Tom Head’s Nottingham Forest Blog: Investing Our Faith in a Mercenary

West Ham got, well, hammered after resting their best starting 11 for a game this week, and Sam Allardyce was struggling to find a little sympathy.

Yet, he gets my full understanding: He was faced with a huge dilemma, of how to balance his threadbare squad for two games in quick succession, and it took a lot of courage to field his reserves against Manchester City.

I don’t care how many teenagers were in the squad that played Forest on Sunday, if you put Roger Johnson in your first team, you’re a weakened side.

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The 5-0 win was incredibly edifying, considering that in the run up to Christmas, we missed enough chances to fill a novelty football bloopers DVD - ironically, that was the stocking filler I received over the festive period.

Though the quality of the opposition came under intense scrutiny, dynamism replaced wastefulness in our attacking play, with Reid, Abdoun, and Paterson adapting to a system that could utilise them all fully.

It was an interesting window into the ‘what could be’ of our season. To have three wingers with a genuine goalscoring threat is a luxury that only the very best teams have. Imagine if Forest could guarantee that level of performance from those three, every game. Imagine if Reid made the ‘number 10’ spot his own...
Imagine if Djamel Abdoun grows that beard any longer: He really impressed me on Sunday, mainly because everything he does has a touch of eccentricity, a quality that many feel is a liability rather than an asset. In all honesty, he isn’t the sort of player Forest fans would associate with the club. He’s unpredictable, explosive, and devilishly maverick in his approach to the game.

Which, sadly, is tempered only by his inconsistency. It’s probably no co-incidence that his best two games for Forest (the other one being against QPR) have been televised. He somewhat unashamedly turns the style on when the cameras are rolling. From those matches, I saw two things that left me awestruck.

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No, not that ‘Panenka’ penalty. That’s not even in his top five... Against QPR, the ball broke for him 25 yards out, with a clear sight of goal. Rather than take the shot, he performed what can only be described as the most unnecessary ‘Cruyff Turn’ in history, and by time he stopped revolving, he was a good 20 yards from where he’d started. 
The only thing to eclipse that was his decision to start doing kick ups on the half-way line, in the build up to Jamie Paterson’s first goal. It was arrogant and patronizing inequal measure, and if he wasn’t such a loveable rogue, I would be enraged.

But that is what he is. I think I finally understand the cliché of women (allegedly) being more attracted to the bad guy in a movie... There are plenty of harder workers in the Forest team, and also, doesn’t Abdoun just come across as the archetypal mercenary? He is flair for hire, and if he actually had a bit of muscle behind him, he would have a serious future as a henchman post-football.

It would be dangerous to get too sentimental about him, as he is only ever one failed bicycle kick away from being dropped. He strikes me as the sort of player that wouldn’t try too hard to win his place back into the team either, relying on his raw, but extremely wonderful talent. That sort of attitude doesn’t endear anyone too well to a manager, no matter how many Cruyff Turns onw can do.

In the games that Abdoun has caught the eye, Forest as a cohesive unit have looked sharper. The same goes for Henri Lansbury, whose performance levels almost always co-incides with how the team have played. Both exhude class, and although Lansbury’s is a reliable source, Abdoun’s is a more hazardous property, and Billy Davies will have to manage him carefully, like a mad scientist (apt, right?) attempting to harness the power of dark matter.

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Ultimately, Djamel will love us and leave us, but if he can use his productive spell of form - whatever his motivations are - to take Forest to a higher plain, then he will have done what all good mercenaries are payed to do, and we probably couldn’t complain about it.
Plus, when you grow a beard like his, you can pretty much do whatever you want.