Sunday, March 25, 2007

Nottingham Forest 3 Cheltenham Town 0

"Anybody who can do anything in Leicester but make a jumper has got to be a genius". Another gem from Cloughie talking about Martin O'Neil's success at The Foxes. I have a love-hate relationship with Nottingham Forest.

A friend and I once visited 100 professional football club grounds in six days to raise money for The British Heart Foundation. We drove over 3500 miles didn't sleep for two nights. Some of the donations from family, friends and football clubs were astonishing. Alex Ferguson sent me a signed pennant and we got loads of signed footballs from teams such as Spurs, Wigan, Hull City and a host more.

Forest didn't stump up diddlysquat. Their manager at the time, Joe Kinnear, had a heart condition. A mate in the sports marketing world got us a photo with him but even that was hard work.

Forest was the last ground we visited but they wouldn't even give us some complimentaries for the Coventry game. They let in 4 goals that day, Tim Sherwood was awesome. That miserable marketing man has since left the club, I hope he pays his way on his return visits.

I didn't see much of the first side Clough and Taylor built, I was too busy following Graham Taylor's Lincoln City with my father. I was jealous of all Forest's European glory and was teased endlessly at school for supporting The Imps.

I adored the second side he built - Pearce, Webb, Walker, Hodge, Nigel and my favourite Johnny Metgod. "Ooh Ooh the Dutchman's here". "He treats the ball like a long-lost brother". Clough used to say. I went to watch that team one night in a cup game at The Osdal Stadium against a very useful Bradford City; the football NFFC played that night took my breath away.

I lost my father a few years ago, it was too painful for me to travel to Sincil Bank alone. Paul Hart was the new Forest manager. I bought a season ticket. He got the best out of David P****'s signings.

What a sight to see Louis-Jean and Brennan bombing down the wing, the colossus Dawson at the back, Prutton ankle-tapping in the middle of the park, the blistering pace and development of Marlon and David Johnson's movement and goals. I loved it.

That grand finale at Bramall Lane in the play-off 2nd leg was a classic. "2-0 to the super scabs". Marlon was concussed, Steve Kabba came on for them and battered The Reds' defence.

Paul Hart was in my opinion unfairly sacked but it has to be said he wasn't great in the transfer market. Big Fat Joe kept them up with a couple of shrewd loan signings.

The public relations soundbite machine was in full flow: "We're serious about promotion are you?". The players weren't. JK departed after Barry Roche kicked a coffee cup rather than the ball at a windy Sheep Dip.

The uninspiring Gary Megson and his dour tactics couldn't keep them up. "1-0 to The Albion" zzzzzz. Told the kids if they were ever naughty at home or backchatted Mrs P I would take them to watch Megson's Forest. They were as good as gold throughout his reign. We didn't visit. There was mutiny in the ranks, season 2005/2006 was a disaster.

Colin Calderwood has steadied the ship, he is clearing out the Megson dead wood. The clubs' saviour is the Academy and the conveyor belt of endless talent it produces. Teenager, Lewis McGugan is the latest to cement a place in the side. Watch out for young Irishman Brendan Maloney, he is the real deal.

Cheltenham are fighting for survival. Manager, John Ward, is an experienced sort who knows his onions but he works on a shoestring budget. A proud moment for Cheltenham skipper John Finnigan as he leads his side out at The City Ground: he spent four years here as a youngster. before moving to Lincoln City.

Forest start the game at a furious pace, Kris Commons puts in some wicked crosses. McGugan blasts over from close range and Commons hits the post.

The Cheltenham defence are living a charmed life. The first goal comes from an unlikely source. Scottish midfielder, Gary Holt is having a steady game, he makes a surging run, plays a one-two with Lester and finishes from eight yards.

I'm in the Main Stand Block B, the notorious A block taunt the 1000 or so travelling fans: "You've lost that lovin feeling". Cheltenham go close when Wolves loanee, Hungarian Denes Rosa, is given too much time and space and fires over.

Cheltenham are abysmal, their goalkeeper, Shane Higgs is rooted to the spot. No.15 Michael Townsend looks more like an Aussie Rules player or a Gaelic Footballer. Even Grant Holt manages to turn him. McGugan is running the show, enjoy him while you can!

The music and half-time entertainment hasn't improved. Girls Aloud's Love Machine is the best they can muster. You'd never hear that on the non-league circuit.

Fair play to Nottingham boxer Carl Froch, he poses for a photo with my two boys and Godson. I flick through the programme, NFFC have a squad of 39 - twelve of them are homegrown. How many clubs can say that?

Kris Commons has been given Carte Blanche by Calderwood. His crossing and first touch are quality. Forest make it 2-0 on the hour, Grant Holt's cross is headed home at the far post by James Perch.

Veteran left back, Alan Wright, has arrived on loan from Sheffield Utd and what a game he is having; he rarely wastes a ball. Forest are hunting in packs, McGugan and Breckin both go close. McGugan has ran himself into the ground and is substituted, the crowd rise for him, he has been magnificent. He looks to have got the lot.

Cheltenham enjoy the final quarter, Melligan and Gillespie are impressive. In injury time Tyson seals their fate from the penalty spot. They are lucky to only concede three.

Twelve kids have come with us today and the smiles on their faces at the end of this entertaining game are priceless. This is a team and manager on the way up.

Nottingham Forest 3 Cheltenham Town 0

Gary Holt

Attendance 22,640

Man Of The Match: Kris Commons.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i agree.they are on the way up.
with the help from a unlikely source...........
i remember little lewis at 10.and just like master rooney,he gets a chance and smacks one in!
hail the messiah.
king lewie.
maybe we all are looking for "something"
that something i believe is "magic"
magic is real and only some people have it.not many
the groundhopper has it in abundance,i know.
great report np
your friend
casper the ghost