Not Fit To Wear The Armband

I’ve not put pen to paper regarding all things Nottingham Forest for quite some time, but after watching Lewis Grabban literally duck all responsibility against Stoke City I was incensed.

As always, this is purely my opinion, a democracy and never a dictatorship. However, I don’t think I’ve been so riled by the attitude of a Forest player in a long, long time.

Before I go all Kenny Burns and throw the bearded frontman well and truly under the proverbial bus, let it be said that I was full of praise for his attitude towards, not only his own role, but that of the whole team during the tenure of Sabri Lamouchi. Last season Grabban chased lost causes, ran the channels, tracked back into his own half, and banged in twenty odd goals whilst living off scraps. Credit where credit was most certainly due, but that was then, and this is now.

I don’t know Lewis Grabban, but I’ve heard some alarming accounts regarding his temperament when things aren’t going in his favour, especially under the management of Martin O’Neill. Like I say, it’s unsubstantiated so I shall leave that be.

What I do know is that I trust my own eyes, Ironically, I almost couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing as Jordan Thompson’s innocuous corner made its way to the near post after eighteen minutes  against Stoke. The Forest skipper inexplicably stooped, instead of heading the ball to safety, and in doing so caught Brice Samba completely unaware as the ball cannoned off him into his own net. I noticed that some were quick to blame the Reds keeper but for me, and a large majority of our supporters, the buck stopped with Lewis Grabban.

Grabban’s indecision was bad enough but it was his body language and demeanour just after that boiled my blood. His immediate response was to point the finger at Samba, not only that but he then eyeballed the rest of his teammates as if to say, “I dare you to blame me for that!” Well, thank God for Joe Worrall that’s all I can say. Not only could you lip read but even the audio was clear enough to hear the words of distain from the 23-year-old towards the so-called captain.

I did find some hilarity in the comments of the Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill, when asked about the goal he said that it was a good delivery from Thompson into the near post. No Michael, that was a shocking corner straight into the path of an opposition player, who should have eaten it for breakfast.

Currently, Lewis Grabban is no more captain material than Henri Lansbury when he had the armband at Forest. Lansbury had a similar temperament to Grabban, if he felt like it then you saw the real deal, but if the mood wasn’t right, or the sky cameras out of sight, he went missing. Lansbury had an awful habit of bottling a 50/50 challenge and then hacking down that very player from behind a few seconds later. Can you say that you’ve ever seen Stuart Pearce do that?

So, what defines a true captain? It’s not the armband that’s for sure, it’s all about leading by example in the decisions you make on the field of play. A common misconception is the “he’s a great talker” line; Michael Aspel is a great talker, but I wouldn’t pick him for a Championship game. Genuine skippers use their body language to inspire the troops, in fact, next time you pass an amateur game being played on the local park stand and watch for a few minutes. You will identify the captain, regardless of whether he/she is the one wearing the armband, because they’ll be the one who’s actions are speaking louder than words. They’ll be the one taking the game to the opposition and dictating the outcome of the result if they possibly can.

If you need evidence to support this theory of mine then look no further than Steven Gerrard, a man whose leadership in both the European and FA Cup finals should be the benchmark for any aspiring young footballer. In 2005 he was the man who sparked Liverpool back into life versus AC Milan with his 54th minute header, before once again leading the charge into the box to win a penalty, which levelled the game up on the night. A year later the same man went one better by scoring two stunning goals when it looked like his side were heading for defeat again, this time against West Ham United. Steven Gerrard lifted both those trophies knowing that he’d fulfilled the role of a true captain, inspiring all before him in the process.

Whilst I sit here and pontificate about who’s hot and who’s not it’s only fair that I regale upon my own misgivings as a captain. I remember the first time I was ever allowed to wear the armband whilst in the youth ranks at NFFC, it was away at Middlesbrough, I was thirteen, but it still feels like yesterday. I think the reason for the opportunity came courtesy of playing well against the Boro in the home tie a few weeks earlier, I scored one and set up the other in a 2-1 victory. However, that form would not be replicated in the North East and I certainly failed in every way to lead by example. I remember thinking about it all week in the build up to the game, sure, it was only Forest under 14’s but to me I was walking in the footsteps of Stuart Pearce. That’s where any comparisons ended, I had an absolute stinker, I was nothing more than a passenger in the game, which we lost 0-1 by the way. I couldn’t stop fiddling with the armband all match, thinking about being the captain and in absolutely no way at all behaving like one. After the game, which had completely passed me by, I gently removed the armband and threw it on top of the kit, my manager at that time, a guy called Mike Connelly, looked at it and said, “they’re heavy aren’t they!” We both knew what he meant, and I acknowledged that I wasn’t fit to captain the side again.

As for the current situation, it remains to be seen if Lewis Grabban will continue to captain Nottingham Forest Football Club. The stark reality is this; there aren’t many to choose from in this current crop of players who’d constitute as a leader of people. Personally, I’d give it to Joe Worrall or Scott McKenna, simply because they give a damn.

Leadership cannot be turned on and off like a tap, it must be perpetual like a waterfall!

Steve Corry

*Article provided by Steve Corry (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).

Main image @NFFC Lewis Grabban lead by example last season but ducked responsibility at Stoke.

1 thought on “Not Fit To Wear The Armband

Leave a Reply