Have you ever wondered if the grass is truly greener for supporters of other clubs in the championship? What if by a strange quirk of fate your loyalties existed elsewhere, what would your experience of the last season feel like?
We invited Pat from the obsessive-compulsive Nottingham Forest site Seat Pitch to give us an overview of their club's 'Annus Horribilis', spent up to their necks in the dark stuff. Or as Pat puts it so eloquently - "A Year In The Merde"!
Steve McClaren’s first game in charge of Nottingham Forest after being installed — by the bookies at least — as favourites for promotion. An uneventful 0-0 draw with Barnsley is played out in front of a home crowd against the backdrop of an ongoing dispute between the media and the Football League over terms of accreditation.
Just eight weeks into a reign, that would last only another eight, ‘Schteve’ must have realised by this stage he had unwittingly joined a club going through complete and utter turmoil. This was a season that would go from bad to worse to even worse, with just a glimpse of the silver lining to come.
The sacking of Billy Davies was inevitable to some, and a complete shock to others. The two-week silence from the City Ground — not long after the club’s second consecutive play-off semi-final defeat — resulted in the departure of the Scotsman, credited with reviving the ‘sleeping giant’ after returning from League One, and the arrival of the ex-England and Twente manager.
What happened next — a combination of factors — saw McClaren gone by early October, the resignation of the chairman Nigel Doughty and the appointment of Steve Cotterill, tasked with what had become a relegation battle.
The untimely death of Doughty in February, and the subsequent threat of administration at the end of the season, was a shock to all. From being almost 90 minutes from the Premier League, Forest went to being the division’s basket case in a matter of months.
However, the arrival of Sean O’Driscoll as assistant manager in January saw an improvement in performances and marked him as the man to return as manager in July after the Kuwaiti Al Hasawi family secured the club’s takeover.
Since then it’s been a complete overhaul which, in many ways, it had to be following the departure of the entire back four as well as several other players. Seven permanent signings and five loanees have transformed the squad — notably Danny Collins from Stoke, Simon Cox from West Brom, Henri Lansbury from Arsenal and Billy Sharp on a season-long loan from Southampton — but it’s the influence of O’Driscoll that has given hope again.
The purist passing philosophy is taking grip and there have been occasional games — Bolton, Charlton, Cardiff — when the devastating possession football has mesmerised both fans and the opposition. It’s still a team in transition and searching for consistency — as well as a settled first XI — but with three goals against top-of-the-table Cardiff on Saturday, a late comeback away at Blackpool on Tuesday and the play-off places in sight, it’s a far cry from the dark days of last season.
There’s a nascent understanding between defence, midfield and attack as the players shift fluidly between the lines: the diamond, with the outstanding Simon Gillett at the base, compensating for the lack of out-and-out wingers; the burgeoning understanding between the strikers resulting in nine goals between them so far; and the back four gradually beginning to fortify Lee Camp’s goal.
Saturday 27 October 2012: Forest sit in 10th position, Barnsley in 17th; just three points between them. Given that Forest haven’t won at Oakwell for 12 years (correct me if I’m wrong) — and our current away form — everything points to a draw.
On that basis I’ll go for 2-2.
Please leave your comments below, perhaps with your predictions for Saturday too. Add to the debate on Twitter by following @SeatPitch and @OnThePontyEnd.
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