The Vital Forest Fan Interview: Strawberry Avenger
Q - How long have you been following Forest and what was your first game?
I've been following Nottingham Forest since about 1978 when my young friend Ian introduced them to me. I remember him voting Kenny Burns player of the season? I also remember us falling out over football stickers. I needed Gary Birtles to complete my 'figurine panini' Forest Page. Offered a full deck of 100 stickers for Gary and he still wouldn't swap. I'm glad I pushed him in the nettles a few years earlier…
Hey, he got me 'into' the 'Reds' and I remember listening on the radio as we did Kevin Keegan…and remember watching Robbo's cross for Francis on TV…and Shilton holding the European Cup on Forest's return. But I was too young to appreciate it all. That only Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest stood in the way of the Invincible Liverpool Juggernaut.
First game? That would be when my god son's dad took me to the City Ground to see Nottingham Forest play Liverpool off the park. We were up 1-0 and that goal hanger, Ian Rush scored just before half time. It was before the City Ground become all seater. Think I was at the Bridgeford end. Nigel Clough leading the line of Brian's Nottingham Forest. We tore Liverpool apart with what seemed like 20 chances and we couldn't get the goal to finish them off. They were very lucky that night…but we gave them a 'footballing purist' good hiding.
Q - What are your most memorable moments as a Forest fan? Good and Bad.
Er. Two memorable ones. I lied. There's a few. (There has to be..?)
First. Stan Collymore getting the goal against Portsmouth to get us promoted. And commentator Martin Fisher going absolutely mental, 'WHAT A GOAL BY COLLYMORE! WHAT A GOAL! etc.'
Second. Listening to Basset's Reds…vs Reading. 0-0. We need a goal, just one goal to get promoted. I remember listening in the dining room with my ex-wife (she wasn't my ex-wife at the time, sillies…) I remember, 'Bart Williams…he's in the box…(BOOM!), he's turned this way (BOOM, he's turned that way (BOOM!) He SHOOTS! (Pause at what seemed like forever!!!) HE SCOH-OORRRRES! (commentator falsetto!) Bart Williams has scored the goal that gets Forest promoted…' (with mere minutes to go.) Me: 'YES! WE'VE DONE IT!' top of my voice. Heart attack moment! My wife and I went mental around the dining room and hugged, screaming our heads off!
3rd and final one. Calderwood came in for some stick. But I always admired his integrity. And he doesn't quite get the credit he deserved for the 1st two seasons in charge. He narrowly missed out on promotion the 1st time by 2 points after being top by a clear ten points (after a disastrous January period, what is it with Forest and Januaries?)
Anyway, 2nd season, following the Yeovil debacle…we're in the top 6, having another torrid dip in form…and with 10 games to go…ONLY Calderwood believes Forest can STILL do it. It was impossible, no way we can catch Donny or Carlisle? Even Robin Chipperfield appears to question the sanity of Calderwood. But Colin is steadfast in his unshakeable belief.
Ten games later, following an astonishing run, it comes down to the final game of the season, Forest are doing Yeovil, oh mamma(!) we give them the reaming they've had coming for a year…we're 'on them' like a 'rash….' and the commentary splits…Donny have missed chance after chance… It can't be? Surely it can't be our day? We never have any luck…
The final whistle blows…Donny have failed…Carlisle have choked…I'm in shock… I don't jump up and down. I sit there…relief. Tears in my eyes…and I almost cry…with a lump in my throat…I couldn't believe it. We'd finally escaped. It was a script you could not have written. (Still brings a lump to my throat. Justice was finally done. And Calderwood deserved that one.)
4th - shhh, can I have just one more. The demolition of Sheffield Wednesday 7-1 ('Can he make it 7? Yes he can!')
5th - No, last, really, Collymore turns and puts the ball through Old Trafford to make it 2-1 to silence arrogant UTD.
6th… 'Camp, he's saved…NO…it's gone in…CAMP SAVES IT….NO it's cleared off the line….' Colin Fray apoplectic frenzy as we break our Derby hoodoo? (Ok, I'll behave now.)
Q - Since you have been following Forest, what would your best eleven be? And who is your all time favourite player?
Er. Tough one. We had Brian's class of '79. Clark's Avengers. We had Bassett's Terminators. Hart's 'Shoe-string Babes.' Laterly, Billy's 'Red Arrows.'
'Across the back…'
Gunter Dawson Walker Pearce
Stone McGovern Keane Robertson
On the subs bench (heh…) Just joking…but Cooper (Basset rued the day he let him go…), Van Hoydonk (for his freekicks), Birtles, Woodcock, Francis, Bohinen (made Stone look good…), Burnsy, O' Neil, Lloyd the head butt…soft spot for Jim Brennan…Earnie and the Moussi…and Mckenna is so the captain we've been needing for years…alas…it has come too late for him…Geoff Thomas and Woany deserve a mention as does Johnno for his purple patch…Jennas, Gareth Williams in 'that' season…Huckerby doing Derby for us…should have kept him.
Q - In your opinion, what is the best goal you have seen Forest score?
Er. Majewski against Derby. The match had barely started and KA-BOOM! The lightning foot of Zeus completey rocks Derby to their core. It was an astonishing strike. Oh, baby, if Maji can build on that kind of promise.
Q - Best and worst away ground visited?
