Archive | August, 2013

Five things we learned about Forest

29 Aug

Wednesday 28th August 2013

Nottingham Forest         2.1          Millwall (AET)

(Derbyshire, Lascelles)                  (Feeney)

 

1. It was dull. Buying curtains is a very demanding ordeal. There are the width measurements and drop measurements to contend with and how likely it is that your window is anything approximating the sizes that are available. This can only mean one thing: adjusting them yourself. Also, simpletons like me are even unsure whether the measurements proudly proclaimed on the packaging refer to one curtain or both curtains together. In fact, do you get just the one curtain or two? These thoughts were on my mind throughout the game. That’s how dull the game was.

 

2. Forest have strength in depth. A full 11 changes were made from the game against Watford on Sunday. They still managed to beat a fellow Championship team. Admittedly, only very narrowly but there were some very decent players out there in effectively our second string: Gonzalo Jara Reyes is an established Chilean international with Premier League experience, Dorus De Vries is a very accomplished goalkeeper, Danny Collins has Premier League experience and Djamel Abdoun has Champions League experience. And we have Jamie Paterson who looks like a future star.

 

3. There’s a reason why some of these players didn’t play on Sunday against Watford and won’t against Wigan.  Although Matt Derbyshire scored…again… he contributed very little else. I have no wish to open the ‘strikers are paid to score goals and it doesn’t matter what they do or don’t do as long as they score goals’ debate here. He looked lightweight and unable to make the ball stick when he did get in a decent position to receive it. As for Ishmael Miller…I don’t quite know what to say. There is a very good player in that imposing frame of his somewhere as he clearly scared the Millwall defence when he ran towards goal from a wide right position. However, there is rarely anything that comes close to approximating an end product and there was a moment when he fell over his own feet and spooned the ball behind him. Some achievement. There was an audible laugh from the Main Stand.

4. Fringe players want to prove themselves. Abdoun clearly wants to be in the first team. He ran around all night and wanted the ball at every opportunity. He also showed some very neat touches and looks an exciting prospect. In fact, the only thing he can be guilty of is trying too hard. Paterson was outstanding all night and for one so young and slight, looks very mature in his playmaking and willingness to take responsibility. Words too for Danny Collins and Dan Harding whom, although much maligned in some quarters (ok, all quarters) looked solid and dependable.

5. Managers really do mould their teams in their own image. Millwall had a preposterous number if bald/shaven headed players; just like their manager Steve Lomas. Billy Davies is almost universally despised outside of NG2. Seeing some of the reaction to our yellow card count on Sunday against Watford and accusations of foul play, I suspect his team too are rapidly losing their tag as ‘don’t really mind Forest, used to play decent football when I was a lad’ amongst neutrals.

Our reward? Burnley away. Some reward.

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Back to the Future

22 Aug

Saturday 17th August 2013

Nottingham Forest 3.0 Bolton Wanderers
(Mackie, Reid, Lansbury)

Ok. Hands up who saw this coming. No, really. Be honest. Only raise your hands if you genuinely thought that (a) we would stuff Bolton or (b) win the opening 3 fixtures without conceding a goal.

That’s better. Good to see some of you listened to your conscience and are now being honest.

Those of you who still have your hand raised, see me after class. We will discuss the matter of wild expectations and how it is better to keep them reined in.

If I were a younger man, I would be getting wildly excited at this stage casting covetous glances at the Premier League grounds of which I visualise myself visiting next year. I might even be dispensing with the idea of keeping the week of the Play-Off final clear as we will surely be bypassing the play-offs and going straight up. By all means, book a holiday in that week. No matter. Won’t concern us.

But I’m not. Not a younger man, that is. I mean, I used to be a younger man; the kind that obsessively bought and catalogued every match day programme. The kind that even got his 8th birthday mentioned in the match day programme for the goalless draw against Glasgow Celtic in the UEFA Cup on Wednesday 22nd November 1983.

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But times change. Expectations get reined in. Habits develop. Of course, I do still buy the match day programme for the princely sum of £3. But allow me to take you up to the speed of 88 mph and attain 1.21 giggawatts.

The year is now 1985 and the date is 21st August. Forest are at home to Sheffield Wednesday. It is the first home game of the season after a frustrating away draw at Luton Town. You’ve just handed over your 50p piece and you have acquired this:

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As a visitor from present day, your first reaction is surprise at how light the programme feels. Is this it? You didn’t get much bang for your buck in the 80s, did you?

