The Nottingham Forest half-term report

December 28, 2011 8 Comments »
The Nottingham Forest half-term report

After a tumultuous six months at Nottingham Forest, John Percy takes stock and looks at the challenges that lie ahead for the club in 2012…

The start of a new year should be a time of optimism and renewed hope but the majority of Nottingham Forest’s supporters are viewing 2012 with similar levels of dread reserved for a trip to the dentists.

Just over six months ago Forest had another chance to end their agonising exile from the Premier League but fans now are already fearing nightmare journeys to Yeovil and Crawley next season.

The club haven’t got a pot to piddle in, Steve Cotterill is marooned in the relegation zone and political mastermind Billy Davies’ reputation is getting better with each passing week he stays out of work.

Due to years of mismanagement and far too many people pretending they knew what they were playing at, the prospect of returning to League One is scarily real.

It is difficult to stay positive or, alternatively, get through it all with good old blind optimism.

The finances are so bad that players – either first-team or fringe – will have to be offloaded next month just to keep key members of the current squad by extending their contracts. On either the same money or less.

Players from the lower leagues – and even non-league – are now being scouted while the importance of the Academy could never be more pronounced.

It’s abundantly clear that Steve McClaren was sold the biggest pup since Stephen King’s ‘Cujo’ in the summer. He made plenty of mistakes, sure, but maybe he now knows how hoodwinked Forest fans have been feeling for years.

McClaren was given the old “We’re serious about promotion, are you?” guff in June, about how the club would back him with finances to steer Forest back into the big time. After falling on his sword just four months later, he had taken a number of steps back in those awful suede shoes he used to wear.

Christmas came early for Portsmouth when a fee of around £200,000 was paid by Forest to pinch a manager who they were allegedly about to sack soon anyway.

Results and performances have been indifferent since Cotterill’s appointment but it’s in the January sales where he’s really going to earn his corn.

He was recruited as a wheeler-dealer and a manager known for operating on a tight budget and those qualities will be sorely needed. The decisions he makes in January will prove pivotal in his bid to beat the drop.

At least he has Frank Clark by his side. Clark’s appointment as chairman was the most sensible decision at the City Ground in years and, at last, there is somebody with a solid knowledge of football operating in the corridors of power.

Together, Cotterill and Clark must find a solution to get Forest out of this mess. Do you sell an established first-teamer like Luke Chambers, Lewis McGugan or Chris Gunter to raise funds for cheaper replacements?

Do you ridicule all the work of the Academy by flogging Jamaal Lascelles to an Arsenal, Liverpool or Chelsea, before he has even kicked a ball for the senior side?

Or do you hope that somebody takes McClaren signings like George Boateng or Matt Derbyshire off your hands and frees up a bit of cash?

It is all going to be a balancing act but Cotterill’s biggest problem will be persuading other clubs to take his unwanted players.

And what about the outgoing chairman? There has been a total lack of activity on the Twitter account of @nffc37 for months now.

Conspiracy theorists are convinced Nigel Doughty’s bold decision to start tweeting in the summer was simply to sow the seeds of what was going to happen.

Doughty was preaching about FFP, a frugual future and other financial obstacles way before the first rumours of McClaren’s unhappiness started to filter out.

Yes, Forest fans should thank him for pumping nearly £80m in but sadly his chairmanship will be remembered more for a catalogue of mistakes.

Failing to back Paul Hart after the play-off defeat. Failing to back Billy Davies in January 2010, in the same month when Forest produced arguably the finest Championship performance from any team in years to dismantle West Brom.

There are sadly others but we can only hope that paying £200,000 for Cotterill is not the final mistake he made.

But one final thought – instead of laying all the blame at the door of Doughty or the past three managers, shouldn’t most of the pressure be on the players?

The core of this current squad reached the play-offs last season, and the campaign before that. Swansea made at least two bids for Lee Camp in the summer. Newcastle had a strong interest in McGugan. Wes Morgan and Chambers were wanted by at least two different Championship clubs.

Speak to any other manager with knowledge of Forest and they will express bewilderment that a team with those players should be wallowing around with the dead men.

Whatever the state of the finances, or whether the manager is popular in the dressing room, the old cliche about ‘when you cross that white line’ is still the key.

Survival would probably be an achievement this season. Otherwise, it’s time to get the maps out for the Broadfield Stadium.

Follow John on Twitter: @John__Percy

  • Good article John, which puts it all in stark relief.
    Supporting NFFC is a joyless pursuit at the moment with no section of the club actually giving us anything to be proud of. I’m not getting too worked up about relegation to league one – who cares? Its not as if the team do – I’m sure the huge money, flash cars and late night Call Of Duty sessions with each other keep them isolated from the general malaise around the club, so why should I give two hoots?
    As I live quite a way from Nottm, I’m only going to my 1st away game on 2nd – at Ipswich. £70 for 2 tickets to see a division 2 relegation scrap between two hapless teams. Right here is whats wrong with being a supporter in a post credit crunch 21st Century.
    The only thing which keeps me going is the cammaradarie of the fans on twitter – especially the whole @bigwes situation which has been the bright point of the year. What a year to start supporting Forest eh? Well, we never said it was easy.

