Category Archives: The Red Revolution – NFFC Programmes 2012/13

Hopes and Fears (Leicester City NFFC Programme Notes 2012/13)

Of modern times, one football adage has become synonymous with this time of the season; ‘It’s the hope that kills you’.

Since the moment I first started going to watch Forest, I’ve been engaged in a relentless battle of wills: between me, the eternal optimist, and my dad, the eternal pessimist. Two opposing forces, both equally unyielding, have collided on long journeys to and from Nottingham for nearly two decades now.

My first visit to the City Ground, a midweek home match against Everton in the unforgettable 94/95 season, was one I will forever cherish. Fish and chips before the game, a buzzing crowd chanting in unison as we walked along the Trent toward our seats and a magnificently dangerous team in red, zipping the ball along the floodlit grass. These are just a few of the things I remember … though none of them have stuck with me quite like Dad’s pre-match pep talk!

I was only ten years old and the possibility that we might lose the game hadn’t even entered my head. Such negative ideas rarely navigated their way beyond my Garibaldi red tinted glasses. Each and every player was a hero, incapable of letting me down. I had an unwavering belief in Nottingham Forest. I suppose little has changed.

Children can display unshakeable faith in even the darkest of hours; they have a capacity for optimism far greater than that of the average adult. So, having already beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford earlier that season, this ten year old was supremely confident of victory against the Toffees and ultimately securing UEFA Cup football the following season. Dad was keen to suppress this excessive optimism.

Just as we got onto the motorway, and my excitement at the thought of seeing Stuart Pearce in the flesh reached fever pitch, he said some words to me that were to be repeated every week thereafter for the next twenty years: “I don’t think they’ll win today, son.”

He used the rest of the journey to forewarn me of the perils of being a football supporter and all the inevitable despair it was bound to bring me if I continued to support the Reds in such a gung-ho manner.

Despite his Churchillian delivery, it was a sentiment that failed to dampen my defiant spirit, nor prepare me for the heartache that all true football fans must one day face. His intentions were pure, his efforts valiant … but naivety and blind hope proved a formidable duo; my faith did not so much as quiver.

Of course his attempts to cushion me from disappointment didn’t end there with general tidings of impending doom; he gave an in-depth analysis as to why we would lose that game against Everton. At the centre of Forest’s supposed unravelling was Scottish powerhouse forward, Duncan Ferguson.

Blinded by my conviction that no player of merit existed outside of my Panini sticker album, I had never heard of Duncan Ferguson, so was reliant on my dad’s description to prepare myself for the threat he might pose to our chances of three points, and a swashbuckling journey home.


Dad warned me that Ferguson was a colossal man of 9ft tall, who bench pressed wild oxen in the dressing room before games. The very heat from his breath could scald a kitten and with one flare of his right nostril, he had hardened centre-backs reduced to blubbering wrecks. He possessed the force of an army in his right boot and the flair of the navy in his left. His legs were as thick as tree trunks, though his footsteps were as light and elegant as a baby mink tiptoeing through a snowy meadow. Rumour was that if his eye caught you just right, all your organs would fall out in alphabetical order. He was also good in the air.

That was the gist of Dad’s player profile anyway. I remember feeling sorry for poor old Steve Chettle. Suffice it to say, I am still having nightmares about Duncan Ferguson to this day. Although, in fairness, I don’t think I’m the only one.

Over the years, Dad has made a habit of talking up the opposition players, once again in an effort to protect us both from emotional trauma. We’ve seen Forest in various leagues and watched thousands of players, but one individual struck fear into his heart more than any other. Pele, Maradona, Zidane, Messi? No, the man who Dad revered with such zest was Paul Shaw, bald-headed journeyman of the lower leagues.

Whenever Dad saw the attacking midfielder’s name on the squad list of our opponents, he would literally abandon hope of getting even a draw, regardless of any other factors. One time, when we were due to play Gillingham at home on the Saturday, he rang me on the Friday night, genuinely asking if I still wanted to go, just because Paul Shaw was returning from injury to take his place in their starting eleven. Fortunately, I believe he’s retired now.

Paul Shaw

Even if he can’t single out a player likely to bring about our demise, Dad has a unique talent for finding a reason why Forest won’t win on any given Saturday. The weather not suiting our style of play, the absence of key players, the birthplace of the referee, the fact that Joe Kinnear is picking the team. These are the sort of paranoid justifications for pessimism that Dad has conjured up over the years. I know why he does it though … because it’s the hope that kills us.

We won that night almost twenty years ago against Everton, despite the tangible threat of Duncan Ferguson, and we went on to finish third in the Premier League that season. I always believed, without question, that we would.
Though I still remain ever the optimist, I’m no longer that ten year old with faith in abundance. Us adults, and I use the term loosely to describe myself, know too much and fear too much! We could do with investing in a bit of kamikaze faith, regardless of all that might, and probably will, go wrong.

Let’s set ourselves up for a fall, invest every ounce of hope into the future of Nottingham Forest and be, once again, child-like on trips to the City Ground.

After all, sometimes it’s the fear that kills us.


2006 World Cup Final: The Game that Changed Everything (Blackpool and Barnsley NFFC Programme Notes 2012/13)


The 2006 World Cup Final. Italy versus France. The game that changed everything.

Amongst a cascade of geographical, political and ethical reasons not to, there was one purely footballing reason to support France ahead of Italy. They had the best player of the past decade on their team – Algerian born Frenchman, Zinedine Zidane, whose last ever game was to be that night in the World Cup Final. This event had been marked as the ‘Zidane Final’, the showcase for a man who had won everything and embodied all that was still beautiful about football.

More conjurer than footballer, more artist than sportsman, Zidane could do what he wanted with the ball – things that scientists might struggle to explain, let alone demonstrate. When his shoulder dropped the entire football watching demographic were sold a dummy. He was a hypnotist, an inventor, a magician: the best player of our lifetime.

Having a ball near to him was like a compulsion, an addiction; as soon as he passed it he wanted it back again. Zidane was drawn to the ball and the ball drawn to him. In all my years of watching football, I never once remember him giving it away.

