So, a month and a half on from my last post and how have Forest fared? 2 wins from 9 matches, 2 draws and 5 defeats, -9 in the goal difference column and 20th in the Championship.
Where do I start on how abject the performances have been so far? Let’s take each game as it came, an uninspiring 0-0 draw with Barnsley to kick the season off, with Notts County in the cup coming next, where we managed to scrape a 3-3 in the dying embers of extra time, to go and win it on penalties. This was followed by a sluggish 2-0 defeat to an average Millwall side, where we had no drive and no impetus. Next came a scrappy away win at rock-bottom Doncaster, who shortly after, parted company with their long serving manager. What follows is a litany of the depths to that we have fallen. A 2-2 draw with the Bin-dippers, a 4-1 win in the cup, then the 1-4 drubbing from West Ham, where our lack of ambition was exposed. Since then, it seems our confidence has dribbled out of our boots. A 3-2 loss at high-flying Southampton followed swiftly by a 2-1 home defeat to our bitterest rivals who were reduced to 10 men from as early as the 2nd minute. We responded with a decent performance against a largely 2nd string Newcastle side in the 4-3 cup defeat and promptly won 1-0, in what I can only describe as one of the worst matches I’ve seen, on TV away to Watford. Then came last night, away to Burnley. I’ve never seen a Forest team lie down and take one as much as last night. I’ve been a Forest fan for over 30 years, seen some incredible highs; 7-0 drubbing of Chelsea, 7-1 hammering of Sheff Weds, and some depressing defeats, 8-2 to Man Utd, Blackburn 7 -0, the cup final defeat to Spurs. Last night however, was the most depressing.
Why? Well, it’s the manner of the defeat, the lask of passion, drive. None of the team looked like they wanted to be on the pitch, never mind in the shirt. 5 defenders on the pitch in a 5-3-2 wing-back formation that was completely exploited by Burnley’s wingers. We were 2 down after 15 minutes and the game was won from there. We caved in, there’s no other explanation for it. Their tactics found out our defence cannot defend crosses, despite three 6 foot + central defenders. The wing-backs were exposed for the entire match and if it wasn’t for a goal-line cleareance it could’ve been worse. Steve’s response was to haul off Gunter, arguably one of our better players and only recognised right back and replace with Findley, leaving a left back at centre, a centre at right back and a right back at left back. Needless to say two more goals followed.
Now you would have expected McClaren, with his team 4-0 down at half time, to go storming into the dressing room, lock the door and lay into the players for what can only be described as a school team performance. No, Steve sat, disconsolate, in the away dugout as Rob Kelly & Jimmy-Floyd tried to cajole, to stir a second half fightback from Forest, then promptly sent them back out to face the fans’ wrath after around 8 minutes of the half time interval. Burnley, already with the game in the bag, seemingly took their foot off the pedal and we scored a lucky ‘bad back-pass latch on’ through Miller. Then the 4 goal cushion was restored and the match fizzled out into it’s inevitable climax. I don’t know what would have been louder, the full-time booing, the cackling laughter from a certain part of Glasgow or the combined laughter from the other end of the A52.
I maybe should give this a little more background. In the summer Forest sacked Billy Davies, a manager who had taken an average Forest side, stopped them sliding straight back into League 1 and made them believe they were league beaters, right up until their annual Play-off cave-in. On that journey he ruffled more than a few feathers, annoyed the board and owners and endeared himslef to the fans with his passion and will to win. Nigel Doughty replaced him with ex-England and ‘Boro manager Steve McClaren who had partially rebuilt his reputation by guiding Twente to the Dutch title. Chief Exec Mark Arthur publicly promised backing for the new man and we, the fans, sat hopeful of the signings and good times to come, even if some were more than a little reserved at the appointment of one who flopped so badly with the choice of England’s finest at his disposal. The close-season rolled on, with McClaren appearing to become more & more frustrated at the lack of players that were coming in, until we signed Andy Reid. A few weeks, and after being connected with big money signings, we captured Jonathan Greening for a nominal fee, swiftly followed by two more strikers, when we all knew we needed defensive cover.
A promising Dutch winger looked to be coming to us, until a very mysterious change of heart at the last minute, which apparantely took everyone at the club by surprise. Deadline day came and passed, with no players in & Garner out to Watford. Rumours quickly spread about McClaren being disillusioned with the board & the club and reportedly, he considered his future after little more than 2 months in charge. Very publicly denying the reports, McClaren pledged to finish the job. this was then followed by one of the worst performances in the clubs recent history with the defeat to bitter local rivals, reduced to 10 men from the start of the match and squandering a 1 goal lead. McClaren responded by making the players watch the carnage and we rallied against Newcastle, but lost. The defeats we can take, we can’t win all the time, it’s the manner of the defeats. I’ve never seen a Forest team capitulate like the current team. It’s not so baffling when you consider that the playing staff remain largely the same in defence, the difference is the tactics. Everyone can see it apart from the manager. McClaren has cited ‘behind the scenes issues’ with the players, lack of investment and a lack of passion from the players. Steve, if passion is what they lack, surely it is down to the management to prepare them correctly for every game, to ensure we have the available personnel in the best position for them, and play to our strengths. Five at the back didn’t really work at Watford, we got lucky, it certainly didn’t work at Burnley. Surely now McClaren is on borrowed time at Forest. The only worry now is, which direction will Doughty and his cronies turn for new hope of salvation and how quickly will this task take them. Never usually one to make quick decisive action, Forest’s short-term future looks in dire need of inspiration and McClaren falls far short of inspiration amongst the fans. He badly needs a performance from the players to keep him at the club, if indeed he wants to stay, which is looking more and more unlikely. The problem is, I don’t think the players want to play for him. He looks to have lost the dressing room and he’s certainly lost the fans. How long until he loses his position?