Monday, 29 December 2008

Crazy Christmas for managerless Reds

I don't watch soap operas. I don't need to. I'm a Forest fan. The twists and turns on Trentside are more intriguing, thrilling and baffling than any TV drama but just like the soaps the ongoing saga at Forest saved its most dramatic storyline for a frantic festive period.

The Boxing day 'special' saw a dismal capitulation to basement rivals Doncaster - putting an end to Colin Calderwood's tenure in the City Ground hotseat.

The leaderless Reds bounced back from the disappointment and emerged from the drama of post-match sacking to earn a superb win at Norwich, which sucked the Canaries into the relegation fight and pushed themselves out of the bottom three at long last.

The Christmas period was a lurch from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again in a gripping plot to match any 'Who Shot Phil?' or 'Emmerdale Plane Crash' soap storyline and the biggest cliffhanger still remains - who will be handed the task of saving the club from relegation?

That Colin Calderwood's management ended in the ignominy of an embarrassing defeat seemed a shame but in the cold light of day his sacking was necessary to try and save the club from the possibility of plummeting to the dreaded reaches of League One.

CC's legacy to the club is a small squad of young, talented players - who have, in fits and starts, shown themselves capable of playing well at Championship level.

A new manager will have to continue to look to Lewis McGugan, Joe Garner, Wes Morgan, Matt Thornhill etc as the basis for the future of the club.

CC's downfall was in not adding steel to the style his players offered.

At key points in the season a lack of experience and nous at full back, centre back and in centre midfield has cost us points. These gaping holes must be plugged in January to avoid the type of disastrous performances that have occurred at unfortunate intervals throughout the campaign, crushing any upward momentum the team had (Wolves, Norwich, Sheff Utd, Doncaster spring to mind).

In those games where the team have played well (which to be fair have been regular enough to warrant optimism) the side is crying out for a calming influence - someone to drive the likes of McGugan on and help hammer home our advantage.

Up front Tyson's electric pace, Earnshaw's poaching prowess and Garner's tireless tenacity provide variety that could be expanded on with the addition of someone with strength and guile. Another body would also be extremely welcome for the strike force after the failure of the Andy Cole experiment.

The squad does not need dismantling and re-building - it needs toughening up. Any new boss should not put a stop to the stylish football being played but should try to ensure that dominant performances are turned into a more plentiful plunder of points.

And the man to do that is.........well that's for another episode of the City Ground soap saga. I'll certainly be on the edge of my seat for the next installment.....

Monday, 1 December 2008

CC clings on as Reds record overdue home win

They say a cat has nine lives - and Forest's arch feline Colin Calderwood seems to have used a fair few of his in time at the helm on Trentside. Not put off by relentless speculation about his future at the club the Reds' renaissance man earned a respite with a 1-0 win at home to Barnsley - the first win at the City Ground since Watford were toppled back in August.

You have to hand it to him - he certainly picks his moments to pick up a result. Whether you think he's the man for the job or not CC seems a likeable guy. That may not be the most important of traits but I it does stop many wanting to join a witch hunt to get him out a la Megson and Kinnear. Unlike the chaos of the latter pairs respective eras he also seems on good terms with his squad and the team are still 'playing for him'.

He was professional throughout the last 'rumour-rich' seven days and was refreshingly open about his fate should three points not be earned against a Tykes side that has so far done an admirable job to remain at arms length of the relegation battle they were expected to be embroiled in.

He remained composed and focussed on the task in hand. When reports suggested that the club had held talks with ex-Sheep Billy Davies it seemed to be a case of 'back him or sack him'. Whilst he wasn't sacked the silence from the club was telling going into Saturday's all important clash (certainly compared to say the speed of which the ridiculous buyout rumours were quashed by Mark 'we're serious' Arthur). Some say to comment would have merely given the 'dreaded' vote of confidence - but the vote of confidence has only become dreaded because it is rarely sincere. Boardroom silence was not exactly a ringing endorsement to ease pressure on CC and not the best of backdrops to Saturday's game.

Calderwood, however, seems to relish the role of comeback kid. When all seemed lost in last year's promotion chase he kept his head and steered us home (albeit with the aide of a slice of luck and Carlisle completely bottling a seemingly unassailable positition). Now he's pulled another rabbit from his magic hat to pick up a precious three points. He took a calculated risk on Brendan Moloney and let loose Earnie, Tys and Garner together and it worked.

The stats now read one defeat in seven games - but they do also still read three wins in 20. CC hasn't saved himself yet and for the sake of his own sanity and the clubs survival bid he needs to ensure it doesn't take the brink of disaster for another important win to be earned.

He had bought time with the win but last year's turnaround result (Carlisle away) was built on with more impressive results - this one must be followed up in a similar way, starting with a trip to the Ricoh Arena, or old Col' the Cat may well find he runs out of lives after all......