Out of Reach – Nottingham Forest 1 – 2 Millwall

Gary Brazil had one enforced change, Harding in for Fox, as we took on Millwall.

Darlow,
Jara, Halford, Collins, Harding,
Greening,
Peltier, Majewski, Osbourne,
Paterson, Mackie

The first half was dire. But some tactical changes and some encouraging substitutions saw us show some fight in the second half, although not enough to rescue anything from this game.

To hear more about it, hit the play button.

What if …

I have to say, initially, I was not excited by the appointment of Stuart Pearce.

What if he’s not that good a manager?

What if he can’t get the experienced players to play the right way?

What if we don’t have enough young players to bring through the academy?

What if he’s a failure and his reputation is ruined?

But then I thought …

What if he stands in front of the Trent End on his first game in charge and gives his raised fists salute?

And all was well with the world.

Warnock on Talksport

You have to hand it to Colin. He was incredibly nice and gracious about us. You can tell he loves the club and really wanted the job.

But you didn’t have to read far between the lines to see why he hasn’t taken it.

(Sorry – these aren’t direct quotes, I’m paraphrasing as I was in the car when it was on):

With my experience I would want things done a particular way…

They really want a younger man, to act as a coach for the players that have been brought in…

Zola, at Watford, was given the players and worked with them…

And, most damningly,

They need someone English at the club who knows the rules and regulations of the game…

(Jimmy Gordon on Vital Forest has a more complete summary here: http://www.forest.vitalfootball.co.uk/forum/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=27462&start=76&posts=85)

Finished business

So the Second Coming of William Macintosh Davies is over.

We’ve had a dreadful run of form, a huge injury list and were absolutely mauled at the hands of our local rivals.

But I suspect that the end has come for off-the-field reasons.

His appeal against the touch-line ban was lost today – and the terse club statement simply states his contract has been terminated – none of the usual platitudes. Couple that with Fawaz immediately lifting any media bans, rumours of behind the scenes bust-ups, sackings and an allegedly dismal reputation amongst other clubs, and I suspect Derby and its fallout were just the final straw.

Worryingly for Billy this pretty much seals his reputation as a good manager who’s impossible to work with (just ask Derby or Preston fans how they feel about him). But what’s more worrying is this is really adding to Fawaz’s reputation as someone who’s impossible to work with – and I’m sure there’s blame on both sides as the relationship deteriorated.

In the meantime, I would have been happy with Colin as a temporary replacement, but at the time of writing it looks like that’s not going to happen. So what would I like to see next? That’s coming soon.

You can prove anything with statistics

I’ve made the case for Billy staying as manager (although that was before our mauling in Derby); namely, we’ll never have success without stability, and if Fawaz and Billy can patch up their relationship, then we’ve got something to build on.

But, when he left us last time, Billy said he had spent a lot of time trying to counter the mistakes he had made. I joked the other day that this is the cause of the “media blackout” – he blames the media for undermining his position in his battles with Nigel Doughty. Ironic then that it’s his refusal to speak out that seems to be the final straw for many fans.

However, if you were asking me, the biggest mistake he made (in a football sense, at least) was never correcting the slump towards the end of the season. This year we have a huge injury list. But this falling away isn’t an isolated incident.

In 2006/2007, Derby County were 2nd in the form league at the end of January with 15 points from 6 games and a +3 goal difference. By May they were 15th on form, with 8 points from 6 games and -1 goal difference.

In 2009/2010, we topped the form league at the end of January 2010 with 13 points from 6 games and a +9 goal difference. By May we had dropped to ninth, with 9 points from 6 games and +4 goal difference.

In 2010/2011, we topped the form league at the end of January 2011 with 16 points from 6 games and a +7 goal difference. Yet in April we had dropped to 22nd, with 3 points from 6 games and a -3 goal difference (although a late rally in May saw us pick up in form).

In 2013/2014, we were second in the form league at the end of January with 14 points from 6 games and a +8 goal difference. Now we are 23rd, with 3 points from 6 games and a -6 goal difference.

By their very nature, statistics omit some data in order to present a summary (and I cheated a bit by using April 2011 instead of May); but, injuries or no, there is a pattern there. If he wanted to correct his mistakes, Billy needs to stop pissing people off (as we’ve mentioned before, there aren’t many Preston or Derby fans with a nice word for him) and he needs to sort out this end of season slump.

