Thursday, 26 November 2009

Billy braced for different test to burgeoning credentials

All hail Billy! I'll admit it, when he was announced as the successor to Colin Calderwood I was nervous. Billy struck me as someone who had fallen out with too many people in too many places to be the person to unify the over-pampered squad, over-expectanct crowd and complex board/transfer structure that greets whoever is the incumbent in the City Ground hotseat.

Over time he has won me, and it seems most others, over. Billy is a passionate, clever, driven man who has a personality that demands the best from squad, fans and board and a track record both outside and inside this club to prove that he is worth going along with. He has signed good, young prospects to improve the squad but also smartly picked out Camp, Adebola and most importantly McKenna - as leaders throughout the spine of a squad that under Calderwood was too timid for the cut and thrust of Championship football.

From a simple point of view Billy's grievance with the sheep-botherers helped him form an instant bond with the club and the elements of the crowd who go for that sort of thing appreciate his touchline cheerleading and visible affection for fans after the games. In fact the feeling I get now is that for the first time since the Paul Hart play-off squad the fans have a genuine affection for both the manager and for several 'characters' in the squad - something sadly lacking in the days of also-ran cloggers and faceless non-entities of a few years ago. If you don't know what I'm talking about take a look at Lee Camp when we next win a game - the man goes on his own little celebration in front of each stand in a way that harks back to the famous Psycho fist pump.

Is any of this important? Actually I think it is. The crowd is happy with Billy and likes the players which must make them feel liked and welcome - a mutual relationship that will hopefully help us keep together a clear squad of players for a change.

The results this season show we have graduated from the tame away defeats of 12 months ago to a series of toughed out draws at some very tricky venues. If we can keep and build on this set of players then we will be well set to make the next step and start winning away at the big hitters - the secret to breaking into the promotion spots.

Like the team with McKenna at its heart, Billy is also a tougher personality at the helm than we've had for some time. The Championship is a difficult environment where a boss must stand toe-to-toe with people like cockney ankle biter Gary Johnson, Championship veteran Dave Jones, jack-the-lad Ian Holloway and total moron Neil Warnock.

Our prowling, snarling, growling Glaswegian has the strength to match these and the rest and has set up a side that is more at home with the type of football needed to succeed in this league. The Championship is full of teams with strong, solid centre backs, tough tackling and hard working midfielders and quick and strong strikers. Not many teams have the vision, finesse and creativity to grace the top stage but as the well-worn cliche goes you have to "compete" and "earn the right to play" at this level. In most games we can now do that.

But one manager who is a little bit different, and vastly under-rated in my opinion, is the Doncaster boss Sean O'Driscoll.

With seemingly no budget whatsoever he has developed a side that play some of the most attractive football at this level and showed the fight needed to pull well clear of the relegation spots last year.

The Black Country born boss also bamboozled Billy's successor - who often struggled to overcome O'Driscoll's charges while in residence on the banks of the Trent. The Donny boss is a clever tactician - who sometimes seems perhaps rather too obsessed with the intricacies of the tactics board, but nevertheless makes superb use of his resources.

His presence on the touchline next to Billy marks a different type of test. Calderwood seemed unable to adapt to counteract the clever interplay of Donny's stylish side, to the extent that the utter embarrasment they dished out to his charges last Boxing Day put an end to the Stranraer supremo's employment.

Having stood up to some of the tougher combatants of the technical area, Billy will now need to show a different type of accumen on Saturday - as will his ever-improving side.

It will be interesting to see if he can shake the Donny hoodoo and add another three points to a total that is impressively 14 points better off than the sum accrued after 17 games last season.

In my opinion a strong show from McKenna to boss a crucial midfield battle and a return of the ever-dangerous Blackstock could hold the key to breaking the recent form.

Saturday may not be that significant in the grand scheme of things, but for me it could show us whether Billy has the brain to match the brawn required to continue the impressive progress made since he arrived on the scene in January.

The grim S O'D vs CC record -

Away - Lost 1-0
Home - Lost 1-0

Home - Drew 0-0
Away - Lost 1-0

Away - Drew 0-0
Home - Lost 4-2

P6 W0 D2 L4 F2 A7 GD-5 PTS2

Monday, 31 August 2009

Rams bleating makes victory sweeter

Nathan Tyson was foolish to brandish a Forest flag in front of the travelling Derby fans on Saturday. There, I've said it. That's for all the do-gooders and safety conscious amongst you.

Still, it was sort of funny wasn't it?

