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Left Brian: Nottingham Forest News & Updates

31 August 17 words: Rich Crouch

After a few false dawns, things are looking up at The City Ground, despite the lack of half-time pies. Our Rich gives his thoughts on a decent start for the Reds

Ayup youth.

It’s been a while since we sat down and had a decent discussion about Forest. I’ll be honest, the Fawaz era had worn me down to near indifference toward our Reds, as I’m sure it had for many of you too. I’d gone way past the point of anger and just began to not really care too much, which is the worst feeling in the world to have about something you have spent your entire life loving.

For me it was like trying to keep alive a relationship that had sailed its course. By the end of the Fawaz era I was spending my Saturdays doing pretty much anything but going to football. Indeed, last season I chose to boycott going to the City Ground. It was the first time in nearly 30 years of actively supporting Forest that I’d not gone to a single home game.

With a new owner now firmly in place, and more importantly a decent club structure with the appointment of Nicholas Randall, this season looks better. A lot better. Forget what happens on the pitch, we now seem to have a leadership structure that knows what it is doing. A reduction in ticket prices, realistic goals, and boardroom stability have been a welcome change to the madness that has engulfed Forest pretty much since Nigel Doughty was hounded out of his position as chairman.

I’m not (yet) suggesting that the new owner is the saviour, indeed given the last regime we should still be meeting Marinakis with the scepticism of a betrayed romantic. We should be questioning his motives, and his moves at every turn until he’s proved himself to be a decent owner. I saw a Greek flag flying during the Milwall game, and came to wonder if the phrase once bitten, twice shy had any meaning to some supporters.

Now, I’m glad to see him supported, and appreciate that flying a Greek flag may be one supporters’ way of showing this, but is it not too soon? It reminded me, on a much lesser scale, of the Arab fancy dress that folk donned in the wake of the Fawaz takeover. It worries me that people in football these days are so quick to show deference to someone with money who buys your football club. So strong is the desire to mix it with the Chelsea’s and Man City’s of the league, that as a collective body supporters will overlook any warning signs and replace them with hope that the owner is just an eccentric billionaire who wants the best for their club.

When Fawaz took over I wrote a piece explain that I never thought his fridge business to be legitimate. I found it odd that the company, supposedly in existence for 50 years prior to the club purchase suddenly changed its entire livery to match the sponsorship design on our kit. Surely that should have been the other way round. Also, I made no secret that when he bought the club I tried to buy a fridge from his ecommerce website, but found myself unable to pay as the website had no card payment facilities, despite touting itself as an internet base Curry’s that delivered worldwide. Indeed, about a month after writing that the website and business changed to one that had no mention of ecommerce, instead just seemingly to be a company that sold to industry. It was also very strange that for a man of such supposed wealth, people like Forbes had never written a single word about him before he bought Forest.

In contrast, Evangelos Mariankis does have substantiated wealth. His company is floated on NASDAQ and recent reports say that in the last few months he has sold a naval warship to the Canadian government. He also owns Olympiacos, one the most successful clubs in Greece, and so we have some inkling that he has the means he professes to, which is a good start.

What still needs figuring out is just why he has bought the club, though. What are his intentions? He hasn’t done an interview telling us he was a Forest fan all of his life, which is a decent start again as it doesn’t feel like he’s starting off with blatant lies. I look forward to understanding more about his motives as the month’s progress, but as yet I struggle to see any football club owner with genuine motive that doesn’t fall into one of three categories: to somehow make money; to own your favourite team; to win trophies.

We know it’s not the second, but hope it is the third and not the first. Of course, these motives aren’t mutually exclusive, so there could be a little of one and bit of another, but for now, we need to keep an open mind as to why he is here.

So, on to the football. Some shrewd summer signings came in, predominantly from the Highlands, and with Mark Warburton in charge with his ball playing philosophy I was hopeful of a good start to the season.

The first game saw Milwall come to Forest and I thoroughly enjoyed the game. Perhaps it was the sense of being back the City Ground after a prolonged period of absence that gave me a rose tinted view of what was on offer, but I liked it. I liked the possession game, I liked the fact that we never looked rushed, and I liked the composure we showed from the back to the front. I heard some grumblings about the game, but a 1-0 home win to start the season from a game we controlled from start to finish I thought was a good result. Yes, there were some bad bits. Traore at left back looks like a disaster waiting to happen every time he touches the ball. Smith in goal made some stops but his kicking is suspect, very suspect. Looking for the short ball every time is easy to close down, and his long kicking needs some serious work. It seems as though the half way line from a goal kick is a stretch for him, and while it’s nice to knock the ball around, sometimes you just need to clear the lines, put it out for a throw near the opposition’s corner, and look to relieve the defence for a few minutes.

Of course, we have signed Australian international goalkeeper Adam Federici on loan for the rest of the season from Bournemouth. I was always impressed with Federici when he was at Reading, though haven’t seen much of him lately. I think this could be a good move for Federici and Forest, as he brings with him experience of being toward the top of the Championship, something I hope will come in handy throughout the season. It could also be a decent move for Smith, to have someone more experienced to work with in Training and give him some motivation to fight for his place. It has to be remembered that Smith made the sort of wonder save in the last game of last season that potentially kept us in the Championship, so we should cut him a little slack and hope he develops during this season, maybe playing the cup games if we get a decent run together.

Speaking of cup games, a thrilling 3-2 win in extra time up north against a strong Newcastle side has rewarded us with a trip to Chelsea in the Carabao Cup. While conjuring up memories of that cup game years back where Julian Bennett had beaten them on FIFA so was hopeful going to Stamford Bridge, I feel like the experience playing there could be beneficial to some of the younger players in the squad. Last time Chelsea went 3-0 up before half time and basically gave up playing so as not to embarrass us. This time we are a very different proposition, so we may put up a bit more of a fight. Either way, games like this are a reminder of just where this club has gone before and should go again.

Results have been mixed since Milwall, a thrilling 3-4 victory at Brentford and a 2-1 home win against Boro and the returning Britt have been interspersed with 2-1 and 2-0 defeats against Barnsley and Leeds respectively.

All of the games have shown some positive signs, with the exception of the Leeds game, which was dreadful. Like I said earlier, I like possession football. You’ll probably hear a few Sunday League Heroes telling you that possession doesn’t win games, but they’re wrong. If you look at any football result, nine times out 10 the team with more possession has won the game. Sure, there are examples of teams set up to play a different style, like Leicester’s Premier League winning side, but they built around soaking up pressure and breaking quickly. They were an exception rather than a rule. Take a look at the Arsenal invisibles, they greater possession in something like 85% of the games they played. The same is true of the great eras of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, and even the Brazilian national team. What we do need, however, is the ability to quickly pick out a killer pass. If you watch Barcelona, they knock it around all over the pitch, happily going back the full length of the pitch to keep possession, they can be at walking pace for five or six minutes with the ball, and then in the blink of an eye, a couple of quick passes and a turn of pace leads to a goal. I see the beginnings of this in what Warburton is trying to bring, but we’re a long way from the finished article.

Hopefully Warburton will be given the time really build what he wants here and we can reap the reward.

Anyway, as the owner has cut the price of tickets for the three home September games I’ll hopefully see you down Trentside before the weather gets too cold.

I’ll see thee.

Nottingham Forest website

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