Despite the fact that the Nottingham Forest players clocked out ten minutes early on Saturday, I get the feeling their manager, Aitor Karanka, is putting summer on hold as he’s already begun planning for next season.
The Reds somehow managed to throw away a 2-1 lead at Bolton and, in doing so, allowed the Trotters to survive another season in the Championship.
Although it was a breath of fresh air to be assured of second-tier safety ourselves, the defeat to a very poor Bolton side leaves supporters with a sour taste in our mouths. On reflection, it kind of epitomised the season. Always a goal behind the opposition!
However, my spirits were somewhat raised soon after upon reading a tweet from Karanka. The Spaniard used the following phrases: “Important changes coming over the next weeks” and “We’ll make you proud sooner than later.” OK, it was just a tweet, but Twitter is a very powerful platform if used correctly. Try telling that to Donald Trump!
And from what I’ve seen of our manager since January, I’m well aware that he sees things early and addresses them with haste. Not long after his arrival, he masterminded five clean sheets in 11 matches, compared with just two in the previous 11. Then came the plethora of deadline-day transfers, ten in total. Which, when you weigh it up, actually kept us in the Championship.
So when I read his tweet, I was convinced that it wasn’t just lip service and that Aitor is a man of his word. It’s nothing new from Mr Karanka, though. If you read his self-published article prior to his arrival, you’d have made note of his play-off defeat to Norwich City in 2015 when in charge of Middlesbrough. He made clear reference to accepting the reality of the defeat and its implications. Regardless of the ramifications, which turned out to be another season playing Championship football, he brushed it aside and got straight back to work. Twelve months later, Middlesbrough were indeed promoted to the Premier League automatically. I think that speaks for itself!
As Nottingham Forest supporters, we have become the eternal optimists, even throughout the disastrous tenure of Fawaz Al-Hasawi. But I truly believe next season will yield big improvements. Maybe not promotion, but I have a sneaky feeling that we’ll be in contention, more than likely via the play-off route.
The reason for my optimism is simple. I know that while the City Ground pitch is being relaid, and the remaining players sun themselves in Dubai, Aitor Karanka and the hierarchy at Forest will be working harder than ever to implement the required changes that will drive our club forward next season.
Obviously, the NFFC directors and management will afford themselves a short holiday, but it will be a brief respite prior to the task that lies ahead, and that’s what separates the successful from the comfortable. Regardless of profession, those who are willing to put in the extra graft are usually the most successful. Those who are sifting through work e-mails for the first hour of any given day during their so-called vacations in the Caribbean or wherever.
From a personal standpoint, the close season allows me to rest my pen and kick back for a little while, safe in the knowledge that Nottingham Forest are only just getting started!