A reporter asked Billy Davies after the game if the post-match scenes had taken the gloss off victory at the weekend. He replied, in typical forthright manner, that it hadn't. He was fact for most of us it added another coat didn't it?

The more the Rams bleat on about Tyson's fledgling standard bearer career the longer the smug smirk befitting a derby-day victor stays implanted on my face.

Am I biased? Totally. But it also has to be said that there were better ways of diffusing the Tyson situation than wading in for a confrontation.

Robbie Savage, chief bleater, is like the evil bastard son of Peter Pan and Neil Warnock. Childlike in his pursuit of attention and inability to accept defeat he also seems hell bent on starting a refereeing career before packing in his playing days. Harassing and haranguing are now his prime talents and a stint in charge of Sheffield United surely awaits when he retires.

Childish as Tyson's celebration may have been, so too was sour grapes Savage's pathetic post match protestations. Is this not the man who has mooned, gestured, scarf waved and grinned opposition fans to equal anger over the years? Coming from anyone else his arguments may have held water but seriously, Robbie Savage complaining about someone winding fans up? Next week Jeremy Clarkson hits out at a male bias in motor journalism...

Although one Sheep botherer I dislike more than Savage is Stephen Bywater. Why? Maybe it's the fact he has the head of a lego man and a face I'd love to slap. Or maybe it's the fact he's overrated, seemingly by himself as much as anyone. Or maybe it's the fact that I've seen him take part in pathetic attempts to wind Forest fans up. (But he didn't have a corner flag in his hand so it's ok). Or maybe it's all of the above and more. I just don't like him. Hopefully he's wound up now too.

So if the Sheep are unhappy that's fine. I'm happy to wallow in the first win over Derby for far too long for now. The game highlighted strengths (attacking flair, McKenna) and weaknesses (fragile confidence, defence) and contained magic from Raddy Majewski that will go down in folklore along with Camp's save from last season.

After a game packed with drama during and after I think we all need that international break to recover. And to gloat of course!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Mission accomplished!

Last weekend's dash around the 44 grounds of the top two football league divisions was every bit as mad, tiring and fun as it promised to be!

Anyone who's interested in how we got on can click below

Big thanks to all the sponsors, we're asking for memorabilia to auction off and boost the total and there's still time to back us here if you fancy it

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Craving the 'ugly' signings/madcap adventure

Long time no post! At the end of last season I was too nervous to type and since then I've been breathing the mother of all sighs of relief and like the players enjoying a well-earned break from all things Forest! Following Forest is often stressful but never dull eh?!

Last season was too close for comfort and it is patently clear that this summer is an important one in terms of making sure it doesn't go the same way in the season ahead.

CC's big mistake last time around for me was in defence. Strangely, given his reputation as a negative manager, he showed too much faith in Wilson, Chambers and to a lesser extent Smith with the first two proving sadly inadequate at this level.

With that in mind, whilst I've been overjoyed with the incomings so far, I still feel the most important two players are still to come when it comes to Billy building a side capable of holding its own confidently in the Championship.

Firstly, Wes Morgan desperately needs help at the back - primarily in the form of a centre back. Breckin stood in for the nuts and bolts defending last time but it was clear his talents were fading and it was right to let him go. What we need now is a younger, quicker version of Breckinbauer. Whether that is Mills or Barker or someone else I'm not sure but that is a vital gap to plug in coming weeks.

Secondly, a gritty, ball playing leader is a must. Paul McKenna seems the perfect fit if I'm honest - a wily campaigner who knows this league and Billy well and would be a great leader to help along the likes of McGugan.

With that important spine in the bag the likes of McGoldrick and Adebola become even better captures. Billy's done well so far and has bagged four signings that make me confident we can shake our poor transfer window record to continue building a new and exciting side.


Anyone who knows me will probably be aware that, along with two friends, I'm taking on the tricky task of visiting all 44 football league grounds from the top two divisions in a weekend........this weekend!

As the Forest fan of the party i'll be doing this for the club's charity for this season (Balls to Poverty) and possibly trying to squeeze into a Tricky Trees shirt from my youth to represent the club with my Coventry and Liverpool supporting co-fundraisers!

Any kind soul who would like to sponsor us can click here

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Seven games to save our skin....

Last night the Tricky Trees slipped back down into the doldrums of the Championship bottom three. Normally a move into the relegation zone sounds alarm bells but supporters have been hearing those ever since two limp away day performances at Vicarage Road and Turf Moor.

