Archive | April, 2014

Is this it?

26 Apr

Saturday 26th April 2014

AFC Bournemouth 4.1 Nottingham Forest

(Kermorgant 2, Grabban 2)    (Osborn)

Football fans, eh? We really are a rum bunch at times. If our club loses, feet get stamped, food gets thrown and before bed time there are a considerable amount of tears. AND I’M NOT TIRED!!

It doesn’t seem to matter at what level our crumby team is competing: even in the Evo-Stik League watching Stamford Daniels take on the mightily titled Blyth Spartans, the level of opprobrium remains akin to that dished out from the A Block or Trent End towards the unfortunate referee or the opposition (or occasionally, one of your own players). Poor old Gonzalo Jara Reyes and Greg Halford really got it today. But they are in good company: the lino and the Spartans winger got dog’s abuse at Kettering Road in Stamford.

200 miles or so away, Forest were dejectedly limping towards the finish line in the manner of a stroppy teenager being dragged along on a family walk in the Peak District.

“But this is boring. What’s the point? Do we have to? I hate walking.”

It wasn’t just the inept performances of some players that got goats going. It was the fact that Cherries fans had a celebration on the pitch at the end of the game too. Insults were bandied around like cake at a kid’s party, with the words ‘tinpot club’ being thrown willy-nilly.

But let them have their fun. It’s their final home game of a very successful season in the Championship and they’ve just swept aside a club that spent considerably more than them.

Of course, that anger needs an outlet or a target and if someone is having a good time at a party while you stand there in the kitchen admiring the microwave oven, you start to resent them. (Nobody else? Just me? Oh.)

The play-off bus has departed and as it sweeps around the corner, we stand there gazing wistfully at it, partly relieved that we missed out as it would have been a rubbish party anyway, partly in annoyance that we weren’t in the limousine that picked up two others prior to the bus and partly in disbelief that we were allowed to even queue up for the goddam bus anyway.

But leave without us, it undoubtedly did.

Coals will be raked over, naval gazing will be done and blame will be apportioned. Anger will be vented and sadness will be forthcoming. This is what happens at the end of a season involving Nottingham Forest.

This is indeed, as far as 2013-14 is concerned, it. No glorious play-off failure. No late surge to survival. Just mid table mediocrity. Standard Fare. Average. Mean. Median. Could be worse. Should have been better. Lessons to be learned. That was indeed, that.


Hope is a liar, a cheat and a tease

21 Apr

Monday 21st April 2014

Leeds United 0.2 Nottingham Forest
(Derbyshire 2)

The most pleasing aspect of this result?

Derbyshire’s wholly unexpected scoring spree?
The re-ignition of our faint but tangible play-off hopes?
The clean sheet?
The fact that it was at Elland Road against dirty Leeds?

All very pleasing but for me, the faith in youth exhibited and the eagerness and desire from these players was particularly satisfying.

Ben Osborn is starting to make me worry that we’ll lose him before Stuart Pearce takes over; performances like the ones he’s turned in over the weekend will get the big boy vultures swooping. Stephen McLaughlin marked his debut with an assured performance and an assist – nice work. Dimitar Evtimov also made his first appearance between the sticks and despite a shocking first kick, recovered to make a vital contribution. Furthermore, Jamaal Lascelles looked more composed and back to his old self after a dodgy patch of form. And let’s not forget that Jamie Paterson is already one of our key players.

It started to feel like we could be proud of something once more: proud of the emphasis on youth. Their young little legs ran around a lot: the desire to make things happen and the absence of fear were in abundance. Regardless of the result, it felt good to see these lads gaining valuable experience for the future.

Of course, the result mattered too. The faint whiff of the play-offs is in the air, much to my surprise. Maybe, with the pressure off, the players are playing without fear and are focusing on the performance rather than the result – and with good performances, come good results. Maybe the sweeping changes in team selection, with the binning of serial underachievers such as Cox and Jara is making the difference. Maybe the poor quality of the opposition in the last two games has enabled us to chalk up some much needed wins. Maybe the footballing gods finally took pity on us and decided that we’d suffered enough. Whatever it is though, hope has been restored.


As Ben Folds sings in ‘Picture Window’:
“You know what hope is?
Hope is a bastard
Hope is a liar
A cheat and a tease
Hope comes near you?
Kick it’s backside
Got no place in days like these.”

I refuse to allow hope to surface.

I will simply enjoy the feeling that a win provides.

