It resembled the cataclysmic shambles we would find ourselves in on most Saturdays last season. The goals conceded were sloppy, if not truly regrettable, and we were second best to a team that are nailed-on relegation favourites. I’m an advocate of ‘anyone can beat anyone’ in the Championship, but this felt like a slap in the face of the steps forward we have taken under O’Driscoll.
It may have been poor, but am I worried? No, not at all. I’m about as worried as Roman Abramovich is mentally sane.
Football is a job to the professionals. Their work, though infinitely more glamorous and gratifying than any other job, is still work nonetheless, and everyone is entitled to a bad day at the office: That transcends from a £10,000-a-week footballer, to a minimum wage factory worker who occasionally has a little snooze on the conveyor belt.
As far as bad work days go, the mix-up between Lee Camp and Danny Collins for Ipswich’s opening goal was the equivalent of spilling bolognese on your keyboard, then trying to conceal the evidence by running it under the tap for a bit.
Most fans don’t like to hear it, but the players at your club are detached from the emotional side of football. They have to be, how on Brian Clough’s earth could they continue playing in a match where they had made a grievous error, with tens of thousands of onlookers appalled, as you - a footballer, God’s gift to mankind, a symbol of the pinnacle of what man desires to achieve - have the cheek to accidentally cost your side a goal?
You couldn’t, quite simply. But that is what makes them professionals. One of my housemates last year (a Newcastle fan, hence the fountain of footballing knowledge... apparently) was convinced Andy Carroll took a dive against the Geordies when it would’ve been easier to roll the ball into an empty net.
He reasoned that Carroll was a Newcastle fan, and did not want to score past his boyhood club, so purposefully passed the chance up...
If that was the case, Andy Carroll is an emotionally unstable young man, and should not be a professional centre-forward. Although some would argue his inability to hit barn doors from inconceivably short distances is a better reason he should not be a professional centre-forward.
Players could not afford to romanticise about the game in the same way us fans, and five-a-side Lionel Messi’s do. I think back to scoring volleys in kickabouts, and my memories are accompanied by a string quartet and Sky Sports-style graphics. If a professional footballer had the same narcissistic fantasies, imagine how badly they would take the routine abuse from fans.
Although level-headedness is the last thing you would associate with Mario Balotelli, his attitude towards goalscoring exemplifies the mind of a worker. Mario says he doesn’t celebrate when he scores, as it is his job. He even went on to ask if a postman would celebrate posting a letter.
That’s what professionalism comes down to. I say that in any level of work, mistakes will be made, and they shouldn’t become drawn out, otherwise we don’t move forward. Yes, there are some footballers on six-figure sums a week, but they are in a completely unique work environment.
Imagine the next time you are redrafting your C.V, and you spell a former employer’s name wrong. Suddenly, 25,000 people ironically cheer at you within an arena. Cries of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ rain down upon you. Your comically trivial mistake has been streamed across the internet, and if it is really bad, you will even be on of those bloopers and gaffes DVD’s fronted by the likes of Dean Gaffney that surface around Christmas time. (Hilariously, Spell check has suggested the word ‘naffness’ instead of ‘Gaffney’.)
That’s the pressure players are under. Everything they do is played out in a modern day Colosseum, and not just on the pitch. Your personal life is public interest. It’s like news of your office romance being front page of The Sun.
Forest, from what I have seen this season, are made of sterner stuff. Response to defeats have been largely positive, and yes, word of the day, completely professional. We have certainly had more good days than bad, and I’m confident we can write Tuesday off as an anomaly.
Cardiff and Middlesbrough have lost to Bristol City, Crystal Palace lost their first three games of the season, and none of the three Premier League teams are higher than 10th. That really is this league in a nutshell, and although we have a suspicious record against Hull, I fully expect to see a return to form against the Tigers.
And even if we do end up losing, at least we don’t have to drive back to Hull.