Like all supporters the thought of the drop fills me with dread. We've seen League One, we've struggled there before and we cannot afford to return.

The question we're all pondering now is - have we got enough to stay up? I really can't decide the answer so i've decided to map out some pros and cons.

(I'll start with the negatives because I don't want to end the post on too much doom and gloom!)

Reasons to be fearful -
*Most teams toward the bottom seem to have gone through their 'bad run' and the likes of Norwich, Watford and Blackpool are showing they can pick up results when they need them most.

*All three of those teams plus Southampton, Plymouth and Barnsley have experience at this level that our team lacks. Several were also involved in last year's dogfight and may have the know-how to see them through.

*The 5-0 thumping at Burnley showed a worrying lack of fight at the 'business' end of the season. The players may say they won't be that bad again but they said that after Wolves away, Doncaster at home and Derby at home. These results/performances keep cropping up throughout the season and are proving damaging.

*The first team has not been settled in recent weeks. Partly due to injuries, partly due to poor form and partly due to Billy's frustration but the end result of it has been two disjointed displays.

*The talk of Lewis being unfit, Garner being out of favour and the way Billy is speaking about some of the players' attitude is a worry. The squad have got to stick together - at least until the summer.

*Billy's loan signings have been good but have come late in the day. Everyone else signed players in January and have bedded them into their teams. We haven't got time for new players, who haven't played for their parent clubs for some time, to settle, we need them to perform now.

*Wolves at home, Sheffield United away could be tough and the pressure of Southampton at home would be massive for our team if it goes to a final day face off.

Reasons to be hopeful -

*As we learnt last year, timing is everything. It's not about where we are now but where we might be in 7 games. We can hope that Norwich may do the same thing as us and slip back down before the seasons out. Our recent record toward the end of seasons has been relatively decent.

*Gary McSheffrey, Chris Gunter and Isaiah Osbourne's additions have added depth and quality to the squad and should start to reach their best for the final few games.

*Robert Earnshaw does have the ability to score the goals that can keep us up. Earnie has got the firepower - we just need to give him the chances he needs.

*We still have Barnsley, Blackpool and Southampton to play. These games could be crucial and despite my perception that we play better against the top teams six of our ten wins this season have been against fellow strugglers, two against mid table teams and just two against promotion challengers.

*Billy is a battler. He won't want to go down and if he can instil his feisty spirit into the players we'll become a tougher team all round. He obviously has a vision for the future and I'm confident he could make us into a better team at this level next time around. I think he feels he can do that too and will be desperate to cling on to this division to carry his plan through.

I'm sure there are plenty of other reasons for either side of the argument and to be honest i'm still not convinced either way.

One thing is definite - it's going to be another nervous end to the season on Trentside.....

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Following from afar

As i've discussed on this blog before, away days when you're not at the game can be even more tense than when you're at the game. Today i'll post my thoughts and feelings as another important match pans out for the Tricky Trees.

Free Forest World trial - check. Sky Sports News - check. Fans forums/official website - check. Mobile phone poised for texts from friend at the game - check.

Here goes then -

1423 - TEAM NEWS - Smith, Chambers, Lynch, Wilson, Morgan, Anderson, Moussi, McGugan, Cohen, Tyson, Earnshaw. Subs - Gamble, Breckin, Heath, Thornhill, McCleary.

Interesting line-up from Billy - all eyes will be on Moussi to see whether he can cope with first team football after a long spell on the sidelines. I have to say Lynch fills me with fear, as does Chambers. Tyson's pace should be a threat and I'm always more confident with Earnie up top. It'll be a minor miracle if we get anything against Reading (it feels like we always lose there doesn't it?) but here's hoping for a rabbit out of Billy's hat.

1449 - Reading line up - Federici, Rosenior, Duberry, Pearce, Armstrong, Kebe, Matejovsky, Gunnarsson, Stephen Hunt, Doyle, Noel Hunt. Subs - Hahnemann, Cisse, Lita, Harper, Tabb.

Reading are struggling for results a little but that's a strong line up and we've had a horrible knack of handing teams an easy way back to form. All of their bench would surely start for us which is a worry.

1459 - Colin Fray says it's a 451 with Tyson and Anderson wide. Hopefully Moussi will free the shackles from McGugan and Cohen. John McGovern - "It looks well-balanced on paper".

1502 Kick off - Come on you reds! (Well we're in black today but you know what I mean....)

1503 - There will be a nervous eye on the rivals today and it's not a good start. Wolves 0 Plymouth 1.