(statistics taken from http://www.footstats.co.uk/?task=formguide; no idea as to their accuracy but it all matches up with my hazy memories)

Fawaz on manoeuvres

Amidst rumours flying around that the chairman and the manager aren’t getting along, that back-room staff are being sacked without the other’s knowledge and all the alleged off-the-field antics you really don’t want as you’re hitting the crunch time of the season, Fawaz has gone and said this:

“You never know what will happen this season. We have to give him all the support until the end of the season.

“Then we will say if Billy stays or Billy goes, you know.”

It’s no secret that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Billy. Looking at the forums, it seems that for many fans, that’s turned to a hate/hate relationship. Despite the injury crisis.

A few things to consider;

Billy does have a safety-first streak in him; play for a point away, ten men in the box when defending a corner. I don’t really have a problem with this – build from the back and all that (although the corner thing is annoying).

Our strikers are hard-workers, strong runners, but not out and out goal-scorers. Earnie was a goal-scorer and didn’t play as often as I would have liked under Billy. Sharp was a goal-scorer and didn’t get a look in. Cox and Mackie et al put in the effort but you wouldn’t expect them to get twenty in a season.

Billy’s sides seem to do well over Christmas and then struggle in the final third of the season – this happened with us when he was here previously, it’s happened this season, it happened at Derby. By comparison, Forest under other managers seem to struggle during winter and pick up in the spring (I remember joking to my brother that Bryan Roy can’t play in the cold). But why is this? Are the players training too hard (leading to the injury crisis we have now)? Is this why Billy always makes such a big deal about January transfers (although arguably, he has been backed this year, even if, allegedly, they weren’t his choices)?

And the way the club under Billy has conducted itself has, by all accounts, made a lot of enemies. Not just the journalists who’ve been shut out (guess what, they’re going to be lining up to stick the boot in after months of being unable to do their jobs), but I’ve heard more than a few whisperings of bad blood between us and other clubs.

However, there are still questions to be asked here.

He is the manager and he is the one who decides who comes and who goes … I don’t want to interfere in that, he is the manager, he should be telling us.

“For example, he should be saying I need this player from Tottenham, from Liverpool or from another Premier League club, because these (top flight) clubs have lots of players.

“I am sure if Billy found somebody who was interesting for Forest, we would let him come here. I told him he can do anything he wants. He can bring in any player he wants.”

“He should be telling us…”

“He should be saying I need this player from Tottenham…”

“I am sure if Billy found somebody who was interesting for Forest…”

There’s a strong implication there; that Billy isn’t finding the players. Or is it that he isn’t finding the players from Tottenham or Liverpool or Premier League clubs? Is Billy finding experienced, lower league, hard-grafters that Fawaz just doesn’t like the look of? Was giving Billy free reign a mistake? Do we need some sort of panel looking after transfers and acquisitions?

And what happened to “Billy can be our Alex Ferguson”?

Personally, given the recent and not so recent history of the club, I believe that getting rid of Billy this summer would be a mistake.

I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, I don’t know why those various staff members were sacked nor who knew about it, I don’t know why there are persistent rumours that Billy and Fawaz aren’t speaking, I don’t know anything about Fawaz’s business experience and I don’t know why Fawaz has just launched a solo PR exercise.

But what I do know is that, barring gross misconduct, Billy is the best manager we’ve had in a while. He has many, many faults but he has some strengths as well – not least that he’s actually our incumbent. Thirteen managers (ish) in ten years is just too many.

Just don’t let this happen again.

Wheels coming off? Nottingham Forest 0 – 0 Doncaster Rovers

Jesus is our saviour. A change in formation, an odd team selection and tactical changes resulting in a cloud. Want to know more? Click the play button.

What’s the problem?

Oh dear oh dear oh dear. We could justify failing to beat Leicester by our sense of injustice at Wes Morgan not receiving a red card. Burnley and Wigan took their chances well, but Barnsley?

kim jong daviesAmongst all of this, Billy is banned. Billy is banned and say that he won’t speak to anyone, except, of course, Natalie Jackson in a Kim Jong-Un inspired BBC exclusive.

