Birtles On Forest Problems
It would be wrong to claim that Nottingham Forest's dip in form has been down to any one thing. But I cannot help but think that, of all the contributing factors, one in particular has been a significant influence in their slip off the top of the League One table.
One way that Cloughie would always help ease stress at the City Ground was to take us for a week away.
They have not had any genuine width in the team.
Now, before you accuse me of being over simplistic, just bear with me for a moment. Look at all the successful sides at the minute.
Manchester United have Ryan Giggs, at Chelsea there is Arjen Robben, while Jermaine Pennant is a big threat for Liverpool.
In my day, John Robertson was the outlet for much of our attacking play, as was Martin O'Neill, although he was always in Robbo's shadow.
At the start of the season Forest had both Kris Commons and Nicky Southall, they had options down both sides of the pitch.
And I don't believe it is any coincidence that they have struggled since Commons' injury and since Southall moved to Gillingham.
David Prutton has been very good on his return to the club, but he is not an out-and-out right winger.
And James Perch has done well on the left - but has played in a very tucked-in position.
Neither of them have really attacked the space on the flanks.
Which is exactly why I was so delighted to see Forest linked with Matty Jarvis, the Gillingham winger. Because I have no doubt that he could be a fantastic signing.
He has all the attributes that Forest have been missing in wide positions. He has pace, directness and trickery and he is equally comfortable crossing the ball or cutting inside and having a crack at goal.
And he can play on either side of the pitch - or through the middle.
If he can be persuaded to come to the City Ground, it could be just the thing they need at the minute.
Because Colin Calderwood's side seem badly in need of a lift.
Overall, it does seem that Forest are struggling to cope with the pressure. In all honesty, I am not sure what to suggest.
As Calderwood says, it is down to his players to demonstrate their mental strength, to prove they have the character to succeed.
They can moan about the weight of expectation if they like - but it is not going to go away.
People are expecting Forest to win because they are, on paper, the best team in League One.
They have the best players at this level of the game and the strongest squad.
But, in the likes of Bristol City, Scunthorpe and Oldham, they have teams who will provide much stiffer opposition than many might realise.
I have seen them all play this season and they are solid, organised teams who can also play a bit when they want to.
But Forest are still better - and it is time that they showed it.
There is no cut-and-dried solution when it comes to dealing with pressure.
With us, in our successful days, it was just a habit. We always believed that we would win - and we did. We never expected any other outcome.
Perhaps it has got to the stage where Forest are starting to forget what winning regularly feels like. A couple of decent results could soon change that.
But there has to be a starting point. Hopefully that will come at Chesterfield.
We headed off for a week in Majorca in the run up to the European Cup final.
And there were no curfews, no rules and, if I am honest, barely any training.
It was seven days of fun and relaxation.
And I won't lie to you, what I mean by that is we went out and got drunk.
Yes, we played the odd game of tennis during the day, had a bit of a swim - we were largely active, it wasn't just a case of sitting by the pool shaking off a sore head.
But at night, we would head off for a good session in the bar.
And it made sure we were relaxed, it took our minds off the game coming up and, it pulled the team together.
I am sure that Liverpool had the same idea in mind when their players attended a pre-Champions League training camp last week.
But, sadly, I just don't think players can be trusted in this environment any more.
The gap between the professional footballer and the average bloke in the pub is just too big. In my day, there was no gap. We were average blokes.
But nowadays footballers live in a different world.
I don't begrudge them the money they earn, they are rewarded for being at the peak of their game.
But being in a position where they have almost no financial limits does give them a sense of invincibility.
And, perhaps more significantly, too many of them have no idea of what the real world is like.
My point is only highlighted when you look at the alleged misbehaviour of Craig Bellamy, who is reported to have threatened his Liverpool team mate, Jon Arne Riise, with a golf club.
I am sad to say it, but when you look back over the last few years, this kind of problem has been only too frequent.
We've heard allegations - involving several different clubs - of fire extinguishers being let off, dentist's chair drinking sessions, cigars being put out in people's eyes, fights between team-mates, fights between players and fans and accusations of misbehaviour with prostitutes.
If I was a manager, it would be the last thing I'd consider. Unless I could find a training camp that was not within 100 miles of a bar, without any transport links and without any female staff.
Then I just might consider it.
But, while some may regard his latest ban as being unfair, I think it is something that will never change.
Notts will just have to live with it.
Jason has played in a certain way throughout his career and, unfortunately, it is something that will always catch the eye of referees.
You could ask him to approach things differently, but to do so would nullify his threat.
The striker is big, awkward and aggressive. His physical approach is his strength - and his weakness.
And while I'd bet that he will continue to get goals when he returns, I'm predicting the bookings also arrive at a similar rate.
I just hope that the authorities don't do anything stupid if he picks up too many more.
I am sure many of the cards he picks up are merited - but a fair portion will be earned through his reputation as well. And the bans he has picked up already are punishment enough.
Nottingham Evening Post
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