…until Saturday…and then I might allow hope to sneak in under the crack at the bottom of the door.

5 things we learned from our first victory since February 11th:

20 Apr

Saturday 19th April 2014
Nottingham Forest 1.0 Birmingham City

1. There’s life in him yet.

Just when you think that it’s safe to once and for all safely discard Matt Derbyshire onto the ‘once promising but ultimately limited English footballer scrapheap’ alongside Francis Jeffers, Michael Ball, Michael Ricketts and Seth Johnson (feel free to add more to this list yourselves) he turns in a performance like that. Although the goal was nicely converted, it was his work ethic and hold-up play that was particularly impressive. The sound of hearts sinking and resigned sighs exhaling were audible on publication of the team line-up when it became evident that Derbyshire would be leading the front line. He has always looked simply too lightweight to maintain possession and bring others into play while a hulking big centre back breathes down his neck. However, he appeared to have eaten 4 Weetabix today as he managed to retain possession long enough to bring Paterson into play on a regular basis. He even won a few headers too. His willingness to put himself about and eye for goal have rarely been in doubt but his overall effectiveness has been less than impressive in more matches than not. Today though, he had us all wondering whether he was worth just one more run of games in a Forest shirt.

2. The kids are alright

Ben Osborn’s performance deservedly merited a man of the match award. He scampered around in the middle of the park fearlessly and drove forward purposefully at every opportunity. His touch was assured and he was so involved that it was difficult at times to work out whether he was meant to be stationed at the base of the midfield to break up play alongside the hugely impressive and welcome David Vaughan (incidentally, it appears that we have finally signed him up permanently tonight. Or have we? I thought we had signed Rafik Djebbour permanently too but apparently not. Oh well) or to support Paterson and Mackie in breaking forward. No complaints about that all action display though. Let’s hope he is in the same mould as previous Academy products like Michael Dawson and Andy Reid rather than the unfortunate Keith Foy.

3. It’s only Brum

But let’s not get carried away. After all, Birmingham City are in a relegation fight and were simply woeful in the first half. And we have learned all about woefully inadequate performances in recent months: we’re experts in them. In fact, we’ve achieved first class honours in the recognition of woefully inadequate performances and let there be no doubt about it THAT was one of the all-time classic ones from Brum in the first half.

4. Just because it’s tall, doesn’t mean it can head a ball

At the fulcrum of Birmingham City’s performance was a man known as Nikola Zigic. Never has a man so tall been so ineffective in the air. It would be lovely to use the cliché ‘good touch for a big man’ but…well, I can’t. Still, it’s not as if he’s claiming a reported £70,000 a week in wages from a financially insecure football club. Ah.
Maybe it’s a little unfair to judge him so harshly and some may say that he should be judged not on his height or his wages but on his effectiveness. A fair and admirable point.
Well I did and he’s still rubbish.

5. Alive and kicking

The fact that this win gives us even a remote chance of a play-off place after such a wretched run of form is frankly, rather incredulous and reflects poorly on those other Championship clubs vying for such a place. But the fact is that IF we win at Leeds United and again on the south coast at AFC Bournemouth and round the season off with a win against Brighton at our place, there is every chance we could find ourselves in sixth place by the skin of our teeth.
But read that last sentence again back to yourself and you realise that, in football parlance, it is a big ask. However, at the very least, this result has made the Leeds game live on Sky on Easter Monday a little bit more interesting.

Why does it feel so bad right now to be a Forest fan?

17 Apr

You may well be a person of a much cheerier disposition than me but I’m really struggling to muster up any real enthusiasm for not only the forthcoming home fixture against Birmingham City, but also any of our remaining fixtures. My usual excitement for game days is somewhat tempered by not only recent results but a whole bunch of other factors. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping away and it might even be short sleeve weather for the remaining games. But…I’m just not feeling it.

Despite our current dire form, there really are reasons why we should all be feeling a little more positive about our beloved football team. And guess what? Here they are:

We are safely ensconced in mid table with no fear of going down

Of course, this feels like a crushing disappointment given how we have spent much of the season in the play-off places and even threatening the top two. However, many fans would happily swap our situation of meaningless games for their hellish dogfight for survival games. Step forward fans of Blackpool, Barnsley, Carlisle, Torquay and Northampton to name just a few.

