Everything was beginning to look so promising this season. And then we sold Oliver Burke. We deserved better, says Paul Severn
One of my mum’s favourite past times is laughing at the reactions of male members of her family at Nottingham Forest matches. The male line of the Severn family has supported the club for over 110 years. We take it too seriously.
One of her favourite 2015/16 anecdotes is my behaviour at Forest v Preston North End, which was a dire 1-0 victory and the last under Dougie Freedman. I bellowed at Chris O’Grady and Eric Lichaj to take the ball into the corner to waste time having driven all the way through traffic jams from Milton Keynes to watch the gruelling win. This wasn’t sexy football; this was pure pragmatism. Grim survival.
The incident came to mind last Saturday as young Oliver Burke took possession of the ball deep into stoppage time against Leeds United. Unlike the Preston game, I didn’t bellow at Burke. I didn’t know what he was going to do. Would he make a naïve mistake and gift possession to Leeds?
This sale has united almost all fans – whether they be mums, dads or those young children who have just had ‘Burke 35’ on the back of their new shirts. We are all in despair and our hearts sank in unison on Sunday afternoon. Worse things will have happened to some Forest fans over the bank holiday weekend. After one disappointing defeat many decades ago, my grandad passed away before he made it home from a Forest match. Some things are far more important than football and we need to remember that.
But for most, the joy of Saturday was wiped away in an instant. Even if we expected it. Yes Fawaz, some of the money is being used on new players – but that is not the point. That is not what we wanted to see this season. That isn’t how we feel. Everyone wanted to watch this precociously talented footballer grow from a man-child to a superstar in the Garibaldi red. And that has been taken away.
We know that £13 million is a lot of money for a footballer with handful of appearances. Everyone is aware of the club’s losses and Financial Fair Play. We know that there are no guarantees in football that young players will continue to flourish – Patrick Bamford, Andy Reid and Jermaine Jenas have all experienced ups and downs post-Forest. We also know that every club in England loses top players to bigger clubs.
But no tweet, no explanation, no logic can explain why our brightest talent was sold to a club that even football geeks had to Google. The structure of the deal seems short-term in thinking and we do not know what the thinking is because we haven’t been told. As a club we feel like a carcass being stripped by big-money vultures with too much money to spend. Sometimes, even recently, we’ve acted like these vultures to smaller clubs, but in the world of survival of the richest we are losing out because of the inept decisions of those who have run our club. We are easy meat to bloody-thirsty Premier League predators. We deserved better.
At the next game against Aston Villa, there will be tremendous support for those players trying to replace Oliver Burke. That’s what Forest fans do. But this sale has further stripped away the innocence of those fans. If we see genuine brilliance again from the likes of Matty Cash, we won’t fear the worst – we’ll expect it. And that’s a sad place to be for a football fan.