From Bradford To Chelsea
The season began with renewed hope, but not necessarily faith in the side that had previously let us down. The new kid on the block was one Colin Calderwood, a good looking bloke we nicked from newly promoted Northampton. He arrived with a warning from Cobblers fans that we would endure some ultra defensive football coupled with some negative tactics. Those warnings were certainly evident at times, but there were glimpses of the tippy tappy stuff we all know and love, if all too infrequent.
The season got underway with the new man having made only one new addition to a squad that had previously failed to gain promotion. Paul Smith, a Southampton keeper was signed for £500,000. There were rumours that the new guy would employ a 3-5-2 system. This was greeted with bemusement by the fans, as they couldn't see it working with the players at our disposal (despite having the largest squad in the division). But Calderwood was a determined man and on the opening day, sent out his charges against Bradford City and lo and behold it was indeed the dreaded 3-5-2 that they started with. For one reason or another the players never looked comfortable with this. Calderwood huffed and puffed and tried to teach it to them, but the players were having none of it and couldn't be taught.
Barely 3 mins of the new season passes and ace marksman Tyson does the ligaments in his knee. With only two fit first team strikers, the manager is forced into the transfer market and in comes Junior Agogo from Bristol Rovers to bolster the front line. Early results are going well for the Reds, despite putting in some woeful performances. Somehow, after 12 games Forest are on top of the pile and pulling away from the chasing pack. We were top of the League, but not having much of a laugh. There had been signs that all was not well with a visit to Accrington Stanley in the League Cup. Forest suffered a humiliating 1-0 defeat in front of the Sky cameras.
By October, Forest were topping the table and 3 points clear of second placed Yeovil. Scunthorpe rolled in to town with former player Brian Laws. Once again, in front of the TV cameras, Forest were given a footballing lesson. A 4-0 drubbing was dished out as we all witnessed the 'Billy Sharp Show.' A dejected Calderwood told us afterwards that we would learn from our mistakes. Following this came an incredible if not wholly convincing 9 game unbeaten run, only rudely interrupted by Bristol City in the JPT, winning on penalties 4-2.
The real cracks in the Nottingham Forest armour were to show themselves on a cold and dreary Tuesday night in December. The long journey to Bournemouth would be fruitless. It would also be the Reds first away defeat of the season. 2-0 was the scoreline, but this belied the fact that Forest barely had a shot on goal against a side made up of kids and loan signings. Questions were being asked by the fans, such as how the hell can players like Harris and Gary Holt hold down a place in the side?
Next up Forest travelled to Crewe and put in a performance that had the fans believing in them again. A first half hat trick from Nathan Tyson helped the Reds on to a thoroughly entertaining 4-1 victory, that saw them 5 points clear of their closest rivals Scunthorpe. A replay was needed to dispose of Salisbury in the FA Cup, once again in front of a live TV audience. The reward though was a home tie against struggling Premiership outfit Charlton.
The Reds form leading up to the Charlton game was patchy at best, winning only 1 from 5. Added to this poor form was a reported drunken night out after another embarrassing performance at Oldham over the New Year. Charlton arrived in town low on confidence and in much need of a win. Forest systematically took Charlton apart. Tyson and Commons were in fine form, but Agogo and Holt got the deserved goals. Forest's reward for such an emphatic display was a 4th round tie at Stamford Bridge. 6,000 fans would clamour for tickets, only to see their heroes put in an abject display in front of the nation once again. 3-0 was the final scoreline, but it could have and indeed should have been so much more. The only good thing to come out of the day, was the incredible support on show from the travelling fans.
The January transfer window was fast approaching and this would hopefully be a time when Calderwood would strengthen his side. A 7 point lead at the top of the table had been squandered and replacements were needed if promotion was still the aim. We all know what happens next, but that's for another time.