On a weekend famous for miracles one of Forest’s very own ‘Miracle Men’ may need a resurrection of his own as Martin O’Neill looks to bring Nottingham Forest’s season back from the dead and put an end to a run of four successive defeats when Middlesbrough visit the City Ground on Monday.
A two-time European Cup winner with Forest as a player, O’Neill was appointed in January in the hope that a club legend would lift the mood around the club after Aitor Karanka departed on the back of a few bad results.
The appointment of O’Neill always appeared to be one that a sentimental aspect to it yet when fans are so desperately craving Premier League football and the glamour that comes with it, the former Celtic manager is finding out that there is not much room for sentimentality in football anymore.
A flawed appointment: Why Martin O'Neill is not right for Nottingham Forest
Forest beaten at Sheffield United
Fans are growing increasingly unhappy with O’Neill’s admittedly short tenure in charge. O’Neill has been accused of defensive tactics and poor team selections whilst there can be no arguments about the results which have seen Forest slip to mid-table mediocrity rather than challenging for the play-offs as many had hoped.
Forest have been on the receiving end of some poor refereeing decisions over the course of the season and even Good Friday’s 2-0 loss to Sheffield United could have been different had Yohan Benoualane not been controversially sent off early into the second half. Even so, the home side had been the better team up to that point and still looked the most likely to open the scoring.
At one point during the game at Bramall Lane, after Mark Duffy had fired the Blades in front, the Forest faithful began singing “How bad must you be, you’ve only scored one” and it perfectly encapsulated the growing pessimism building Trent-side.
That’s why Forest can’t afford to let this season end without restoring some personal pride. O’Neill has spoken about how he will use the remaining games to experiment with his squad ahead of next season where he expects to mount a promotion challenge. Though there is some sense in using the last few, meaningless games to tinker, Forest need a few good results before the summer break to bring back some optimism round the club.
If this bad run of form continues, the anger amongst the fan base will only get worse and the calls for O’Neill’s head will just get louder. He needs to prove to the fans that he is the right man to take this club forward as there has been no obvious progress made since his arrival in mid-January.
The 67-year-old was in defiant mood after Friday’s loss and remained adamant that he could get Forest promoted.
“I am here to get promotion,” said O’Neill. “My remit was very, very clear. To attempt to get up, to get to know the players and to really go for it next season, if we can.”
The home game against Middlesbrough on Monday afternoon presents a terrific opportunity for O’Neill to start making the Forest fans believe that he can do just that.
With winnable-looking games against Queens Park Rangers and Bolton to then follow, a run of wins would be very timely for both Forest, and their under-pressure manager.