The Shipping Forecast. The memoirs of Les Dennis... Hospital waiting rooms: These are all things more exciting than the wilderness that precedes the preparations of the new campaign. Or ‘pre pre-season’, as I begrudgingly call it.
During this vacuous period of languid activity, enhanced in it’s tedium only by the predictable British summer weather, idle gossip becomes the most stimulating part of a football fan’s life - Who are we linked with? How much do we have to pay? Does Lionel Messi need somewhere to lie low until this whole tax issue blows over? (though I doubt England could exactly be seen as a tax haven.)
The rumour mill peddles all sorts of transparent, ill-conceived stories. There’s a shorter word for what I really think has been peddled by those supposedly ‘in the know’, but I believe that The Chad is a family-orientated publication, so you are going to have to read through the lines on that one.
This frenzied cycle of conjecture has not been helped by articles that look at what players could come to Forest. It is counter-productive, and in a way it patronizes fans by offering a lot of false hope.
Online news sources and social media are the two breeding grounds of feeble rumours. The only thing more disheartening than seeing a Twitter account - with about a dozen followers and half as many tweets - claim to have spoken to a player’s sister’s uncle’s nephew about wanting to join a club, is seeing a numerous amount of fans take such extravagant claims as gospel. Without a source, news is non-existent.
It isn’t even the obvious non-truths that are the most annoying thing about the summer break. In the last few weeks, I have seen and heard many fans wanting to know why we haven’t acted faster in the transfer market... A grievance that I have found totally bewildering, for many reasons:
1) It’s the middle of June. With pre-season yet to begin, there is still a six week gap between now and when we play our first league game. All in good time, my friends.
2) The Transfer Window doesn’t open for another week. Though it appears the majority of our targets could be snapped up for nothing, it would be a bit thoughtless going into a season after only acquiring free agents. Our ambition must be underpinned by the stature of the acquisitions we pay for - Who did we tempt away, and from what club? What does this say about us?
Although, I wouldn’t get too caught up in looking at the size of transfer fees. Fawaz may be incredibly rich, but as he learned in his first year here, he can’t afford to be naive. I hope he has the integrity to refuse being held to ransom, and with Financial Fair Play rules looming over Football League clubs, paying astronomical amounts may not be the best strategy in putting our best foot forward.
3) We’ve actually signed three players. Though two were here last year, you cannot question the application, hunger and tenacity of Darius Henderson and Gonzalo Jara Reyes in our frantic finish to the season. In my book, they are two essential additions. As for Eric Lichaj, Aston Villa fans have been quick to sing his praises since he joined Forest. A glowing review from the fans of the club a player has left bodes well for us.
4) Just to re-iterate, get a bloomin’ calendar, and check the date. Sean O’Driscoll built a squad from almost nothing within four weeks: Billy has an easily more flexible schedule.
I hope I’ve not been to pompous, but it is an issue that needs clearing up. I’ve seen fans bordering on apoplexy, because certain players have joined other clubs this month, and Forest aren’t being seen to act quick enough.
Perhaps more ‘flash in the pan’ than a flashpoint, but when Elliot Ward opted to join Bournemouth this week, many felt that he had chosen them ahead of coming back to the City Ground, where he grew in quality with each game he played.
There are two ways of looking at this - Ward has had a better offer from Bournemouth, and chose them over us because we couldn’t match what the Cherries had to give. Or, we simply haven’t offered him a contract, full stop. I’m inclined to believe it is a case of the latter, rather than the former.
Yes, he did a competent job for us towards the end of the season, but I think this shows a more ambitious side of the club, rather than a dawdling and lethargic property. It suggests we have other irons in the fire, and without being disrespectful to Elliot Leslie Ward - Whom I wish the best of luck to in the future - we may have even bigger fish to fry.
However, I do at least sympathise with the views I do not necessarily agree with. Ever since the David Platt fiasco (yes, him again... Coming to a Job Centre near you), the boardroom politics at Nottingham Forest have been shifty at best. Even Nigel Doughty, the man who rescued our club from oblivion, made mistakes - though sacking Davies in 2011 may have had it’s reasons, hiring Steve McLaren certainly did not.
I believe that, no matter who we have in directorial and ownership capacities, there will always be some doubt about what happens behind the scenes. Sagas such as the ‘Transfer Acquisition Panel’ and ‘Boyd-gate’ have thrust our transfer policies into some considerable doubt, and it has happened consistently over the last decade; most of which was overseen by the year-round pantomime villain, Mark Arthur.
This is why some fans are so impatient: There is a desperation to have things done sooner rather than later, to eliminate the chance of any more farce.
Admittedly, whether 40 days of McLeish was itself bad enough to derail our season of serenity, it was ultimately the failure to add any more quality than just Henderson to the squad in January - and subsequent loan windows - that cost Forest a top-six berth.
There will always be sneaking suspicions, but I don’t think it is all that detrimental to the club in a collective sense. Those in power, and with something as delicate as a football club in their clutches, should be held accountable for their actions, if things are going wrong.
Transfer policy will always be a divisive issue. No matter how badly you want your team to improve, rushing your business will only lay weak foundations. It takes an awful lot of research and time to successfully scout, assess, and eventually acquire a potential target. A manager needs to know all he can about a new player; everything from why they’ve decided to wear pink boots, to how likely they are to be involved in a nightclub brawl, on a scale of one-to-El Hadji Diouf.
So there you have it fellow reds, patience will be our virtue. You can all sleep easier, and keep a popular expression in mind:
“Good things come to those from Kuwait”... (That’s how Joe Kinnear would pronounce it, anyway.)