Imagine finding that Forest’s fixtures until the end of the season had them face alternate home and away games against Southampton! The south-coast club is the only team the Reds have beaten twice and six points in the bag is excellent business.
Reality has it that Forest’s fate – and survival in the Premiership – actually lies in London. Dick Whittington of pantomime fame was drawn to the capital under the illusion that streets were paved with gold. The Reds will be under no illusions that rich pickings – i.e. points – will be gifted to them.
London is a land of immense wealth and several of the capital’s football clubs reflect its status as a financial fiefdom. Let’s consider Forest’s remaining opponents who conclude their campaign. Chelsea’s bizarre season got even more weird after their owner and money-machine of eighteen years called Roman Abramovich departed in haste when he faced sanctions. His replacement, American billionaire Todd Boelhy, has continued their splash-the-cash policy. Arsenal, soon to visit the City Ground, have never been short of a bob or two. Wealth accumulated over decades in the top division has helped them hoover-up young talent from all over the world.
Crystal Palace, hosting Forest in their final game, have recently claimed to be only ‘a small club’ when complaining about limited money-making opportunities to the European Club Association (ECA). That claim was given short shrift when the chair of ECA pointed out that, in European terms, Palace are pretty rich. By comparison with the champions of Finland who had a turnover of £13m last year, the London club (who finished 12th in the Premiership) had a turnover of £160m. That’s not a modest income.
Still, rich or poor, success is measured on the pitch. If so much City of London money is the result of speculation, Forest fans will be scrutinising form and speculating on figures of a different kind: just how many points can they garner over remaining matches and will it be enough?
The pressure in the Premiership at this stage is intense. It is emotionally and psychologically as well as physically draining for players and coaches alike. How clubs cope with that pressure is key. We’ve already had a taste of topsy-turvy results, such as Everton’s demolition of European hopefuls Brighton. And Forest’s breathless victory against Southampton, despite a two goal lead at times, was never fully secure as the visitors played with a spirit absent for many matches.
Strange things can happen. A Forest win at Stamford Bridge? Well, caretaker manager Frank Lampard has only just managed his first win, after six successive defeats. But pride can be an underestimated quality and Chelsea have quite a lot of repair work to do with their fans. Arsenal have regained their mojo after a blip and will come to Nottingham hunting for three points to keep pace with Manchester City.
Which leaves Crystal Palace. Since replacing Patrick Vieira, Roy Hodgson (aged 75 and manager of 22 teams in his career!) has given Palace a new lease of life. They’ve escaped the clutches of relegation and sit comfortably in 12th position (again!). ‘They’ve nothing to play for’. How often have we heard that phrase before a team ‘with nothing to play for’ demolishes the opposition with their best performance of the year! Forest have some momentum: good home wins and promising recent away performances which, on another day, might have yielded points. And they need points. A year ago, three games stood between Forest and the Premiership: a two-leg, play-off semi-final win against Sheffield United and victory against Huddersfield in the final. Now, it’s three games to stay in the division.
When Punk band The Clash snarled out their hit, ‘London Calling’, to a thumping rhythm in 1979, it was a song of despair at the state of the city, the threat of flooding, its decay and the indifference of its citizens.
Without wishing any ill will towards the football fans and residents of the capital, it would be very satisfying – ok, an occasion to celebrate in real style! – if Forest could inflict at least some damage on some of their London opponents in the coming couple of weeks in their quest for points.
*Article provided by Stephen Parker (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
*Main image @NFFC the City Ground will attract fans in thousands regardless of the league Forest are in.