I usually wait until the middle of January to see my annual new year optimism fizzle out into grey, ashen embers. Yet Forest, always the forward-thinkers, put the dampeners on 2013 faster than you could say ‘why is Guy Moussi playing?’
The 3-0 loss to Blackburn was just... terrible. After an exasperating week of mind-boggling hiring and firing, I was excited to see us let football do the talking - as it did in Saturday’s game against Palace.
Regardless of what happens off the pitch, we will always have a squad that needs the very best support it can get.
And fair play to the fans in the last week too. As hard as it has been adapting to life under Alex McLeish, they have perhaps been more professional than certain board members, and welcomed Big ‘Eck in a relatively warm fashion. After all, it isn’t exactly his fault Sean O’Driscoll was sacked, was it?
The appointment itself came amidst a raft of names that would have struggled to be less inspiring if, instead of Mark Hughes and Roy Keane in waiting, the other two leading candidates would have been Keith Harris and myself. At least Keith has the duck with him; I don’t think our lads would be too impressed with my unusually large forehead.
Keane, whose rich playing history began under Brian Clough’s Forest, did get Sunderland out of this league before, but did so with one of the bigger budgets this league has seen. Granted, we know we now hold some financial power, but I doubt Keane’s old school methods would have gone down smoothly with the players. Also, I called Roy a bully live on TV last week, and I’m afraid if he did come to the club, he would have found me. And hurt me.
Mark Hughes was another potential candidate, but coming back to the notion of big budgets, he has already failed at two clubs that have more money than sense. His managerial achievements have not matched those of his playing days, and the man known as ‘Sparky’ would perhaps be better off looking for work as an electrician.
Now we have McLeish at the helm, it begs the question... Are you ever as good as your last job? I understand the intention, yet almost vomit with rage, when people compare AMC’s dreadful time at Aston Villa with Brian Clough’s turbulent spells at Brighton and Leeds. Nice try optimists, but next time, try not to make such lazy, faux-comparisons.
As ghoulish as yesterday’s performance was, it is only the second game into the McLeish era. There are those who say it’s a sign of things to come, but we’ve always been suckers for sensationalism at the City Ground. It is too early to tear strips off of a man barely a week into his tenure, and despite the diabolical handling of this whole managerial situation, the gaffer needs time to shape what is ultimately HIS team.
However, one cannot help but despair at yesterday’s game. To emerge from a match against Blackburn as the laughing stock, you have to hit the highest levels of abject incompetence. There are wars within wars at Rovers, between owners, fans, coaches and playing staff. The whole circus is run by ringmaster Shebby Singh, who has been considering hiring Sunday league coach Judan Ali since Christmas.
Although they still have some Premier League talent - and an £8m striker - on their books, they are the proverbial million miles away from where they should be. It is difficult to not react angrily, when you see your team out-farce a farce... Is this the ‘ambition’, and ‘best intentions for the club’ that Fawaz Al-Hasawi was so desperate for us to accept? Because I liked that other thing we had: Long term goals. I REALLY liked it.
Since the owners’ dramatic shift in policy, is it fair to say, that with this sudden act of ‘moving the goalposts’ and demanding a promotion season this year, our expectations as fans can change too? Do we now have the right to think we are entitled to a top-six finish? It is a polaric shift in mindset, and one that should not be happening halfway through a rather satisfactory season.
Indeed, our current mindset has become something of a danger. Instead of slow and steady progress to build the foundations of success, we have been catapulted into an uneasy, almost Lombardian ‘win or bust’ mentality. It honestly does not sit well with me. This league doesn’t reward the nervous gambler, and simply doesn’t allow you to treat it like some sort of casino...
Unfortunately for us, I think the Al-Hasawi’s have gambled it all on red.