Nigel Doughty: tragedy and perspective

by , February 4, 2012

If it wasn’t for TV scheduling many of us would be receiving the sad and shocking news of Nigel Doughty’s death at the age of 54 as we left Pride Park or awaited the match reaction from our radios. But with no game today most of us would have been enjoying a Saturday afternoon with no football, maybe spending time with family or friends, or just getting odd jobs around the house done.

Life has a habit of every so often putting things in perspective for football fans, often in tragic circumstances. After a week when passions have been running high and Nigel Doughty’s ownership of the club, along with the attitude of some supporters toward him, has been a massive topic for discussion, calls for fans to unite might have fallen on deaf ears. The least you can say about the passing of the most influential person, for good or for bad, in the club’s recent history is that all connected with Nottingham Forest will tonight be united it some sombre reflections.

Much has been written about Mr Doughty on these pages, some in praise, some in criticism. I myself have been a vocal critic of him in the past, frustrated along with others at mistakes he made, though always mindful of the debt (of gratitude) we owed him as a club. His football acumen and the strategies he devised to shape the club’s future may have been questionable, but his love for the club was something you couldn’t doubt.

Today’s news will make many rethink their attitude to him, and it just happened that in the absence of a Forest game to distract me this afternoon I was writing about him for a chapter in a book which will be published later this year (I hate to seem like I’m using this to shoe-horn in a plug here, I wouldn’t mention it if I didn’t think it was relevant). The chapter was about ‘Unsung Heroes’ and I decided to include Nigel Doughty in an attempt to rethink the way we viewed him as fans.

The piece was never meant to be an apologia, for as I said he had made some costly mistakes, but I felt that no matter how valid our criticism of the former chairman was, we shouldn’t lose sight of the contribution he made at a personal level. The fortune he poured into this club, the time he spent trying to realise his ambition of seeing us back in the Premiership – however misguided these actions may seem to the rational person, they have been what kept us alive as a club for the last decade or more.

As I say, tragic circumstances put things into perspective. Soon, when the shock and grief recedes, we’ll begin asking the questions of what next for the club. But now, on a day when a quirk of fixture planning might have given us the tiniest bit of perspective on our own lives with a few hours spent with loved ones, we can reflect on the life of Nigel Doughty as a guy who shared the wish we all have – to see Nottingham Forest successful once again – and like the rest of us, sometimes didn’t quite know the right way to go about it.

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