You lose some, you draw some … and you win some! Variety is the spice of life and Forest are certainly adding to the cocktail called ‘variety’ with their performances over the festive season. A whirlwind programme has delivered a probably better-than-expected points tally. It’s 2023 and the Reds are unbeaten this year … so far!
Join a gym; learn another language; shop local; cut down on social media; eat less meat; start a hobby; lend a hand in the community. Just some of the worthy pledges we’ll have made to ourselves on New Year’s Eve. Resolutions come and go. Most are forgotten – or soon broken – but, occasionally, one will stick. I’m still chuffed with my quit smoking decision decades ago.
Christmas has been well and truly digested and we’ve scrambled to recall the lines of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as church-bells rang and fireworks lit night skies to welcome another year. Amid the high spirits and goodwill, there’s always that moment, come the stroke of midnight, when revelry is in a delicate balance with reflection, as we remember loved ones no longer with us and friends and family who cannot be with us. Party time and a poignant time but the calendar of football fixtures presses on relentlessly.
Football – on all levels – is well and truly woven into the fabric of our winter festive season. If we are over-stuffed and a little hazy in the head department as a result of our Christmas indulgences, we expect players to be in tip-top condition, so supremely fit as to set them apart from ordinary mortals like ourselves. It’s not difficult to see how some gain cult – even godlike – status (think Pele, RIP) when they get to parade their practised and natural skills before admiring fans. We might, even momentarily, be in awe of them and there’s nothing wrong with that. (In fact, psychologist Dacher Kelter has just published a book called ‘Awe’ in which he says: ‘Twenty years into teaching happiness, I have an answer: find awe’.) Players have the capacity to sprinkle magic over a grey day.
Come those New Year resolutions, how do they play-out in football? To make a resolution is when we decide to continue good practices, change an undesired trait or behaviour or accomplish a personal goal in our lives. The assumption is that it’s within our power to achieve it as opposed to some item on a ‘wish list’. So, what about New Year resolutions at the City Ground: win more matches? Avoid relegation? Are they pledges within the control of the players? If only. They might aspire to such targets but opposing teams will have a say in the matter.
What can change for the better is attitude and application on the pitch. Forest fans are certainly doing their bit to urge on players and the team. With a new year comes a sense that this is when league tables start to shape up into something they might look like come the end of the season. Last night’s win on the south coast for Forest rooted Southampton to the bottom of the league and took the Reds – significantly, psychologically and symbolically – out of the relegation zone and up to the heady heights of 15th position.
As we come to Twelfth Night – the ending of revelries in ancient times and the packing away of Christmas paraphernalia in modern times – it’s worth reminding ourselves that it’s also called the Epiphany. Biblical connotations aside, the word means a moment of sudden and great revelation. Never mind New Year resolutions, could it be that victory over Southampton (a first Premier League away win of the season no less) was Steve Cooper’s Epiphany, his moment of realisation, when he saw the shape of the squad, the team, the use of substitutes, in total clarity? ‘When it all came together,’ we would say. He said, in his post-match interview, that his team ‘ticked every box’. That’s praise for his players and more evidence that this is a man with a plan, a manager who has a vision for the club.
Of course, every match is a major event when you’re fighting to survive in the Premiership. It’s an unforgiving league. If you’re not up against some of the world’s best club sides, you’re pretty much in the mix of the rest of the teams, clamouring to establish top-flight credentials. There will be mixed results for Forest – variety – until the season’s end but the latest win just might have had a whiff of an epiphany about it. Cooper has had a monumental task in moulding together so many new players in so short a time. Perhaps that time has come, with some awe along the way. And that, by the way, is my New Year resolution: to seek out more awe, wherever and whenever that may be.
*Article provided by Stephen Parker (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
*Main image @NFFC Nottingham Forest grabbed their first away league win of the season at Southampton.