Down with this sort of thing

While it has not yet been confirmed via official channels, Stuart Pearce was able to let us know that Darlow and Lascelles have been sold, to be loaned back to Forest.

The gaffer’s appearance on Matchtalk could not have been better timed; the week before the first match of the season, and the day when two bright young prospects were cashed in, arguably well below market rate.

Naturally, there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the fans (if you are going to tweet Fawaz, please don’t be abusive – it is not big or clever), and while there is broad agreement that Pearce performed admirably when faced with fans’ questions, it is obviously his response to the sale of the two youngsters that has grabbed the headlines.

Personally I feel as though Stuart’s attitude and candour since being appointed has been refreshing, answering many of our concerns about his stature and approach as a gaffer, and contrasting with his playing persona as a man of few words.

Having said that, I feel that Stuart knew that he was onto a winner with this one; by being honest, he enhances his profile with the fans, and galvanises the opinion that the sale was the wrong thing to do. However, he also acknowledged that the club finances are an unknown quantity, so maybe there was a reason for cashing in.

Let’s be honest, Stuart knows that he is a club legend, and that Fawaz cannot afford to play silly buggers if it came to a popularity contest; if Stuart were to leave or be sacked, Fawaz will wish that he never bought the club.

Overall, I cannot help but feel that Fawaz has, once again, been naïve and hasty in his decision-making. After the Billy Davies debacle, the owner acknowledged that he made mistakes and promised to learn from them; this suggests otherwise.

Does Fawaz want the best for the club? I think so. Does he want to be popular with the fans? I think so. Does he need a CEO to run the club properly? Definitely (and from the gaffer’s response, it is clear what he thinks).

My lack of contributions  to this blog over the last year have been symptomatic of my falling out of love with the football industry; the beautiful game is still wonderful and poetic, but fickle fans with access to social media and radio phone-ins do my head in, and the business side (balancing the books, the gap between the Premier League and all other comers) is deflating.

If Stuart Pearce hadn’t been appointed, I would not have renewed my season ticket; it is reasonable value but still a lot of money to front up when you are inevitably going to miss some matches. To pay for it, only for promises to be broken (building the squad, no CEO) is absolutely disheartening. Fans are not just customers, we are stakeholders as well, and as with a human relationship, all we ask for is the club to acknowledge our part in the highs and lows.

Over to you Fawaz; this had better be good. 

It’s the hope that kills you…

…so in some ways it is a relief that the season is over.

Don’t get me wrong, of course I would love Forest to be as successful as possible, but given the turmoil of the last few months, the play-offs would surely have only brought more pain and sorrow.

We seem to say it every season, but let us hope that next season brings some stability and sees Forest making the headlines for the right reasons.

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.