Saturday, 21 May 2016

A social media summer survival guide for Forest fans

The football season may end, but football doesn't. Instead of fixtures and on the pitch action - at least until the Euros - fans face a long summer of speculation. Especially so if you're a Forest fan, with takeover news, managerial rumours and - eventually - transfer gossip on the menu.

Social media is the 'grapevine' to pick up the latest news on all of this but, as we all know, it can be hard to know what's right and wrong. At best, you're right up to speed with the very latest. At worst, you're mired in a timeline of clickbait, banality and untruths.

From bitter experience, here's a few lessons to help you cut through the garbage:

Follow the right people. I've always thought we're lucky, as Forest fans, to be served by a decent set of journalists and have a good selection of people in the national media who support the Tricky Trees. Here are the essentials (sorry if I've missed anyone off):

Clearly you'll want the official account, and Fawaz
Paul Taylor
Nottingham Post Sport
Radio Nottingham
Robin Chipperfield
David Jackson
...and then the national journalists who are Forest fans
Daniel Taylor
Nick Miller
Daniel Storey
...and the journalists who seem to know their onions about Forest/the Midlands
Alan Nixon
John Percy
Pat Murphy

Don't be too trusting. The above list isn't exhaustive and wisdom doesn't solely reside with that lot. However it's important to keep an open mind. Some people on Twitter do have genuine information about the goings on at the club. Many don't. Journalists such as the one's mentioned should, by and large, have stood up their stories through one or more trusted sources, people on Twitter won't have done. That's why people on Twitter might sometimes appear to have 'got it first' - they don't need to bother getting it verified. Sometimes journalists get information that they are not able to publish as it would compromise their source. Basically, you can pick up juicy titbits on Twitter that journalists won't have put out, but it pays to consume all of your gossip with a tablespoon of salt. Whenever you see a rumour it's well worth asking - 'who has this come from?'. If it's some bloke who has never tweeted before who looks like they've paid for some made up followers then ignore it. Also, no-one who has ever seen a player 'looking round houses' or 'shopping in West Bridgford' is telling the truth.

Tomorrow never comes. The worst Twitter rumours always promise news at a certain time or by a certain date. Many a hyped 'press conference' has never materialised, many a deadline gone by without delivering on a promise. Don't allow yourself to get sucked into being glued to your timeline at the 'promised time' and don't get angry or frustrated when it emerges it was garbage all along. It normally is.

Parody accounts aren't funny. Twitter is only ten years old but it probably ought to be growing up. One of the oldest and lamest of jokes is the 'parody account'. Some of these can be funny, granted, but for every one that is there will be countless rubbish ones.

Fakes are a pain too. Parodies are set up to make you laugh, fakes are set up to catch you out. Brace yourself for false Fawaz accounts and fake Henri Lansburys. People often set up spoof Sky Sports News accounts and tweet transfer 'breaking news' and 'done deal' snippets at various points in the summer. Colin Fray is a favourite for Forest fakers too. He isn't on Twitter but someone will, at some point in the summer, set up an account pretending to be him. Expect it, expose it and don't fall for it.

Give Paul Taylor a break. There are plenty of people who love to give Paul Taylor stick but most of it seems unfair to me. He wasn't the man behind the infamous 'It's Baggio' headline - and we should probably drop that now anyway. He's a Notts fan, yes, but so what? He isn't responsible for the annoying ads on the Post site either (they're a sad reality that we have to accept if we want to get our news for 'free') and he doesn't write the more clickbaity stuff that every paper is sadly forced to do to meet web targets and keep people in jobs. Paul Taylor keeps fans up to date, runs an interesting weekly web chat and does a good job of making sense of the mess that is our football club.

Don't feed the clickbait monster. There are hundreds of websites and social media accounts that leech off football fans. Yes, 'HITC', I'm looking at you. These accounts will make a whole story from a single tweet, regularly rehash the bookies odds and trot out endless unfounded transfer and managerial rumours. Even in the last week or so you'll have noticed Forest being linked to a number of transfer targets, despite the fact we have no manager, no scouting network and are in the midst of a takeover. They'll continually link us to Steve Evans too, despite the fact the club has said he's not a candidate on two or three occasions now. It's garbage, avoid it all.

Don't bother with 'banter'. There are some opposition fans who will genuinely want to discuss news and views with you and this can be one of the joys of Twitter. But those from D*rby or other clubs who are on the 'wind up' need to be ignored. Plenty of people go 'fishing' looking for a bite and an argument. Leave them alone, they'll soon crawl back under their rocks.