Bald with piercing eyes, fleet footed and strong, if the universe were to implode and earth be reduced to an atom, this man would still remain, balanced on the edge of a piece of string somewhere, ball at his feet.
‘The Gaffer’, an acquaintance of mine not renowned for his subtlety, had joined me to watch the game. He didn’t have the same romantic view of Zidane that I did:
“Garlic, baguette eatin’, stripy jumpered, beret wearin’, slimy frog!”

If a doctor had witnessed The Gaffer’s outburst he would have diagnosed him with a nasty bout of ‘French Tourettes’. A close up of Zidane’s distinguished face had stimulated a surge of thoughts – everything he associated with France came out in one resentful rant. The words were venomous; he hated the French!

The Gaffer was not prejudiced; in fact, he hated all nations in equal measure. So, in the interest of equality, what Zidane received in hatred, Marco Materazzi, the Italian defender, received tenfold in mockery.
“Ow’s ‘e in a World Cup Final? He’s s***, ay he mate?”

As with a lot of The Gaffer’s wildly expressed opinions, what he said was somewhere between a question and a statement. On this occasion, I had to agree with him.

Marco Materazzi was a notoriously dirty player, formerly of Inter Milan and Everton. He was at Goodison Park for one full season, during which he was sent off three times before being shipped back to Italy.

Despite having come under intense scrutiny from the Italian media for his inept performances, here he was playing in the World Cup Final, eyes rolling around his head like a sinister deranged clown. He was extremely ungainly by Italian standards and would not have looked out of place as an extra for the film ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’

For every Zidane, there had to be a Materazzi.

Kick off was imminent.

Thirty Five seconds in and the drama had already begun. Thierry Henry clashed with Fabio Cannavaro and went to ground. He was down for a long time and, to all rational and objective human beings, he looked seriously hurt.

“Diving b******!” cried The Gaffer at the top of his voice.

He shouted the same thing when we went to see ‘Lord of Rings’ at the cinema and Gandalf the Grey fell tragically to his death. The wizard from Middle Earth was a foreigner in The Gaffer’s eyes and thus was tarred with the same brush as the French and Italians.

Even when Henry was stretchered off and given smelling salts, The Gaffer remained cynical:

“Prob’ly sniffin’ garlic, ay e?”

The idea that Thierry Henry was some sort of garlic junkie who feigned injury so he could leave the pitch for a line made me laugh. That only spurred The Gaffer on. He spent the next six minutes embracing his French Tourettes with volume and passion, whilst I tried to watch the game.


Seven minutes in and France had a penalty. You can probably guess which Italian journeyman gave it away …

“He is absolutely s****! Told ya!”

I hated The Gaffer being proved right, but it was a lot quicker than him being proven wrong.

Zidane, the bald maestro picked up the ball, looking solemn and uneasy – to miss in his own showcase game would be unthinkable. He had formidable eyes that could not display fear, only induce it. His bowed head briefly awoke the possibility in my mind that he might not score after all …

“Yes!” screamed The Gaffer, punching the air with delight.

The ball had bounced down off the crossbar and back into play. Zidane had just missed a penalty in the World Cup Final. He turned and ran back toward his own half without so much as a flicker of expression on his face.

The referee blew his whistle and pointed to the centre spot. Bizarrely, a goal had been given! The Gaffer and I looked at each other in utter bemusement.

Zidane had conned the entire world into thinking he’d missed when he had, in fact, done something quite extraordinary. As he ran toward the ball, Zidane saw the Italian goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon, poised to dive to his right, so rather than hit the ball with pace, he simply chipped it toward the centre of the goal. It was more of a kiss than anything else.

It hit the underside of the bar and bounced down, distinctly over the line. The spin he produced from the laces of his right boot had made the ball bounce back into play!

As soon as he had stroked the ball with his foot, he was on his way back to his own half, safe in the knowledge that he had scored the most audacious goal in World Cup Final history.

Even The Gaffer had to admit that the goal was something special; he did so with complete silence.

If only it had ended there, while Zinedine Zidane was simply a genius …

The Italians were not the type of team to chase a game, rather the type of team you could knit a jumper to. They would score early on, probably from a corner, and then defend with eleven men behind the ball for the remainder of the game. Having gone one behind it didn’t take a master tactician to work out that Plan B would be imminent.
They took the game to the French.

In the nineteenth minute, Italy were rewarded for their pressure with a corner. Pirlo, the elegant Italian playmaker, swung it in beautifully.

“What a goal!” screamed The Gaffer, “**** off France!”

The Gaffer wasn’t always as pleasant as this. The perplexity of wanting both Italy and France to lose the game had mellowed him somewhat. This was him at his most reasonable, and eloquent.

We couldn’t see who had scored at first, but the camera soon zoomed in to reveal the Italians hugging and kissing none other than Marco Materazzi. The lumbering Italian punched the air, knowing he had rectified his previous error and scored a goal on the biggest stage of all. I suppose Materazzi must have felt a bit like a pub singer, who had had somehow managed to get a gig at the Sydney Opera house.

“Still s*** though, ay e?!” snarled the Gaffer.

And there was nothing the Italian could do to prove him wrong. If the Gaffer didn’t like someone from day one, they could jump in front of a bus to save his life and he still wouldn’t give them the benefit of the doubt.

I had always admired his conviction for a cause, but was dubious as to whether Materazzi would be worried that, despite scoring a goal in the World Cup Final, somewhere in the heart of the Black Country, a portly alcoholic quantity surveyor, who once wore a comic relief red nose on his genitalia for over a week, was questioning his ability.

I spent the next ninety minutes or so pointing this out to the Gaffer, while the game whimpered on, without incident, until …

Bang! We were drawn back to Berlin and the maestro himself. It was the 109th minute of the game and chaos was ensuing.

Something had happened, nowhere near the ball. Something had happened, missed by the cameras, at first: a turning point, not just for this game.

Marco Materazzi and Zinedine Zidane had been talking to each other. Zidane raised a wry smile at something the Italian had said. Materazzi continued to speak to Zidane, taunting him it would appear. And then the unthinkable occurred.