You sit down to flick through the flimsy document and you are now struck by the amount of booze and fags adverts. You are reminded of your reaction to watching The Damned United: it genuinely looks like a long time ago, a wholly different and alien world that you recognise but wakes you up to the fact that a generation has passed since the events, settings, characters depicted on screen. And then you feel like a pint and a fag.

 

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But once you start reading, you raise a smile at the clever punning on Skol throughout the edition:

 

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You also realise that you are singing that song now. SKOL SKOL SKOL SKOL SKOL etc. You are now wondering what happened to not only Skol but also other 80s lagers such as Hofmeister. Great adverts in those days with catchy slogans. Follow the Bear.

But in a lightning strike, you are back in the present day. Jennifer is still sleeping on your porch. To your profound disappointment, you are not holding the illustrated Sports Almanac but the match day programme for Nottingham Forest versus Bolton Wanderers on 17th August 2013. It’s heavy. Very heavy. It should be though. After all, you parted with £3 for this. But, to be honest, it’s alright. It is satisfyingly formulaic with enough to keep you occupied at half-time once you’ve digested the other half-time scores. Sometimes, you end up reading the articles you didn’t get chance to on Sunday morning. You don’t bother with the opposition view though. That’s a bit boring. You are though initially surprised that the chairman has a column these days, as well as the manager and captain. And it’s before the manager’s. How times change.

The match day programme seems to have two functions for me these days. Firstly, to stare at the fixtures and results page and compare attendances of home games but more importantly,  away attendances of both Forest away and the away attendance of previous visitors to the City Ground. Fascinating stuff. Secondly, to roll up ensuring that the back page showing the opposition’s squad is easily visible and hold in your right hand for the duration of the game. This is vital in maximising the chances of Forest being victorious. Don’t ask me why. It just is.

It sure worked today anyway. To be honest, I was a bit concerned after Mackie opened the scoring. Early home goals have recently indicated extremely disappointing results. I also thought that Bolton looked dangerous coming forward with Prattley taking up some intelligent positions on the edge of our box and supporting their attack well.

The second half was very different though. Guedioura kept asking for the ball and played like the player we know him to be after a below par first half. Reid expertly tucked our second goal away after quick re-adjustment of his feet. Lansbury stooped to conquer at the far post to seal a great win.

We are top of the league. I am tempering my excitement. I will not be planning which Premier League grounds I will go to next season. I will be advising against booking a holiday in Play-Off Final week. Perhaps most disappointingly, I will not be announcing my 38th birthday in the match day programme of Friday 29th November against Reading.

All I want for Christmas is a 20 goals a season striker

11 Aug

Saturday 10th August 2013

Blackburn Rovers             0.1          Nottingham Forest

(Henderson)

Everyone wants one but only the lucky few actually have one. Even Arsenal want one since they don’t actually have one, having carelessly lost theirs. They are seen as the essential missing piece of any incomplete jigsaw. But do we really need one?

This topic has been covered, explored, analysed, scrutinised and dissected by far more knowledgeable individuals than I. But it’s my blog and I’ll write about it if I want to. You would write about it too if it happened to you.

Cast your minds back to 1998. A young Billie Piper was at the top of the hit parade strongly espousing every teenager’s right to do what they want, because they want to. There was also a football tournament going on just over the Channel in France. As we all recall, France won but the list of hot shots is quite revealing: Davor Suker bagged 6 for his impressive Croatia. Gabriel Batistuta netted 5 for Argentina, matched by Christian Vieiri of Italy. Who was the focal point of France’s attack? Step forward Stephan Guivarch. He failed to score in the tournament and the word ‘hapless’ seems to be forever associated with him. Fortunately for Les Blues, they had people like Zindeine Zidane and Thierry Henry who knew how to find the back of the net: Henry was the top scorer for France with 3 goals.

This proves nothing but France’s performance showed the wider football world that a striker’s job was not necessarily to score goals. As long as the striker could hold the ball up or more likely, drop deep in order to create space for on rushing midfielders, then it mattered not his goal tally; as long as someone was finding the onion bag. Spain seem to have eagerly sat up, made copious amounts of notes and got busy on their homework, resulting in much baffled talk of false number nines. That and countless trophies too.

I am aware of a glaring problem here: not all clubs have Zinedine Zidane or Thierry Henry or Iniesta or Xavi in their midfield; especially not Nottingham Forest. But do Championship clubs need one to get out of purgatory and reach the Promised Land? Not necessarily. Cardiff finished top of the pile last season with a hardly prolific Heidur Helguson top scoring with 8 goals. A certain Billy Sharp scored 11 in the same season. Previously, Reading won the title with Adam Le Fondre also scoring 12. It seems that the elusive 20 goals a season striker might not, after all, be the proverbial final piece of the jigsaw.

