Vital Forest's 2007 Review
The year started in the worst possible way for the Reds. A 5-0 pasting away at Oldham on New Years Day, was immediately followed up with news in the press of the players drunken antics after the game. A seven point lead prior to the Christmas period was thrown away, as the players lost form and began to kiss goodbye to any chance of promotion. The 2006/7 season ended in disaster and as they say, the rest is history.
If there was anything good to come out of what has become known as 'the Yeovil debacle,' it was that the club got the punch on the nose it needed to put things right. There were to be wholesale changes in the playing staff and quality additions were brought in to replace those who had failed us so badly. A total of eight first team players were given their marching orders, not enough for some, but certainly a good clear out in any case. Slowly but surely, over the summer weeks, additions were made to the squad.
The fans were in need of a moral booster in the summer and it came in the shape of Neil Lennon. The former Celtic and Northern Ireland captain had only weeks earlier lifted the SPL trophy for the green and white side of Glasgow and it was seen as something of a coup for Calderwood and the club to get the signature of such an illustrious player. There was to be even better news on the transfer front with the signings of Arron Davies and Chris Cohen from Yeovil. These two had inflicted on us the most devastating defeat in our entire history, in the playoff semi final. Another impressive signature was that of Matthew Lockwood from Orient. The clubs top scorer for the previous two seasons was seen as the answer to our defensive problems. He's since though proved to be far from the player we all hoped and failed to live up to his billing as an attacking wingback.
The most impressive signing of the summer was that of Kelvin Wilson from Preston. To be fair to him, not many of us had heard of him before he came. A local lad and a former Notts County trainee hardly raised an eyebrow when he arrived. He has since gone on to become most fans player of the season and looks set to have a great future in the game.
By the time the new season came round there was a new sense of optimism around Trentside. Unlike previous years, we the fans felt justified in our tag as promotion favourites. Calderwood and co had a clean slate to work from and all previous crimes of the seasons past had been if not forgotten, forgiven.
The first two games of the new campaign proved fruitless in terms of goals. Defensively we looked quite solid and two clean sheets was seen as positive by the manager. By the time the Lucky Leeds bandwagon left town with their bag of swag and the three points, there were mixed feelings amongst the fans. We were playing the tippy tappy stuff us fans demand, but were getting little reward in front of goal.
September was to be a good month for us. We were now looking like the side we hoped we were. Apart from a defeat at the hands of Peterborough and the infamous Carling Cup game with Fester we were winning and winning well. We even managed to salvage some pride with a 3-0 victory away at Yeovil.
The first signs of not all being hunkey dorey was when we went to Luton. We lost 2-1 but basically got hammered. This was followed by a midweek game at the CG with our old foes Oldham. Although it ended 0-0, the scoreline masked the fact that there were shortcomings in our game. That night we hardly had a shot at goal in our own backyard. Defensively we looked shaky and the managers team selections and substitutions, as well as tactics were coming into question. This was also the time that stand in captain and up until now the dependable Neil Lennon went AWOL. This fuelled the messageboards with rumours of a bust up with the manager and a return of his much publicised depression. Neither were to be true. He had to return to Scotland to resolve family issues. His return to the fold though didn't see him return to the team. Since that incident he has not been the same player and has not had the same effect on the side.
By the time November had come and gone, we were out of every Cup competition going. No matter though, because now we could 'concentrate on the league.' Our situation at the end of year reads like a school report, in that we could do much better. How we can be unhappy when sitting second in the division is a mystery. But we are and not without good reason. For we are showing some of the signs that was the cause of our downfall last year.
This is a difficult period for Calderwood, the players and the fans alike. It's a time when we all need to be united and singing from the same hymn sheet. We can do our bit by showing solidarity and having faith with the team. Calderwood can do his bit by playing 4-4-2 and picking his best eleven. The players can do their's by playing to their abilities and having pride in their shirt. It's a lot to ask of all of us, but if we can do that, then maybe we will kiss goodbye to this graveyard and start the long road to recovery. Then and only then can we even think of such pipe dreams like a new stadium and even higher league position. 2008 is upon us and who knows what it brings. They need a good start not like the last and it can all get underway on Tuesday with a home win against Huddersfield. That will be easier said than done.
For the Reds to have success this time round, promotion is a must. Nothing more and nothing less will placate the fans who have had to endure so much. For that to happen we need Calderwood to be a success, as failure to get us up will almost certainly cost him his job. He has done much to raise our hopes and given us good reason for optimism, but he has also given us much cause for concern. His tinkering with the squad is baffling at times and he does seem intent on playing players out of position. Look at the last game for evidence of that. Playing one lone striker upfront is not the way forward. This is an area that needs to be addressed. Defensively we look sound, if he drops Breckin and gets Bennett or even Lockwood playing and in midfield we are a match for any team in the division. We do need cover for Smith in goal, as Roberts does not seem ready. Two strikers and a keeper for backup in the transfer window will be the additions needed to strengthen the squad. If he can sort out his tactics and motivate them into playing to their abilities, then the omens are good. Promotion is still the goal and it is still within our grasp. Happy New Year folks. Keep the faith.