The French wizard, the greatest player of our lifetime, completely lost his mind! He squared up and launched his bald head into the sinister Italian’s chest, with all his might and majesty. Materazzi was floored. He went down like he’d been shot at by a sniper in the crowd. The impact was so fierce and purposeful that even The Gaffer, as cynical as they come, didn’t claim Materazzi had dived.

Zinedine Zidane had gone from legend to villain with one crazed impulsive action. Immediately, he was shown the red card, as a result of the offence being noticed by an eagle-eyed fourth official.
Zizou walked off without protest. His head was bowed, but for a brief glance at the World Cup trophy he was forced to pass on his way to the dressing room. It was a moment of pure tragedy.

This was the most sensational event we had ever witnessed; things are so much more shocking when they are not part of anybody’s script. It was most certainly not supposed to happen; a hero’s career tainted forever by a moment of unadulterated madness.

What made him do it? What possessed such folly?

A series of suggestions were concocted while we savoured the final ten minutes of extra time. My personal favourite suggestion is that the two were arguing over whose name was worth more in scrabble. Though, I fear darker words were spoken.

An earlier nipple tweak from Materazzi had failed to get any kind of rise from Zidane, where a few wayward words made Zizou deliver the most vicious head-butt we had ever seen. There are no winners with a head-butt; Zidane was prepared to hurt himself just so he could hurt Materazzi more, just so he could put him on the floor and look down on him. The Italian’s cunning had somehow flicked a switch within Zidane, blocking out all rationality, leaving only a swirling red mist.

Whatever had prompted his action, my hero Zidane had fallen from grace – and this changed everything in my head. I poured myself a straight glass of Tobagan rum and prepared to walk the plank.

For Materazzi to have beaten Zidane, for evil to have triumphed over good in such an emphatic way, was enough to convince me that something had to be done. This was the game that changed everything. This was the game that started a revolution!

For all its foibles (Brighton NFFC Programme Notes 2012/13)

Amid the turbulent world of football programme writing, I choose to see myself as a bit of a maverick. More often than not I have used the ‘Red Revolution’ column to spout my controversial views on the evils of modern day football and plot the downfall of the game’s vampirous autocracy, FIFA.

In the broad spectrum of history’s most prominent revolutionaries, I probably fall somewhere between Garth Crooks and Fidel Castro. As such, today’s joyful sentiments may well surprise you. It’s a bit of a change of pace from my usual rallying cries, demanding the head of Sepp Blatter on a pike.

Perhaps, having entered the autumn years of my existence, at the age of 29, I am beginning to mellow a little. Or, more likely, the bombastic return of Billy Davies has, quite simply, turned my whole world inside out.

For all its foibles, for all its sins, for all its blemishes, blotches and warts, football is still just as good as it ever has been.

For all its millionaires, its billionaires, even its trillionaires, football is as humble and straightforward as it ever was and ever will be. It’s just as beautiful too, maybe more so.

For all its illicit heroes, living in an alien bubble, diving and deceiving, cavorting and cajoling, bedazzling and then betraying, football lives on, mostly in spite of them. It’s not really about them. It’s about us. It always has been.

Managers squabble over missed handshakes, berating the officials, tapping their watches and masticating themselves into an early grave.

Players, for the most part, have become but mercenaries, cash cows who whine and whinge and plead for more, or roll around without a drip of pride. Few of them will be remembered, as they flit from club to club, without a thought of legacy.

Owners wear a hundred years of history like a crude jewel around their neck. There’s too much money, more money than ever before. Money is everything in football, nowadays … and yet when it really comes down to it, it’s nothing.

Football has undoubtedly changed. It’s moved forwards, or backwards, depending on your point of view. It’s become more cutthroat and sinister – even the ball boys are learned in the dark arts these days.

Yet the more things change, the more they stay the same.

For all these flaws and slights against its name, football remains the most wondrous of endeavours, the best of ways to while away the hours. It remains the nation’s favourite game, a true escape for all who love it so. For those who have fallen in love with it, there is no alternative, there is no going back.

Take away all the money, the range rovers, the giant headphones, the sponsorship deals, the bloodthirsty agents, the fluorescent boots, the 24-hour TV coverage, the prozone stats and the pukka pies. You won’t even put a dent in the game. The only way to ruin a game of football is to put a sharp knife through the ball.

If the bottom drops out of ‘the industry’ and all the stadiums are sold to make way for more KFCs, there will still be football. Within minutes of the goalposts being dismantled and sold for scrap metal, some children will put down a pair of jumpers, ten feet apart. As long as we have a pig’s bladder and a stretch of grass, there will always be football.

The thrill of the bulging net is still the same as it always was, no matter how much pomp and bluster is now attached.  Every goal is a release, a burst of energy that creates a drug-like frenzy. In that moment we are all freed from our bonds, leaping child-like from the edge of our seats into wild ecstasy. All else is forgotten.

When the ball hits the back of the net in the dying moments and the game is yours, the supporter beside you, who’s spent the previous ninety minutes gruffly arrowing inane offensive tripe toward your hapless centre forward, suddenly becomes magnanimous. You may have never met him before and you may never meet him again, but in that moment, regardless of wealth and creed, you are inseparable comrades.

We are all in it together. Football still does that. I think it always will.

Sometimes it feels like the beautiful game is relinquishing its hold on me, if only ever so slightly. I sometimes feel less a part of it, ever so occasionally. Perhaps it’s the stranglehold money has over our game or the realisation that to be champions of Europe again, we would need a miracle.

When you have these moments of doubt, you can’t go to a doctor, a psychiatrist or a priest. Believe me, I’ve tried all three. The only cure comes from within football itself. Six wins in a row will normally do the trick!

All of a sudden, we are all in love with football once more. After all, it never really left.

There is nothing to replace that feeling of winning. It stays with you, like a glowing shield against all else, until the next match. Six wins in a row and you can literally fly yourself to the drudgery of work every day. If we go unbeaten for the rest of the season, you’ll be able to run through walls. For that is the unshakeable, everlasting, incontrovertible power of football.

God bless it.


The Importance of Indoctrination (Wolves NFFC Programme Notes 2012/13)

In the last Red Revolution of 2012 I shared a list of New Year’s resolutions and, after two months of gruelling intensity and hardship, it’s time to update you on my progress. I think you’ll be impressed!

