Written by Alex Dunn
Bentley, Dalsgaard, Konsa, Mepham, Barbet, MacLeod, McEachran, Sawyers, Benrahma, Watkins, Canos.
Not exactly full of household names, is it? That was the Brentford starting line-up that outclassed and outplayed ‘big-spending Nottingham Forest’, as we’ve become to be known, last week at Griffin Park. Those eleven players cost Brentford £12.5M to assemble – less than Forest shelled out for record-signing Joao Carvalho alone.
Let’s try a different one:
Walton, James, Dunkley, Kipre, Robinson, Evans, Morsy, Massey, Powell, Grigg, Jacobs.
Recognise many of those names? Me neither. This was the starting eleven for newly-promoted Wigan Athletic which, by all accounts, recently made us appear to be the newly-promoted League One side trying to find their feet, and not they. It cost Wigan £2.8M, compared to approximately £10.5M of ‘talent’ in the Forest eleven that day – and that’s ignoring the £15M held in reserve in Calvalho, who didn’t start that game. In the context of these games if nothing else, it’s easy to see why we’ve attracted the ‘big-spending’ label.
Now I don’t consider myself especially dim (though a lot of my friends would disagree) but post Brentford I, like many other Forest fans I’m sure, was left scratching my head trying to work out why, and how, teams such as these can so easily (and predictably?) dismantle a side like ours. A side that’s cost millions of pounds to put together; one that’s coached by one of the most respected managers in the division, allegedly; one that’s, come what may, cheered on by thousands of ardent followers such as I each week. How can this be? What are we missing and why – why – are we going through this again? Yes, I know – it’s easy to be overly dramatic six games into a new season. But, to a lot of Forest fans such as myself, this feels very, very familiar.
The Brentford game happened to fall on the first day of a holiday away with the wife. The initial buzz of nine days off work, drinking beer in the sunshine, was unfortunately quickly lost as the news at Griffin Park came through. Don’t get me wrong – I fully expected Forest to lose. But it was the manner of the defeat, on the back of a shaky start to the season and a summer of near-unbridled optimism, that really wound me up. I found myself sitting in a bar that evening by the quayside, shorts on and beer in hand, thinking about nothing but Aitor Karanka, 4-5-1 formations and the pros and cons of two holding midfield players. The poor wife.
Football just isn’t logical. As someone scientifically-minded in nature, I struggle with this reality time and time again. It leaves me spending my leisure time trying to make sense of it – trying to reduce it to a few simple rules. But it just isn’t possible – greater forces are at play, it seems, and beyond our comprehension. That’s partly why we love it so and why it divides so many opinions. It’s mysterious. It beguiles. It regularly surprises.