October 11, 2015 by notjustpumpkinbread
Well, we’re ten games in and pretty much mid-table – although we don’t really look at the league until Christmas do we? So, being 21.7% of the way through the season warrants a little retrospection, surely. Just not the lamented kind.
Working in a market of loanees and free agents, Mr Dougie and his team have cobbled together a squad of players that – for some at least – may well be playing for their professional futures and in doing so are benefitting the fortunes of our wonderful club. In fairness, I’m not privy to the whys-and-wherefores of individual loanee agreements, but it seems to me that if they’re committed to a season-long loan with a view to a permanent deal (transfer embargo notwithstanding), putting in consistently good performances will afford you a better chance of being given a full contract come the relevant time.
As for the free agents we’ve acquired, well perhaps they’re just grateful for the chance to play at this level and for this great club. As Mr Dougie has said on more than one occasion, he only wants players at the club who want to play – bench-warmers and shirkers need not apply. That’s not to say all our squad are in the same boat. It just feels as though the new additions have pretty much hit the ground running and the rest of the squad have followed suit.
This is my first season as a season-ticket holder, but I did go to a few games at the back-end of last season. There seems to be a different feeling around the ground this time though. The permeation of optimism affords an underlying feeling of positiveness at The City Ground. As I’ve stated previously, it isn’t exactly Fortress City Ground – one win at home so far attests to that – but the patience being afforded by the crowd to those in the Garibaldi is heartening.
We’ve lost four matches so far this season and three of those are on the hallowed turf. To look at those home losses individually reveals one to a team whose manager has had our number since year dot – so getting any kind of result out of a team helmed by Russell Slade is tantamount to squeezing blood from a stone. As for the other two, well we gave the “Champions-elect” a good run for their money and had it not been for our Henri to telegraph his spot kick it may have been a different story. And Hull showed all their Premiership know-how to see out a game that should have been over by half-time had we taken our chances. That’s by no means a criticism though; that’s the best half of football I’ve seen us play so far this season. It’s clear Chris O’Grady is desperate to score, so to not square the ball to a rampaging Ryan Mendes for a seemingly simple tap-in can be (perhaps?) forgiven.
But let’s rewind a touch and conjure up those feelings of anxiety and apprehension a number of fellow Forest fans must have felt as this new season approached. The transfer embargo was going to restrict us to “scraping the bottom of the barrel” when looking to add to our squad; and with the prospect of having to sell one or both of our Henri and Michail Antonio, the only possible outcome was bottom three/ four by Christmas and another manager to attempt the seemingly impossible as Fawaz called time on Mr Dougie’s tenure.
But the signs were there – a post Antonio era was portended during that 0-0 draw with Charlton. The shape was better, the build up play was improved and it was great to see the match ending with Tyler, Oliver and Jorge on the pitch, resoundingly supported by our Henri. That Antonio’s head had been messed up by a bid from them along the A5-2 was somewhat surprising and signalled the beginning of the end. No matter. It looked as though we could/ would be better without him. It’s never a good thing to rely so heavily on one player and while he may have scored four goals in five games – and we’re a bit light on the goal-scoring front at the moment – I do believe selling him was the right thing to do.
As it is, shipping Antonio to pastures new and pretty much guaranteeing a lifting of the transfer embargo next summer, as well as adding four new players to the squad – albeit on loan – has garnered solid improvements in team performances. While most of us were thinking it would take a little time to integrate them, that first away performance after the transfer deadline against Quarter Pound of Rubbish proved otherwise. Chris O’Grady proved to be the target man poor old Dex wishes he was, Ryan Mendes started the whispers of “Michail who?” and Nélson Oliveira came on to stroke home a lovely winner.
Our match performances have improved game-on-game since then. The difference this season is, I feel, with the improvements we’re seeing on the pitch these International Breaks are a frustration for the fans. It’s becoming a staccato approach to team progression, the only benefit being the extended period of not playing affords a little extra time for those that are injured – and there are plenty – to get off the list and back to being available to play. To think about those that are keeping our medical staff in full-time employment may well be a retrograde step when considering our current performances. But the quality we are unable to call upon can only mean further improvement when they do (hopefully) become available.
So, as it is, we’re 10 games in and things are looking decidedly rosy or in our case Garibaldi. There’s no reason to think this won’t be the first season a Nottingham Forest under the stewardship of Fawaz will have the same manager for a whole season. There’s also no reason to fear the lower half of the Championship considering our improvements on the pitch. If you want to be a pedant, the prospect of seeing Tyler Walker, Oliver Burke and Jorge Grant skipping the light fantastic across The City Ground turf on a more regular basis would be nice; but at this stage in their careers and with the more seasoned pros performing at this current level, that’s probably not going to happen. Which is a shame. Good things come to those who wait I suppose.
Won three, drawn three, lost four. Doesn’t sound absolutely convincing when you just look at the numbers. We’re better than that and we’ve shown it in a number of games this season. The footballing deities seem to have singled us out as a team that deserves very little apart from an eye-wateringly long injury list. But, come on, you make your own luck don’t you? It’s coming. Those positive results are coming. The key word is Patience – something that is a rare commodity in the modern game. I think Fawaz is finally realising the true meaning of such a word and I think we’ll see the benefits of it come the end of the season.
COME ON YOU REDS!!!