In 2013 so far, I have not drawn any comparisons between Jonathan Greening and Jesus Christ, nor have I written a single derogatory word about muffin-munching mercenary, Kris Commons. Though I have to admit that, despite these great triumphs, the most important resolution still eludes me; I am yet to convert my prodigal 10 year-old nephew into a die-hard Red!

Little Jimmy was, in fact, born a Forest fan. Having only recently vacated the womb, he did not have the tools by which to express this fully for himself but, amidst the wailing and gurgling, anyone could sense that he had the aura of a proud Garibaldi Red!

Maybe it was Grandad’s home-made mobile, with carven images of Ian Woan circling over his crib as he slept at night. Maybe it was the unorthodox lullabies that accompanied the gentle plight of the left footed wizard – Mull of Kintyre, You’ve lost that Lovin’ Feelin’ and the more abstract, Andy Impey’s got no neck.

It seemed to all the world that Jimmy was a Forest fan, just like the rest of us. No one could foresee the monster that lay within!

It was a proud moment when, at the age of two, Little Jimmy booed his first flock of sheep, on the A449, just outside Kidderminster. Back then, we believed we had cemented him into the Forest family, that he was impervious to corruption. It was a simpler time; it was a happier time.

You can imagine my despair when, at the cynical age of seven, Jimmy betrayed the Reds for a team closer to home. He cut his ties with Nottingham Forest, locking all his tree emblazoned family heirlooms into the depths of some forgotten ottoman and draping a gold and black garb over his mercurial shoulders. He had, under the influence of some callous and snotty-nosed peers, become a Wolverhampton Wanderers fan.

I wish this tragic tale had ended there.

I suppose it did make more sense for him to support his local team, and at least Wolves are a proper team, laced with misery and regret, much like ourselves. I can’t pretend I was happy with his decision but at least he would gain some invaluable character-building life experience from fortnightly trips to the Molineux. I begrudgingly accepted his controversial transfer request, making it clear that this would significantly decrease the quality of birthday gifts in future years.

Jimmy’s Grandad appeared to take the news rather better. He even used his own petrol to drive the youngster to a game at Molineux! However, during the car journey home, after a 0-0 draw against Stoke City, Jimmy decided that he no longer wanted to be a Wolves’ fan, with immediate effect.

My Dad claimed his intentions were pure … but my instincts tell me better! He was fully aware of Stoke’s ‘Stig of the Dump’ style football and chose the fixture accordingly. This was all part of his Machiavellian master plan to lure Jimmy back to the City Ground!

A few years later, in the summer of 2012, Jimmy, now a free agent, gathered the family together in the Chris Cohen Executive Suite (living room) to make an announcement. Dad and I prayed for good news … but it was not forthcoming!

Jimmy, hand pressed firmly against his fast-beating heart, went on to declare that he was now a Manchester City supporter, claiming that the spirit of Manchester ran deep within his veins and that his decision was in no way connected to the fact that City had recently been crowned Premier League champions. The room fell silent.

We tried to reason with him. Of course we did. But how can two ordinary, slightly neurotic, football supporters compete against the might and majesty of Yaya Toure?

We both attempted to convey the wonderment and romance of supporting a rubbish team, in comparison to the hollow evils of glory-hunting. We produced diagrams, proving that supporters of successful teams are more likely to develop gross personality disorders in later life. We even watched the film ‘Escape to Victory’ three times, hoping that the spirit of the underdog might transcend from the screen into Jimmy’s very being. None of it worked.

Kids today are more cynical than they used to be. In this age of Grand Theft Auto and Tracey Beaker, it’s all about winning, no matter what the moral implications!

If the horse meat scandal has taught us anything, it’s that the way to get things done is through cold hard lies and deceit. With that in mind, we have recently adapted a new strategy and it appears to be working! His love of Manchester City seems to be waning, at least a little.

Whilst Dad distracted him with footage of the 1979 European Cup Final, convincing him it was a live match, I altered all the player stats on his FIFA 13, so that Forest became the best team on the game. Doctored league tables, fallacious transfer rumours and subliminal tree images, strategically placed along his route to school, all played their part in undermining the sky blue influence in his life. Of course, the lie that really turned the tide was when I told him Batman was a Forest fan. I’m quite proud of that one!

According to scientists, it’s important to try and indoctrinate your children at the earliest possible age, whilst they’re at their most impressionable. Without your input, they could grow up to be nothing more than soulless pawns in a capitalist agenda, defenceless against the gentle propaganda of One Direction.

It’s imperative that those of you with sons, daughters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews don’t allow this to happen! Do whatever you can to trick them into supporting a real team … otherwise, in decades to come, teams like Forest may be playing in empty stadiums!

Your club needs you!

Follow me on Twitter: @Dave_Abbiss

The Forest Turnaround (Ipswich Town NFFC Programme Notes 2012/13)

Queuing is traditionally one of my least favourite pastimes but, minutes before our last home game, the unusual experience of being part of a queue outside the turnstiles at the City Ground on a bitterly cold February night felt a little bit magical. It was soul-warming to see 27,000 people turn out to see us play Huddersfield Town, in what should have been an inconspicuous midweek fixture.

It’s been a long time since the City Ground has been so buoyant in preparation for an evening game and if the same atmosphere can be generated tonight, then I don’t mind queuing all over again.

Despite dwindling attendances and grumbles of inconvenience, there has always been something special about playing football under the glare of the floodlights, long after the sun has gone down. Thrashing the Terriers 6-1 in scintillating style has reignited my love affair with Tuesday nights alongside the River Trent and I can’t wait for tonight’s game to get underway.

It does help that we have had a dramatic upturn in fortunes since the return of Billy Davies. So, I thought I would use tonight’s Red Revolution to take a look at a few factors that have helped Billy bring back that lovin’ feelin’ to those who bleed red blood:


Setting up positively:

During the 2012/13 season so far, one of the predominant groans from the terraces has been that there is a distinct lack of pace throughout our current squad. We have plenty of players with craft and guile, but none with blistering pace.

