Give peace a chance

by , August 1, 2013

“Love, peace and harmony… oh very nice, but maybe in the next world”
– The Smiths

Give peace a chanceI’m a fairly laid-back kind of guy. I’m a lover, not a fighter. I prefer it when things are just drifting along smoothly and there is no strife. Part of me simply can’t understand why Billy Davies and his inner circle can’t just hug and make up with Radio Nottingham. Even if a commentary deal has now been signed, it’s an uneasy truce and those rarely last. Surely it can’t do the club good to have the county’s main local media outlet at odds with the manager?

The stand-off between the two parties was, as other commentators have noted, only going to hurt the relationship between club and fans if it was allowed to continue into the season. If Billy is too stubborn to talk to Radio Nottingham one-to-one and Radio Nottingham are too proud to attend post-match press conferences then it looks like us fans who enjoying hearing Billy’s thoughts on the radio will go disappointed, but at least we can follow the games we can’t attend. Nevertheless, the sense of conflict shows that things are not harmonious in this city and the club still has issues to resolve.

The radio deal is not the only subject that has been causing unease amongst supporters as it dragged on during the last few months. I think the events of this summer go to further illustrate the disparity between the worlds of business and football I wrote about earlier in the year. Fawaz may used to completing business deals at the eleventh hour, but football fans expect things to be a little more timely. Certain dates, like the day the fixture list is announced, segment our summers like waypoints on the long walk between seasons. The unveiling of a new kit (or two or three new kits as we have become accustomed too in this money-grasping era) is a very important waypoint and when Forest missed it we started to worry we were getting lost.

I don’t expect Forest’s PR department to be a constant source spilling forth the inner-workings of the club. I don’t expect the manager or chairman to write a daily blog about transfer targets. There inevitably must be some air of secrecy about the club over the summer or we’d never be able to land any transfer targets. The leaks from the dressing room / training field / board room / wherever seem to have stopped and though the rumour mill is still running at full pelt, we’re hearing official news of completed signings, not painfully drawn-out transfer sagas like Peter Whittingham and George Boyd.

Forest’s renewed efficiency in the transfer market is cause for great delight and we’ve signed some excellent players with seemingly very little fuss, but the optimism that brings is tempered by the tarrying on issues like radio commentary, new kits and shirt sponsorship. I understand that sometimes there are delays in negotiations and the club’s commercial activities should not be rushed, but the club must also understand that things like this make fans anxious.

And then there was the farce over relocating the away fans. I think ultimately the club came out of it well, reacting to the objections raised by those being ousted from their seats in Upper Bridgford and revising the plans. At the time I considered writing an article on the subject of fan power, inspired by that and the decision by Bolton to drop a pay-day lender as sponsor after fan protests. But then I remembered the debacle at Coventry City which proves that us supporters still get shafted more often than not.

I digress. Forest deserve credit for listening to fans and not pursuing the venture regardless of feedback. They have also recently dropped season ticket prices in the Lower Bridgford to encourage more fans to take up sitting in the area. This shows we’re now operating in a more dynamic and flexible way after years in inertia on the subject of that stand, but it should be remembered that the initial plans were ill-advised and based on the only the vaguest of notions.

The City Ground in general is still a subject in doubt – we don’t know the owners’ long-term plans for our famous stadium. Perhaps they haven’t made any yet. Long term plans don’t seem to be something in the Al-Hasawi vocabulary. Their last long-term plan, Sean O’Driscoll, lasted five months. However, Billy and Fawaz seem very chummy and that bodes well. Billy may not be perfect and his pugnacious persona often tips over apple carts, but ultimately Forest will be served better by having a manager and chairman working together over several years rather than a revolving door policy that has scuppered previous attempts to get us promoted.

We’ve signed six players so far this summer and one or two more are expected to arrive before the window closes. We had more incoming players last year, but the difference is that these signings have all been permanent (with Jack Hobbs set to transfer after one loan season). It looks like Forest and Davies are putting together a squad for the long term. Davies had two good seasons out of a largely unchanged squad in his first reign, a squad that was only disrupted when Steve McClaren started clumsily meddling with it. Hopefully Davies is overseeing the assembly of a group of players he can work with for a good few years.

This appeals to my love of calm. If Forest can stay focussed on the football and turn this increasingly promising roster of talent into a side capable of challenging for promotion, then my fragile heart can just about live with all the off-pitch drama. Sadly history tells us that turmoil in the corridors of the City Ground generally leads to chaos on the pitch, so I would urge Forest to get their house in order. Cardiff City prove that it doesn’t necessarily need to be peace, love and harmony to get promoted, but surely it can’t hurt? Come on Forest, get the last few business matters tied up, settle these petty disputes and give peace a chance.