Obviously, it does help though if a team has someone up top who can score. Do we? Simon Cox notched 32 for Swindon Town in 2008-09. Impressive, although that does seem a long time ago now.  A certain Darius Henderson’s best season was 2011-12 as he bagged 11 for Millwall. Hardly prolific but given the stats above, enough to spearhead a title challenge.

Looking at our front line, it seems that we possess the type of player who will run, work hard and create chances by dropping deep or drifting out wide to create space for wide players and forward thinking midfielders. I am thinking of Mackie, Tudgay, Henderson, Blackstock and Cox here. Perhaps Derbyshire is the exception as I see him more as an out and out poacher; not renowned for his work outside of the box. Miller? Answers on a postcard, please. But do we have wide players and forward thinking midfielders who can find the net? A resounding yes would be the answer there: Majewski, Lansbury, Reid, Paterson to name a few. I think that this is where our goals will come from, as they did towards the back end of last season.

Remember when we signed Billy Sharp and the glee that accompanied it? We thought we’d finally signed that elusive 20 goals a season striker who would shoot us to the title. 11 goals from 31 appearances is a decent return. He worked hard and I was particularly impressed by his dribbling skills. But his style obviously didn’t fit in with what Billy wants from his forward players.

So well done to Darius for his injury time winner; he looked like he really enjoyed it too. He probably won’t notch 20 goals this season but if he can avoid suspensions, he can be an important fulcrum for the side. Let’s not get carried away though: early days, marathon not sprints, etc. Perhaps most pleasing is the two clean sheets in the league: not a sexy statistic but the type that does promise of good things to come.

It seems that jigsaws have undergone a revolutionary change over the years. Maybe there are other ways to complete one. Maybe it is acceptable to re-arrange the pieces slightly in order to ensure there are no missing ones, even if part of me still yearns for that corner piece that will make all well with the world.

“…And we’ll really shake them up when we win the Fawaz International Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Company Cup because Forest are the greatest football team.”

10 Aug

Tuesday 6rd August 2013

Nottingham Forest 3.1 Hartlepool United

(Majewski, Halford, Derbyshire) (Austin)

Milk. Littlewoods. Rumbelows. Coca-Cola. Worthington’s. Molson Coors. (Really? Must have missed that one). Capital One.

Call it what you want but I prefer the good old League Cup. Perhaps it is a little churlish to be so traditional about such matters though. After all, sponsorship is a part of all forms of modern entertainment and if such companies are willing to pay for their logo or brand to be advertised in such a manner then perhaps we should just deal with it and move on.

Emirates. Etihad. American Express. Ricoh. Sports Direct. Britannia. KC. Liberty. DW. King Power. Reebok. Keepmoat. John Smith’s. Banks’s. Coral Windows. Greenhous. Proact. Pirelli. Cherry Red Records. Globe. One Call. Fraser Eagle. Kit Kat. (Admittedly, York City have reverted back to Bootham Crescent now but it would be a shame not to acknowledge that it was actually called Kit Kat Crescent for a period).

They don’t quite roll off the tongue do they? I can live with the idea of a trophy being sponsored since after all; it’s still the League Cup or the FA Cup, even if the ribbons get sponsored now. But football grounds? That seems a different matter. They seem to have crept up on all of us and ingrained themselves into our consciousness like a small tic infecting a defenceless guinea pig. Well, some of them anyway. I find myself, despite my best efforts, referring to Bolton’s ground as The Reebok; perhaps because it has never been called anything else. It is different though with, for example, the Coral Windows Stadium. It’s Valley Parade innit? Once again though, money talks and if it wasn’t for the wonderful people at such companies wanting to give clubs money then in some cases, there might not even be a stadium. At this point, I would like to award Rotherham United a big gold star for going with the New York Stadium rather than jumping into bed with a sponsor. It is built on the former site of the Guest and Chrimes Foundry. Guest and Chrimes was a steelworks company, who made the iconic fire hydrants seen in New York.  Tenuous at best but still, there is an attempt to acknowledge some history here.

Panasonic. Wrangler. Skol. Home Ales. Shipstones. Labatt’s. Pinnacle. Capital One. Victor Chandler. John Pye. Fawaz International Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Company.