Polls? The jury is out. Should Twitter have made it so easy for polls to be created? A - Yes, I love seeing the same question asked every day. B - No, I'm sick of the sight of them. C - Some of them are good (In The Top One's superb 'World Cup Of Shirts for example) but I'd be happier if there weren't as many of the buggers clogging up the NFFC hashtag. I'm saying C.

Fawaz being on Twitter is a recipe for disaster. Some might think it's refreshing that a club chairman is on Twitter and interacts with the fans and, on paper, it is. Yet this also opens him up to any Tom, Dick or Harry with a smartphone. Sometimes I fear that when Fawaz says he's trying to 'please' the fans he's referring to a very narrow cross section. I regularly wince and cringe at some of his posts and 'interactions'.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Brilliant Britt strikes to end the season on a high

It was the perfect way to end a decidedly imperfect season. Britt Assombalonga stepped off the bench, bagged the winner for a 10-man Forest and left us all singing his name as the curtain came down on the 2015/16 season. Perhaps only the home win against the Sheep could rival this as the campaign's most satisfying moment.

Ending the season on an Assombalonga winner was heartwarming but also fitting too. Ordinarily, if we'd been pegged back to 1-1 and then reduced to 10 men then the very limit of our ambitions would be to cling on to a point. In fact, even with 11 men we've struggled to turn draws into wins and defeats into draws. With Britt we had the firepower we'd so badly needed to make a difference.

Look at the final table and you'll notice that we conceded just two more goals than Sheffield Wednesday and four more than the Sheep  the sixth and fifth placed sides. Yet we scored 23 goals fewer than both sides. Of course it's too simplistic to put this solely down to one man, but the Britt shaped hole in our strike force is there for all to see. That he returned with a goal in this game at least gives hope that he can return to his deadly best from the start of next season.

The identity of the first goal scorer also helped to make the occasion special too. Chris Cohen, for so long a treatment room buddy of Britt as he recovered from a third serious injury, rose to head home a superb curling cross from Ben Osborn.

At that point, Paul Williams' men looked capable of running riot at the expense of their already-relegated hosts. The home side's midfield gave up far too much time and space to allow Forest to play in. Cohen stepped forward very ably into Henri Lansbury's usual advanced midfield role and Chris O'Grady returned - presumably for a last appearance - and made a nuisance of himself.

Oliver Burke, let loose at last, was also making hay down the right flank, beating Dean Lewington for pace and strength and generally warming to the task in hand.

Then came two setbacks that shaped the game. First Nicky Maynard - who spent the summer on trial at the City Ground - swept home after the brightest and breeziest bit of some bright and breezy MK play. That caused the visitors to doubt themselves all over again. The passing was less crisp and the decision making slapdash. Josh Murphy, the architect of the goal, had the beating of Eric Lichaj and looked dangerous.

Then, renaissance man Danny Fox harshly saw red for a sliding challenge. From my vantage point it certainly looked like he'd won the ball and while he had undoubtedly slid in so too, surely, did Jordan Spence. Fox's main crime seemed to have been to win the ball and tackle. Still, his reaction probably didn't help too much when the referee made his decision.

That left Williams with a tactical headache. He resolved the issue with the first of three well-timed substitutions on a day that was surely his finest showing as manager too. On the face of it, shifting the effective Burke up front, hauling off O'Grady and putting Mancienne at the back could be seen as a negative move, with no recognised striker left on the pitch. However, the interim boss realised that he needed all of his ten men to run hard and display the sort of movement, pace and energy that isn't O'Grady's game.

That's not to say Burke was completely effective on his own up front. The young winger ran at defenders, twisted and turned and put in a good shift but did lack support from his colleagues.

The hosts continued to be bright and breezy, firing in plenty of shots and crosses but mostly to little avail. That said, Kevin Long and especially Nick Maynard - him again - should've done better with their chances.

It was clear something needed to change and Williams, to his credit, delivered again around the hour mark. Robert Tesche was replaced by Britt Assombalonga and, soon after, Burke was replaced by Ryan Mendes.

The Cape Verde man's fresh legs breathed life into the ten men, with his pace and trickery proving a real handful for the Dons back line. He capped off one cracking run with a shot that seemed goal bound. The fact it kissed the bar summed Mendes up. So near yet so far.

Luckily his fellow sub proved more clinical. The winning goal began with an outrageous flick from Ben Osborn which got him past his man and allowed him to tee up Assombalonga. With time, Britt weighed up his options, fooled the keeper and stroked the ball into the corner of the net to send 4,000 travelling Trickies into raptures.

A goal from Britt, the calming influence of a mature and fit again Cohen, three points and an away win. It was a small glimpse of what we hope to see next season. Now we just need a manager, a CEO and a few signings. Another quiet summer then...