After losing to Reading and drawing with Millwall, Nottingham Forest got back on track with a 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday. Arsher Ali offers a fan’s eye view from Hillsborough…


I don’t quite know what to say or how to describe such a terrible game of football. Cold, soggy toast and lukewarm tea. That’s what it was.

I was a guest of the match sponsors for the game and took my seat in the directors’ box for my first away match this year and my first ever trip to Hillsborough. It was a nice and comfortable way to watch a game, but having to be quiet and mouth along to You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling instead of belting it out at the top of my lungs was wrong. Just wrong.

I was also invited to poke my nose around the place, to take in every nook and cranny of the outer and inner workings of the place. All I can report is that this club, like a few others, deserves better.

It needs strong direction and as I said to any official who was listening “It’s no bad thing to try and emulate a club like Swansea.” That advice was generally met with a doleful nod.

One member of staff even jokingly offered me work as ‘Director of Football’. It wasn’t a joke to me. I’m getting my lawyers involved. See how binding his words were… Watch this space.

It’s sad to see and meet the real people working behind the scenes at a club faltering and in real danger of suffering the ignominy of relegation into the third tier of English football, especially when they talk with so much love and passion for the place. They still, bafflingly and admirably, remain amazingly upbeat and even indulge in bit of gallows-humour. I came away with a lot of love for them. What can I say? I’m just a nice guy like that.

But it’s clear that as long as the ownership situation is unresolved, they will be looking at short-term fixes. Ian Holloway was the name that was cautiously committed to the wind by most people at the club, swiftly underscored by, “… but I can’t see that happening with Milan still at the club and what happened at Leicester”. Quite.

Still, things should be looking up for Owls fans, as I was told that potential investors were in attendance. Quite what they made of such a dour game and of a Wednesday team that is seriously lacking in any quality and signs of even basic cohesion, I don’t know.

But they have to have been impressed by the atmosphere and the spirit of their potential fanbase, due in large part to their famous/infamous ‘Pukka Pies England Band’ in their kop end making a melodic racket. I quite like them, but a few Owls fans don’t. Well, if you ever need a home we’re only an hour up the road…

All I will say about Forest’s forward play is that, sadly, some of the signs of misplaced arrogance and swagger that have been slowly creeping in these past five or six games, were still apparent.

Defensively, Jack Hobbs continued his solid start to the season. He is the outstanding candidate for ‘Player of the Season’ for me, thus far. Jamie Mackie would be in the running too, if he just found a smidgen more consistency to his whole-hearted game. Just a smidgen, mind.

I lost count of the number of times Forest casually turned over possession, to borrow a basketball term. I won’t single anyone out because – ah what the hell. Gonzalo Jara. There, I said it. Gonzo, lad? I love you, but you know that national team you represent? The one that knows how to take care of the ball? That. A little more. Thanks.

Djamel Abdoun and Dan Harding on the left hand side proved a recipe for disaster in the opening stages as Kieran Lee and Liam Palmer turned them both inside out with ease. If only the Owls didn’t have such a clumsy and inelegant striker, Atdhe Nuhiu at the focal point of most of their play, Forest might have been made to pay for their early sluggishness.

On the subject of Abdoun, were it not for the fact that he has a nice beard and looks like a silky prize horse running down the wings now and again, I would have to say that so far he is doing nothing to suggest he is worthy of a starting berth.

There’s no doubt he has talent and technique, but you’re not in the Greek Superleague now, son. You’re in the Championship. ‘Tippy-tappy’ stuff will only get you so far before you end up on your backside. No. This is a place where broken dreams come to play. Big lumps of players who’ve been spat out of the fetid mouth of the Premier League. And they are angry. So get angry, Djamal! Get mad! Rumble boy, rumble!

The goal, when it did arrive, was decisive and was the only time that Forest looked vaguely like themselves. With Jara playing an excellent ball to Greg Halford, playing god-knows-where, who was rampaging down the right. Halford got the better of a poor Joe Mattock to whip in a low cross that beat the hitherto solid defensive on-loan pairing of Glenn Loovens and Roger Johnson, for Simon Cox to tap in at the far post and continue his fine scoring run of four goals in five games.

After that, it was business as usual as Forest proceeded to time-waste, in amongst a few inconclusive penalty claims.

I have never understood this widespread habit in the game of time-wasting to such an extend that to protect an extremely precarious lead against a team with nothing to lose you… prolong the game? Thus making the inevitable silly amount of ‘added-on time’ as frantic and wild as a mosh pit. Struth.

It was a performance made in the image of Billy Davies, at times. Petulant. Ugly. Unsportsmanlike. Arrogant. Annoying. Hateful. Small-minded. Play-off choker. Lacking charisma. Tactically absent. Immature… Ok, maybe just the first three of all those words.

Davies later called it “… a man’s performance”. I would call it a lazy-but-gifted teenager’s performance, rather. Potential wasting away, only doing enough to scape by before it’s simply too late.

If the game wasn’t greatly entertaining, watching the Forest chairman, Fawaz Al-Hasawi and his young, geeky entourage curse the referee was hilarious. In fact, his reactions throughout the game were generally more interesting than the game. It’s fair to say, Harding did nothing to make his trip to Sheffield more enjoyable.

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