Our better players are slowly but surely clambering down from the injury table

Kelvin Wilson and Henri Lansbury started the latest game against QPR. David Vaughan was on the bench. Chris Cohen may well start kicking a ball around very soon. Jack Hobbs can’t be too far away and neither can Eric Lichaj. And let’s not forget Andy Reid. With all of these undoubtedly classy players returning and looking good to get a full pre-season in, we real should hit the deck running come August.

The returning hero: Mr Pearce

Although he’s not in the hot seat yet, Stuart Pearce will be in charge for next season. Even as I sit here and type this, it still seems a little surreal. One day in August, around 25,000 of us will loudly chant ‘Psycho’ and go all teary and emotional when he acknowledges this. Not only that but he is a coach of some distinction and experience who stands an excellent chance of bringing out the best from Henri Lansbury whom he has managed in his generally successful role as England under 21s coach.

So, all in all, we really shouldn’t grumble. We have no divine right to be up there challenging, never mind competing in the Premier League. Furthermore, by avoiding promotion, we have all saved ourselves a shed load of money in ticket prices and weekly humiliation as we see even the likes of Stoke City battering us home and away.

Of course, that last sentiment, although containing a grain of truth, is a little tongue in cheek. Part of me is envious at the scenes of Leicester City fans celebrating and Wes Morgan leading them to the promised land. But we’re used to that by now aren’t we? We’ve had 17 years of seeing other teams’ fans celebrate promotion to the Premier League while we lurk in the corner of the kitchen reading the backs of lager bottles as if they contain revelatory secrets to the meaning of life.

But it’s more than that. The hurt runs deeper.

And here are some speculative reasons why:

The never-ending failure to win a game of football

We aren’t just failing to win every week, we are getting hammered by some extraordinarily average teams. Furthermore, our run-in is a relatively gentle one too against lots of mid table teams. If one could pick their run-in, one would surely choose opposition from mid table over teams at the bottom fighting for their lives and capable of springing a surprise with the odd fixture against teams around you chucked in for good measure. At home too. This is pretty much what we have been dealt but rather than taking full advantage as we sit and smirk behind our green visor and are gently cooled by girls with palm leaves, we have dropped our cards on the floor for all to see and have spilt all the drinks on the table. It’s all a bit embarrassing really.

Nobody likes us

And unlike Millwall, I do happen to care. There was a time when we were everyone’s favourite other team (I exclude Derby County and Leicester City fans from this, obviously). Brian Clough’s legacy ran deep and neutrals or casual fans usually smiled at the name of Nottingham Forest as they remembered us as that team who played football on the deck, never argued with referees, were populated with smart, nice young men like Gary Crosby and occasionally won a trophy or two. But no more. We are now that niggly, slightly arrogant club who have tried, and failed, to buy their way out of the Championship when good old fashioned clubs like Burnley have done it the right way by using 14 home-grown players all born within an inch of Turf Moor. And as for that objectionable chap they had as manager and that dodgy chairman who fires all his managers. And that time they messed around that nice young man called George Boyd. And didn’t they ban all the press, including the good old Nottingham Evening Post?

Yep. That’s us.

It should have been us

Comparing yourself with others isn’t always the wisest of things to do. But when I see Wolves making light of their time in League 1 compared to our three long and arduous seasons there and Hull City competing in the Premier League and looking forward to an FA Cup final and Swansea City winning over the neutrals with their distinctive brand of football and Southampton enjoying the delirium of the nationwide press and Burnley (them again) on course to spend another season in the Premier League, I get a little jealous and question why any of those clubs couldn’t be us. Even Sheffield United have enjoyed a trip to Wembley and what have we had in the last 20 years or so? A few successful seasons in which we reached the play-offs but ultimately fell short, a few seasons struggling against relegation to League 1, 3 seasons actually in League 1 and no cup run of any note whatsoever. The high point? Probably the dramatic clinching of promotion from league 1 on the last day of the season against Yeovil Town thanks to Doncaster Rover’s inability to beat Cheltenham Town. Hmmmm.

The returning hero: Mr Pearce

That giddy excitement is slightly tempered by the thought that at some stage, someone somewhere is going to express the thought that he isn’t the man to lead us back to glory. Unless he really is the messiah, our trigger happy owner is one day going to call Mr Pearce into his office and explain how, ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ that results in our legend walking to his car carrying a brown box with a small plant peeping over the side. The fear of that very scenario lurks menacingly in the background.