1504 - Kebe misses a good early chance. Fray - "He should've buried it."

1506 - MK Dons 0 Lestoh 1. Hate to say it but they've made us look stupid this season by easing towards promotion. Hope we're still around to play them next year in this league.

1508 - Ex-red Gunnarsson (you remember the non-descript failed Scimeca replacement that actually looked decent in the Prem for the Royals!!) misses a free header. Sounds as though we need to settle down.

1509 - Snap-shot from Anderson first attempt from Billy's boys.

1511 - Free kick against Lynch - is that man an accident waiting to happen or what?! Fk and corner luckily come to nothing.

1514 - The picture gets worse in the league. Saints 1 Cardiff 0.

1515 - Doesn't sound good for Tys - holding his groin apparently. We really can't afford injuries, hope he can shake it off.

1516 - Fray - "Feels like Forest have been given a real old workng over in these first 15 minutes." Need to ride out the storm and hope their lack of goals and pressure from recent results starts to play on them.

1519 - Reading appeal for penalties for handball and a 'foul' but nothing given. Phew!

1520 - Tyson's going to 'give it a couple of minutes'. With three games this week we desperately need all the options we can muster, especially with Earnie half-fit and Garner out of favour or 'injured'.

1521 - Fray says we're being pulled all over the place. Tense times. Save from Smith from Rosenior. Hanging on already! Could be a long old afternoon.

1523 - Good run from Anderson to relieve the pressure and positive news from Norwich. They're 1 down to Cov.

1526 - Watford 1 Palace 0. More bad news. Looking like we could really do with something here but it's sounding increasingly unlikely that will happen! Need to ride out the storm and nick something. A McG fk or a bundled in corner would be nice. In fact a shot would be good at the moment!

1530 - Fray - "Morgan's everywhere". It's a one-man defence by the sounds of things. Need a herculean effort from Wes here.

1531 - Salako - "Reading should be leading". Earnie can't make the most of an opportunity. It'll be a day of picking up the scraps for him today and he won't have Tys to help now. He's had to go off. McCleary comes on though and he has looked a big threat recently. Barnsley 1 QPR 0. Yet more bad news on the score front.

1534 - Quick corner from Stephen Hunt nearly catches us out. More nailbiting moments!

1535 - First corner for Forest. Wide from Wes but forces another corner. Anderson straight to their keeper though. Really can't afford to waste any opportunities like that.

1537 - 7th corner for Reading comes to nothing. Hurry up half time!

1539 - McCleary with a jinking run and fires over with half chance. Garath really is starting to get the hang of this league, could be a real threat for us on the counter.

1541 - Billy in trouble. Upset at their ball boys being 'selective' with how quickly they pass the ball back to throw-in takers! You tell em Billy!

1542 - Earnie with another half-chance shot over the top. A few tentative moments of danger for us but Reading go back up and earn a corner. Cue yet more tension!

1544 - McGovern - "It's a little bit sad that they're using ball boys to get an advantage." Everyone in this league is cynical and will take every advantage they can get. It's about we wised up and joined the party if you asked me. Barns 1 Qpr 1 now.

1545 - Swans 1 Charlton 0. That'll do nicely!

1547 - Barns 2 Qpr 1. Not great. 2 mins stoppage time in our game - come on that whistle.

1549 - Half time. And relax. For now anyway! Got better as the half has gone on by the sounds of things. Maybe we can pray on their anxiety in the second half?? Here's hoping.

I'm aware that i'm only going off impressions gleaned from the online commentary from mssrs Fray and McGovern but i've always found Radio Nottm's description of events better than most and that's all you can go on when you're not there. Going to be a tense second half.

1553 - Text from friend - "Not sure how we are level. We got better as it went on to be fair. Can't see us scoring though."

1606 - Here we go again - a tense second half awaits!

1607 - McCleary skips past two and whips in a cross from the byline. It's headed clear but shows where we can pose them problems. Give it to Garath!

1612 - Lynch getting grief for taking his time with a throw. Don't listen to 'em Joel, take as loooooong as you like!

1613 - Reading fans getting frustrated, let's hope that transfers to the players! Everyone getting very heated about throw-ins!

1615 - McGugan fires over the crossbar. Could do with putting in a half chance now while they're seemingly getting a bit nervy. Make it count Forest!

1617 - Not great news from elsewhere. Norwich and Charlton both equalise. The pressure increases.

1619 - Good save from Federici to tip over a Cohen effort. Chambers header from corner goes wide. Decent move by gthe sounds of things. We've got a foothold in this game now, just need to strike while we're ahead i feel because they will undoubtedly come back...

