Telling people you’re a Nottingham Forest supporter in New Zealand tends to elicit one of the following responses. A blank look and mumbled ‘sorry, never heard of them’ from those who think football begins with Arsenal and ends with Manchester United. A pitying smile and avuncular ‘well, I suppose you’re too young to remember the glory days!’ from those clearly old enough to recall those halcyon moments. Or, my favourite, a nod of commiseration and a hushed confession to supporting a similarly malign-able side – usually a club still beholden to long ago histories and nostalgias, a once proud footballing establishment with a reputation for institutional excellence rather than the institutional incompetence they’ve been plagued with in recent times.
It’s nice to think that, for a few days at least, I can associate Forest with the former and not the latter.
I should confess from the off that I didn’t actually get up to watch Forest host Arsenal for yesterday’s FA Cup third round tie. Having overindulged in Auckland’s nightlife and underindulged in sleep the previous night, and then needing to ensure I got to the airport in one piece meant that getting up at 4.30 am wasn’t top of my list of priorities. Arsenal were the FA Cup holders, Forest had just sacked their manager (again) and struggled to get anywhere against table props Sunderland and old foes Leeds. Plus the replay was on at a civilised hour, so I could harangue my flatmate into putting it on for me (I can only assume that, when people say they’ll watch a Forest game with me, what they’re really saying is they’ll watch me watch the game).
But it turned out the game would have been worth the sleep sacrifice after all.
I don’t want rehash cliché after cliché about the romance of the FA Cup, David and Goliath, all that, but, honestly, it’s all true. Few feelings compare to waking up, grabbing your phone and seeing that your mid-table (and gradually slipping) second tier team has not only knocked the cup holders out, but thoroughly demolished them in the process.
No bundling the ball over the line and parking the bus to hold on for a 1-0 win, oh no. A 4-2 drubbing was meted out, and it could have been so much more.
We looked so damn good. We swashbuckled with the best of them. Ben Brereton, our 18-year-old wunderkind centre forward, made Per Mertesacker look every second the old pro almost twice the lad’s age, and caretaker Gary Brazil look every inch the proud father-figure coach (Brazil gave Brereton his Forest debut last year, the last time he was our caretaker manager).
Jordan Smith pulled off a few glorious and vital saves. Ben Osborn was his industrious self. Joe Worrall put in some stonking tackles, and I’m not even mad about his red card. The only thing that consistently gives me hope about this madhouse of a club that I support is the quality of the kids coming through from the academy. I know we’re a selling club these days, but at least we get a little while to enjoy the fruits of the Nigel Doughty Academy.
But it would be remiss of me not to mention the real hero in all of this. Eric Lichaj. Take a bow sir.
What a performance. What a goal. What an excellent time to get a dog.
And to cap all this off, as of this morning we have a new manager – former Boro boss Aitor Karanka. I wasn’t pleased that we’d sacked Mark Warburton, as for the love of all that is good and pure in this game we need to stop changing managers like Pogba changes hairstyles, but at least we were quick to find a replacement in somebody who know the division and how to get teams out of it. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m entirely optimistic about the new regime, given how quickly things can change in football, but at least it feels less and less like every time I watch Forest play these days that I’m livestreaming a wake.
Football. Bloody hell, eh.
Categories: English/UK Football
Waiheke Islander currently in exile in Wellington. Supporter of Nottingham Forest and England, through thick and thin (there's been plenty of that). As a player is somewhat averse to the offside rule.