Give him a ball and a yard of grass

29 Sep

Saturday 28th September 2013

Nottingham Forest         1.0          Derby County


Cast your minds back to January 2009. A certain Billy Davies was appointed as manager of Nottingham Forest. A certain Nigel Clough was appointed manager of Derby County. I remember feeling slightly disappointed but relieved that Nigel had avoided the inevitable day when he would have been sacked by Nottingham Forest: I always thought he had too much sense to take the dugout seat opposite a huge stand that proudly proclaimed his father’s name.

What has surprised me over the last 4 years or so is the level of opprobrium between Nigel and Nottingham Forest. He was regularly baited by Forest fans with the taunt of ‘Non-league Nigel’. On the other hand, he gave the impression, whenever possible, that he had fallen out with Forest and no longer had any time for them. There’s the alleged kicking Billy Davies incident, the numerous touchline arguments and also, the annoying habit that Derby had of raising their game considerably and, to be fair, successfully against us.

This always saddened me. To supporters of a certain age, he will always be remembered fondly. It wasn’t just the goals he scored in the successful 80s team but also the dignified manner with which he carried himself. His style of play as a centre forward in his constant showing for the ball from midfield with his back to goal meant that he would regularly get clattered from behind. But he never moaned or stayed down. Instead, he would be on his feet again in no time looking for a quick free kick, usually to set up a marauding Stuart Pearce. Admittedly, he never had much pace – I remember the Forest fanzine ‘Brian’ summing it up best by pointing out that ‘Nigel looked like he hadn’t quite managed to take off his deep sea diving boots today’ – but his intelligent distribution more than made up for this. And of course, there was the fact that he seemed accepted and trusted by his team mates, even though he was the son of you know who.

Being manager of Derby County was always going to taint these memories. Perhaps Nigel felt a little bitter at the way in which the club treated him and his name: after all, it did take a while for the club to get around to renaming the Executive Stand the Brian Clough Stand. Maybe there were other grievances too. Or maybe, as manager of Derby County, it was his job to stoke the fires of rivalry.

Either way, it is my hope that he can now be remembered and celebrated for what he was by Forest fans: prolific goal getter with 101 goals and a goal to game ratio of 1 in 3, mate of Gary Crosby, Johnny Metgod and Stuart Pearce, son of Brian and thorn in our sides when it came to Derby games. Far be it from me to get into the debate about whether the decision taken by the Derby board was justified or not but from this side of the A52, it seemed like the club were making decent progress and ready to push for the play-offs this season. There are many a manager who have done a lot worse in 4 years than Nigel has. After all, 4 years of stability and not having to fork out for paying off sacked managers and backroom staff and not having to meet a new manager’s demands for new signings would be desirable for many other clubs. But, as I said, I only saw them raise their game periodically against us and when they did, they looked a decent side.

In fact, I am slightly surprised this morning by media coverage which seems to suggest that the result was fully deserved and comfortable: it seemed anything but from my vantage point. Admittedly, Derby created few clear cut chances but they looked comfortable on the ball and got to the edge of our penalty area with ease. So much so that this precipitated a Scottish guy behind me to vent his frustration on more than one occasion: ‘Majewski, yer a wanker’. ‘Reidy, yer a wanker’. I guess he just felt irritated and a little pent up.

Putting all else aside though, this was an important win which we needed to put a little gloss on the previous 3 games. Henderson and Mackie ran their socks off, Hobbs and Collins (yes, Collins) looked imperious, Lansbury was man of the match for me, Reidy is essential and I cannot understand some fans’ frustration towards him, Cohen was…well, Cohen: is it just me or did even the Derby players seem to afford him respect on the pitch today? On the down side, Abdoun needs to pulled aside and have the defensive side of the game graphically explained to him…and very carefully too. But let’s not forget that Moussi went off injured after 5 minutes – perhaps not the worst thing to happen to a Forest side but this did require a tactical and positional re-think.

Nigel, the nice young man with a lovely smile, from Forest fans of a certain age, this is for you:



One Response to “Give him a ball and a yard of grass”


  1. Five things we like this month — September | Seat Pitch - September 30, 2013

    […] Give him a ball and a yard of grass — Forest Lookout “To supporters of a certain age, [Nigel Clough] will always be remembered […]

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