Prior to Billy Davies’ arrival I believe we were trying to compensate for this by defending deeply, with a sitting midfielder who was unlikely to cross the halfway line. By pushing the line further forward and employing the adventurous Adlene Guedioura as the holding player, in a very positive quartet of gifted midfielders, Forest have dominated games and pulverised defences.

We had previously been fearful of allowing the opposition to get in behind us, but Billy has adopted a much braver approach, placing a lot of faith in the ability of our attacking players and accepting the fact that we will occasionally get caught out.

Huddersfield Town got in behind us a few times during our last home game, creating some clear-cut chances, but when you have already scored six goals against them it doesn’t seem to matter so much!

Style of football:

Davies has reverted to the passing style of football that we saw under the stewardship of Sean O’Driscoll earlier in the season. More often than not, under Alex McLeish, the ball would be played directly to the strikers from the back four.

McLeish’s style not only made him unpopular amongst the fans (which in itself can have a detrimental effect on the team’s performance) but it also rendered some of our most able players obsolete. Creative and technically-able players like Radi Majewski, who is now excelling since the return of Billy Davies, were wasted during the McLeish regime.


I am not claiming that there was a particular problem with the tempo at which Forest played under either O’Driscoll or Alex McLeish, but since Billy has returned there seems to have been a gear change. His style of play is all about intensity and urgency; two key features of our performances since his return that were not particularly evident before.

Championship management is all about getting the best out of what you have available to you. Every squad will have its strengths and its weaknesses and the manager’s job is to accentuate the positives, and subsequently get the best out of the players at his disposal. As I have already stated, one of the problems Forest have faced this season is a lack of ‘genuine pace’. By making the conscious decision to move the ball more quickly, Billy has made this less of an issue. Forest are stretching teams through quick passing and excellent movement off the ball.

Our players are not only passing the ball with pace and purpose, they are also winning more of the ball in opposition territory by pressing high up the pitch. By focussing on getting our players fit and playing at a high-tempo, Billy has made us a very dangerous prospect for any Championship opposition.

Midfielders getting in the box:

Football is a simple game, for the most part; the more players you get in the box, the more chance you have of scoring. All season I have been cursing the fact that when a full-back or midfielder gets the ball out wide, there are, at the very most, two strikers in the box. In the last few games, we have started to get players in and around the box at key moments. Reid, Lansbury and, in particular, Majewski have reaped the rewards already.

The Galvanising Effect:

Billy’s return has galvanised both the crowd and players, restoring belief that Nottingham Forest can be great again. The impact of the crowd being so positively charged, especially at home, cannot be underestimated.

Rightly or wrongly, the Forest faithful never really got behind Alex McLeish, and the City Ground was far from a fortress whilst he was in charge.

Partly because of what he achieved before and partly because we like what we are seeing on the pitch now, the crowd are fully behind Billy! In turn, the players are enjoying their football and growing in confidence before our very eyes.


In the best possible sense, what Billy has done is quite simple. He’s taken a group of talented footballers and played to their strengths. He’s put faith in their abilities, rather than trying to compensate for their flaws. In doing so, he’s managed to produce some highly entertaining football. If these performances continue, soon they will be queuing up to Trent Bridge to get in for the next Tuesday night fixture!


Follow me on Twitter: @Dave_Abbiss

Return of the King (Bolton Wanderers NFFC Programme Notes 2012/13)

A pox on all those hollow-hearted drones, who spout tired adages about the perils of going back. Lazarus did it, Hulk Hogan did it … and now Nottingham Forest has embarked upon its own fairy-tale comeback story. Kill the fatted calf, for, at last, King Billy has returned!

The crowd will roar and the rafters will shake for the man with nought but fire and haggis in his belly, and a tidal wave of steely red coursing through his veins. Our charges, once languid and limp, will burst through the tunnel, galvanised and fearless, prepared for war, led by a ferocious unrelenting Scot.

Moments before the game, alone with his foot soldiers, he’ll echo the battle cries of William Wallace with verve and fury, whilst eating raw meat off the bone and waving a sharpened axe wildly above his head … or similar such methods of motivation, anyhow. Don’t be surprised if the players bear their naked backsides toward the opposition before kick-off today, in an act of unity and defiance!

I’ve missed Billy’s drive, his passion and his savvy!

The departure came all too soon, the first time around. His unfinished symphony was unravelled by a spurious Dutchman, wielding only an umbrella and a lukewarm cappuccino. We slid from the brink of glory to the clutches of despair; only then did I realise just how good he was.

Though I never dreamt there was any way back, I always hoped that somehow there might be.

Bleeding Red blood isn’t as easy as it once was. The days of conquering Europe have sadly passed and we loyal Forest fans have suffered some utter dross since the century’s turn. We had barely flirted with a return to the Promised Land, before Billy arrived, full of zest and precious arrogance.

He saved our club from a rapid return to that dank cesspit of humiliating torture (League One, in the common tongue) and elevated us to the status of Championship contenders, two years in a row.

Twenty months after his departure, the memories still raise a smile in these miserable winter days. Victories over the Robins, the Magpies and the Throstles had us soaring high … though thrice slaying the Rams was perhaps his crowning glory. When Billy was at the helm, the first time around, he made us fall in love with Nottingham Forest all over again.

The City Ground became an impregnable fortress. We walked along the Trent, sometimes upon it, expectant of victory – chests protruding proudly, unwavering belief that the win was rightfully ours.

He gave us an identity, after years of ambling blindly with only sparing hope. His team entertained us with exciting, effective, purposeful football, after seasons spent wishing to tear out our own eyes and throw them at the hapless passengers we saw before us. We went within touching distance of our Premiership dream, at a time when many amongst us were content to set up camp in the second tier.

He could turn a lumbering carthorse into a majestic stallion, a flatulent goose into an elegant swan. Through industry and craft, Billy squeezed every ounce of potential from each of his troops and forged together a team that was greater than the sum of its parts.

Now he’s back and the clouds of apathy have lifted. My forty days meandering through the wilderness, tempted to take up golf or join the circus, have come to a joyous end. Suddenly, the sheep in the field I pass each morning, once so proud, have turned to trembling balls of woolly angst before my very eyes. No longer do they antagonise me with their hostile bleating. Hope has been restored!

