As Easter approaches each season, clubs line up their sights to assess what might be achieved and what must be avoided. Poet TS Eliot called April ‘the cruellest month’ and with good reason. Fickle weather, from snow to warm sunny days, come and go. In the world of football, games come thick and fast through to the end of fixtures for the year. Many a team’s fortunes have hinged on last day matches in May and Forest are no strangers to an end of term scrap to stay in the Championship.
This year, against all expectation, the club and the city are reaching fever-pitch as they fight for a place in the play-offs. Such are the shifting fortunes of so many clubs. If Forest can count quite a few occasions when fans have felt the team’s reached a new nadir as they checked the locations of clubs in League One, (Port Vale anyone?) their visitors to the City Ground this Wednesday have undergone a similar roller-coaster of form and fortune. Coventry City even had the ignominious misfortune to be turfed out of their stadium, only opened in 2005. They were homeless for some seasons, plying their trade at a number of other club grounds.
Now the ‘Sky-Blues’ – not very original but named after their fetching light blue kit – seem to have steadied their club, returning to the Coventry Building Society Arena and establishing themselves in the second tier. They’re comfortably placed in the league but another feature of fixtures towards the end of a season is their capacity to throw a surprise. Fans of all teams have frequently said of an opposition, ‘they’ve nothing to play for now,’ only to witness their in-form team come unstuck.
Steve Cooper will not let that kind of attitude gain any purchase at Forest. By reputation, he’s a meticulous planner for whoever they face and that includes having the right mental approach. So much of a team’s consistent success depends on that quality. And he’s well aware, to judge from his fist-pumping gesture to all corners of the ground, of the weight of success and also the all-round glow of satisfaction it brings to a whole community.
Coventry is a city that, for many years, bore the bomb-damage of World War II. The most famous building that took a hit – the cathedral – still stands as a ruined shell garden of remembrance. By its side is the ‘new’ cathedral, completed in 1962 after eleven years of planning and construction. Designed by architect Sir Basil Spence, it is a genuine celebration of human ingenuity and creativity. Aged ten, I went on a bus trip with my grandparents to see it. To this day, I recall the feeling of being overwhelmed by so many works of art and architectural features. And I remember my grandma exclaiming: ‘it all works!’. And so it does. Artefacts sit side by side and complement one another. There’s style and there’s cohesion.
An article on cathedral architecture? I thought this was a column about Forest and football! Well, yes, but there are parallels to be drawn. There’s the overseeing of talent by the architect that, collectively, combines to make up something far more significant than the individual exhibits themselves. And there’s history. The building represents a new era. It is hope for the future in bricks and mortar and art.
Football is about hopes and dreams (from the realistic to the out-of-this-world) and all parts of a club – from players to coaching staff, owners and supporters – working together for success. With April comes Easter and new beginnings and symbols of birth (as well as stuffing your face with chocolate to help your children work through their egg collection).
Who knows what result will be played-out this week when Forest and Coventry meet up? What is clear is that the fortunes of both clubs have changed for the best in recent times. In Forest’s case, it has been a remarkable rise, inspirational for those who follow the team. Let’s hope they continue to shed some of the relics of the past and nurture and celebrate what manager Cooper has created in so brief a time. He is, in short, the architect of their growing success this season.
*Article provided by Stephen Parker (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
*Main image @NFFC Brennan Johnson has been the architect of many goal involvement this season.