1621 - Jay Tabb replaces Jimmy Kebe. Always rated Tabb, let's hope he doesn't show his ability this afternoon.

1622 - Well well well! Lewis McGugan you beauty! 1-0 Forest! Just what we needed! I've been calling on Lewis to show his talent and sounds like he's done just that! Fantastic stuff. 61 minutes in. Let's keep the ball and keep our heads now please!

1625 - McGugan sounds like he's really got the bit between his teeth now and is running the show. Would love him to fashion an opening for Earnie...

1627 - Sounds as though the aggro caused by them trying to pull a fast one with multi-ball has played in our favour and fired Billy and the boys up. Fray warns us all that Lita is still on the bench for them. A sobering thought.

1631 - Earnie booked for time wasting. They're fans getting more and more wound up. So many teams have done this to us at the CG. Keep it up Forest.

1633 - Watford 2 Palace 0. Fray - "Moussi made a big difference in terms of shape" - Sounds as though Cohen, Anderson and McG are benefitting from him being behind them.

1636 - Salako says Reading throwing balls forward but we're holding firm. Any chance of praise for us?? Muppet.

1637 - Chris Armstrong off for Leroy Lita. Cisse on for Gunnarsson. Lots of firepower for Reading now. Not much left of my finger nails to bite!

1638 - Good news at Carrow Road - Daniel Fox puts the Sky Blues ahead.

1639 - McGugan causing more problems. Sounds like the sort of performance we've been craving from him.

1641 - 5th booking of the season for Wes. He'll be out for the Swansea game next Saturday which is disappointing. Especially considering he was so good against Jason Scotland last season.

1642 - McGugan off for Thornhill. Sensible possession football needed from him.

1645 - 6 minutes to go. No matter how well Fray says we're playing it isn't stopping me feel incredibly nervous! Come on you reds!

1646 - Half praise from Salako - esp for Moussi. Says we're hanging on. Danger from Doyle sniffed out from Wes.

1647 - Earnie taken off. Replaced by Breckin. Who's up front?!

1648 - Corner and attack snuffed out. McGovern - "Forest defending in numbers and defending well" - long may that continue!

1650 - Reading throwing everything at Forest now but another wave of attack is seen off. Come on that final whistle!

1652 - Big big pressure as we approach added on time. 5 minutes injury time given! Come on Forest!

1653 - Can't take much more of this. Header from Lita wide. Take your time with that goal kick Smithy! Plymouth have beaten Wolves 1-0. Saints win 1-0 vs Cardiff.

1655 - If anyone had any doubts where the Premier League trophy is heading today must confirm it - Liverpool lose 2-0 at Boro.

1656 - Breckin and Wes with towering headers. Come on. Must be over??

1656 - Thornhill booked for kicking the ball away. For goodness sake blow up!!!!

1657 - That's it! 3 points!! UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU reds!

Thank god for that!! I need a lie down!

I hold my hands up - I completely wrote us off this afternoon. Sounds as though we fully deserved it in the second half though. Plaudits to Davies and the players for a fantastic win.

Funny old day in the Championship with us Plymouth and Saints beating top 4 sides but their wins make this an even more valuable win.

If we can follow this up with the home games to come things will be looking a lot rosier on Trentside!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Needs Mouss-t

Ok, poor pun for a headline, but stick with me! Forest's midfield is quite clearly in desperate need of an injection of fresh energy and dynamism and, with signings proving harder to come by than decent headline puns, it seems Billy may well have to look within his own paper-thin squad for a solution to arrest the slide towards the dreaded drop zone.

Against Derby we needed cool heads, hard work, passion, tackles and sensible passing from the midfield to ensure Savage, Green, Commons et al didn't have the freedom to do their jobs. These quality were lacking from a disappointing derby-day showing that deflated the already concerned Tricky Tree faithful.

The midfield wasn't the only place where the battle was lost (Breckin's inability to handle Hulse cost us dear again) but it was the heart of the battle, and withold a foothold in the game it was always going to be tough to topple Cloughie's Sheep.

The Derby game was heartbreaking to lose but is not by any means a killer blow for our Championship credentials. The worrying thing was to see us fail to even show enough ability to scrap out a battle. As the run-in looms we must toughen up and scrap for every point in a bid to stumble over the finishing line to safety.

