Al-Hasawis in danger of turning Forest into a joke
There is a generation of Forest fans whose greatest footballing memory is not of Brian Clough or John McGovern, but Chris Bart-Williams. Our dads were our age in 1980, stood in the Trent End as Shilton, Robertson, et al conquered Europe. Then, at some point around the late 80s, our fathers decided to settle down and have children, who they raised, naturally enough, as Reds. Bastards!
I was seven when Bart-Williams’ late strike against Reading sealed the Division One Championship and marked the dawning of a new, glorious era of top flight football for the club. ‘This just the beginning,’ I thought, imagining the havoc that Steve Stone and Pierre Van Hooijdonk would wreak upon the complacent defences of Man Utd and Arsenal.
Like most Reds of my age I wore out the commemorative ’98 ‘Champions’ VHS in the miserable years that followed. However, none of the relegations, endless play-off semi-final defeats, panic buys and financial woes that followed were quite as depressing as the events unfolding on Sky Sports News on January 31.
The ludicrous events of the George Boyd affair had ramifications far beyond missing out on a talented midfielder or even forcing another managerial change – they made Forest a joke.
Live on Sky, unbearable ex-Palace chairman Simon Jordan slammed the club’s treatment of Boyd from an ill-deserved moral high horse, whilst even Niall Quinn, who doesn’t usually say or do anything, tutted and nodded disappointedly in the background. The following day, the Al-Hasawi’s were branded ‘a disgrace to the game’ by Barry Fry.
Despite almost an entire lifetime of disappointment as a Forest fan, this backlash against the club was something new. Because, despite the disasters of the late nineties and entire noughties, the football world always had a soft spot for Forest. Much of this was linked to Clough – the turmoils suffered by the club that he shaped were a poignant reflection of the decline of the man himself.
Yet there was more to it than that. The club continued to at least try to play ‘the Forest way’, particularly during the reign of Paul Hart. It continued to look generally to young players from the UK (think Dawson, Reid, Jenas, possibly not Dele Adebola). For a long while the club had a local chairman who was a fan and who, despite the club’s financial ruin, continued to pour in unreasonable sums of his own money until the day he died. And we had Wes Morgan.
In short, despite our flaws, there were lots of reasons why Forest was a very likeable club. It is becoming increasingly difficult to say that now.
The Boyd fiasco came a matter of weeks after the club celebrated one of their best performances in recent times by sacking a perfectly good manager, and a matter of days before the shambolic departure of his successor. Our owners are almost definitely mad and Billy Davies, despite his undoubted qualities, is not particularly associated with attractive football. Despite being, in footballing terms, in as stable a position it has been at any point in the past decade, the club is in danger of becoming something that is has never been – a laughing stock.