Q – How long have you been following Forest and do you remember your first game?
I’ve been supporting them since I was 5, and yes I do – it was in May 1999 and we beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 in the Premiership.
Q – What are your most memorable moments as a Forest fan? Good and Bad.
While there was obviously the ill fated League One spell with Megson, losing to Swansea was heartbreaking – especially as on the balance of play over the two legs we deserved to go to Wembley. Hitting the framework three times at the Liberty and having not one, but two handled goal line blocks over the 180 minutes was pretty tough to take. What followed that season was hardly ideal either. As for good memories, there are plenty – but the ones that stick out are beating Derby 5-2, 3-0 and 3-2, Leeds 7-3 and 4-2, while also going 34 unbeaten at home. Seeing Johnson and Harewood in their prime as a partnership was pretty magical too.
Q – Since you have been following Forest, what would your best starting eleven be and who is your all time favourite player?
It would probably be Camp, Gunter, Dawson, Walker, Rogers, Scimeca, McGugan, Jenas, Reid, Harewood, Johnson. Subs would probably be Darren Ward, Brennan, Morgan, Prutton, Jess, Lester and Earnshaw. All time favourite player from my era would be Reid. I wasn’t alive to see the great teams Clough had at his disposal so it’s hard to comment.
Q – What is your best and worst moment of the 2012/13 season?
On the pitch, the best would be beating Leeds at home for the first time since 1996, and not only beating them but smashing them 4-2. Off the pitch, (re)hiring Billy. Worst bit was that 10 minutes on the final day where we threw away our lead to Leicester and Bolton drew level from 2 down. Embarrassingly getting tonked 4-1 at home to Millwall’s not too far behind either. That was a bad day.
Q – In your opinion, how have the new owners performed since taking over the club last July?
Admirably. Some of our fans need to be more grateful and think of the bigger picture. Had Fawaz not invested his money into our club, we could be looking at replicating what Portsmouth and Plymouth did – because of his finance, we still have a club to support. Not only that, he then brought in close to 20 players in two windows, which was unheard of in the previous regime. Yes, they may have made mistakes, but anyone who thought they wouldn’t make any while also adapting to the running of an English club in minutes were kidding themselves. Because of the Al Hasawi’s, we became competitive again – and we will remain so over the coming years.
Q – Best and worst away ground visited?
Best would be The Madjeski Stadium – breaks the mould for new grounds as it actually generates a fair amount of noise. Elland Road may be the biggest I’ve been to, but the place just has a cold, dark feeling about it. Worst would be either Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium or Walsall’s ground – used to be called the Bescot but have no idea what it’s called now. Superplex car park would be more fitting in any case.
Q – Who is your Nottingham Forest player of the season?
I narrowed it down to three – Chris Cohen, Andy Reid and Greg Halford. Out of all our new signings, Halford has been the best by quite some distance, with his passion and drive to win games. For a defender, he’s also bloody skillful. Reid’s rolled back the years this season, and on his day is still good enough for a bottom half Prem club. That leaves Cohen, who gives everything for the club but has the talent to match it. It’s all well and good putting a shift in, but if you can’t play (cough Tudgay) it doesn’t mean a lot. Cohen’s the only player in our team I’d say would comfortably fit into a midtable/top half Prem side, and won my vote for player of the season – which he deservedly won – so he’ll get my vote again now. Plus, he deserves special recognition for making several thousand Derby fans look like mugs when they sarcastically cheered his mishit shot at Pride Park, before turning those ‘cheers’ into a series of expletives after he fired past their keeper about 2 seconds later.
Q- Which player(s) would you like to see Forest sign this summer (realistically)?
I’d like to see us go for Adomah at Bristol City. If we offered them say 750k plus Gillett (who probably won’t play for us again) there’s a good chance it’ll be accepted and would be the best scenario for all parties concerned. Dwight Gayle could fix our striking issues, Elliott Ward would be welcomed back as would Gonzalo Jara, and I wouldn’t mind going for Kirk Broadfoot. Going for Bakary Sako at Wolves wouldn’t be a bad thing either.
Q – All seater stadia. Good thing, or a bad thing?
I think good. I’ve been to grounds with terracing before, and more often than not it’s been quieter than at all seaters. Atmosphere’s only as good as you make it.
Q – What are your thoughts on how the team performed last season and how did it compare with your expectations?
It’s been a pretty erratic campaign to say the least, but on the whole, underachieved. While it may seem harsh to ask a newly assembled squad to mount a challenge, they were hardly bad players. With that team, I thought we’d be a lot more competitive than we were, and when we started to show the fight and willingness required it was far too late in the season. Had it come earlier, who knows what would have happened. As for my personal expectations, I thought we’d miserably finish somewhere between 10th and 14th – so to have something to play for on the final day for the right reasons was fantastic.