This brings us neatly onto the topic of football kit sponsorship. Trends are occurring here. At first, electronics companies seemed attracted to football tops like a moth to light. Sharp and Manchester United. JVC and Arsenal. Forest weren’t the only ones at it. Then a new wave washed upon the shore: alcohol. The mid-80s to mid-90s saw alcohol and football jump into bed together. And again, it wasn’t just Forest either. My most abiding memory of the 1987 FA Cup Final between Tottenham and Coventry is not Keith Houchen’s diving header or Gary Mabbutt’s own goal but the fact that some Tottenham players had Holsten Pils on their tops and some didn’t. Weird.

And now? Here, Forest have bucked the trend somewhat since sadly, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning is not part of a new wave of kit sponsorship. We did briefly surf the zeitgeist but fell off the wave. Betting sponsorship has muscled out the electronics and alcohol. Analysis of the 92 Premier League and Football League clubs reveals that 19 different betting firms have official partnerships with clubs, a number only liable to rise as options become more scarce. Let’s not forget the payday loans companies either: Wonga and Cisse and all that malarkey.

Is it a problem though? Children’s replica tops are not allowed to have betting company sponsorship but that doesn’t extend to alcohol. There are some young Chesterfield fans that until recently proudly sported Vodka Kick on their chest. But before we renounce Britain as broken, we should remember that a whole generation grew up sporting Home Ales, Shipstones and Labatt’s on their treasured replica tops. Did it nurture alcoholism in such impressionable young minds? To be honest, I wasn’t even quite sure what Home Ales or Shipstones were. When Labatt’s came onto the scene, I was a little more worldy wise and even went to the lengths of actually buying the produt in the misguided hope that I was in some small, miniscule way, funding my team and providing money for star signings. But at some point, I realised that Labatt’s was horrible. So I stopped.

It’s nice to have a sponsor that is local to the area and Forest have done better than most in this regard: step forward Home Ales, Shipstones, Pinnacle, Capital One and John Pye. But the trend regarding betting companies is a little disconcerting. The fact that Holsten Pils is engrained into my mind reminds me about the power of advertising. We are all suckers for it, even if we think we aren’t, we are. The proliferation of betting companies around the game is growing too: it’s not the Coca Cola or Nationwide Championship anymore – it’s the Sky Bet Championship. Betting is not just all over most Premier League shirts; we are cajoled and bullied into betting when watching from the comfort of our living room by the freaky head of Ray Winston. Betting, it seems, is a natural bed fellow of football – or that’s what Sky and all the plethora of other betting companies want us to believe.

Betting always has and always will be a part of any sport, especially such high profile ones such as football and it should be remembered that betting scandals are as old as the hills in football: in 1915 a huge match-fixing scandal gripped English football that resulted in players being jailed after a game between Manchester United and Liverpool was rigged. I just don’t think that betting companies need any encouragement from such a willing market such as the humble football fan.

Football loves to jump into bed with whoever bats an eyelid, gives it a flirty look or buys it a drink. It would be nice if it found a nice young man to settle down with for once though, rather than the young buck from the wrong side of the tracks.

They should change the name of the League Cup back to the Littlewoods Cup. We were good in that competition. We may even be due a cup run in this one though. This was a solid performance and even when it looked like Hartlepool might frustrate us, we kept on going and made the breakthrough. It was nice to see Colin Cooper back at the City Ground; I always had a lot of time for this guy who was a model professional in his time with us and horrendously underrated as a footballer. He was hard as nails but could also play a bit too. He kept his players on their toes from the touchline but I don’t think they understood a word he said given his thick accent. From a Forest perspective, it was interesting to see that Billy stayed in the director’s box until well into the second half but when he came down to the dugout, you could see his impact. Not only did the players seem to run that little bit harder but his backroom staff were on their toes too; it was just like teacher had entered the room and everyone did their very best to look busy.

Maybe he is on a promise of a new fridge if we win the League Cup.

Get your kit ON!

7 Aug

Saturday 3rd August 2013

Nottingham Forest 1.0 Huddersfield Town
(Lansbury)

Like most kids, I was a sucker for a football kit. Not just Forest either, to be fair. I distinctly remember having the Denmark top sported at Mexico ’86; a striking Hummel design. However, before my credentials get called into question and am accused of being a glory hunting Denmark supporter (does such a thing exist?), there exists a picture from 1982 of me sporting the classic Adidas Forest full kit, standing proudly with a football expertly trapped beneath one foot. My 7 year old self really believed I was part of the team.

