Seasonal Affective Disorder

by , November 7, 2013

Greg Hall’s report on the Blackpool game on the Seat Pitch website noted how the first match after the clocks change for winter is always “blowy and just downright miserable” and boy was that description accurate for last Saturday. But it’s not just the weather that has taken a turn for the worse as we approach the year’s end – the spirit of the fans seems to have dropped dramatically too.

Obviously the fact that Forest haven’t won for three games is the root cause for the recent agitation seen on Twiter, forums and blogs, but I do wonder if the darkening skies also have something to do with darkening moods amongst some fans.

In what most people agreed in the summer was going to be one of the most competitive seasons ever in the Championship, we’re currently sitting sixth in the league. And that’s sixth without any caveats – there are no games-in-hand scenarios that can dislodge us from that position. We’re in sixth by merit, which is pretty good going.

Yet on the LTLF Forum this week there were no less than three threads discussing possible replacements for Billy Davies (someone even suggested Paolo Di Canio, as if we don’t have enough problems with our current manager’s feisty temperament!) and another proclaiming the Scot a ‘mediocre manager’.

In the fickle world of football, and particularly the hyper-fickle world of fans’ forums, it’s no surprise that the mood can swing drastically from elation to despair with each fixture, but if you cast your minds back to this time last season you might remember that we began November with a 4-1 thrashing at home to Millwall, followed by a frustrating draw with Middlesbrough. And it was around this time that people stopped talking about the promising start Sean O’Driscoll’s side had made to the season and started remarking on their inconsistency – case in point: a week before the Millwall defeat, the Reds had beaten Barnsley by the same score.

Less than two months later, of course, O’Driscoll had been sacked and his admirers were wondering what had prompted such a drastic step from Fawaz Al-Hasawi. Some pointed to his close contact with fans on Twitter, a cross-section of supporters who you might generalise as being younger than average and fond of voicing the quickly formed opinions that Twitter is so apt for. Had Fawaz given their Twitterings too much heed?

The fact is that Forest’s league position between beating Barnsley and that infamous game against Leeds didn’t really change that much (we dropped one place from sixth to seventh) so in that time our form hadn’t taken a dramatic turn for the worse, but public support for O’Driscoll had, or so it might have seemed to Fawaz as he checked his Twitter feed. Now it seems the same could be happening to Billy Davies.

I have two theories about why this could be: the first is that people do genuinely feel more miserable as the days get shorter and the mornings get frostier. One of the useful things about supporting a football club, particularly for the repressed male, is that you can project some of your emotions onto them. On Saturday afternoons, blokes shouting abuse at the players might just as well be shouting at the arsehole of a boss they put up with the rest of the week. In return for allowing us to vent at them, our clubs sometimes make our Saturday nights out more enjoyable by setting us up with the warm, pleasant feeling that comes with a win. When science tells us that people feel more glum in the winter because of chemical imbalances caused by lack of sunlight (not to mention rising fuel bills, the cost of Christmas, wet shoes, cars not starting and numerous other depressing aspects of the British winter) then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suppose some of that wintry angst will spill over into our views on football as that’s where our left-over emotions often go.

But I think the real seasonal affective disorder afflicting Forest fans could be to do with the football season rather than the season of winter. November marks three months into any season and the campaign is roughly a third of the way through. It seems like a natural point to pause and review the season so far and, if you have any, the perfect time to start venting your grievances. Any sooner and you haven’t really given the manager and players chance to establish themselves, but by November the air of patient optimism you started with in August has just about faded away.

It’s no wonder November is the worst month for managerial sackings. By December you start to give a struggling manager the benefit of the doubt and hope he can turn things around in the up-coming transfer window. January always bring a new year’s hope and by the time you get into February and March it seems too late to change things anyway, so unless disaster looms clubs tend to stick with the boss until the end of the season to judge them on the final position.

So are pockets of discontent among Forest fans just a symptom of what I would call Season Ticket Affective Disorder if STAD didn’t make such a bad acronym, or have we genuine reason to be worried about the Reds right now? Perhaps one or two concerns about Billy’s team selections which get more difficult to fathom each week, but that’s nothing new. Perhaps the sight of Forest topping the table of bookings and red cards is cause for dismay as our reputation becomes that of a niggly, argumentative side, distinctly breaking the mould made by Brian Clough. Perhaps the ongoing uneasiness between the club and the media and suggestions of administrative wrong-doings ought to keep our watch over the club’s upkeep a little bit sharper.

The point I’ll return to is that we’re still in sixth. We’re going through a bad patch of form, but show me a team who doesn’t every now and then? Hopefully by the end of this campaign we’ll regard the last few weeks as a mere blip on our way to promotion, whether automatic or through the play-offs.

One treatment for the real SAD is ‘light therapy’, which aims to redress the hormonal imbalances that can affect a person’s moods by exposure to artificial sunlight. In the footballing world, the best source of artificial sunlight to brighten things up is a victory over local rivals and I suspect that such a win at Leicester on Saturday would be the dose of ‘lighten up therapy’ some of our supporters desperately need in their annual November funk.