Opponents Leeds United also facing transfer embargo
20 December ~ Strange things happen when Nottingham Forest and Leeds United meet. In recent years each has travelled home along the M1 with a four-goal margin of victory, while two Christmases ago Forest marked their 4-2 win with the sacking of manager Sean O’Driscoll. The clubs have a lot in common in recent times – both still well supported by fans who have learned to turn up more in hope than expectation, both crying out for stability off the field in the face of a tendency to hire and fire managers.
Leeds are on their fourth boss this year, while Forest have turned to all-time hero Stuart Pearce in the hope that some of the qualities he showed as a player can inspire the present squad. Forest’s long unbeaten start to the season has since given way to two months of decidedly indifferent form. However, if anyone was ever going to be allowed breathing space in such a high-pressure role it is Pearce and there have been some good recent performances, such as the 3-0 victory away at Wolves.
What is of concern to many fans is the playing style and disappointing results, particularly a 3-1 home loss to Brentford. All too often, when the Reds’ more traditional passing game has been neutralised, Plan B has seen possession too easily conceded after aimless hoofs upfield. On at least one occasion the usual vociferous “Psycho!” chants have been accompanied by plaintive choruses of “We’re Nottingham Forest, we play on the ground”.
As well as being a clash between two of the biggest underachievers of recent times, this is, of course, also a meeting of two of the three Championship clubs facing a Financial Fair Play transfer embargo in the new year. Ironically, the day after the embargo was announced a Reds supporter won the Sky Bet Transfer Fund draw. This earned £250,000 for the club, which may not be spent on buying a player, but may be used to pay wages for loan signings or free transfers.
Some have suggested the club should instead donate the money to grassroots football, in the spirit of Nottingham having been chosen as England’s first City of Football. That’s unlikely to happen, but such a gesture would go some way towards restoring the reputation of a club who have lurched from media bans and comparisons with North Korea under the volatile Billy Davies to this season’s apparently cavalier attitude towards the possibility of FFP sanctions. There’s seldom a dull moment with either of these clubs these days – and that’s likely to be the case on the pitch today too. Richard Harrison