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  • Husky Red

    Got to add to this that the club has let some prized assets walk out of the door for nothing (earnie, McKenna, wilson, Tyson) and has let 7 key players go into their last 6 months without a new deal. I don’t buy the “player power” argument. How many turned down deals in the summer? How many were offered them? None that we know of. And now we can only promise a relegation dogfight so clubs we were well ahead of are poaching for a bargain. Criminally negligent contract management undermining the last 4 years of squad investment. I only hope we keep the majority of those in their last year or we are really stuffed. Want a better example? Bristol offer Maynard a new deal and immediately put him up for sale when he turns it d

  • @paulsevern7

    I follow John on Twitter but have never really understood his criticisms of Nigel Doughty.

    Firstly we have the backing of managers – the old chesnut. I don’t think there’s any evidence at all that he hasn’t backed managers to a decent degree in the Championship. Remember Forest fans expected him to give £10m year on year. It wouldn’t have helped the club to give Hart £20m and then walk away. Remember there was no money for big contracts in football then as ITV Digital had collapsed. Every year, for a DECADE, he gave good money to managers. Billy, for all his talents wasted a lot of money on Majewski and McGoldrick, Horrendous buys at £1m a piece. McClaren moaned about strikers, and was promptly given two Premiership strikers. Then of course there were the expensive temporary aquisitions of the two Boyds. No Championship chairman without parachute payments were making those types of deals. So much money was wasted – Garner, Arron Davies, Andy Cole… Some blamed the aquisitions panel, but since it was disbanded, take a look at the recent signings…

    And then we get the choice of managers – again Mr Percy basks in hindsight. Doughty appointed experienced managers with good track records. No one blinked at Megson or Kinnear and he rode against silly Derby prejudice to get Davies. Mr Percy knows that Billy has self destructed at every club, and chairman are not hammering down his door to appoint who is a poisonous character at times. McClaren was a massive name but Arthur made it quite clear that a similar amount of backing would be given, which it was. Nowhere did they say big money was available. McClaren did not understand the challenges of managing at Championship level and was not up for the challenge. Picking managers is a difficult business. Swansea and Norwich are the blueprint for getting up without parachute payments and did it with great appointments. But let’s not forget their mis-steps with Bryan Gunn and Paulo Sousa. Picking managers is an inexact science, and hindsight is easy.

    All in all Doughty gave our managers the platform to suceed. Money, an academy and long term backing (where will Leicester’s owners be in ten years?). While Lambert got Grant Holt for peanuts, Billy went for McGoldrick. While Swansea signed the superb Sinclair, Billy rejected him.

    All boards and owners make mistakes, but let’s not over-egg them without thinking things through.

  • Timmy Pope


    You make a lot of suppositions about behind the scenes stuff without knowing the full facts. I can tell you that Earnie & Tyson were offered contracts in the summer – but chose to go elsewhere (Tyson is no loss!). McKenna chose to leave as he’s fallen out with BD. The Wilson situation is well documented and once Celtic were interested – was out of anyone except Wilsons hands (Although why Billy just didn’t let him go for the 500K on offer rather than nothing – only Billy knows!)
    Maynard is a bad example to use. He was offered a new deal in the summer, but chose not to negotiate. Both Forest & Leicester made offers in excess of 3.5M (Forests involved Lynch going the other way), but Bristol rejected them both and put a price of 7M on Maynard. Now they are in the situation of hoping somebody buys Maynard for a fee now before they lose him for nothing in the summer.
    Is that not player power?

    But we have let assets go when we could have got more (Blackpool offered £1M for
    Tyson the previous year) There are certainly some questions need answering by the club on who made these decisions!!

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  • @simonwinson

    What has always annoyed me about Forest was the word “derisory” came up too often when we actually made an offer for a player. It has been no secret we operate on a tight budget but yet we try to prove we can compete with the big spenders in the division. The whole MaClaren saga still leaves a sour taste in the mouth and he knew we lacked fire power upfront. What didn’t help was replacing Earnshaws hefty wage with a player who rarely played 90 minutes over the last year and now its no suprise he is currently on the treatment table. Ishmael Miller may have impressed on the odd occassion in the Premier League with West Brom but signing him was a gamble. I myself was a big fan of Matt Derbyshire when he was at Blackburn and the odd spell abroad can help a player but he appears to be another gamble that hasn’t paid off, even more so now Cotterill doesn’t play him. Having Blackstock back will seem like a new signing and having him play alongside Findley should frighten most defences in the division however being short on confidence isn’t going to propel us up the league anytime soon. In January we are going to have to access which areas need improving (defence) and who we can afford to let go. This will give Cotterill plenty of opportunity to prove he is the right man with our budget. Hopefully then we can start turning some results round and make the City Ground a fortress like last year. No more 0-1 defeats to Palace and Peterborough.

    Great article by the way!

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