Sunday, 6 May 2012

The future needn't be bleak for a frugal Forest.

The future for Forest remains unclear, as off-the-pitch machinations determine exactly what next season could hold for the club. Regardless of the wealth of the new owners, it should be a priority of the club to become as sustainable as possible. This means no more unaffordable marquee signings, or last big paydays for ageing Premier League journeymen. With a possible exodus from the City Ground this summer, the immediate future seems bleak. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on how the team can be organised to try and guarantee us Championship safety (if not more) on a smallish budget.

Both Cohen and Blackstock have been major losses for the Reds this season

“It's the skewer, isn't it? In the shish kebab”

Any successful team needs a strong backbone on which to build a team around, and I believe Forest have the makings of one of the strongest in the division. Up front there’s Blackstock, leading the line and holding the ball up. Cohen, in the middle of the pitch, is the engine; chasing every ball; hopefully returning to a level of play which means we won’t miss the hugely impressive Guedioura. If we can keep hold of Lynch (who should be the priority to keep), he’s proven himself to be a more than capable, and ever improving, centre back. Injuries to Blackstock and Cohen certainly dented the Red’s chances of a better season; and I think establishing continuity with this trio provides a solid basis on which to hang other players off. Of course, with Cohen looking like he’ll miss the start of next season, whether Cotterill will have these three available to play week in, and week out is improbable. Lynch looks increasingly set to leave on a free, but hopefully the club can make a strong enough case for him to stay.

After spells at the Stags and the Magpies, is it Freeman's time to make his mark at Forest?

“You’ll win nothing with kids”

Despite the winter departure of Bamford to the much wealthier Chelsea postcode; academy players could have a huge role to play in the club’s fortunes. Kieron Freeman has made waves across the Trent at County, winning the Football League's young player of the month award; and, rather amazingly, is a left-back! For once, a transfer window can pass without a desperate scramble for a left-sided defender; and he’s certainly earned himself a shot at making the position his own. Jamaal Lascelles has impressed on loan at League One play-off hopefuls Stevenage; and has reportedly had attention from Premier League sides. Hopefully he too can make the step up to the main side with time; especially with the potential dearth of central defenders. With Camp coming up for criticism; and fan opinion split on Paul Smith; Karl Darlow could make a case for at least a place on the subs bench. He too has performed impressively on loan; and whilst it’s only at Newport, maybe soon it’s time to start giving him a few run-outs in cup matches.

Reid played a pivotal role Forest's survival this season

Using what we’ve got...

Whilst there was a lot of justified criticism of players throughout the season; it must be remembered that a lot of these players are still very good at this level of football (despite appearances). Now, despite the opinions of some fans, Majewski isn’t the answer to every problem posed. But he never got a fair chance under either McClaren or Cotterill, and I think that if allowed to play in a creative central role, could certainly help the team find goals that were missing all so much. Like many, I was sceptical to see Andy Reid return; convinced he’d turned up for one last pay check. But, his work rate and skill have surprised, especially towards the latter end of the season. Someone told me that they thought he should be awarded the captain’s armband next season, and I’m inclined to agree. And there’s the permanent question mark over Matt Derbyshire’s head. He’s proven himself to be a prolific tweeter, but whether he will be given another chance (or deserves another chance) to demonstrate his eye for a goal is another question.

McCleary ran riot against an awful Leeds side; but can Forest find another non-league gem?

...and getting what we've not

The club never really replaced Earnshaw with a natural finisher. The age-old search for a 20-goal-a-season striker lingers; but at the new frugal Forest, this search will have to be conducted in the lower leagues. The scouting system can obviously find good players from smaller clubs (see the now in-demand McCleary); but efforts should be refocused on young hungry talent, rather than established players out of our shopping basket. With the apparent youthfulness of the Red’s defence next season; Higginbotham should be a target to provide experience and a level head. With McCleary’s departure looking gloomily inevitable; another pacey winger on the right seems to be a priority; unless Anderson can be utilised in a way that saw him light League One alight with Swansea.

It looks as though Forest are approaching a new era in the club’s management. With sensible and effective planning, the cost-effective approach doesn’t have to be the losing approach.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

How the press have constructed Roy for failure.

Now, for something completely different: a story about Roy Hodgson getting the England job!

Martin Samuel has written a passionate defence of Englishsports journalism, especially with regards to the hounding of England managers. He states that journalists want good results, and it can only ever be 90 minutes on a football pitch that determines the fate of a manager. It almost had me fooled. Until this.
Pinnacle of humour. Honest.

Just harmless fun. Well, it presents Roy Hodgson as an almost comedic character, who shouldn’t be taken seriously. A little nibble at his credibility. It’ll continue as well. Little jibes on the back page; little one-liners; each slowly eroding public confidence and belief in his abilities. Not informed by ‘results’ or 90 minutes on the pitch. Informed simply because the press didn’t get their man. To put it into context; could you imagine the same paper putting a front page story mocking Harry Redknapp’s basic illiteracy? No. Ok, there are no obvious puns to do with an inability to read or write; but there’s also the respectability that the press have created for Redknapp throughout the past decade or so. Roy has always been held as a sort of comedic relief for the press; a pretender. He’s failed at Liverpool and Blackburn, can only win things with small clubs in small leagues. He doesn’t really count. I believe Hodgson has a range of failings (I’m not sure whether he’ll be able to keep into check the egos that currently play for our country, for example); but that has been contributed to by the fact he’s been constructed by the press as a manager who ‘just isn’t good enough’.

Harry modelling West Ham's range of attractive pyjamas outside a housing estate in Peckham

Compare this to Redknapp. I’m not going to carry out a scientific or representative survey; but Redknapp has received mostly positive press attention; and not without merit. His Spurs side have been a joy to watch at times. But since Capello’s resignation, and the subsequent freefall of Spurs; the criticism has been laid at the feet of the players. ‘Distracted’; ‘heads not with it’. The criticism wasn’t laid at Harry’s door; it was the players’ fault. There are some other managers who would find such a slump in form would be their own fault. Redknapp was one of the contenders for the job; but the press clamoured for him as soon as the role was available. If an expert is telling you that Redknapp is the best option; then people will believe that Redknapp is the best option. Similarly, if people are telling you that the moon is made of cheese, well you might just start believing the moon is made of cheese.

Where Charlie Adam's penalty ended up eventually. On a cheese moon

To believe the media have no sway over public opinion on football is naïve at best. The tabloid press have always had the ability to control and frame the discussions surrounding the national game; especially the England managers job. They choose what to report and what not to mention. They choose which rumours merit a discussion, and which are simply thrown to the floor. They determine which angle will become the hegemonic representation churned out and plastered onto the back pages for years to come. A chance to knock someone down always sells more than a chance to build them up.

I’m sure Roy of the (Blackburn) Rovers has grown a thick skin, but it’s not just about him. It’s about the control football journalism holds over the debates surrounding our national game. Redknapp not getting the job isn’t the same as Clough not getting the job. To say the two aren’t in the same ballpark is an understatement. Clough is in the directors box, whilst Redknapp's watching it in the pub 200 miles away. But yet, the press believe it is, and so therefore add a layer of mystique to the already 'constructed' character of Harry Redknapp.

Hodgson could be a terrible choice. But the press should let him ruin it for himself, instead of going out of their way to ruin it for him.