Football is a simple enough game. Supporters aren’t quite the complicated breed that internet forums would have you believe. We love winning and we hate losing. The majority of fans love a manager who brings success, regardless of anything else. This is why the appointment of Billy Davies will be met with rapturous applause before today’s kick off. And rightly so!

Billy is a proven winner and an emphatic leader. With time and support, I believe he’ll make us great again. There are fifteen games to go and the play-offs are still within our grasp. It’s the perfect time for us all to get behind our team and begin to believe again!

Keep the Red flag flying high!


Follow me on Twitter: @Dave_Abbiss


Football Manager (Watford NFFC Programme Notes 2012/13)

Football Manager 2013: Live PlayFootball Manager 2013: Watford vs Nottingham Forest

It’s unusual for me to use my Red Revolution column to lavish praise upon the opposition, but I believe there are certain things that Watford fans should feel very proud of having associated with their club.

Firstly, their manager, Gianfranco Zola, is one of the best players to have ever graced English football with his diminutive wizardry. Secondly, they have a firm affiliation with one of the country’s most celebrated musicians of all time – the great John Barnes – who some say is still Britain’s only real answer to Kanye West!

Finally, and most importantly, Watford FC boasts the most credible shirt sponsor in the whole football league.

If you are going to have a shirt sponsor, and I still long for the day when shirts are no longer tarnished by neon torchbearers of capitalist greed, then much better it be the iconic ‘Football Manager’ brand, rather than some soulless insurance company or scourge of the desperate, pawnbroker.

‘Football Manager’, formally known as ‘Championship Manager’, is an integral part of the modern game, giving the ‘football addict’ their fix long after Jeff Stelling, King of Football, is tucked up in his ivory mansion, smoking his regal pipe and supping at a glass of vintage Ovaltine.

For those unfamiliar with the secret society of which I speak, ‘Football Manager’ is a football management simulation game that allows supporters the chance to take the reins at a club of their choosing. You become responsible for team selection, tactics, transfers, training and even the takings at the turnstile. Sometimes the world of football can itself be a cruel mistress; us ‘football addicts’ often need an escape from the escape. Jeff need not even know about it!

What’s more, it allows all of us wannabe managers a chance to prove ourselves in a fantasy football world that is as close to the real thing as we’re ever likely to get?

Of course, there is a downside to this most marvellous of inventions!

Having finally taken Southend United to Premiership glory after eleven years in charge, I decided it was time for me to retire from the game I had grown to love so much. I felt I’d taken the club as far as I could … and made some powerful enemies in the process. Back in the real world, I had achieved nothing. As ridiculous as it seems, a successful career in computer football management, under the pseudonym Alberto Sanchez, is not something you can put on your CV.

So I gave ‘Football Manager’ up and passed the game onto my Dad – a much more sensible, less obsessive character.  A week later I returned to see how he was getting on and was shocked by what I encountered.

Dad was wearing a tracksuit with his initials emblazoned over his fast-beating heart, clutching a clipboard that contained various tactical scribblings and a list of potential transfer targets. He had built himself a small dugout, using the cushions from the settee, and was pacing up and down what I can only assume was his technical area. The game had absorbed him, body and mind, to such an extent that around the 70 minute mark, he tapped Mum on the shoulder and told her to go and warm up. Worryingly, this is only a slight exaggeration of what really happened.

Dad had taken on the role of Forest Manager and was doing remarkably well. The year was 2042 and, according to the newsfeed, the planet had been taken over by apes, but Forest were on the brink of Champions League glory nonetheless. It got me wondering if my Dad could one day manage the real Forest team. Would his skills be transferrable to the glamorous world of Championship football?

After all, it’s already been established that you don’t need to have been a professional footballer in order to become a successful manager. Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger, two of the modern game’s most prestigious managers, had very modest playing careers. Andre Villas Boas, who has a strong chance of giving Tottenham Hotspur Champions League football next season, has absolutely no playing background. Rumour has it that his rise to prominence was largely down to playing ‘Football Manager’ from an early age.

If you need further proof that you don’t need to have had a professional football career in order to be a successful manager, look no further than the 1994 World Cup Final – Italy versus Brazil. Neither Arrigo Sacchi nor his Brazilian counterpart, Carlos Alberto Parreira, had any professional playing experience and yet both led their countries to the crowning event of the football calendar. You are probably wondering how either man managed to secure a career in football management, long before ‘Championship Manager’ or ‘Football Manager’ ever came to prominence? The answer is, of course, that both were classically-trained Subbuteo players. Where else could they have mastered the art of football management?

If, without the aid of internet forums or performance enhancing drugs, you have forged a successful career on ‘Football Manager’ over a sustained period of time, then you probably have all the credentials to be a successful real-life football manager. Unfortunately, despite the aforementioned examples, the conventions of modern football are such that, unless you’ve had a decent playing career, you will never have your chance to shine at the helm of a professional football club.

My Dad is unlikely to emulate the success of his hero, the late Bertie Mee, who managed Arsenal to a league and cup double during his ten-year reign, despite never having kicked a ball in anger. But on the bright side, the whole family has agreed to come and watch his Forest side play in their forthcoming Champions League Final. Suffice it to say, Dad has hired a suit for the occasion. After much persuasion, he begrudgingly put the open-top bus on hold.

To all you wannabe football managers out there, I salute you. ‘Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it!’

My Best Forest XI (Peterborough NFFC Programme Notes 2012/13)

When entering the autumn years of your existence, you can’t help but get a bit nostalgic. With that in mind, I’m presenting you with my best ever Forest XI. It spans the last twenty years or so and is based solely on ability.

Mark Crossley: Despite healthy competition from the quirky ‘post-modern’ goalkeeping styles of Marco Pascolo and Barry Roche, Crossley remains the safest pair of hands I’ve ever seen between the City Ground sticks. He saved an FA Cup Final penalty from Gary Lineker in 1991 and, for the pub quizlings amongst you, he remains the only goalkeeper to have saved a spot kick from penalty specialist and fast-food guzzling Soccer Saturday pundit, Matt Le Tissier.