Old Trafford (Chesterfield vs Middlesborough. The goal should have stood and Middlesborough should have been out.) takes some beating.
Chesterfield. Bless them. Old corrugated 'shed' from football's working class roots. They've FINALLY got a new ground near Tescos on stilts. Good luck to them. They've been waiting a long time for it.
Q - What are your thoughts on the proposed new stadium?
It looks smart enough. And if we can get it for next to nothing as part of a World Cup bid then credit Mark Arthur for his work on that. Because, as Cardiff have found out, they don't come cheap. Remember when Forest payed all that money for the 'stand' and then go and get relegated because they can't afford a proper striker. But if we use our smarts, we shouldn't suffer a similar fate.
So, yeah, its smart, but is it iconic enough? There's a touch of 'blandness' to it. I liked the original design with the iconic 'Red Tricky Tree' ie that's who we are, that's our badge. It SHOULD be emblazoned big and large on our stadium..?
The new stadium is inevitable. Sooner or later, you have to move on. Sure, people don't like change. But we still have our memories of Clough and the 'old girl.' There is a kind of magic to the City Ground lights as you approach them in the dusk of a Nottingham evening.
However, we have to realise, under a manager like Davies, we have to make our own new history…and we're due a new stadium to go with that new history as we push for a return to the Premiership and good times once more.
Q- Which player(s) would you like to see us sign this summer(realistically)?
Pratley should be the stand out signing of intent from the 'constructive' talks engaged by Billy and Nigel. And we have to bid more than 50p for him. We're going to have to cough up to get him, I'm afraid. His pace, strength and energy will galvanise Forest at home and away.
Obviously we need a dynamic and quality left back,
…a head-butting CH that can, er…'head' the ball ;) To help us 'mix it up' at Watford and Sheff' Utd. (Maybe some kind of viking…)
We need two goal scoring flanks eg Whittingham and Ambrose. Would put fear into opposition teams.
And there's no getting away from it. We're going to have to pay for a muscular and mobile target man who can net 25 goals in a season to help little Earnie out. Beatty?
I make that six players. Note the stress on a 'psycho' count ie players with athleticism and strength. We need one or two nutters in the squad. With another couple of bargains to flesh out the 2nd string to make it more competitive this year.
Q - All seater stadia. Good thing, or a bad thing?
Good thing. Yeesh, what kind of masochists want to stand for two hours?
Q - What are your thoughts on how Forest did last season and how did it compare to your expectations?
They exceeded my expectations. I thought we might make half way and/or flirt with play-offs.
Q - What are your expectations for next season in the Championship?
2nd. Or Champions.
Q - What League position will Forest occupy at the end of the 2010/11 season?
Q - What's your opinion of Billy Davies and what he's done at NFFC, since his arrival?
Honest. Shrewd. Dynamic. A powerhouse of energy. His Herculean force of will has turned this club around in 18 months. That's some achievement! He's banished old ghost by playing some of the best football Forest fans have seen in years, demolishing old foes in the process as we blitzed Leicester, Donny, beat Newcastle, WBA, Sheff UTD, Swansea (twice!)…smashed QPR. He's given us the mental toughness, laser like focus, clear tactics and the physical capability to stop us getting bullied unlike Forest teams of old. Davies. Master of his brief (apart from Blackpool but they got lucky, nah, at least 3 self inflicted own goals and 2nd halves played with road cones and no left back. You can be magnanimous…but I don't want to hear it. Plus we beat ourselves in January… *Raises eyebrow…)
He is his own man. He has footballing integrity. He is ambitious and abrasive. But so was Clough? He's shaken up the Forest hierarchy from the 'deep sleep' they were in. It was unfortunate that he had to do some of it in public to get their attention. Hopefully now, he has the control, the means and ND's backing to match his ambition.
Q- Acquisitions Panel. Good thing or bad?
A great idea in principle. But like the last poster on this subject. If ND, Billy and Mark Arthur can't go get a player something is seriously wrong. It should be advisory not a gatekeeper. ND either has faith in Billy's abilities at this level or he doesn't. He employed for a reason? Why? Billy has mountains of experience at this level. He knows what to do to get out this division. But he warned them in Nov' last year…but they didn't listen. And what he said came to pass. That's because he's done it at this level and the AP has not.
Fine if you have a young inexperienced manager like Platt or Calderwood. But hang on, why employ people who don't know what they're doing in the first place?
Billy does know this division, let him have his budget given him by ND. ND needs to learn to trust Billy, as for the first time in 10 years, we have the right man, at the right time and Forest have some money to spend. Mark Arthur can cross the i's and t's. More people just complicates things and slows us down (see three Januaries in a row?) Hopefully we'll be more dynamic with signings this Summer and will show a statement of intent to the rest of the division that Forest are back and we're taking the title. Thanks.
Q - Where do you sit/stand at the City Ground?
When I go? Upper part of the Lower Brian Clough. Nice view from there.
Q - Name the celebrity you would most like to bang.
Rachel Weisz. The 'thinking man's' crumpet…. 'Kiss me slowly, kiss me long…' *(Or if I'm allowed a time machine, 'Princess Leia' at the time of the Empire Strikes Back…on the Hoth planet, again, again and again…oh yes…*nods…).
Thanks to Strawberry Avenger for taking the time to answer the questions. If you would like to take part in the Fan Interviews, you can find a copy of the questions HERE. Just email the answers to email@example.com