Imagine a delightfully framed Forest shirt. Its sponsor, ‘Pinnacle’, gleaming white, is a stark reminder of those brighter days long gone.
The signatures remain still visible and three iconic names jump out -- David Johnson, Michael Dawson and Andy Reid. And now I have to turn away because that is enough depression for one day.
Imagine now that same framed shirt, shattered and peppered with lashings of anger. The fact remains that the framed shirt is still hung on the wall clinging to its once-proud status. Although obliterated with reflections of sheer frustration, you just won’t take that shirt down. To do so would be to totally give up all hope and, remember, hope is all we have as long-suffering Forest fans.
Of course, that framed shirt is a little analogy. The missus would never allow such childish behaviour. Instead it remains in the wardrobe and I have to make do with the picture of Fawaz pierced securely to the dart board in the shed to unleash my anger upon.
The latest aggressive dart came last week at the news of Henri Lansbury possibly signing for Derby, Matty Cash possibly going to Red Bull Leipzig and even young Ben Brereton going to one of the big boys. All rumours, of course, but it begs the question: where did it all get so much worse for Nottingham Forest?
Was it Pedro Pereira? Is it Montanier? Was it losing Oliver Burke so soon? Or was it that Fawaz shirt sponsor being replaced by the clearly cursed 888?
OK, well let me pose a question. Actually two. Firstly, who is Armand Traore’s super agent and what are his contact details? And more seriously, who is responsible for the worst bunch of signings a summer transfer window has ever witnessed?
Pedro Periera, I’m sure played a part. Clearly a move to relax our desire for a director of football or chief executive-type figure. It all seemed to make sense. It even looked like it would work out for a month. A man with a good pedigree in both Portugal and Italy. It felt different, even positive. And then the Marinakis announcement was drawn out so long that is seems to have phased into the John-Jay Moores announcement.
And then came the manager at last. I think even the bookies got bored with this one. I remember seeing Montanier doing a digital version of the ‘Hokey Cokey’ with the odds for weeks. But then, there he sat, a fashionable chap with a charming smile, our first-ever foreign manager. We were just bound to be bowled over.
So fast forward for a moment to January 2017 and I can’t help but wonder what happened to a time when managers used to resign. Take it on the chin, do the honourable thing and scuttle into the darkness with your reputation still slightly intact. Admit defeat, learn your lessons and move on. It doesn’t happen any more. Instead these ‘men’ drain our beloved football clubs of all their energy and identity, taking a hefty financial pay-off when the time does come to make a change. They must need the money. Apparently, modern football doesn’t pay enough already.
It actually started quite well. Attacking displays at least made it fun to watch. We started the season with a 4-3 home win against Burton but followed that with a 3-0 defeat at Brighton. It certainly showed us that this could go one of two ways. Unfortunately, it’s been the latter.
If that month of August 2016 did show us one thing, it was that it was imperative we hung on to a certain Oliver Burke. He was our latest diamond in the rough, an old-fashioned winger, fast and direct. He gave us an excitement we hadn’t seen in years. An academy graduate with incredible potential. BANG! The last nail in Fawaz Al-Hasawi’s proverbial coffin was bashed in on the 28th of August when the sale of Burke was made after a dozen promises that he wouldn’t sell our prized asset.
For me, this latest betrayal, along with the total incompetence in the transfer market and a serious lack of knowhow behind the scenes and notably from the dugout, is why we find ourselves in such a mess right now. The stubbornness of Fawaz to accept any help whatsoever in his ‘quest for greatness’ with our club is simply baffling. But what else is to be expected?
To be told on Twitter, after that latest sale, that the money would be re-invested for a direct replacement left us thinking that maybe the club did have a plan. And then you realised it’s Nottingham Forest and Fawaz we are talking about here. And as we were still shaking our heads in despair, in walk the latest guests to the madhouse, Abdoun and Djebbour. Welcome to the party, I’m afraid we’ve already left. It’s no coincidence we didn’t win another game until October 14. At this point, we still hadn’t kept a clean sheet and only flashes of brilliance from the lively Hildeberto Periera seemed to paper over the cracks in some lacklustre displays.
A 3-1 win at home to an out-of-sorts Birmingham City side left you thinking: have we cracked it? No. We had to wait another month for our next win, and an actual clean sheet came with it. A 2-0 win at Ipswich Town, and even Assombalonga scored his first two since the opening day. It certainly gave cause for optimism at last.
When you follow that up with a second away win in a week, a 5-2 thrashing of Barnsley, then the optimism does start to flow. Henri Lansbury was fantastic that night, leading by example from start to finish, culminating in a hat-trick for the captain. Newcastle were the next victims in a match packed with
incident, and we found ourselves with nine points out of a potential televised 12. Put us on telly every week!
Ultimately, those nine points we collected there are keeping us above the relegation zone at present. The famous old Nottingham Forest rollercoaster was turning for its final twist and ultimately heading off in a direction all too familiar. For we have boarded this ride many a time. Where oh where do you start with Derby day? A defeat in the manner of that we suffered can fester for the rest of the season. The injuries don’t help and are unfortunate, I
understand. But there is no excuse for a lack of fight and desire from anyone in a Forest shirt.
Defeats that followed, at home to Wolves and Barnsley, have seen the ‘We Back Montanier’ banners disappear for good. But the long-held hope for stability from which the banners were born from still remains.
The latest embarrassment came at Wigan in the FA Cup. Although the competition is far down our list of priorities, of course, it was our worst performance to date.
In my opinion, appointing a foreign coach with a clear lack of knowledge of this league and the players and teams within it was the first big mistake in a series of errors that followed. Montanier is a nice guy and you can’t help but feel sorry for him at times. It’s not all his fault. But the man is clearly out of his depth right now. In a time such as this, the club screams out for people who know the club well, understand its needs and deepest desires. It needs cradling back to full health, and that process may not be a quick one.
Tactically inept decisions and performances have seen the players quickly lose faith. Footballers of today are a complex bunch, it must be said, but they’ll soon let you know in the most obvious of ways when your time is up. And with the American takeover on the horizon you’ve got to imagine Montanier’s time with us is coming to an end.
The signings, whether fully his choices or not, have been terribly thought out, if at all. No personality research in the slightest seems to have been carried out. A complete rush to get players through the door, and blindly, to appease the fans has resulted in total mess.
The current crop of players seem, from the outside, totally divided. A group of younger local lads and older pros who are genuinely trying to make a difference, being constantly hindered by half-hearted individuals who are not only devoid of any real desire but are also again lacking in real knowledge of this league. The Championship is tough. It will find you out on all sorts of levels if you aren’t up for the challenge and, quite frankly, too many are falling well short of that challenge right now.
Let’s hope for a new beginning with John-Jay Moores this week. It’s going to be a long way back, I fear, from this rocky road we find ourselves down. Plenty of players need to go, and it is vital that some stay for the fight. Let’s hope we are still in the Championship to be able to start the rebuilding jo. Let’s hope, furthermore, there will be a structure in place we can be proud of, with people of competence who truly care about this great football club. The Americans aren’t on Twitter and I’d say that’s an improvement already…