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Left Brian: 2016-17 Season Preview

31 July 16 words: Richard Crouch
Our columnist looks forward to the new season for Nottingham Forest with a little trepidation
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Illustration: Natalie Owen

Ayup, youth. The beginning of August is a bit like a religious experience for those of us who devoutly follow football – a time for resurrection of whatever catastrophe may have befallen your team last season. It’s the most optimistic time of the year, a time when we can lay to waste the demons of last season and replace them with the notion that this may, just may, be our season.

Of course, that optimism is usually tempered by whatever the club has done during the summer. For some clubs optimism comes in the shape of the club managing to hold on to their players, for others that optimism comes in the shape of an unrecognisable squad.
We Forest fans fall into the latter, if any of us actually have any hope of optimism left. As the sun set on the 15/16 season, I think we can all agree that it wasn’t a good one. Poor displays begets poor attendance, and those heady souls who made the bi-weekly pilgrimage to the City Ground were not rewarded for their endeavour.

I’ll be clear, we have had worse seasons. We’ve suffered relegation, we’ve suffered playoff heartache in both the second and third tiers, and we’ve been embarrassed plenty of times on TV, but all of those things stirred up a strong emotion in this lowly scribe as I’m sure they did you, dear reader.

Last season was different, indifferent to be precise. I struggled to muster an emotion beyond apathy at times, it genuinely feels like the soul of the club, this wonderful little provincial club of ours that once reached unreachable heights, has ebbed away. If our emotions were a clifftop house, we’d be perilously close to calling the insurance company due to adverse weathering. The erosion of our collective love for Forest began, as all things seem to, with a heightened sense of optimism. The purchase of the club by ‘Kuwaiti billionaire’ Fawaz Al-Hasawi came with promises of big spending on marquee players, an imminent return to the Premier League, and the resurgence of the halcyon days of the Miracle Men that so many in the crowd remember. Alas, those days didn’t quite materialise.

After we were told, repeatedly, of Fawaz’s wealth and love of Forest (two topics I have hotly disputed since his arrival), a sense of optimism did fill the ground. At times, as naysayer to the Al-Hasawi reign, I felt like a lone voice. I have always hoped that I was wrong, and that the intentions of Fawaz were as pure as a Psycho free kick. Alas, this hasn’t proved to be the case. Shambolic to disastrous is a reasonable summation of the Fawaz reign, which has seemingly culminated an official capacity at the City Ground of zero. While efforts were made to redress this, we’re still in a position where the capacity has had to be cut by 20%. Why? Because the team employed by Fawaz, after unceremoniously disposing of anyone with any knowledge of running a football club, failed to file some basic safety paperwork to the council. If Fawaz is a billionaire he must have started life as a trillionaire.  There’s no way he’s capable of running a business that makes money, he’s too thin-skinned and in many ways reminds me of a Kuwaiti Donald Trump.

Most other fiascos have been covered in previous articles, but here’s the highlights – embargo, called out on national TV by the Peterborough Chairman for not paying for players, sending George Boyd back after supposedly failing an eye test only to request him on loan a few minutes later, sacking Sean O’Driscoll after a wonderful win on TV while in the highest league position we ever achieved under Fawaz’s stewardship, posing with dead animals on Twitter, inviting Natalie Jackson round to his (probably rented) gaff in Kuwait to tell her he could have bought Barcelona, making Billy Davies do a post-match interview before a game so he could show him off to his mates afterwards, and perhaps worst of all – at least ten winding up petitions for unpaid bills during his time here. I’ll also add this before I sign off on Fawaz – I once tried to buy a fridge from his website, in a section dedicated to buying domestic appliances online. It didn’t have a facility to accept card payments. I’d have thought that to be a vital element of an e-commerce site.

So, what’s new Trentside? Well, we have a new manager. Philippe Montanier, a former goalkeeper with three years’ managerial experience at Rennes after a couple of years spell managing Real Sociedad. I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of him either, indeed it looks like a supposed incoming owner may be pulling the strings that bagged Montanier along with a host of other new players I’d not heard of.

One I have heard of, however, is former QPR left back Armand Traore. Along with what seems like 15 new signings with varying degrees of unpronounceable names the new look 16/17 Nottingham Forest may surprise one or two of us.

With a new owner on the horizon, new manager, new players, and a new backroom staff, perhaps we may be able to put the past behind us and actually make a challenge this year. I don’t want to be hearing rubbish about it being another transitional year, I don’t want to hear about the team needing to gel. The owner, either new or old, has rolled the dice with the amount of signings we’ve made, the least they can do is put some effort in.

In sadder news, Andy Reid has decided to call it a day. Rather than spend another season on the treatment table amid false promises of impending returns, He’s decided to bow out of the club. Having not played a game for the reds since 2014 his presence on the pitch has not been a factor to miss, however as a giant in an era of mediocre Forest players, Andy Reid will always be fondly remembered for what he contributed at this club. The club do need to sort out a testimonial for him, and sharpish.

Other than that, I guess we need to wait and see what’s round the corner. I’ll let you know in a month how the first few games have gone. Hopefully they’ll exceeded my hopes and expectations. I’ll see the at the City Ground.

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