Both James Perch and Lewis McGugan looked in desperate need of a break on Saturday. To be fair neither were guaranteed starters last time out when we a league lower and it is a big ask for them to step up a level in quality and in their standing in the squad. Recently Lewis has had flashes of inspiration butis not producing enough quality to really damage the opposition while captain Perch struggled to make his presence felt in a performance where the team as a whole were woefully poor at snapping up the second balls.

Chris Cohen, lauded by some circles as our best player, was dreadful. It worries me that whenever asked to move to the middle of the park he struggles to make a mark and that came out again against D*rby. Off the pace, weak in the tackle, wayward passing and never able to harm the opposition going forward, Cohen was another cog in a midfield that was not at the races.

It blantantly needs shaking up and the only option at Billy's disposal looks like being Guy Moussi. Out for a long period through injury the summer signing is stepping up his progress and will soon be back in the first team picture.

The looming trip to Reading inevitably brings back memories of the season curtain raiser - where the Frenchmen stole the show with an all-action midfield debut. The type of display Davies' side is crying out for right now.

Whether Moussi can reach the heights of his early season form remains to be seen. His form did fade after the first few games and a long term injury may well have taken its toll. But if Forest are to re-discover form while giving McGugan, Perch, Cohen et al chance to re-charge their batteries the role of Moussi may be crucial.

He may not be fully fit or even fully acclimatised to life in English football but right now he's all we've got and he may well have to be be thrown in earlier than would normally be the case.

Let's just hope he's the right Guy for Billy (ok, that's worse than the headline, sorry!)

Other thoughts -

*McCleary looked a real danger again when he came on against the Sheep. For me he's the most likely midfielder to create a goal and has done more than enough to earn a starting berth.

*Billy really must stop referring to himself in the third person in interviews. The only people I've heard do that before are WWE wrestlers. It doesn't quite work with a Glaswegian lilt...

*Ched Evans, Michael Tonge and Gary McSheffrey are the potential loanees linked with a move Trentside this week. They'd all be great but I refuse to get excited/expect a signing with this club ever again.

*Billy says the goal is to finish 4th bottom. Some fans say this is negative but lets face it we'd all take that now wouldn't we? Maybe he's being too honest but if that is where we end up i'll be celebrating just like at the end of the last campaign.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Derby day looms

Big games between local rivals often have a habit of getting over-hyped by fans - and that's exactly what I'm likely to do here! Maybe I'm getting carried away with the excitement and expectation that builds before a clash against the sheep botherers but this game certainly does feel like an important encounter between bitter rivals.

Some fans seem to be fearing that with Derby on the up and Forest faltering a defeat may well be on the cards. The air of trepidation surrounding the fixture is to be expected given the last few results but it's important to remember that if Billy's boys can muster a victory against the sheep it could be just the confidence boost we need as a team and a fanbase.

The game could both knock confidence down to the lows of the late Calderwood era or boost it back to the short Billy-honeymoon days. For that reason, hype or no hype, it's an extremely important game as the season heads into the all-important final phase.

The fact that Derby were victorious in the cup encounter here could both help and hinder Forest. If we take the lead there will undoubtedly be jitters among the players who let that two-goal lead slip and were painfully pipped to the win. The travelling mutton men will undoudbtedly remind them of that game if they need to be.

However, you would hope that those same players will want to wipe out the memories of that chilly midweek night and maybe that will motivate them to come out on top in a game that is much more important than the cup clash

Some fans are starting to look at Derby's resurgence and fear that Forest made a mistake no to snap up Nigel as manager. To me it seems to me to be far too early to assess which side chose most wisely back in January. Nigel is doing well now but it is premature to herald him as a success and you have to look at the respective bosses' starts in context.

Cloughie has inherited a squad that should never have been in the basement battle. Any side coming down from the Premier League should be challenging the top 6 and not flirting with the dreaded trapdoor. The hapless Paul Jewell was fortunately unable to get his team to capture form but the likes of Commons, Hulse, Barazite, Ellington, Connolly, Green etc are strong players. At the moment it could be argued that they are merely starting to perform as they should.

We have to admit it, on paper theirs is the stronger side. But that's not to say we are without hope. The verve and energy of the early stages of the cup game saw the Tricky Trees blow away their rivals - and showed that passion, energy and youthful exuberance can go along way, especially in the chaos of a derby game.

A timely ease to the injury situation would be most welcome - especially in Robert Earnshaw's case. His addition makes the team immensely more threatening and adds a cutting edge to a group of players that has seemed a little toothless recently. Without him we are a little short of firepower.