Where does the blame lie? Billy’s tactics? Injuries? The media? The unnecessary and somewhat insipid third strip (which looked even worse at Sheffield United)? The players? The transfer policy? All of the above?

Injuries: Yes, we have had more than our fair share, but why? Only a couple of them have been injured (including the skipper, Chris Cohen) whilst playing in the first team, many more have got stress fractures, training ground knocks and the like. Are the players being over-worked in training to achieve the necessary levels of fitness? Who knows, but I have never heard of a club having almost an entire team of players out with training ground injuries, and it is noticeable that with Cohen, Reid, Hobbs and Lansbury missing, there is no real leadership on the pitch.

The new third kit: a curse?Tactics: Cox up front on his own; Jara in midfield and Moussi on the bench; Mackie dropping into central midfield against Wigan. Sure, Billy can get it right a lot of the time, such as Chris Cohen at left-back, Henri Lansbury as a deep-lying central midfielder, and the emergence of Jamie Paterson, but when he gets it wrong it is painful to watch. I am reminded of Billy playing James Perch, rather than Joel Lynch, Julian Bennett or Chris Gunter at left-back, and then moaning about “round pegs in square holes“.

Transfers: In the Doughty era, Billy laid the blame squarely at the club for the perceived lack of investment, despite the late owner’s insistence that he had never flatly turned down a manager’s request for transfer funds. This time around, Fawaz and family have invested handsomely, with the latest financial figures suggesting the old “promotion or bust” conundrum that we have previously used to taunt our neighbours down the A46. He talked of needing some January signings to get us over the finishing line, and he got them. Draw your own conclusions about the signings (and Hobbs and Paterson are class at this level, even if the jury is out on some others), but surely Billy has nowhere else to lay the blame if we don’t go up this year.

The Players: As a contributor to Seat Pitch comments, “Teams win you games, squads win you promotion and Forest are still a little short.” However, we still have Premier League scouts eyeing up our goalkeeper and central defender (albeit both are rookies), a number of international footballers (Jara, Abdoun, Cox, Djebbour, Collins, Mackie) and others such as Halford, Fox, Moussi, Harding, Henderson, Derbyshire and Majewski who all have bags of Championship experience (not to mention Blackstock, Tudgay and Miller who have all been out on loan). They are all running around like headless chickens, seemingly unsure of the team’s shape and tactics.

The Media: Banning the local media is petty and unnecessary, but to do this and then take a vow of silence merely deprives the fans. Assistant Manager David Kelly faced the press on Saturday and flatly refused to address the issue of Rob Kelly’s absence, although John Pemberton had something to say on the matter:

Add to this Billy’s lies (re: his confrontation of the Leicester referee), his unwillingness to take questions, his filming of journos at the press conference, and his numerous confrontations with photographers (Millwall and now Barnsley), and once again, you can draw your own conclusions.

The common thread is Billy Davies. We have said it before and will say it again: if Billy would just let the team’s football do the talking, then people might have more faith (and yes, I know Forest have been faltering lately). Overall, however, he is a good Championship level manager. Not the best, but he’s ok. Do we want Billy sacked? No. Do we want Billy to grow up and just do his job? Yes please. For everyone’s sake.

Football Aid: time to bid for your chance to play at The City Ground

How would you like to Live Your Dream of running out at The City Ground alongside a Forest Legend before taking part in a 90 minute match on the hallowed turf?

Well now’s your chance as Nottingham Forest FC have once again joined forces with Football Aid – www.footballaid.com – to give fans the opportunity to play at The City Ground in 2014 and raise valuable funds for charity at the same time.

Nottingham Forest 2Football Aid offers Forest fans the unique opportunity to experience a matchday in the same way the likes of Kelvin Wilson, Andy Reid, Chris Cohen and co do every other week. Players will gain exclusive access to the pitch and tunnel areas, pull on their own personalised shirt in the official changing rooms, walk down the tunnel to the sound of a cheering crowd and step out on the pitch and represent Forest in a never to be forgotten 90 minutes of football!

