As the fourth official raised the board of no hope versus Stoke, all I could hear was the sound of Sonny and Cher belting out “I got you babe!”
For some, the reality of a Forest implosion may seem shocking, unfortunately for most it’s indicative of our recent past. Where do I begin? Well, I’ve purposely waited for the animosity to subside before putting pen to paper.
For once, the reaction to Nottingham Forest’s capitulation was wholeheartedly justified, and as rarities go, I supported the restless natives with proverbial pitchfork in hand.
At this point, I must profess that I’ve backed and supported Sabri Lamouchi all season long. Regardless of his tactics I’ve been happy to positively promote the NFFC manager at any given opportunity. However, despite the numerous positive results achieved throughout the season, the Frenchman got it horribly wrong against Barnsley, never mind Stoke!
The hammering we took from Stoke City was nothing in comparison to the unforced error at Oakwell a few days earlier. I still cannot comprehend the thought process of Sabri Lamouchi going into that match. Barnsley had to win; therefore, it doesn’t take a genius to figure they’d have to attack us to achieve their goal, no pun intended. So, regardless of whether you like our sit, soak, and counter game plan or not it was the perfect time to enforce it. 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 would have sufficed against the Tykes, the perfect foil for doing a Forest and getting that solitary point required for play-off qualification.
It’s funny because earlier on this season I spoke with the lads on the @TFFpodcast about the trials and tribulations of our manager in his first Championship management role. All of us focussed on the same three anomalies’ in question: Wigan and Millwall away and the home game versus Charlton Athletic. I said at the time, and as a man of my word, I still say now that this was part of the learning curve. I admire a manager who’s brave enough to buck the trend from time to time in search of success. However, after the Charlton game you may remember me writing a piece which was titled “No more gambling Sabri,” or words to that effect. It was a kind of three strikes baseball analogy if you will, and I feel vindicated as I write this piece on the train with mask firmly in place.
I watched the Stoke game along with my brothers’ and my wife, all three of them were animated to say the least as the game entered its closing stages. Just as I’d done when we faced Ipswich in the survival match in 2017, I remained emotionless and stoic throughout. The collective screams directed at our television set seemed a world away from the tranquil state that has become second nature to me in situations like this. My heart rate did not deviate a single beat per minute as my hapless heroes pushed forward in search of a goal that was never going to happen. The truth of the matter is that I’ve become institutionalised by Forest and their perennial underachievement.
In my opinion, at 2pm on Sunday 19 July, the season was officially over. I still cannot comprehend the level of ineptitude displayed by Sabri Lamouchi going into the Barnsley game. Regardless of whether you favour the Frenchman’s sit, soak, and counterattack mentality, it was the perfect day to enforce it, getting the solitary point required for play off qualification in the process. However, he again chanced his arm, tinkering with the selection and the formation, and committing the cardinal footballing sin by making provisions for a play off contest that he’d not yet qualified for. The most tangible analogy I can provide is as follows; Sabri Lamouchi acted like a man looking for his baggage on the carousel before his flight had even landed!
Once again, I must reiterate that I’ve supported and praised our manager throughout the season, the football wasn’t too pleasing on the eye, but it’s yielded some terrific results along the way. For the record, I won’t be calling for his head, but I would be comfortable giving him a directive of top six by Christmas or out. As always, to apply a little balance to this conjecture, he must then be granted the finances and more importantly the freedom to select his own transfer targets. One thing’s for sure, he must deviate from the negate and frustrate tactics if he wants to succeed, one simply cannot defend forever and achieve promotion in the process.
Perhaps my biggest fear is the effect the play-off failure will have on the club going into the new season. The campaign will barely be a month old when the reality and austerity of life after furlough kicks in. The very supporters who pledged allegiance to NFFC and paved the way for an average home attendance of around 28,000 will think twice about how they spend their money from here on in. I’ve criticised sections of our fanbase at times for being knee jerk and fickle, but on this occasion, they’re completely justified in their frustrations. My wife made an excellent observation when she alluded to the empty City Ground during the restart, “Well, you can’t blame the cardboard cut outs for getting on the players’ backs can you!” Performing in front of Harry and Megan’s a tough gig, although come to think of it, they’re not technically Royals anymore.
Tomorrow is a brand-new day, but for me and thousands of other Nottingham Forest supporters, we’ll wake at 6am to the sound of Sonny and Cher, wondering whether Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow or not?
*Article provided by Steve Corry (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
*Main image @NFFC Sabri Lamouchi chose to deviate from his familiar system at Barnsley.