Judging from his post match comments after Ipswich Billy Davies seems to be losing patience with several of his squad. That seems understandable but unfortunately at the moment no-one can really be left out. Garner has looked uninspiring, Wilson lacklustre, McGugan mediocre and Thornhill un-threatening to name a few but all of these must be encouraged to re-find their form. Maybe the atmosphere and excitement of a Derby can be the occasion the current under-performers can feed on to find decent performances. Or maybe that is wishful thinking.

I would personally like to see McCleary brought in to the starting 11 to face the sheep. He may be rough and ready but his pacy, mazy dribbles do unsettle defences and we need his spark to take the game to them.

As I mentioned at the start the result could have a big impact either way. A defeat would add to the doom and gloom (which has been made worse by a lack of signings) but a win would erase that negativity. A draw may be useful but given the fact that some teams around us are picking up form and have games in hand a single point may not be enough, especially with the likes of Reading away to come.

Billy's Reds must treat this as an opportunity to re-find the optimism of a few games ago rather than a daunting test. If they seize that opportunity there will be more than a few smiles on faces of the City Ground faithful.

Before the cup game at Pride Park I said it was Billy's chance to make himself a hero here - right now there's something infinitely more important than folklore, at least in the short term, at stake. Points and confidence must be secured. Let battle commence....

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Billy make yourself a hero.....

On Saturday Billy Davies made himself at home in his new surrounds and got off to the best possible start at the City Ground - securing a vital three points against Plymouth.

The win adds to the Reds' recent resurgence and ensured that Argyle now join a host of clubs that have become embroiled in the basement battle.

Billy's home curtain raiser wasn't the greatest of spectacles - but that wasn't help by a one-dimensional, lacklustre Plymouth side who were comfortably the worst to grace the City Ground in the games I've seen this season. In the first half their only outlet was the limited Rory Fallon and although in the second half they added Emile Mpenza to their striking options a commanding performance from Wes Morgan left the pair thoroughlly outclassed.

Forest's attacking play was encouraging and frustrating in equal measure, as so often has been the case this season. The likes of Anderson, Cohen and McGugan got into great positions but failed to deliver the extra goals which would have allowed us to relax a little and would have given us a scoreline our dominance (and Plymouth lack of ambition and dynamism) perhaps deseved. Towards the end McGugan in particular found himself in more and more space and began to control the game - but just couldn't quite find the telling pass/shot his stylish runs and intelligent play warranted.

The goals, when they did come, were testament to Earnie's predatory prowess and Tyson's increasing confidence - factors that have been key to our revival.

Davies instantly showed a contrast to Calderwood in his approach. CC was more softly spoken Scot wheras Davies is a snarling, growling Glaswegian who patrols his technical area with boundless energy and could regularly be seen cajoling the players into carrying out his instructions. Smith in particular seemed to be the recipient of a menacing stare and a few strong words when, as he does too often, he wasted the chance to launch a counter attack by dawdling on the ball.

Billy's more ruthless demeanour is needed in his players and was at least in part shown by the ability to get a result against a side who would've been happy to frustrate and take a point.

He got a rousing reception from the fans when he emerged from the tunnel and seemed to spark an instant rapport with a crowd perhaps even more keen than ever to show it isn't as negative as made out to be. The fact he has managed Derby was brought up in some circles as a problem but, if anything, his past seems to have endeared himself to us even more - he wants to get back at Derby and we simply want to get at them. The perfect match.

And speaking of Derby, we're now on the eve of the next trip to the home of the dirty sheep. With Davies, Clough, Commons and Earnshaw thrown into the equation and a contraversial end to the last visit to the wrong end of the A52 still fresh in the memory this promises to be another fiery encounter.

We're now 5 games without a win against Derby and it's not just Billy who will feel he has a point to prove in the FA Cup 4th round clash. Earnie had a barren time with the sheep, mainly due to a lack of games, and will want to showcase his famed goal celebration to the mutton botherers. McGugan will want to remove memories of his last trip - which ended in a red card - and the likes of Wilson, Chambers, Smith et al will all be playing for their places with the January transfer window nearing its end. This is a squad which can ill afford to rest on its laurels.

Billy's sensible and open approach to management has won over many of the doom and gloom merchants that made their grumbles heard at the time of his appointment. He now heads into a game where he has the chance to work his way firmly into fans' affections. Last time out at Prideless Park it was ex-sheep Lee Camp that became an instant hero with the Tricky Trees faithful. This time it can be Billy.....