Des Lyttle: This was the position I deliberated longest over. Des Lyttle is probably not everyone’s choice but I have fond memories of the 5ft 9in full-back bombing up and down the right hand side of the pitch during our 1993/94 promotion season and, of course, our unforgettable top three Premiership finish the following season.


Stuart Pearce: There won’t be any complaints about this one! Whilst I was growing up, Stuart Pearce was the reason I loved Nottingham Forest; in fact, he was the reason I loved football. Not only was ‘Psycho’ intensely passionate, he was also a tremendously talented left-back who took a devastating free-kick! I still keep a cardboard cut-out of him in my living room – I sleep more soundly in the knowledge that if any right wingers from the 90s have turned to a life of crime, they won’t dare come near my house.

Colin Cooper:  With the organisation skills of a young Josef Stalin and the reliability of a George Foreman grill, Colin Cooper was an integral part of two promotion campaigns and a magical UEFA Cup run. Though there was genuine competition from Wes Morgan and Michael Dawson, Cooper is one of the best central defenders I ever had the privilege to see play and, as such, he was always a shoe-in.



Des Walker: He featured in all seven of England’s games during Italia 90 and played over 264 times for Forest under Brian Clough, but my favourite memories of Des Walker came from the 2002/03 season, when he returned to help us reach the Championship playoffs at the age of 37. Des was one of those defenders who were an absolute joy to watch – he was incredibly fast, read the game with nonchalant ease and tackled with expert timing and ninja-like stealth. You’ll never beat Des Walker!


Roy Keane: Roy Keane was a true box-to-box complete midfielder, scoring 22 goals and winning accolades galore during his time at the City Ground. For those too young to remember how ferocious and frightening Roy Keane was as a player, you can get a glimpse of his formidability when watching his reaction to the inane questions of Adrian Chiles during ITV’s football coverage. The glare Keane gave when asked “when does heavy rain become a downpour?” during the rained-off England-Poland coverage was absolute vintage! Check the YouTube footage if you don’t believe me.


Lars Bohinen: His performances nosedived after leaving Forest, ending his career in England playing for some part-time outfit near Long Eaton. However, whilst at the City Ground he was nothing short of sensational. The likes of Adlene Guedioura and Radi Majewski may one day take his crown but, for the moment, he is my team’s playmaker, creative spark and scorer of spectacular goals.

Andy Reid: With his wand-like left foot, his ravenous appetite for the ball and his ability to win a game all by himself, Andy Reid was far too good to leave out of my all-time Forest XI. You only need to see what happened after his departure last week against Oldham to realise just how influential he is. The only choice for the left-wing position!


Steve Stone: He had no hair but we simply didn’t care … Stevie Stevie Stone! The tenacious and tigerish winger was a fan’s favourite and yet another shoe-in for my best ever Forest XI. Without doubt, the best winger I’ve ever seen play. Whilst playing for Forest, Stone scored twice for his country and played the part of Nobby Stiles in the video for ‘Three Lions’ (England’s official Euro 96 song). Those were the days!


Pierre Van Hooijdonk: Probably the most controversial of my choices, Van Hooijdonk angered Forest fans when he went AWOL in the summer of 1998. But I’m not basing my selections on personality – if I were I’d have Bruce Forsyth and Karl Marx up front. Van Hooijdonk was a world-class striker who held the ball and linked up play in a way that I haven’t seen at the City Ground since. He could also score from anywhere!


Stan Collymore: When I imagine Van Hooijdonk and Collymore playing together, it sends a shiver down my spine. Stan Collymore had absolutely everything that a striker could wish for. He was quick, skillful, strong and dynamic. He could score with any part of his body and from anywhere on the pitch. While he was at Forest, he was every defender’s worst nightmare. Although he never quite hit those dizzy heights after leaving us, ‘Stan the Man’ was simply devastating for the Reds!

That’s my team! Feel free to send me yours via Twitter: @Dave_Abbiss

New Year’s Resolutions (Crystal Palace – NFFC Programme Notes 2012/13)

My New Year’s Resolutions for 2013:

1)      I will limit the number of Jonathan Greening/Jesus references in my matchday column to one per month. He’s had to put up with this throughout his career … but then I suppose we all have our cross to bear.

2)      I will finally let bygones be bygones and leave Kris Commons alone. No more references to his festively plump frame, no more twisted melodies about his monstrous betrayal, no more songs about him wobbling down the left wing (or indeed wobbling down the right). He broke my leather-cased heart when he moved from Forest to Derby, but it’s time to move on.  We’ve gone our separate ways now and we’re unlikely to encounter him again.

Forest fans have a new set of heroes to idolise, whilst Commons now spends his Saturdays getting beaten at home by Inverness Caledonian Thistle. All’s well that ends well!

3)      I will stop being so impulsive and getting tattoos of new signings printed on my left thigh, the minute their Range Rovers pull up at The Main Stand car park. Over the years, the players I’ve assumed will become club legends have all ended up being massive flops. My leg currently reads Silenzi Shipperley Palmer Petrachi Sonner Commons. It’s a good job we never signed Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink!

I wish it were just former players who I’ve foolishly idolised through body art. I’m having a nightmare trying to remove the artist’s impression of Steve McClaren (heroically shielding me from a tidal wave with his umbrella) from my back. I haven’t been to the swimming baths in years, out of sheer embarrassment at my inability to accurately judge player/manager potential.


4)      I will do everything within my jurisdiction to get Chris Cohen officially recognised as a superhero, along with the likes of Superman, Spiderman, Batman and Cheryl Cole. The man is unbelievable.

Having come back from a lengthy injury, he is just as superhumanly energetic and devastatingly dynamic as ever. On the rare occasions when he gives the ball away, Cohen’s facial expression implies that he has single-handedly caused the universe to implode. He’s a man who truly carries the fate of the team on his shoulders!

With his passion, commitment and undoubted ability, Hollywood could do a lot worse than to make the Chris Cohen story into a motion picture. Hopefully Peter Jackson will be called in to direct, so that us Forest fans can look forward to seven four-hour films, instead of the standard 90 minute job.

