February 24, 2016 by notjustpumpkinbread
If you’re hoping for a match report, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. I wasn’t one of the 882 hardy souls to make the trip to Turf Moor, but I offer my thanks to those who did go. I heard on Twitter (OK, so it’s not the most reliable source) that said souls broke into a chorus of “Dougie give us a wave…” while the score was 0-0 and we were being our resilient-away-team best. If it is indeed so (and why wouldn’t it be?) this warms the very cockles of my heart! We were undone by a momentary lapse at the back and an all-too-familiar inability to create any clear-cut chances in the final third. Dominating play just isn’t going to be enough against a team sitting 2nd in the league. It was good to see an unchanged side again, a bummer to hear about Oliver Burke’s broken hand and nice to see Jorge Grant getting a bit more game time. I reckon we’re starting to miss Henri Lansbury now. I thought that during the Huddersfield game and reckon we may well have missed his quality against Burnley.
When Forest aren’t playing it makes for a very long weekend and it feels like an eternity between games. This weekend my mind started to wander; thinking about stuff like “how great would it be to actually look forward to watching Match of the Day because Forest are on?” Remembering when midweek games were on a Wednesday and you could watch highlights on Sportsnight presented by Steve Rider or Des Lynam. I’d avoid TV and radio – there was no internet in those early days folks – and look forward to watching the highlights without knowing the score. Oh, how things have changed.
Sunday 16th May 1999. The Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” was number one in the hit parade and it was the last time The Mighty Reds entertained a Premier League side at The City Ground in a competitive league fixture. Somewhat ironically, we beat Leicester that day, but our fate was already sealed. It was a 2pm kick-off, 25,353 had turned up to watch and at around 3.30pm we scored our last goal in the top flight. Anyone remember who the scorer was? Yes, that’s right, it was Chris Bart-Williams. I always rated him, but even his silky skills on the ball couldn’t save us. Dave “Harry” Bassett had been sacked in the January and we suffered the ignominious honour of seeing “Big” Ron Atkinson appointed as the new manager. He announced his resignation on 24th April 1999 after a 2-0 loss away to Aston Villa – when our relegation was confirmed – but stayed to the end of the season.
Then, on 1st July 1999 – just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse – we appointed David Platt as Mr Atkinson’s replacement, to preside over our presumed promotion straight back to the Premier League. Little did we know, it was the beginning of the end when considering any sort of financial stability within the club and the beginning of our odyssey in England’s second (and briefly third) tier of professional football. Dougie Freedman is our 14th attempt (excluding temporary appointments) at making that step up. 15 years, 7 months and 2 days was the period of time between Mr Platt’s appointment and Mr Dougie’s. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that averaging a manager every 13 months isn’t a recipe for success – neither is throwing money at it.
“What has this got to do with a 1-0 loss to Burnley at Turf Moor?” you may ask; and it would be a valid question.
Well, I’ve just been thinking about this sort of stuff. It all started with our eponymous leader noting the similarity between those in the Garibaldi and Burnley in his post-match interview. There’s clearly a caveat – which was also pointed out – in that we’re short of a finisher in the final third. But, ostensibly, there’s little to choose between the teams when considering the two games we’ve played against them. It’s clearly not our spending power this season that’s created this closeness in performance. Some of those 13 previous regimes have seen to that, with the profligate spending of the Platt era beginning the slow erosion of any firm financial foundations the club were supported on. The bright lights and big money of the top flight have always blinded those that hold the purse strings. The gamble of spending big on so-called talent always seemed justified. (If you want to read more about the post-relegation era and what happened to our club’s finances, then hop on over to the Mist Rolling in from the Trent blog and read this excellent piece on the Nigel Doughty Years. It’s well worth your time.)
But we’re now in an enforced era of tight financial scrutiny, being presided over by our Glaswegian friend – no, not that one! That firepower we’re short of is currently working his way back to full fitness, while another supporting striker of guile and (hopefully) regular quality deals with a niggling injury that has frustratingly – for fans as well as all concerned at the club – kept him on the sidelines since a 1-3 defeat to Birmingham on Sunday 28th December 2014. We’ll never know how well we may have done having just those two proven goal scorers fit and playing. (“If ifs & ands were pots & pans”…I’d be a chef!) But what we do know is, this season of restriction, with this manager of character has proven (so far) to be one of consolidation and building for the future. Mr Dougie’s comparison to Burnley goes beyond the performance levels of each team. He is creating a reliable squad of players who have begun to understand each other’s game. A group of professionals who clearly want to play for each other and for the manager. To be able to hand starts and match day squad places to products from the Academy strengthens that bond within the whole club and strengthens the bond between the club and the fans.
That longevity of consistent performance and familiarity within the playing squad and management structure of the club proves to be a winning formula for a good number of successful teams in and from this division. The likes of Leicester, Bournemouth, Burnley, Middlesbrough and Hull all prove continuity works. Leicester have players playing regularly in the Premier League, who have been at the club since the 2011/12 season. There is a core to the squad who have played together, regularly, for the past 3 seasons. The managers of Burnley, Hull and Bournemouth have all been at their respective clubs for over 3 years, while Aitor Karanka has been manager at Middlesbrough for 2 years and 3 months. Our longest serving manager under the current owner lasted 400 days. Dougie Freedman is (as of writing this piece) 12 days short of that figure. We have not had a manager last a complete season since the 2010/11 campaign. There are some detractors out there, bemoaning the lack of “two up front” for home games and the inability to have a “plan B” should the need arise. Considering the current situation, I think it’s fair to say “needs must”.
Creating a season of continuity, juggling the books to allow the club to exit its financial constraints will, I believe, unburden our manager going forward. Mid-table is really all we could have hoped for and mid-table is probably what we’re going to get. I’m fine with that. It’s the following season to be mindful of. When (hopefully) the shackles are off, we have a pretty much fully fit squad and the funds available to purchase quality additions to bolster that squad, albeit within FFP regulations. This is when Mr Dougie can stand up and be counted. So far, with his relative success in the loan market and the ability to garner results from a depleted squad, it’s fair to say he’s proven to be a good appointment. I’ve no reason this view will change in the future.
It’s Bristol City at home next and they schooled us live on Sky a while back. It was probably our worst performance of the season. They’ve now dispensed with Mr Cotterill and have Lee Johnson in charge, so who knows what we’re going to get. Despite all this, we have the opportunity to right a few wrongs come 3pm on Saturday, of that I have no doubt.
COME ON YOU REDS!!!