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Promising signs to start '09

The dust has finally settled on a dramatic Christmas and New Year for Forest. In the last blog I described the unravelling story on Trentside as akin to a soap opera - but the weeks to follow have had more twists and turns than a detective drama.

The clun went for favourite (in the betting if not in fans estimations) Billy Davies as the man to step into CC's shoes but while still under the superb stewardship of reserve coach John Pemberton roundly trounced troubled billionaires Man City in the FA Cup 3rd round to earn national acclaim. As JP made way for BD the Reds were promptly drawn against The Enemy in the next round, his former employers of course, who then, to add further interest to that tantalising cup tie, went and appointed ex-Red and son of a certain someone Nigel Clough to replace the hapless Paul Jewell.

As if all that wasn't enough excitement there was the little matter of a relegation six-pointer at the Valley as Billy's first game at the helm. It was a game in which, by all accounts, Charlton did their best 'Forest from a few weeks ago' impression and did all the running with no cutting edge. The Tricky Trees duly emerged victorious thanks to goals from in-form pair Nathan Tyson and Rob Earnshaw.

That vital win marked an excellent end to a busy few weeks but what now for Billy and the boys? 2009 does bring a lot of promise. Forget about the negativity surrounding Davies' appointment - that was harsh and at times embarrasing. He may not be the most 'sexy' of candidates on the list but he has an excellent track record at this level. Nigel may have been the romantic choice but he would've been a risk we couldn't afford to take while at the jaws of the League One trapdoor. It was right to bring in a man that knows the league and looks to have the bit between his teeth following a sour end to his time with the sheep botherers. Anyone who is uneasy about the Derby connection should remember that like all of us, he will be desperate to get one over on them.

So why should Forest fans feel positive for 2009?

*Firstly Billy's record at this level should give fans confidence in knowing that we have a man who has the type of toughness and know-how needed to succeed at this level. Those are hopefully characteristics he can transfer to his players.

*Secondly people should put aside any concerns about the style of play the Reds will adopt under Davies. Our game may turn out to be less stylish than the classy interplay seen at times under CC but lets be honest most of us forgot the pretty passing as we trudged back over Trent Bridge having been beaten by Burnley and Palace sides that we should've beaten. Billy is cleverer than some give him credit for and is a man who, in absences from the managerial scene, has taken himself off to footballing giants such as Juventus to further his knowledge. He's no mug and cerainly won't just churn out a side of lump-it cloggers.

*Also the transfer window remains open until the end of the month. Billy will hopefully by now have seen the strengths and weaknesses of the squad and has the chance to spend the next couple of weeks snapping up new recruits. I'd love to see a pair of full backs and experienced leader in centre midfield brought in, as well as perhaps another option up front after the failure of the Andy Cole experiment.

*January could also be significant in that it brings two (hopefully) winnable home games against Plymouth and Sheffield Wednesday. The home form must be put right under Billy if we are to survive and coupled with our current away results an improvement to results at the City Ground would see us climb the table. February meanwhile contains tricky looking trips to Ipswich, Birmingham and Reading so it will be important to get points in the bag this month.

*After half a season at this level the likes of Thornhill, Mcgugan, Anderson and Cohen will now be able to draw on some experience at this level and that does appear to start to be paying dividends with recent performances, especially away from home.

*The signs are also there that the strikers are starting to come good. Earnshaw is starting to show his pedigree and yesterday's classy finish proved he is getting close to his sharp-shooting best. Earnie's form is backed up by Tyson, who is finally starting to look at home at this level, and Garner, who looks hungry for goals and capable of getting them.

*Finally key rivals appear to be in freefall. Norwich for one look to be spiralling down the division and are now without loan striker Leroy Lita. Charlton are without a win for a long while, Southampton are as inept at home as we are, Doncaster look to be getting the hang of the league but lack a prolific striker, Watford are struggling to stop the goals going in, Blackpool must make do with the inspirational Simon Grayson and the Sheep are just 2 points ahead! Amongst that lot there needs to be 3 teams worse than us and current form suggest that is be possible.

There are therefore positives but of course it would be blinkered of me to say everything is rosy. It won't be easy for Billy to get who he wants in a competitive window and it would be foolish to think he'll be able to toughen us up over night. At the moment we are on a roll away from home but if and when that run dries up we will need to have rectified the naive soft centre that saw Calderwood's side captulate on too many occasions.

Billy has a good chance to build on CC's work and lead us to safety. We can all be optimistic that he will as the year begins and that the Davies era will not be the next in a long line of false dawns at the City Ground.