5)      I will not buy my wife any more presents from the club shop. Yes, they are always bringing out fantastic new products that bear the famous Forest logo, but the look she gave me when I presented her with a Forest embroidered set of car mats this Christmas could have descaled a lizard. At some point in my life, I will have to accept that she simply doesn’t like football as much as me.

6)      I need to dedicate more time to tricking my 10 year old nephew, Jimmy, into being a Forest fan. Not that long ago he gathered the family together to announce that he was a Manchester City supporter, claiming that the spirit of Manchester ran deep within his veins and that his decision was in no way connected to the fact that City had recently been crowned league champions.

I blame myself for this travesty. My efforts to make him a Forest fan have been too vague and subtle – doctored league tables and subliminal tree images are no match for the imperious performances of the magnanimous Yaya Toure!


7)      I will try to drink less after matches. If Forest win I claim I seek to consecrate the victory by cracking open a sextet of celebratory wines. If Forest lose I drown my sorrows, and try to forget, with a crate of commiseratory ales. This is the reasoning of a budding alcoholic and it needs to stop now!

In my most rational state I realise that the Championship season is a long and arduous process; each win or loss is not, in itself, going to define our season. As long as I can see progress, I should remain steadily content. It’s just not all that easy to avoid amplified emotions in the aftermath of a Championship clash – for such is the power and intensity of football.


8)      Finally, this year, I will finally overthrow the antiquated autocracy that is FIFA. Too long have I talked about revolting against Football’s governing body without taking any affirmative action. Sepp Blatter, the self-appointed dictator of the footballing world, will never stand aside of his own volition.

Rumour has it that he is currently planning to produce an heir, in a bid to eternally avoid addressing football’s most pressing issues. Unless I do something quickly, the 2032 World Cup is likely to be held at the North Pole!

Having recently watched the Twilight films, I found myself captivated by the group of characters known as the Volturi, a law-providing body of elitist vampires who sit on ostentatious thrones in a darkened ceremonial hall, feasting on the blood of unsuspecting humanity. Their likeness to FIFA is uncanny.

I won’t give the ending of the film away, suffice it to say that I now know how to end Sepp Blatter’s vampirous reign of terror. All I need are a couple of stakes and a loaf of tear n’ share garlic bread!





Boxing Day Blues (Leeds United – NFFC Programme Notes 2012/13)

Although I tend to bask in festive glory throughout the month of December, I’ve had my fair share of Christmas trauma over the years. When I was just eight years old, I was forced to spend Christmas Eve fending off a couple of burglars with a series of booby traps, after my parents had conveniently gone away, leaving me home alone! Lucky for them, I didn’t inform Social Services.

The following year I awoke on Christmas Morning to find that the snowman I had frolicked with the previous night had melted, leaving nothing but a tattered scarf as a memento of our time together.

Despite the emotional scars these experiences left me with, I had finally moved on and begun to enjoy my traditional English Christmases … until this year.

After a promising build up, yesterday’s seasonal celebrations were a huge disappointment!

It all started traditionally enough, unravelling a wealth of exquisitely wrapped club shop paraphernalia from underneath the glimmering lights of the Christmas tree, whilst Mother tinkered with the turkey and Dad recreated the 1979 European Cup Final using only baubles and figurines from the nativity scene. But when we all sat down, just prior to Christmas dinner, it was all too apparent that something was missing!

Where was the film ‘Escape to Victory’?

It is as much a part of the Christmas tradition as mistletoe, mince pies or Micky Quinn, and yet some greasy, Grinch-like, capitalist TV scheduler took it upon himself to banish this cinematic triumph from our screens and replace it with a God-forsaken documentary about a gang of disobedient Americanised jungle animals.

For those too young to have seen the 1981 classic, it’s set during World War II and stars some of the World’s greatest footballers, including Pele, Bobby Moore, Ossie Ardiles and, most importantly, cult hero and renowned ladies-man John Wark. The basic premise of this critically acclaimed masterpiece, which also stars Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone, is that a group of Allied prisoners of war are to play in an exhibition match against the Germans.

The Allies agree to the game, with the intention of escaping at half-time. But their intricately woven scheme is blown to smithereens when the power of football, and the hope of victory against all odds, draws them back for the second half!

The challenge is made greater by the fact that the referee is unabashedly biased, giving every decision the way of the Germans, whilst the commentator glosses over this with sordid propaganda. I suppose it’s a bit like playing away at Old Trafford.

I won’t give the ending of the film away, suffice it to say it is more heart-warming than sharing a cup of chicken soup with Noel Edmonds himself. One year Mother brought in the Christmas ham just as the film was reaching its climax and it began to glow, without the aid of honey or apricot. True story.

Where else will our children get to see Pele score an overhead kick, whilst nursing a broken arm? Where else will our children get to see an assortment of retired footballers out-act Sylvester Stallone? And, perhaps most importantly, without ‘Escape to Victory’ what are us football addicts to do with our Christmas day?

The lack of ‘Escape to Victory’ on Christmas Day had a disastrous knock-on effect. I just didn’t feel it appropriate to mention football thereafter. There was no makeshift game of Subbuteo with a Brussels sprout for the ball and parsnips for the goalframe, nobody bothered to mention that the Christmas Pudding bore an uncanny resemblance to Kris Commons (in terms of both appearance and aroma), and I didn’t even feel it appropriate to do my Fantasy League changes for today’s fixtures.

It may sound harsh, but I blame the whole Christmas Day 2012 travesty on Sepp Blatter. Football and Christmas have always been intrinsically linked. They go together like Morecambe and Wise, holly and ivy, pigs and blankets … and yet somewhere along the way that has been lost!

I thought Christmas was supposed to be about us all coming together to celebrate Jonathan Greening’s birthday, to remember the relative success of the Christmas tree formation and to spare a thought for those less fortunate … the footballers who sacrifice their turkey and tinsel to give us a joyous Boxing Day spectacle. Without ‘Escape to Victory’, I just don’t know what Christmas is about anymore!

In its absence, there was no football at all yesterday. Without even a light-hearted Scottish Premier League match to keep us going, Christmas Day for the football addict was much like one big fat sandwich of cold turkey.

Thank God it’s Boxing Day!

(If ‘Escape to Victory’ was on another channel and I simply missed it, then please disregard all of the above.)