is always hope.

TALENT:

I maintain, as I have done throughout the season, that we still have very talented footballers at this club. It is a source of great frustration to me that the potential of our squad is yet to be actualised this season.

However, it is also a source of encouragement that we have players in our squad whose seasons are yet to truly kick off. There is still a chance for them to be heroes.

LOANING PLAYERS:

The all important Emergency Loan Market could be a saving grace, should we still need players once the transfer window is closed. Loan signings become more important with every Championship season that passes.

It could be one exceptional loan player who helps us to find the cutting edge, which we seem to lack when we’re not playing Ipswich.

THE PLAYOFFS:

At least we won’t have to suffer the heartbreak of the playoffs at the end of the season. I don’t think I could face another year of such anguish. If we’re going to be in the Championship next season we may as well do it in style, surviving on the last day and finishing 21st.

CHRIS COHEN:

If Chris Cohen returns before the end of the season then that in itself will be a reason to celebrate.

He is an absolute model professional and will thoroughly deserve the rapturous applause he’ll undoubtedly receive on his return to action.

I genuinely believe that we wouldn’t be in this mess if Chris Cohen hadn’t been sidelined by injury.

Whether he returns this season or next, we all have something to look forward to when he does. He’d be the heartbeat of any team and it’s no wonder we’ve missed him so greatly. Get well soon Chris!

THE MAIN REASON:

You simply have to!

The fans are the core of any football club. Players, managers, chairmen and owners all move on, but the fans remain … and as such they are the most powerful people at the club.

We have the power to generate an atmosphere; to elevate the players out of their current lull. We have the power to change players’ mindsets and to change games. We have the power to suck the ball into the opposition’s net and to make the City Ground a fortress once more. We are the twelfth man.

At times you might feel like the players, the management or the board don’t deserve our applause or encouragement. This matters not. Do it for selfish reasons; do it because you want Nottingham Forest, bigger and greater than the sum of us all, to succeed.

The survival march is on … if you want it! Come on you Reds!

Comebacks (Southampton – NFFC Programme Notes)

With Paul Scholes casting aside his pipe and slippers to rejoin Manchester United for the remainder of the season and Thierry Henry re-signing for Arsenal, in order to help counter the losses of Chamakh and Gervinho to the African Cup of Nations, the return of Marlon Harewood to the City Ground has been somewhat overlooked by the national media.

For those too young to remember, Marlon, a product of the Forest Academy, scored more than 50 goals for us during his first spell at the club, building up an incredible rapport with the City Ground faithful in doing so.

He is perhaps best remembered for his part in the 2002/03 season, when he formed a formidable strike partnership with David Johnson. It was a season in which Forest played scintillating football, under the management of football purist Paul Hart, reaching the playoffs for the very first time in our history.

Marlon became one of the most dangerous forwards in the league. His pace, power and skill made him a name that defenders dreaded seeing on the teamsheet.

I had the name HAREWOOD embroidered across the back of my shirt, despite the fact that they charged by the letter back in those days. BOPP would have been a cheaper option.

I have been flying that shirt at half mast since the day he left and I’m extremely excited that he’s finally returned. But are these things ever as good the second time around?

Let’s look at some examples from recent Forest history:

 

Nigel Clough – During his original spell at the City Ground, Nigel Clough not only scored 101 goals for the club, but was also an intelligent, creative and exciting player to watch. When he returned in the 1996/97 season, he still showed glimpses of his former brilliance but it was never quite the same. Nigel took on the role of Burton Albion manager before turning his back on football, in favour of a career in shepherdry. 6/10

Des Walker – Despite being 37 years old, Des Walker’s comeback has to go down as one of the greatest in Nottingham Forest club history. It’s rare that a defender can be as enjoyable to watch as Des was, but his know-how and exceptional tackling ability helped propel Forest into the 2002/03 playoffs. 9/10

Alan Rogers – After an impressive initial spell at the club, in which he earned the nickname ‘Tank’, Alan Rogers returned looking more like a Ford Escort with a flat tyre. 3/10

Jon Olav Hjelde – He’d hardly had time to unpack his suitcase before Joe Kinnear hauled him back to Nottingham. It was a largely uneventful comeback, with Hjelde only playing a handful of games. 3/10

Jack Lester – Much like Hjelde and Rogers, Joe Kinnear brought the ever popular Jack Lester back to appease fans in the midst of a relegation battle. Jack’s second spell at the club started with a sublime match winning performance against QPR but injury hampered his progress for the remainder of that season and Forest were relegated. He proved an important part of the squad during the subsequent League One campaign, before eventually being released again. 7/10

David Prutton – It was all going so well for David Prutton. Fans had begun to grow accustomed to his new ‘John the Baptist’ look, before he got stupidly sent off in the semi-final of the playoffs, against Yeovil, effectively losing us the tie. A disastrous end to an otherwise impressive Forest career. 5/10

Andy Reid – When Andy Reid left Forest back in 2005 he was at the peak of his powers. He had been the first name on the timesheet and, at the time of his transfer to Spurs, he was our sole source of creative inspiration. Although he’s produced some match winning displays since his comeback, Andy has not been as involved as we had all hoped upon Forest re-signing him last summer. But he has lost none of the finesse and ingenuity that made him such a joy to watch all those years ago. Throughout the season I believe he has looked the most likely to make something happen in the final third and I’m thrilled to see him back at the City Ground. 7/10 … so far!

As with all of the examples above, part of the reason Marlon is back is because of the success he had during his initial period at the club. Unfortunately with this comes a degree of unrealistic expectation from the fans.

I believe, at the age of 32, Marlon still has a lot to offer in the Championship but, as the evidence above shows, things are never quite the same the second time around. Marlon is not the same player and Forest aren’t the same team.

However, that’s not to say that Marlon, much like Andy Reid, can’t have a massive bearing on the rest of our season. And I’ve got a sneaky feeling we may yet see a few moments of Marlon magic before the season is out.