Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Burke's departure was disappointing but so was the farce of a fallout

Well that went well didn't it? Less than 24 hours after proclaiming my hope that Oliver Burke would stay for at least one full season of fun, there he was holding a shirt aloft upon signing for RB Leipzig.

Many people have since made the case that £13 million is a lot of money for a 19-year-old who only made ten appearances in the starting eleven. They're right, of course, and it's always easy as fans to lose sight of the sums involved since it's not our money. But it's not the full story is it?

Only the most joyless of fans can fail to have been royally gutted by his departure. The prospect of pacy and powerful wing play from one of our academy prospects - scoring and creating goals aplenty - was one of the best things to look forward to in the coming campaign. He could and should have been the poster boy of an exciting new attacking side under Montanier, who'd been assured he would stay. The season ahead looks a lot more dreary without 'Twisty'. He may have shined briefly but he leaves big shoes to fill.

Plus, seeing the transfer as a sound business decision would rely on the club displaying the business sense to invest the money wisely - on clearing debts, boosting the academy so that we can match our East Midlands rivals and making quality additions to the squad. We're not that sort of club are we? Instead it feels like we've sold off a big asset that we could have held onto - for his and our sake. With all of that in mind I can't say as I'm convinced that it is such a great deal.

The owner once again compounded the issue with a series of confusing pronouncements.

Of course 'technically' Fawaz doesn't say in his tweets that £13 million will be spent immediately on new recruits, but comparing the situation to the sales of Lascelles and Darlow made a rod for his own back. This led many to expect quality additions that would guarantee to leave the squad in a stronger position. It didn't happen. There ay be very good reasons for that, but whatever the case it was daft to raise expectations. Once again the communication from the club was amateurish - indicative of the sort of approach to administration that is holding us back.

Somewhat cryptically, he also told the Nottingham Post:
"People will see, in the next few days, what the plan is."
I guess we're to presume the plan was to sell off the family silver and hope to unearth a hidden gem from the bargain bins? In truth, there is no plan is there?

The first point is perhaps a little harsh on the new arrivals. Lica, Mustapha Carayol and Nicolao Dumitru all clearly have talent but they all arrive with something to prove after being farmed out on loan by parent clubs who they have failed to make the grade with (or faded from favour at). As a £300,000 signing, free transfer and loan respectively they arrive barely accounting for the money made from Paterson and De Vries. It makes you wonder if they could all have signed anyway, regardless of the Burke departure.

They all deserve our support, but might need time to bed in and we can't expect them to hit the ground running in the same form as Burke. One or more might well not click at the City Ground - although the loan departures of several younger players - and Jamie Ward - is a vote of confidence in their abilities.

Montanier also now needs to work out how best to use his new arrivals. I feel sorry for him really. If the goals dry up and we struggle to win games then it'll be he who pays with his job. So far he's started well but really could have done without a sale that neither he or Pedro Pereira are said to have agreed with.

If football was about shooting ourselves in the foot and not putting the ball in the net we'd be fine. I'm glad to see the back of the transfer window so we can concentrate on on the field matters. There's no denying that the events of the last few days have left a sour taste, it's up to Montanier to lift us again.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Oliver Burke: Please Don't Go

When Nottingham dance act KWS topped the charts with their cover of 'Please Don't Go' in 1992 there was a rumour that it was an attempt to dissuade Des Walker from making the switch to Sampdoria. Sadly it's not true, yet maybe it would've been worth giving the lads a few royalties at the City Ground on Saturday as a not-too-subtle message to Oliver Burke ahead of Wednesday's transfer window.

In some respects we're in a similar position to this time last year. A quick, strong winger with four August goals to his name, and who carries the goalscoring burden on his shoulders when Britt Assombalonga isn't available, is attracting Premier League interest. I'm keeping everything crossed that Oliver Burke won't follow in the footsteps of Michail Antonio just yet.

