First of all, I was delighted with last week’s win over Burnley. A poignant victory, considering Nathan Shaw had tragically lost his life 10 years ago going to watch this fixture. No one should set off for a football game, and never come home.
Regarding the match, I read Sean O’Driscoll’s programme notes, and something really caught my eye...
He spoke of how a fan stopped him in the street, and openly questioned him about his team selection for the game against Hull. Needless to say, without it coming across as a vendetta I have against our fans, I was mortified by the self-righteous attitude of this ‘lone inquisitor’.
When, I ask, should a manager ever have to justify himself to anyone ‘in the street’? It’s wrong on so many levels, and really violates the manager-supporter relationship. I for one, would not welcome Sean stopping me in Asda, and openly asking why I haven’t settled down with a girlfriend yet. Although, if he was offering to coach my life, I would not turn it down.
The problem with a negative cell of fans is that they will never actually bother to read what the manager has to say, certainly not in a positive light, anyway. Wouldn’t you know it, O’Driscoll even addressed this problem, in the most diplomatic way possible;
“Maybe as a group - myself, the staff and players - we need to better communicate how we’re working to try to achieve the goal we all want - for Nottingham Forest to consistently and attractively win a lot of matches.”
Communication seems to be the major thorn in the side of what should be a harmonious relationship, but I don’t buy into that. The transparency between the board and the public has drastically improved, compared to the days of the elusive ‘Transfer Acquisition Panel’, and with that, O’Driscoll has been able to speak openly about transfer policy, team selection, and most pleasingly, his ideas on how the game should be played.
The only way our manager could be louder and clearer in outlining his goals, is if he went on to the pitch at half-time armed with a megaphone, some pie charts, and that wonderful machine the Sky Sports team have - the one they let Gary Neville play with every Monday night - and made clear his thoughts on ‘fluid football’
So what is it, that just isn’t getting through to some fans? A lot of you would say ‘thick skulls’ are to blame, and I’d be inclined to believe that. It could also be an autonomous reaction to the managers of yester-year, who also pleaded for time and patience, but instead, spent the best part of £10m on the likes of Salvatore Matrecano, and two other hapless Italians. (I know. I still can’t let it go.)
I digress, as I am a keen advocate of what Forest have been doing this year. Doubters will be won over. Just try finding someone in 18 months or so that says they openly disliked the O’Driscoll regime at first. Hopefully, they will be wedged under the woodwork from where they once crawled from.
Another delightful slice of insight from the Burnley programme notes were SOD’s thoughts on formation, and fluidity. He deemed a formation ‘irrelevant’, and stressed it was more important to understand what was happening in certain parts of a game, and then reacting in the right way. He even claimed we’d reach ‘utopia’ if we got everything right. Blimey! Even I’m not that optimistic!
We seem to be developing ‘flexibility’ as a secret weapon. Teams struggle to stop a side that are constantly fluctuating in their set up, and although it could be seen as a very unstable way to approach a game, it’s actually the opposite: If plans A through to C don’t work, it’s helpful to know we have the rest of the alphabet ready to be deployed... And as a manager, you wouldn’t mind the first 23 plans failing, just so you’d get the perverse pleasure of saying ‘Execute plan X’, and sounding like a Bond Villain.
As my childlike mind wanders, Forest cannot afford such luxuries ahead of a trip to Brighton tomorrow. Level-pegging in the table on 32 points, and separated only on goal difference, it doesn’t take a Sean O’Driscoll to figure out how close this game will be.
Forgetting the Ipswich game like a post-night out flashback, our away form has been fantastic, and there is no reason we cannot leave the Amex with at least a point tomorrow. Simon Cox’s surprise return to fitness gives us depth, in a rather shallow striking department.
Notably, there were two stoppage time goals in our two fixtures with Brighton last year...
O’Driscoll better be ready for a different kind of person coming up to him in the street, if we nick a stoppage-time winner tomorrow.