Unexpected meetings can provide joy and surprise in one sense, but anguish and annoyance in another. Take Nottingham Forest for example. They have gone through their worst injury crisis in possibly the club’s history just two seasons ago, and now find themselves slap bang in another one.
Ahead of the trip to Bristol City on Friday night, Forest find themselves with 10 first team players unavailable, be it through injury or suspension. Matt Mills and Eric Lichaj are banned, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Chris Cohen, Andy Reid, Britt Assombalonga, Kyle Ebecilio, Michael Mancienne, Robert Tesche, Ben Osborn and Matty Fryatt are ALL on the sidelines with injury, which has prompted Forest boss Dougie Freedman to hold an internal investigation behind the scenes.
The findings of this investigation are probably unlikely to be made public, but it would be very interesting should the Forest hierarchy decide to keep the fans in the loop and update them to see what’s going on.
At least there was one boost to the side given the recent deprivation of first team players, and that was the news that Liam Trotter will sign on loan for an initial one-month spell from Bolton Wanderers. However, even that has a minor flaw, as it isn’t yet clear as to whether Trotter can make his debut against Bristol City to fill a hole Forest badly need to plug in front of the back four, as the Football League could still be ratifying his loan move.
And then, to compound the good news further, there’s the matter of the opposition boss…one Steve Cotterill. A man who has divided opinion in the Forest fanbase after his spell as manager, with some claiming he did the best he could and kept us up…and others saying he’s one of the worst managers the club’s ever had. I fall into the category of the latter.
Cotterill inherited a side that had finished sixth the year before, and had been strengthened – albeit poorly, but strengthened all the same. He took over in October where the season was still salvageable after the unfortunate Steve McClaren reign. Initially things looked good. Four wins in six games looked promising, but then things went badly, badly wrong. Forest lost six out of their next seven, failed to score in all seven of those matches – including the whole month of December – and the club, who had nearly gone up the year before, looked in serious danger of going down.
With football only worsened by Stuart Pearce last season, Cotterill decided the way out of this rut was to hoof it – and hoof it hard. Except from we were lumping the ball long to two strikers who were 5ft 8in tall. And one you would seriously question whether he’d won a competition to play for the first team, or whether he could actually play football.
The arrival of Sean O’Driscoll to the coaching staff seemed to save the season as the form rather coincidentally improved once he was through the door. Oddly enough, the team stopped hoofing it, so players like Gareth McCleary could run riot and give the ball to Dexter Blackstock, and Forest started getting results – funny that, isn’t it?
I still reiterate to this day, one of the best things the Al-Hasawi family have done since they’ve been in charge of the club is to sack Steve Cotterill. He may feel hard done by, but I certainly don’t. Especially after his mission to seemingly cripple the club nearly worked. Steve also may have suffered a bout of delusion, as somehow he is under the impression that he was one or two players away from turning the side into a title challenging outfit.
Erm…he could have had both Argentine wizards Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona in the side, and at best we’d scrape the play-offs on the final day. Imagine poor Lionel’s face as he has to contend with some 6ft 5in roughened defenders for yet another long ball he has no chance of winning.
The mere notion that he left Forest in a better place is overwhelming. He makes David Brent sound like a down-to-earth chap if he genuinely believes that. It gives me no greater pleasure than to see Forest claim three points anywhere, but to see us snatch a win from a Steve Cotterill side would be priceless. Let’s hope this is the game where it all clicks together.