To add to that, the matches at The City Ground have also been supported by a host of fantastic Forest legends in recent years, with the likes of Steve Hodge, Craig Armstrong, Frank Wignall, Peter Grummit, John O’Hare, Jason Lee, Des Lyttle (and many more) all lending their extra special support by playing alongside or managing the fans on their big day.

Positions are now available in our Auction Bidding and securing a position couldn’t be easier, just visit www.footballaid.com and choose the Nottingham Forest game and then you’ll have two options: Option 1: Bid to Play – Enter your Maximum Bid and if you’re the highest bidder when the position closes you’ll win your place on your Field of Dreams, or Option 2: Buy Now – Close the auction early and secure your place with a one off payment online. Positions close at regular intervals until Tue 12th March and opening Bids start from just £170.

Forest fan Stuart Annable played in 2013 and told Football Aid about his experience:

“Just wanted to say I had a fantastic day Saturday, it really was a realisation of a boyhood dream to play at Forest so a big thank you..!! My son was well looked after as the mascot and again a big thank you for the chance to walk out on the pitch with him. The staff were very good and the day well organised, everything went smoothly and no complaints about how the day was run. Nigel Jemson gave a real good account of himself on the pitch.

Brilliant day, if my legs stop aching I might even sign up for next year.”

So if you’re keen to secure a place on your Field of Dreams this season, why not visit www.footballaid.com and sign up today! Alternatively if you’d like any additional information, you can call Football Aid on tel: 0131 220 5999, e-mail: info@footballaid.com, post on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/footballaid or send a tweet to @FootballAid.

Since forming in 2001 Football Aid have allowed over 14,000 football fans the chance to Live the Dream in 535 charity matches all over the UK. The unique concept was the brainchild of businessman and Football Aid Chairman Craig Paterson and funds raised from this year’s events will benefit the work of a charitable project nominated by Nottingham Forest FC, as well as projects nominated by Football Aid’s parent charity Field of Dreams.

Two-thirds gone

The title of this article was originally about the number of games played so far, but I guess it could just as easily be about the number of our first team who are injured.

Pato: excellentOriginally I wanted to write in the wake of the Leicester match, but just like the Forest team, I ran out of steam. Although I couldn’t understand why Wes was not dismissed, I am not going to say that we should have won it, because we threw it away; Pato was otherwise the best player on the pitch but his tired lunge towards Drinkwater led to Leicester’s equaliser. Quite apart from that, it might be worth reminding Collins, Lascelles, Darlow, Halford, Fox (and probably Moussi and Jara) about Defending 101: Never let the ball bounce in front of you.

One of my mates who doesn’t pay much attention to the Championship was asking what has gone wrong. When I thought about it, I realised that we are missing our first choice back four (Lichaj, Wilson, Hobbs, Cohen), our key midfield trio (Reid, Lansbury, Vaughan) and others besides. Chelsea are top of the Premier League, but would struggle if Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Willian, Oscar and Hazard were all missing.

What does all this add up to? Simply, Forest are not good enough for automatic promotion; Leicester keep chugging on, Burnley, in the words of the 5live commentator on Saturday, are “unstoppable”, QPR have the ability to sign every player they want, and all three have a lot more points than we do.

I guess that leaves us with the play-offs – ugh. The big worry is that we may not make it that far due to the players we are missing, combined with the fact that Billy Davies teams have been known to slump in the last third of a season, usually after a decent December and January.

Jack HobbsWe definitely have one of the best squads in the division; some fans will insist that we are in the promotion frame despite the manager, rather than because of him, whereas others still believe that Billy Davies is the best thing since sliced bread.

At least Forest seem to have pulled their finger out when it comes to signing players, although this is surely only worth it if the new players are better than those who are already here – few would argue with the quality of Hobbs and Vaughan, but Djebbour, Abdoun and Gomis are unknown quantities with no experience of the rough’n’tumble of this division, so may represent something of a gamble.

With regard to the transfer market, we also cannot rule out the possibility of losing players, particularly if we do not gain promotion – Darlow, Lascelles and Pato have rightly attracted admiring glances from the Premier League.

Yes, we have been terribly unlucky with injuries, but the table does not lie – Forest are not one of the top two teams in the division, and it would take something remarkable to snatch an automatic promotion spot. Looks like the play-offs then – nurse, pass my medication…