Summer in the City
It has become apparent during the last two wet and windy days in Nottinghamshire that summer is slipping away from us, relinquishing its grip over the British Isles, and giving way to an altogether more sombre season: that of autumn. It is fitting then, after a summer containing nothing but joy and a sense of hopefulness not felt on the South side of the river for many a year, that feelings of ineffable exuberance are waning.
An unnatural giddiness took a hold of Reds supporters this summer. Three long and notoriously difficult seasons in – ahem, dare I mention it – League One, had left Forest fans cringing with shame every time their precious club was spoken of. The headlines screamed aloud the torture felt amongst Reds followers: ‘Forest Demolished by Gillingham’; ‘Accrington Sink Woeful Reds’; ‘Colchester Tear Reds Apart’; ‘Yeovil Teach Forest Footballing Lesson’. Gary Megson’s rein had proved nothing but a farce: from dragging in two fans to talk to the players away at Yeovil about their lack of passion, to being slide-tackled by one of his own signings away at Barnsley, Megson’s tenure at the club could not have been viewed as anything other than a long, drawn out episode of Fawlty Towers.
After a late charge for a Play-Off place under the guidance of caretaker managers Messer’s Barlow and McParland, in stepped a certain Mr Colin Calderwood.
Things began brightly for Calderwood and Forest were soon top of the table and the necessity of promotion back to the Championship seemed almost complete. But the cracks left over from his predecessors’ time at the club soon showed themselves once again. A 5-0 thumping at the hands Oldham left Forest reeling, and their place at the head of League One was soon surrendered to Scunthorpe. Defeat in the Play-Offs meant a third season in the third tier. The ups and downs of last season ended in the realisation of promotion back to the Championship, after the Reds managed to claw back 10 points on their immediate rivals to secure a position in the top two.
And then came the long summer of Championship anticipation. The splendid acquisitions of players such as Earnshaw, Anderson, Cole, Garner, and Moussi helped only to increase the feeling of jubilation that suffused the red half of Nottingham throughout May, June, and July. Many people in offices and in pubs were discussing not just the return to the Championship but also the return to the hallowed spectacle that is the Premiership. ‘Back to back promotion’ was a phrase tossed around in conversation almost every time Nottingham Forest was mentioned. Oh how fickle a football fan is!
August has, as I am sure you have realised, seen us return to the rather grittier side of football – two sides pitting themselves up against one another in competition fixtures. Forest faced Reading, Morecambe, Swansea, Watford, and Sunderland in the opening weeks and, with the exception of the Swansea game, all was, if not perfect, highly promising. Games against Reading and Watford were particularly encouraging not just for the results gained from those two games but for the way in which Forest put themselves to the task of Championship football. After the previous three years of baleful football, Forest’s free-flowing, short and neat passing style even bewildered a few fans. And then came Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Over the years Nottingham Forest do not exactly have the best record when appearing at Molineux; in fact, it is not since 1980 that Forest last recorded a league victory there. The 5-1 mutilation on Saturday has to be viewed as a reality check to those supporters who fancied Nottingham Forest to gain promotion this season. It should also be seen as a match from which the players really have to learn from; quite possibly it is just the kind of result they needed to suffer at this early stage of the season to put the bad aspects to their game right. After Watford Towns recent visit to the City Ground, Aidy Boothroyd said to the BBC, ‘I can remember getting a short, sharp lesson against Leicester City, this time last year – we got a good hiding and we recovered from that’. Leicester went down and Watford went on to finish in the Play-Offs.
Forest have not turned into a bad side over night. Yes, this defeat will have hurt them. Yes, the defence certainly looks a little shaky. But Forest will be alright this season. A mid-table finish would be something to be proud of, not looked upon with scorn. There will be some heavy losses, and there will be some big wins. After two seasons of concentration on the defence it is quite clear that Forests strengths lie in attacking flair this time around, rather than resilience at the back. This is a side that has just come up from League One: give them time and they’ll be fine. It should make it an exciting season if results and performances continue as they have over the opening month.
After this one bad result, let us not make it our autumn and winter of discontent. Burnley should be a walk over, anyway…