Friday, 5 May 2017

Finale at Forest: Ipswich Town match preview

Laura and her Forest fan friends joined us in the Black Horse pub
after the final home game of the season in 2015 
As I prepare myself to head for a weekend in Nottingham, I become very aware that, while we could have an impact on the relegation battle in this league, our own season has been completely insignificant.

Forest go into the game needing a result, as they face the possibility of playing in League One next year. How nervous their fans must be.

Meanwhile, the Tractor Boys are letting loose a collective sigh of relief that another inconsequential season is over and we can take a break from the frustrations of following our team.

On speaking with a friend of mine who has been a season ticket holder at the City Ground for many years, one thing has become clear: we are so similar to them and it could easily have been us in that position.

Below you will find my interview with Laura, who I first met some years back in a bar by the river before a very foggy midweek game.

Laura's comments bear a huge resemblance to the complaints and fears that have been expressed by many Town fans this season, including myself.

Their best player was sold and not replaced, money from player sales was not reinvested and the team were inconsistent despite managing good results against some of the top teams.

The situation they find themselves in should serve as a warning to Ipswich Town - fans and those running the club - that this is where we could (some would say 'will') find ourselves if we continue as we are.

However, I feel they do also serve as proof that things could be far worse at Town. As you'll see, Laura mentions the restrictions enforced when they broke FFP rules and the effect that has had.

Whilst we all would like to see Evans spend a little more on the squad, it's important to note this very real consequence of spending too much. 

Forest fans, like us, have become increasingly frustrated with the way their club is being run. 

As we watch the feelings of either relief or devastation unfold in front of the Sky cameras on Sunday, perhaps it will stir something in us, because relegation to League One would be disastrous for us and it may well be for them.

With that in mind, here are Laura's fascinating thoughts on the match and their dreadful 2016/17.

Easier said than done, but can you summarise how your season has gone this year?

I don't think I need to summarise how our season has gone...people only need to look at the league table to see! 

We started with a new boss, scoring goals and playing more exciting football, but that didn't last long. The owner sold the best player to have come from the academy in years but he didn't replace him and it just went downhill from there.

Two new managers later and we are in a total mess. This is all thanks to the owner destroying the club.

Why have things gone so badly wrong?

This has been coming for years.

Under the current owner we have had transfer embargoes, unpaid bills, winding up orders and lack of staff because people have lost their jobs.

This cannot help matters on the pitch, especially when you hear whisperings of players being paid late (of course, no one knows if that is true).
The blame has to lie at the feet of our owner. 

We have had a managerial merry-go-round throughout his tenure: no-one ever gets time to build a squad. Then we have some players who simply aren't good enough and don't seem to care about the club

At the start of the season where did you expect to finish? Did you ever think relegation would be a worry?

With a new manager who I had never heard of along with new players who, again, I had never heard of I wasn't particularly confident for the season ahead.

Unfortunately, yes, I did think we might flirt with relegation for a short time. But, no, I did not expect to be fighting for our lives on Sunday!

Can you tell us about more about your views on the owner of your club?

I think the fact that most Forest fans I know own a 'Fawaz Out' badge/scarf/or both, speaks volumes! 

The man is the poison of Nottingham and he hasn't even set foot in the City Ground since September. This tells you the type of owner he is!

I think he could have been good for the club, had he got in staff who understand the English game. But, he didn't do that: he cut staff, he changed managers too often, he simply would not be told. It would have damaged his ego too much.

He lost the fans a long time ago. He did still have a few loyal to him, but I believe that changed when he sold our young star in August.

The lad's name was Oliver Burke, he came through our academy and was absolutely amazing. The big clubs wanted him, but rather than get a bidding war going amongst the likes of Bayern Munich and Liverpool, he took the cash up front from Red Bull Leipzig and pocketed it.

He took the money and I don't believe he reinvested it, despite what he claims. 

He had the opportunity to sell us to an American consortium in January but this fell through at the last minute.

But, things are about to change on that front as you are about to be sold to new owners?

Yes, that's right. Fawaz had dealing with the Greeks before last summer until the deal collapsed.

Fawaz said the failed takeover in January 'wasn't in the best interests of the club'. We saw their plans, they had great plans for the ground, they had staff ready and waiting to go - namely Rowett as manager.

My initial thought this time was that he's selling to his friend Marinakis, maybe he'll keep a stake, but it's a 100% deal.

Maybe he knows there's no way back for him or maybe his family have pulled the plug, no one really knows.

In January, Forest were rumoured to have been interested in our captain Luke Chambers, who used to play for you. Would you have been happy to see him return?

We needed all the help we could get in January so, yes, I'd have taken him back!

You know yourself what a passionate player he is and a true leader too. I always rated him.

I would take him back, we need players who understand what is means to play for this club.

What do Forest need to do on Sunday to survive?

We need to win a game of football! 

We must better Blackburn's result at Brentford. It will come down to who wants it more.

Forest have beaten five out of the top six at home this season and we have left the City Ground absolutely buzzing.

But the following week it is always 'business as usual' and we are back to being poor. 

So for Sunday, we just need to win!

What are you expecting from Sunday?

I am absolutely dreading Sunday. I am expecting a lot of nerves, frustration and shouting! 

I expect our senior players to lead by example, something we often lack. I expect Warburton to start the game with proven goal scorers.

We need to come out fighting, we need to prove that we deserve to be a Championship side.This is what I expect from Nottingham Forest. 

I also expect a lot of alcohol to be consumed by us...Forest drive you to it!

Have you any expectations of Ipswich?

Ipswich are a decent side, a proper club like us. This hasn't been their best season for whatever reason. 

I expect them to give us a good game, but I'm hoping that with nothing to play for their minds will be on their summer holidays! 

Who knows...maybe Chambo will help us out (clutching at straws here!).

I will just add here that Ipswich is also a great away day,love meeting you and the guys for a drink and love the fact the landlady of the Black Horse pub is a Forest fan!

Are there any of your players we might like to keep an eye out for?

Ben Brereton is a fantastic young player, really talented, exciting to watch, a great eye for goal and still so young. 

Assombalonga is always one to watch as well.Give him the service and he will score!

What will it mean for you, as a fan, if you are relegated?

As a fan, I will of course be devastated if we are relegated. The owner always said he'd get us out of this league, he just didn't specify which league!

But, if this happens, I will 100% renew my season ticket, back the new owners and the manager and hope next season we have people at the club who know how to run a football club rather than a refrigeration company. 

The good thing about being a Forest fan is the supporters are so fantastic, even when the club is on its knees the fans keep going.

A special mention should go to the guys behind Forza Garibaldi - a group who have organised some cracking pre-match events over the last year.

The 90 minutes in the ground may be mainly awful, but these events at least get you to the ground in a good mood full of optimism (and beer!).

And alternatively, what if you stay up? What needs to change next year?

If we stay up... gosh I hope we do! 

The new owners from Greece need to get proper staff in and leave people to do their jobs. 

We need to back the manager and actually give him his own players. We also need a massive clear out and to get rid of a lot of players who are not good enough.

We need to lower prices and pack the City Ground out again. We need a bit of life back at Forest! 

The current owner has lost us thousands of fans who will come back once he's gone.

Good luck Laura, I truly do hope you get enough to stay up...

 Knowing us this season, I don't think it'll be too much of a challenge!