After the abysmal performance against Cardiff City on Saturday, patience and tempers are beginning to fray. Clear heads and minds are needed at Nottingham Forest, now more than ever, says Paul Severn
The best thing about football is that it means more to us than it really should. We travel across the country to watch 11 players chase a ball around a field and pay £50 to wear the same shirt. We irritate our family members and workmates by talking about it too much. We obsess over every game, signing and development on social media. It also has the ability to make us feel disproportionate emotions.
It is a sad sight at the City Ground to see all those empty seats and to see resigned fans leaving games early. Players are booed off, when once they were heroes. Our loyalty has been tested to breaking point and beyond, to the point of apathy. The hard reality is that many people now feel more inclined to spend an evening watching Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing, rather than watching the Reds.
So, what should we do? Let’s start with the manager. Philippe Montanier brought to the club an attractive, often thrilling style of football. Eleven goals in the first three home games masked defensive calamities, but we were winning games. It goes without saying that he has chopped and changed too much, has sidelined season campaigners like David Vaughan and Jack Hobbs and hasn’t really brought a defensive plan to the table. As we have seen in recent weeks at other struggling clubs, a change in manager is now the default response for slipping into a relegation battle.
However, I would argue that actively calling for his removal is not the priority now. It is addressing the symptoms, not the root cause of our malaise. The Championship is ever improving and now even spending £20 million-plus is no guarantee of success. Montanier has had to build a squad around loans and free transfers. Some have been excellent, some have been dreadful. Injuries have had a major impact, decimating important competition for places and options off the bench. You cannot build a side with a player going off injured almost every game. And finally, the timing and manner of the Oliver Burke sale set fire to the manager’s plans before the campaign had really started. Off the field, key staff have been appointed to support him, and then left almost immediately. It all sounds familiar because it has happened to most other managers in recent times.
Let’s be clear, no one is saying stick with a manager whatever is happening. You can’t achieve stability and progress by plummeting into League One, but let’s remember our managerial record and reputation has left us as a club that simply will not be touched by the majority of experienced Championship managers.
I understand criticism, but we all know that another manager will come in, perhaps get a quick bounce in results, and then face the same issues that led to Stuart Pearce and Dougie Freedman going on similar back-breaking runs. Everybody knows, even our owner, that a change in regime is now paramount. The sale – ideally a 100% sale – needs completing quickly, to lift the mood of the club and start to put in place a structure that will allow a manager to succeed in a brutally challenging league. Anything else is a short-term measure.
What we can’t do now is obsess over small things that are just a by-product of the ownership issues. For example, it is sad to see people criticising Chris Cohen for talking positively before a game. In reality, none of us would make negative comments about our employers to the press – especially those of us in senior positions. Cohen is a fantastic ambassador for Forest. His two miraculous goal-line clearances in recent weeks show his continued commitment, and he was the last player at the 150th Anniversary meal, talking to fans, signing autographs and posing for photographs.
So let’s not drag people like Cohen, John McGovern and others down into the abyss for trying to make things work. They are Forest people who care as much as we do and could easily be sitting at home doing nothing.
Also, let’s not criticise each other for supporting a manager – whether it be via a tweet or a banner. Our job is to support and by being dragged into the mindset of chopping and changing managers, we are only rubber-stamping the strategy that has failed us. Let’s also not criticise those who are starting events, supporters trusts or anything else that is trying to reclaim the club for the fans – rather than being a rich man’s toy.
As fans we are somewhat helpless in waiting for the regime change. It is somewhat ironic that there were protests against Nigel Doughty and not Fawaz. Doughty also ploughed millions into the club. Despite his choice of managers, he always led the club with decorum and class. He brought the club one league place away from a return to the Premier League. Not bad really was it?
Perhaps we cared more in those days. Perhaps the last four years have sucked that out of us. Perhaps people feel they have lost the ability to influence things in football. The important thing now is to stick together, rather than find scapegoats, recognise who really cares about the club and sit and hope that positive change is around the corner.