I’m not a number, I am a man

But according to the powers that be at our club, we aren’t: we are a number which regularly provides money. Now this complaint is clearly not limited to our club and is applicable to fans up and down the land and it would be arguably naive to expect to be treated in any other way by multi million pound businesses. But that doesn’t stop it hurting any less. A ticket for an adult for the home fixture against Birmingham City starts at £28 and rises to £32 for the final fixture against Brighton. Does the fact that it’s the final game of the season merit an increase in price? Will this game be longer than the others or £4 more exciting than the Birmingham City game? Or is it just a plot to get more money from a game they think will be better attended based on it being the final game?

Neither have I forgotten the disastrous ticketing strategies dreamed up to allocate away tickets for, most notably, the cup tie at Sheffield United. Lessons to be learned for the season ticket holder: (i) avoid travelling away to Blackpool as you’ll miss out on an opportunity to acquire tickets for an eagerly anticipated cup tie (ii) those client points you’ve acquired for attending away game? Forget about them: they mean nothing.

And whatever happened to the discount extended to season ticket holders in the club shop? That quietly died a gentle and quiet death while we were bamboozled by the extension of the club shop.

Furthermore, not all season ticket holders live locally and therefore cannot take advantage of getting to the club shop early to claim extras like limited edition shirts.

Also, as I type this, I have received a thoughtful email from the club reminding me that I can take advantage of the ‘early bird’ offer which allows me to renew my season ticket for next season at a reduced price before it rises after Friday 2nd May. Of course, this seems to neglect that fact that season ticket prices are rising regardless of whether I take advantage or not and that with the holiday season looming, my money may well be spent on holidays for my family rather than a plastic seat.

But thanks anyway for giving me a tight deadline to spend more on my season ticket than last season.

Financial Fair Play

Perhaps the reason why my money is so urgently required is to avoid fines and transfer embargoes arising from the introduction of FFP. I don’t pretend to understand the nuances of this new agreement but in short, it seems like a reasonable thing for clubs to abide by and if they don’t, punishment seems logical. I hope that our club has a plan to meet these regulations but without the instalment of an experienced pair of hands at the helm, I fear we might come a cropper. It matters not what title they carry (director of football, chief of operations or even spreadsheet whizz) but someone who knows what they’re doing when it comes to negotiating contracts and overseeing the purse strings seems a requirement.

This all seems like I’ve rather given up on my club doesn’t it?

I haven’t. I’m just feeling at a low ebb at a time when we should be entering the most exciting part of the season. Maybe we’ve been spoiled in recent years with seemingly each season climaxing in either a relegation battle or a play-off challenge. It would be foolish to pretend that our recent wretched run has nothing to do with the miasma surrounding our club but it really is only part of the narrative. Although Portsmouth lurk ominously close to the foot of League 2, I suspect their fans feel a sense of pride about their club as they own a part of it and have played a part in coaxing it back from the brink of death and have developed a wider perspective about what it means to see your club play football.

But of course, it gets us all in the end. Now excuse me while I renew my season ticket.

This is the End

12 Apr

Saturday 5th April 2014

Nottingham Forest           1.2      Millwall                   

(Paterson)                                            (Malone, Martin)

Sunday 6th April

Roda JC Kerk                       2.2      AZ Alkmaar

(Powel, Hupperts)                                (Henriksen, Johannsson)

Tuesday 8th April 2014

Nottingham Forest           3.3      Sheffield Wednesday     

(Mackie, Tudgay, Paterson)             (Maguire, Buxton, Mattock)

Saturday 12th April 2014

Queens Park Rangers      5.2      Nottingham Forest

(Benayoun, Hoilett, Onuoha,           (Lascelles, Derbyshire)

Morrison, Zamora)

Football. Football. Football.

For the last week I have genuinely been eating, living and breathing football as I took a group of girls and boys on a football tour around South Holland. Prior to my departure, I wistfully wondered aloud whether I would come back to a situation which saw us collecting 6 points from two eminently winnable home games as we rode the crest of a wave of optimism.

We didn’t. And this season is all over bar the shouting now as we traipse off the Loftus Road turf dejectedly having been served a hammering from a very average team.

There seems little point documenting the ins, outs, frustrations and scapegoats from these last three games. At times, we look like we played half decent and have managed to score some goals but on the other hand…well…it’s not been good. Who knows what goes on behind closed doors and on the training pitch but from my rather simplistic viewpoint, it seems as if there are some serious falling outs going on behind the scenes. I deduce this not from scurrilous rumours on the interweb but from the player’s body language and unusual team selections. Ho hum. I guess it was ever thus at any football club.