The first game of the season brings many new things into the fan’s world; signings, managers, opponents, advertising boards, half-time price lists, programmes, faces around you, car parking spaces, licks of paint around the ground (if you’re lucky) and of course, invariably, a new kit. Yes, that’s right; a shiny new kit for fans to pass opinion on, to upgrade and move with the times or seemingly more so these days, to go retro and resurrect a design from the 80s. Lest we forget though, for fans to splash out and purchase in order to either (a) make a public display of their unwavering support or (b) to fund the wages of our heroes.

After countless seasons of enjoying the work of Umbro’s finest designers, Forest have politely asked the good people of Adidas to whip up a kit for them. Yet, it seems that the good people of Adidas were a little busy doing whatever kit designers do and had little time to accommodate our approach. However, in a moment of rare altruism in this harsh modern world, they did find the time to acquiesce to our request in a roundabout sort of way by rummaging around in the bin in the corner of the office and fishing out an Aberdeen top. In the time it took a designer to update their Facebook status and finish off a Tunnocks biscuit (classy retro guys these kit designers – impeccable taste in sweet snacks), they ripped off the Aberdeen goalpost badge, replaced it with a tree and stuck on two silver stars torn off the sticker wall chart from the annual ‘bring your child to work day’ last year and hey presto, get me Forest on the line – we’ve got them a kit ready to go.

That’s not to say that the kit is a little bit shonky. It’s uncluttered, easy on the eye and hey, it’s the right colour and everything. And it’s designed by Adidas, like when we were really dead dead good and everything. It’s just that it looks a bit like, well, not only like Aberdeen’s kit but also any other red Adidas kit. Some might even also challenge the notion that they got the colours right. After all, our new away kit is grey. Grey. Not white or yellow (or even blue) which are all recognised and accepted as appropriate colours for Forest away kits. Grey. You know, like Manchester United’s famous grey kit, like Liverpool’s and England’s dalliances with grey. None of these ended well.

Purchasing a new kit is rife with difficult decisions these days: short or long sleeve? Pay extra for sponsor on the sleeve? Pay extra for player’s name on the back? But who? The new signing? Too risky. What if he turns out to be like Matt Derbyshire or Ishmael Miller? An old and reliable hand? Not very glamorous though having a clogger of a centre half’s name on your back. Should you pay for the number too? Personally, I skilfully side step all of these tricky decisions by simply opting out. That’s right; I opt for inaction and leave the purchase of the aforementioned kit until the end of the season and buy it from the bargain rail. Like poor old Wheezy unceremoniously dumped on the shelf in Toy Story, I take pity on these unloved shirts which were never needed back in August and give them a new lease of life. They are eternally grateful too as they glare enviously at the shiny new shirts hanging all sexy in the shop window. More importantly, they usually at least half price.

To be honest though, I’ve no idea why I keep buying the previous season’s top. I never wear the damn things. I consider it bad luck to wear your team’s shirt to their own game. Also, it’s a bit like going to a gig and wearing the band’s t-shirt. Nothing wrong with this, of course; just a bit obvious, a bit needy, a bit desperate, a bit cheesy. And I am a little too old to have my own name printed on the back. This is fine if you are 7 years old but there really should be a law against grown men having their own name on the back of their replica shirt. There is no denying that some of us still harbour hopes of being spotted by a scout playing 5 a side and becoming the first 37 year old ever to make their debut in professional football. But having your own name on your back makes this dream public knowledge…and that would be very embarrassing. If you really must share this dream, just write about it in a blog which nobody reads.

Occasionally, I might wear a Forest shirt for 5 a side. Even then though, I prefer a foreign shirt like my Roma or Brescia ones which reflect my silky, continental skills.

So, on strode our heroes bedecked in their shiny new kit for the opening game. A tentative first half gave way to a more comfortable second half after Cohen channelled the spirit of Stuart Pearce to make a bursting run from left back, play a one-two with Cox , make it to the by line and provide perfect cross for Lansbury to side foot home. Huddersfield gave as good as they got but we looked very solid at the back with Hobbs winning every header and Lichaj making expertly timed tackles. Maybe the Huddersfield players were a little befuddled themselves by their totally unnecessary yellow away kit. Surely their blue and white stripes would have sufficed since as far as I know, these colours do not clash with red. Still, they were nowhere near as confused as the new tannoy announcer who frankly, had a shocker. I’m sure he’s a nice chap who loves his mum but stumbling over Forest player’s names is not a good way to ingratiate yourself with a ground full of optimistic football fans.

