How long have you been following Forest and do you remember your first game?
Of course I do. It was a 1-1 draw against Leeds in October 1998. I was 6. It wasn`t a classic, but something obviously drew me back for more! I`ve had a season ticket ever since the 2000/01 season.
What are your most memorable moments as a Forest fan? Good and Bad.
Not sure there`s been that many of the former! Promotion from League One has to be the highlight I suppose, followed by hammering the sheep 5-2. For sheer enjoyment, beating County in the League Cup, with Wes scoring a 25-yard thunderbolt to take it to penalties, followed by everyone`s favourite convicted hit-and-run driver Lee Hughes missing the crucial spot-kick, has to be up there.
As for the bad, I repress everything about Gary Megson`s year at the club deep within my mind. And that play-off defeat to Yeovil ? it`s the hope that kills you!
Since you have been following Forest, what would your best starting eleven be and who is your all time favourite player?
I wrote a blog on this exact topic a few weeks ago. Don`t mean to look like I`m plugging, but it explains my selection in more detail. http://weonlysingwhenwerewinning.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/by-far-the-greatest-team-youve-ever-seen-and-its-nottingham-forest/
What is your best and worst moment of the 2012/13 season?
Best – 6-1 win over Huddersfield. Getting the train back from London just in time for kick-off meant I walked over Trent Bridge, as the mist rolled in from the Trent. There`s something magical about that. I`d had some good news in my personal life that day too, so I was feeling really optimistic as I took my seat. And we steamrollered them! We could have scored 10! (Granted, they could also have had 5.) It`s fantastic when everything all comes together in the right way to culminate in a night like that.
Worst – January transfer deadline day. I was at the British Library, working on my dissertation, but with more than one eye on Twitter. In the evening, I announced to my flatmate that we were signing Boyd, and possibly Burke and a left-back. Didn`t exactly work out like that! A few hours later nobody is signed, and on Sky Sports News all and sundry are laughing at the club, and the manager`s on the brink of walking out. Chaos! On the pitch, losing at home to Derby was painful. And an away trip to lose 3-0 at Blackburn, courtesy of one of the most insipid performances I`ve had the misfortune to sit through, wasn`t fun.
In your opinion, how have the new owners performed since taking over the club last July?
They`ve done well so far. A year ago we were financially destitute, had no defence left, having just scraped Championship survival with Steve Cotterill as our manager, and Mark Arthur as our CEO. Thanks to the Al-Hasawis, none of the above remains true, and thank goodness for that! On the pitch, which is where it matters, they`ve invested £6 million and taken us from 19th to 8th. Progress in anyone`s books, surely? Off it, I strongly agreed with their spate of sackings. Getting rid of the people who presided over probably the worst 15 years in our history has to be a sensible move. A shake-up was long overdue. Yet you`d go on Twitter and find a load of journalists and agents, with vested interests, making out it was morally repugnant, and the end of the club as we know it, blah blah. I decided to stop following most of them. Not saying it hasn`t been a bumpy ride at times, but these guys are new to English football – were we really expecting them not to make any mistakes? The ‘Early Bird` season ticket price freeze is a brilliant idea, and I can`t think why it wasn`t introduced sooner. Unless those in charge previously didn`t care all that much about keeping costs reasonable for the fans?
Best and worst away ground visited?
This season, the worst by a mile has been London Road. 1 set of (rather decrepid) male toilets for an entire stand is simply unacceptable. I`m not a huge fan of Selhurst Park or Vicarage Road either.
Grounds I`ve been to for the first time this season and liked – Turf Moor and Fleetwood Town`s Highbury Stadium. Not the biggest or fanciest of stadia, granted, but they each had a unique, even quaint, atmosphere to them.
Who is your Nottingham Forest player of the season?
I voted Reid. Maybe he isn`t always noticeable, but the proportion of our goals he`s been involved in is staggering. And we missed him badly when he was injured in January. But Cohen eventually won the vote, and it`s hard to argue with that.
Which player(s) would you like to see Forest sign this summer (realistically)?
Our No. 1 priority should be a fast, tricky right-winger. With that in mind, I`d take Garath McCleary back in a heartbeat. Or, being slightly more ambitious, Nathan Redmond or Chris Eagles? Up front, Nakhi Wells of Bradford City might be worth a go.
All seater stadia. Good thing, or a bad thing?
I don`t know. Given my age, all-seater stadia are really all I`ve known. I`ve read a bit about safe standing campaigns and I can sympathise with their objectives, particularly if it can make access to football matches cheaper. That said, if there`s even the slightest chance of another Hillsborough situation occurring, it has to be a definite no-no. But that`s probably groundless. I`m happy for someone who knows more than I do to make that decision.
What are your thoughts on how the team performed last season and how did it compare with your expectations?