Q – What are your expectations for next season in the Championship/Where will we finish?
Play-offs at least. It’s dangerous to be optimistic supporting Forest, but with Davies and with his own team, there’s no reason why we can’t have a right good crack at it.
Q- Much has been said about the wealth of our new owners. Do you think they will spend their way to promotion, or adopt a more frugal approach in trying to achieve it?
Financial Fair Play will dictate a lot – it is now a huge gamble to throw one last roll of the dice and have another summer like last where we spent £6m. I think Davies will be given a tidy kitty of about £3m, and may have to wheel out the deadwood before we can bring in new players. I still remain confident we’ll have a team by 12pm on August 31st to launch an assault.
Q – Name a former Forest player you were most disappointed to see sign for another club?
At a time where we seemed a bit stuck for goals, it was hard not to see Robert ‘Ram Slayer’ Earnshaw banging in goals for Toronto and thinking ‘I wouldn’t mind him back for a few games’ – however, given his interest in American sports, going to the MLS is the best move for him and sentiment aside, he probably isn’t good enough at our level anymore. Seeing Camp, Gunter and McCleary – especially the latter given the fact we didn’t replace him – in different colours in the league above was a bit annoying, but we’ve since moved on and so have they.
Q – What’s your opinion on Billy Davies and will he bring success to the club?
The best manager we’ve had since Clough. People will say ‘oh but Frank Clark’ – Clark had Pearce, Collymore and Bryan Roy at his disposal. Billy had James Perch. He made average players look like world beaters, and I’m delighted he’s returned. Can he bring success on Trentside? Without doubt.
Q – In your opinion, was it the right or wrong decision to sack Sean O’Driscoll?
Right decision. He was out of his depth. Yes, we were 1 point outside the play-offs when he was sacked and after thrashing Leeds the timing was a bit odd, but would we have stayed there? I don’t think so, as the performances against Derby, Leicester, Millwall, Ipswich, Hull and Watford suggested during his reign. At best we’d have finished around 10th and people would have been saying ‘oh but it’s a good platform, we’ve done well, remember last year?’ Sorry, can you think of any other club that’s previously ruled Europe twice that would be happy with a 10th place finish in the 2nd division? We were petrified of the likes of Derby and Millwall at home – at home for God’s sake!! A place where we’d gone a whole calender year unbeaten just 48 months earlier!
We never settled on a formation or side which as a result couldn’t breed consistency, and he couldn’t manage players like McGugan or Lansbury – for example, after Lansbury had provided an inch perfect 45 yard through ball straight out the Arsenal textbook for Sharp to score from against Wolves, he found himself dropped qithout logical explanation for the next game. As for McGugan, O’Driscoll wanted him sold. Can you imagine where we’d have finished without his goals?! We’d have been below the sheep. Also, his transfer dealings were questionable to say the least – are you seriously going to tell me Dan Harding, Simon Gillett, James Coppinger, Danny Collins and Daniel Ayala set the world alight last season? Was it really sensible to turn down a loan move for a pacey winger in Jermaine Pennant for a team crying out for width and speed? You do wonder.
Good coach maybe, but a manager? Of a club like Nottingham Forest? Nah, no chance – which was proved with his ‘performances over results’ mentality at Bristol City. The same Bristol City who were 90 minutes away from the Premier League a few years back, and who will now be playing against the likes of Leyton Orient and Tranmere next season. Top job, Sean.
Q – New stadium, or renovate the City Ground?
Renovate it if possible. It wouldn’t be hard to turn it into at least a 35000-40000 arena, just make the Main Stand at least two tiered and maybe do some additional work to the Bridgford end. All our history’s there, and we’ve played there since 1890 something – it just wouldn’t be right for us to play anywhere else.
Q – If you could put one question or make one request to Mr.Fawaz Al-Hasawi, what would it be?
Can you bring Michael Dawson back? No seriously, just to renovate the ground. I’d have previously asked for Davies’ return, but that’s been granted.
Q – Where do you sit/stand at the City Ground?
B Block whenever I get up there.
Q – Name the celebrity you would most like to meet
Wouldn’t mind meeting Matt Bellamy (Muse frontman), David Beckham or Michael Owen for an hour or two. Failing that, I’m sure I could make Helen Flanagan laugh…maybe!
Thanks again to Chris for taking the time out to answer the questions. If you would like to take part, you can find a copy of the questions Here. You can follow James on twiiter by clicking @Chris78901 .
The Vital Forest Fan Interview: Christian Brown
Q – How long have you been following Forest and do you remember your first game?