I really wish I still had my 1982 Forest home kit. Not only would this save me some money by not having to buy a retro top from the very same year, which I recently did, but it might also be worth a few quid too. I really really wish I still had some of the 80s tops: the one with Home Ales or Shipstones on the front. These tops can set you back the best part of £60 if Ebay is to be believed. But it’s not only the monetary aspect that stimulates this yearning. By sporting such a top, I could be that young fan again and relive the glory days. And be kind of cool in a retro kind of way.

I could also store them away in a drawer with all the more recent tops from the last 8 seasons.

Pre-season preview

1 Aug

And, we’re back.

So, what happened since May? Any big football news? Is it a game still played by 22 men whose outcome is measured by how many times one of these groups of 11 men kicks the round thing into the other 11 men’s goal? It is, you say? As you were then…

Since May, I have been mostly sitting in a darkened room rocking back and forth like a weeble and forsaking any pleasures such as ice cream and sun in favour of alcohol and a deep sense of existential angst…what is life without football? I even gave a hitherto unprecedented time and attention to The Confederations Cup and wholly enjoyed all pundits constantly bemoaning the lack of unity, shape and cohesion from Brazil, even as they ripped Spain apart. Oh for such disharmony at Forest…

One of the highlights of pre-season for me is the FourFourTwo season preview pull out. That needs contextualising. I used to subscribe to this magazine way back in the mists of time but their reliance on press junkets for interviews and insistence on peddling football hooligan literature got the better of me and we parted less than amicably; call it creative differences if you will. However, I am a sucker for the preview in which every team is covered, usually in the form of an interview with a fan. Even more tragically, I like reading back issues to see whether the ‘one to watch’ player identified by each fan did indeed turn out to be ‘one to watch’. Invariably, they don’t. (If you are sighing and rolling your eyes at this, you are obviously new to my work since the depths of sadness were clearly established in last season’s blog. Keep up.)

So, in time honoured tradition, here is my very own FourFourTwo season preview:

Keep an eye out for. New signings Djamel Abdoun from Olympiakos and Jamie Patterson from Walsall. Both should provide much needed width. Of the current crop, Henri Lansbury and Adlene Guedioura have the ability to boss the midfield against any opposition.

Best away fans. Leeds and Wednesday always bring a fair few. We are also developing a bizarre corporate friendship with Doncaster Rovers. Good to see them back.

Best away ground. The Valley. Been twice and won 2.0 on both occasions. Good pre match pub and we seem to make a lot of noise in the away end.

Worst away ground. Easy to knock Leeds and Burnley for being like a trip back in time but I’d take those over identikit away ends like Reading, Bolton and Leicester any day of the week. And twice on Sundays.

Tips for away fans. Most pubs around the ground are home only but seek out the Larwood and Voce (south of the Trent) and the Meadow Lane club (north of the Trent).

Local hero. Chris Cohen is now firmly in the hearts of most supporters after 6 years here. Nice to see him take the captain’s armband.

Biggest villain. Some would go for ex-players such as Luke Chambers or Lewis McGugan but that seems harsh to me. Lee Camp has not enhanced his reputation one iota since leaving for Premiership football after a season and a half long cob on. Michael Brown is still frowned upon for his Leeds and Sheff Utd associations (and his downright dirtiness on the pitch). Jamie Ward and Luciano Becchio always, and I mean, always, score against us. From within, Dexter Blackstock and Dan Harding are the scapegoats when things turn bad (as they are somewhat prone to do); a shame since Harding always looks like he is really trying and despite being a Dexter fan, he has been shocking on the pitch for the last 6 months and looks utterly bereft of confidence. That enough for you?

Opposition player you secretly admire. Chris Burke, David Nugent and Tom Ince spring to mind as they have caused us problems but for most, Wes Morgan is still highly respected around these parts.

Who will you miss? Although some are glad to see the back of him, citing a lack of application, Lewis McGugan and his ability to produce something special will be missed. Watch out for him belting in a cracker from long range against us.

Best chant last season. Our rousing rendition of ‘Mull of Kintyre’ pre match is pretty special. For comedy value though, I still like, ‘He’ll eat you alive, he’ll eat you alive, he’s George Elokobi, he’ll eat you alive’, from his loan spell the previous season.

Where will you finish? Billy Davies almost guarantees you a play-off place in this league. Oh yeah, and glorious failure in the play-offs. Same again.