I`ve said already, 8th place and a play-off challenge are progress. That said, with our squad we should have been pushing for top 6 really. And it did hurt to miss out on the final day to Leicester. On reflection, it does feel like an opportunity lost. Cardiff, Hull and Palace went up – were they really anything to be afraid of? I don`t think so. Next season, with the likes of Bolton, Leicester, Reading, QPR and Wigan (plus, being the Championship, a couple of surprise packages) promises to be much tougher. Within the team, there were also a couple of individuals I expected more from. I was really pleased when we signed Danny Collins, as I`ve seen him play very well in the past, but he looks like he`s physically shot-it. And I like Dexter Blackstock, but he`s been a virtual passenger since he signed that new, expensive long-term contract.
What are your expectations for next season in the Championship/Where will we finish?
It`ll be difficult, but we have to be targeting promotion, surely? I think we will do it. It`s destined for it to happen in the season I won`t be able to regularly go to games, as I`ll be studying over in the U.S. Regarding individual players, I expect Lansbury to develop into a real star if he gets a full season in a central role behind the strikers. And I`d like to see us keep faith with Darlow/give Lascelles a long-overdue run in the side. Why spend millions on a new goalkeeper/centre-back when there`s people already here that can do the job? And it`s been too long since our Academy produced any real quality.
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?
Let`s see after this summer. They spent around £6 million last summer, but kept their hands in their pocket over January. This transfer window is a test of their intentions. That said, I don`t think it matters so long as they`re brining in quality. At this level that doesn`t necessitate a huge transfer fee. As much as we`d all love to see some ‘stellar signings` there`s lower-league talents who can be just as effective. An example; Reading were investing £400K in Le Fondre at the same time we were splurging £1.2 million and £18K a week in Miller. Who got the better deal there? There`s also plenty of good free transfer/loan deals out there, providing we can meet the wage demands. I`m happy to see who we sign, and then judge them on next season`s performances, and not the price tag. It`s worth saying too that we have a good squad already. We shouldn`t need to throw millions at it to be in and around the Top 6 next season.
Name a former Forest player you were most disappointed to see sign for another club?
I`d say Commons, but that made me angry rather than disappointed. Instead, I`ll go for Wes Morgan. This is a guy we should have strived to keep at Forest his whole career. I was gutted the day we sold him. I get the argument that the money we got for Wes allowed us to bring in Guedioura, and kept us up. But we had a better squad last season than it seemed under Cotterill, and it shouldn`t have been necessary. Naturally, it`s come back to bite us. Does anybody really think that Leicester would have beaten us to the play-offs by 2 points if they hadn`t had Wes anchoring their defence all season?
What’s your opinion on Billy Davies and will he bring success to the club?
As a manager, I like him. In my 15 years following the club, we`ve never found anyone better. 5 Top 6 finishes in this league is an impressive record, although it is slightly perturbing that none of them were Top 2. Perhaps, given that he is prone to slow starts and defensive tactics away from home, Billy brings this on himself. We`ll see next season. I think he`s here for the long haul, like him or not. As a person, I can see why people dislike him. But, frankly, if he can get us up, I really don`t give a damn. There aren`t many managers at this level who can inspire like him.
In your opinion, was it the right or wrong decision to sack Sean O’Driscoll?
Right. Admittedly harsh, but I rather admire that we`ve got someone in charge prepared to take a decisive decision to move the club forward. Results were ok, but I felt that Sean O`Driscoll was leading us down a dead end. I`ve never seen a manager so cautious and negative with the resources that he had. Why we`d have Gillett starting every week, and then we`d pass the ball around our own half, seldom going anywhere, while talents like McGugan, Lansbury and Majewski were rotting on the bench, was a mystery to me. He was infuriating; the claiming not to care about results, the constant chopping and changing of systems out of deference to the opposition. Driving home from games, I`d be struggling not to fall asleep at the wheel during his post-match interviews. So I can imagine his team talks weren`t a barrel of laughs either. I know a lot of people disagree with me on this but, hey, having different opinions is part of what makes football so wonderful. To me, he comes across as a decent bloke with a wealth of knowledge about football, but manager of a club the size of Forest? No.
New stadium, or renovate the City Ground?
I don’t see the logic of moving. It`s not like we`re selling out the City Ground every week. Maybe renovate it, but for now, wouldn`t that money be better spent improving the team? I remember, in the summer of 2010, we splashed out on a new club shop at the same time Billy was being denied funds to sign any players. Maddening. Let`s get things right on the pitch first, then start worrying about the stadium.
If you could put one question or make one request to Mr.Fawaz Al-Hasawi, what would it be?
What is the exact nature of Jim Price`s role at Nottingham Forest? Is he the reason we haven`t had a replacement for Mark Arthur announced yet? (Ok, that`s two questions.)
Where do you sit/stand at the City Ground?
Brian Clough Upper. Row 11. Seat 134. Atmosphere like a morgue, but there`s some pretty decent people sat around me. Good view as well.
Name the celebrity you would most like to meet.
I`ve already met him. Carl ‘the Cobra’ Froch; 3-time super-middleweight champion of the world, and the fighting pride of Nottingham.
Many thanks to Josh 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. Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Vital Forest Fan Interview: Josh Still
How long have you been following Forest and do you remember your first game?