If there are any positive points to be earnestly salvaged from the last week then they are that Mr Pearce has got a very clear idea as to what is required. The media has not lost an opportunity to denounce Stuart Pearce for not taking over immediately but I happen to think it’s a very shrewd decision on his part: he can sit back and observe without any pressure and has more to lose by taking over now and pricking that bubble of excitement. Paterson continues to look a very promising player and we are starting to get key players back on the pitch so that they will be ready for a full pre-season. Wilson looked composed today, especially given who he is sharing his defensive duties with and Lansbury looks like his usual bustling self (albeit a little less fitter).

Negatives…how long have you got?

Didn’t think so. Let’s leave it there then.

While in Holland, we took the opportunity to see a Eredivisie game between bottom of the table Roda and Europa League quarter finalists AZ. Roda HAD to win to maintain a slim chance of staying up whilst AZ had their minds on Europe in more ways than one: their quarter final against Benfica was looming (which they subsequently lost) and they needed to maintain their 7th position in the league to qualify again. The Roda fans were up for it and created a show of unity on kick-off:

Roda fans

The away support from AZ was disappointing to say the least: around 25 fans were counted. Admittedly, Alkmaar is right at the very top of Holland we were right at the very bottom (travelling time would be around 3 and a half hours) but they may well have actually come on a skateboard. Furthermore, half time saw 11 AZ youngsters take part in a penalty shoot-out and it is fair to say that a high proportion of these travelling fans might well have been composed of their parents. I suspect that Carlisle would take at least that amount to Torquay on a cold winter evening. AZ fans – take a long, hard look at yourselves.

AZ fans

Or maybe this just goes to show how mental and weird the whole away travel thing is amongst us English fans who regularly take note of how many our rivals took to a comparable away game.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of this game was the constant theatrics from both sets of players who took every opportunity to slow the game down and punch the floor in supposed pain at any contact from an opposition player. The quality wasn’t all that either and although both teams avoided lumping it long and always played out from the back, it was pedestrian in pace and lacking in quality. It is always difficult to compare but even we might give Roda a decent game.

A draw leaves Roda almost certainly doomed and AZ really should have converted at least one of the two excellent chances they crafted in stoppage time. Roda looked utterly devoid of confidence but at least they kept fighting till the end and played for each other.

If only this were true of all football teams.




Psycho killer, qu’est que ce

2 Apr

Ian Butterworth.

I recall at the time, in my tender years, my excitement of learning that he had signed for us from Coventry City back in 1985. At least I had heard of him, unlike the chancer that was also joining us from the Sky Blues – some chancer called Pearce. Ah well, I thought, at least Butterworth has a friend with him to make him feel at home.

It is difficult to express how much Stuart Pearce means to Forest fans, especially those of a certain age. All clubs have heroes and for a variety of different reasons: long service, a particularly memorable or important goal, passion in every performance, a local lad done well, outrageous talent. But perhaps what distinguishes Stuart Pearce from other heroes and elevates him above others is that the rest of the country eventually came around to way of thinking and saw him for the hero that he is as we jumped from our sofa and proudly declared that ‘he’s ours, he is – that’s why we love him. Do you get it now? Do you see?

And everyone finally did get it.

Of course, that moment arose from THAT penalty against Spain in 1996. But let’s contextualise for a moment. Back in 1990 and the semi-final against West Germany. As he stepped up take that penalty, I proudly declared to my non-Forest supporting friends (I grew up in Rotherham – stop sniggering, someone has to) that he would score – he always does.

He didn’t and I felt distraught. That wasn’t right. He DID always score and I had seen it loads of times and he’s even better at free kicks too. I wasn’t angry at Stuart Pearce, nor felt let down – just that what I saw wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t fair as that wasn’t really him – he doesn’t do that and now he’ll be remembered for that.

Three years earlier, I had been at Wembley to watch England play Brazil in a friendly. There was only one reason why we traipsed down south on a school night for a friendly and it had very little to do with the opposition. The general consensus was that he was too raw and would get cautioned too often and caught out at this level. But we knew better.

But the whole England thing is only part of the love for Stuart Pearce. The whole clenched fist thing prior to kick off never once looked contrived. It expressed the feeling that he loved playing football for this club, felt honoured and lucky to be doing so and was damn well going to give his all since it was the least to be done for that lot chanting his name.

