A 2-1 defeat by Cardiff City in the final game of the 2014-15 season saw Nottingham Forest finish in 14th position, their worst league finish since 2012. Steven the Camel offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…
How does the song go again? “Sunshine. Moonlight. Something or other…Dougie”.
Hold that thought for a moment whilst I reminisce…
It’s 2007 and I’m sat in a beautiful two-star London hotel playing intellectual card games with Bernie Winters and Schnorbitz.
Now we all know the difficulty of playing Snap with an odd number of people, especially when one of the participants is a 400-year-old dog.
“Bernie, is that mutt of yours ever going to slam his card down?”
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“I don’t know Camel. I really don’t know. Schnorbitz plays by his own rules these days. Would you like a sip of my Tizer whilst we wait?”
“No, Bernie,” I scream with impatience. “Stop trying to psyche me out with fizzy drinks. I’ve travelled over 300 miles for this hand of Snap, and I’ll be damned if we don’t conclude it this evening.”
I’m in no mood to mess around. This particular hand of Snap has been 25 years in the making.
The story actually began in 1982 when I was a 4-year-old boy, happily sitting on Bernie’s knee, talking about the solar-powered whisk I desperately wanted for Christmas.
“As a kitchen utensil, whisks are so undervalued – don’t you agree Bernie? If you think about it, you can whisk anything. In fact my mum says she’d be lost without her power utensil – especially since dad left.”
“You’re quite eloquent for a 4-year-old. Are you sure you just don’t want some sweets or something Camel? What child wants a whisk for Christmas? I tell you what Camel, if you can beat me at a game of Snap then I’ll get you this special sun whisk you want.”
“You’re on, you old crone… and you should be aware that I never forget a bet.”
Back at the Holiday Inn and the tension is building with every passing second. We lean forward across the stained coffee table, locking eyes intensely. Bernie officially challenges me to a stare out. I politely decline.
If I’m honest, my confidence has been shattered ever since I lost a two-hour stare out marathon with David Blunkett back in ’84. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the loss. Neither of us saw it coming.
What’s this? Whilst I’ve been feeling sorry for myself, Schnorbitz has played his card. King of Diamonds. He barks ‘Snap’ and celebrates by licking himself. Remarkable scenes.
So what is the relevance of this fact-based story you ask? Well, whether it’s 25 years spent stalking an old man to finish a game of cards, or rigging up my kitchen utensils to accept solar power, if there’s one thing the Camel doesn’t lack, it’s commitment. I will never just down tools when it suits.
Speaking of which, yet another disappointing season came to its inevitable conclusion as Cardiff City came to town. The Welsh red and blue dragon birds — or whatever they’re called this week — easily took three points off us with an unspectacular yet solid display.
Where do I start with Forest? On paper, that side is a possible play-off team. On the pitch however it’s an entirely different story. Engage rant mode…
Right then. There is no rule against controlling the ball, running with it a bit, and then passing to a teammate. This isn’t musical chairs. We don’t need to get rid of the ball before the music stops. Look around David Vaughan, you won’t struggle for a seat in the City Ground.
For God’s sake this is not a game… well it is, but that’s not the point – the point is that the ball is not a primed-hand grenade. So why do we treat it as such? The ball isn’t going to explode and ruin your hair Karl Darlow.
Actually, maybe we should use a hand grenade instead of a ball. Come to think of it, if the ref is allowed toxic shaving foam then I demand all goalkeepers are allowed to use phasers. I’d kill for a clean sheet. Literally.
Only kidding of course, that’s just a ridiculous idea. I’d set them to stun. I’m not a complete monster.
So Cardiff take the lead in the first-half from a scramble at the far post. A knowing sigh of acceptance emanates from the Forest faithful. Same old, same old.
It gets worse.
It’s 2-0 shortly after. An unblocked cross is headed in by Mrs Doyle.
Now call me old-fashioned, but shouldn’t defenders try and stop crosses – or at least pretend to? Waving your foot and makeshift goose-stepping was not considered an acceptable challenge in Nazi Germany, never mind on Trentside in 2015. Yes, I’m looking at you Sergeant Hobbs. I’ll let you off though as you’re clearly not fit and need a proper pre-season – at least I see you giving your all every game. The same cannot be said of some of your teammates.
My miserable mood is broken by the news of Derby’s capitulation. What has happened to me? I’ve turned into one of those people I’ve always despised. You know the ones. Those people who revel more in the demise of their rivals than the actual goings on of their own team. I hate those people. I hate myself. I hate Bernie Winters and his stupid dog.
Then to top it off, an inflatable shark hits me smack bang in the head. I hate inflatable day too.
Blackstock pulls a goal back at the end of the game, but to be honest it seemed that everyone had stopped caring by then. Derby had lost and we can all use that fact to shadow over another inept performance by a team of under-achieving, over-paid prima donnas – more focused on straightening their hair and fluffing their crap beards than winning football matches for their current employees and the 20,000 fans who had bothered to turn up – yet again – in order to witness such formulaic drivel.
I’ve had enough with football, I’m finishing my story.
“Right Camel, let’s head off to the main reception,” says a relieved Bernie.
“Suzanne Shaw is hosting a chicken pox party. Everyone who’s anyone is going to be there. The Chuckle brothers…. The Otim brothers…. Even that bloke who played Worf on Star Trek. Come on…. here’s a red marker pen – let’s draw some sores on our faces.”
I scream with joy.
“A chicken pox party Bernie? That’s where everyone mingles to deliberately try and spread the virus right? Sounds like an absolute blast. I need to have Here‘Say themed words with Suzanne anyway. She doesn’t know about Noel’s accident with the kestrel yet.
We begin to red ourselves up.
“This red marker’s running out Bernie. I’ll have to use this green one and say it’s puss. Hold on, what do we do about Schnorbitz?”
“Don’t worry, he can barely walk these days. I’ll just say he’s got shingles.”
What question did I ask at the very start of this drivel? Oh yes… Good times! That’s it! Someone let me know when they are due to start?
Until next season, adios.