The above parallels aside, there are some differences between the cases of Burke and Antonio. Michail was a London lad who had risen up the leagues and, at 25, was ready to have a punt at the top flight after a full season of success under his belt on Trentside (15 goals and 12 assists). He clearly wanted to go and he was leaving behind a club still in the midst of a transfer embargo.

Fast forward 12 months and Burke is, in my biased opinion, in a different boat. He's only 19 and yet to enjoy a full season as the 'main man'. He's just broken into the Scotland squad and can, with regular first time appearances, cement his place in the thoughts of Gordon Strachan for the World Cup qualifying campaign. He still has much to learn about the senior game, and has to be playing first team football to do so. We can offer him the stage he needs to hone his skills. After a successful season in The Championship he could have his pick of the clubs. He has time - as well as talent - on his side right now.

You'd also like to think that we don't have to sell. We're out of the FFP-induced embargo now for a start (partly thanks to the Antonio money). Not only that but we wouldn't even feel the benefit from a big money transfer at this late stage in the window. Even if we got £10 million or more, we'd have little time to shop around for a replacement and be likely to encounter clubs who would hike up their prices. Do we really want to force another manager to have to scrabble around to replace his best player?

I don't have huge expectations for this season, I just want to enjoy some football, be competitive and improve on the points and position of last season. Watching Burke grow and improve in a Forest shirt would certainly help with all of those factors. They'll be times when he doesn't deliver or he frustrates - all wingers do - but he's showing every sign of being one of the most exciting home grown products in many a year. He's the sort of matchwinning player worth paying to watch and, with attendances still not great, we'd could do with a few of those.

It'd be nice to snap up a striker between now and the close of play on Wednesday but by far the most important piece of business, you feel, would be holding onto Burke. If that's all that happens, I'll be happy. Let's hope the manager, director of football and chairman are doing all they can to persuade Burke that he can have a bright future if he stays put.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Bandy & Shinty: Something to be proud of

Us Brits are a little bit shy about saying what we're proud about aren't we? Yet, if you'll forgive me for a moment, I'm going to break ranks.

Tomorrow isn't just the start of the new season, it's also the launch of the first issue of Bandy & Shinty, a new quality quarterly of writing about our beloved Nottingham Forest. To my pride, joy and surprise I was asked to join this Blizzard-inspired party.

I'm really rather chuffed with how it has turned out and have to take my hat off to the superb work of the 'Fab Four' Phil Juggins, David Marples, Steve Wright and Sean Hockett. I hope Forest fans snap copies up and enjoy the fruits of their hard work. They deserve it.

So, what's in it? There's 18 articles including pieces from the four above, the Guardian's Nick Miller, Football 365's Daniel Storey, actor Arsher Ali, ex-Reds Paul McGregor and Gregor Robertson and a host of people whose work you'll have seen and enjoyed in a variety of places in print and online. It's humbling to be in such good company.

The theme is 'firsts', which acts as a neat but not constricting way of threading the whole thing together. I particularly enjoyed Phil Juggins and Nick Miller's pieces about the 91 FA Cup Final and Clough relegation respectively . Both were strangely cathartic, a kind of long needed group therapy for the sad way Old Big 'Ead's reign came to a close. I also nodded along heartily in agreement with Daniel Storey on the 1992 Zenith Data Systems Cup Final, my first visit to Wembley too. Actually these were far from the only times I nodded in agreement, I must've looked like a Churchill dog on someone's parcel shelf (does anyone still have those?).

My two penneth is about Wes Morgan and the way we feel in general about players who leave and go on to better things.

I should take time to praise the artwork too. It looks and feels like a class act. The front cover alone (see above) is a joy.

It'll be on sale before and after the match tomorrow at the Trent Navigation for £4 or (soon) online if you can't make it.

I really hope it goes down well. It's born out of the desire to celebrate and reflect on why we all take leave of our senses and dedicate so much of our lives to this bizarre football club of ours. I'm biased, of course, but I think it achieves that with flying colours.

I hope we're at the start of something special. Here's to a successful launch and many more editions to come.