And there were the tackles too. Oh my word, the tackles. Ask Ted McMinn. Ask Pat van den Hauwe. Ask Paul Reid. Admittedly, some of these tackles are probably best described as assaults but we loved them. But these tackles didn’t happen every week – if they did, he would have had a much worse disciplinary record than he did. Those types of tackles were designed to get the crowd going, to stoke up an atmosphere, to win the game. NOT, it must be stated, to ‘do’ someone or deliberately inure them. He was cuter than that. He had to be otherwise he wouldn’t have enjoyed the longevity that he did.

And those goals. Lordy, those goals. And not just penalties or free kicks either. A typical Stuart Pearce goal would be a marauding run from left back, an inside ball to Nigel’s feet, a buckling run past the opposition full back, a return ball from Nigel and a powerful yet placed shot into the net. And the free kicks? Well, you’ve seen most of them but that one against Manchester United that shut the Stretford End up post Italia 90 was delicious. The way he walloped it into the top corner from 30 yards and just walked nonchalantly off – he didn’t need to run up to the United fans and stand there celebrating – he’d done his job and if they didn’t recognise him as a superb player then that’s their tough luck.

And I am only really scratching the surface here: there’s the loyalty in staying with us when we went down in 1991, the way he lead us straight back up, the testimonial, the way Kevin Keegan ranted how ‘to say that about players like Stuart Pearce, I’ll tell you something, I’d bloody love it’, the playing on for West Ham with a broken leg (a broken leg!), that hat he wore after the League Cup win against Luton Town, his short shorts…the list is endless…add your own memory.

So what to make of such a Hyperion taking the reins at the City Ground?

Initially, a whirlwind of conflicting emotions: excitement and pride mixed in with apprehension and nervousness. After all, with only a few rare exceptions, the time will come when the football fan expresses dissatisfaction with the manager and bandies about phrases such as ‘lost the dressing room’ and ‘tactically inept’ or ‘get out of our club before you drag it down to the lowest depths of Dante’s Hell you spiteful little man’ (or maybe that last phrase is reserved for only man in particular). They say you should never meet your heroes and in some ways, this resonates in this particular situation: everything could be spoilt if you find out that your hero is actually a nasty and conceited piece of work. What if Stuart Pearce turns out not to be the heroic manager we want him to be?

But after long and hard thought, perhaps it is well to take the view that no matter what the outcome, Stuart Pearce will always be a football legend of our club and all of those memories should be compartmentalised and separated from whatever he achieves as a manager. Of course, that is not to mean that I have him down as a failure already as a manager: he may just turn out to actually bloody well be the actual messiah.

It goes without saying that he deserves and will absolutely get our full support – let’s just make sure it’s through the thin as well as the thick.

And if you want to bring Ian Butterworth with you, Stuart Pearce, feel free to do so.

A ship without a rudder

1 Apr

Tuesday 29th   March 2014

Ipswich Town                     1.1      Nottingham Forest                      

(Murphy)                                              (Collins)

Sometimes, it all gets a bit too much and a bit of perspective is required. Needless to say, I sat this one out after seemingly living and breathing all things Forest in the post Billy toxic fall-out. Previous trips to Ipswich had generally not well rewarded: a 6.0 hammering when the team was flu stricken a few years ago springs horribly to mind.

It’s not that I’ve given up on my team simply because we appear to be out of play-off contention but that we simply needed a break, a little time, a bit of distance. Well, that and spending the odd Saturday afternoon with family and friends would be nice too.

Naturally though, twitter updates were obsessively and rudely checked and the odd trip indoors to check that the television was still working were frequent.

Osborn, eh? Blimey. Surely he can’t be ready for first team action since if he were, surely he would have already played what with all those injuries and everything? In any case, it turns out he can play and did a decent job.

Collins’ early header was cancelled out by a Murphy strike and the tractor boys were kept at arm’s length in the play-off race. Given how things have been going, an away draw is gratefully received.

Unfortunately I will miss the next two home games with a school trip to Holland on the calendar but by the time I come back, we will have chalked up two home wins, Reid, Lansbury, Hobbs, Wilson, Lichaj, Wilson and even Cohen will be back in action, Lascelles will have rediscovered his mojo, Jara will look like a World Cup player, Mackie will contribute more than hard graft and shouting at team mates, Cox and Henderson will be more mobile than a clapped out VW Camper Van, Collins will open his scoring account and Stuart Pearce will be manager…

(If Collins can score a goal then…maybe…just maybe…)