An all-too-typical season by the Trent – Interview
Thursday, 22nd Feb 2018 20:32 by Clive Whittingham
Perennial crisis club Nottingham Forest seem to be at it again with results nosediving after yet another change of manager – our man at the City Ground is Jack McCormick.
Right, can you assess Forest’s season so far for us without writing a book?
JM: Erm, no. Just one Forest v QPR fixture, one season, I'd like to be able to sum things up quickly and easily. But of course that's never the case. Another manager sacked and replaced; another set of plans ripped up, and another season of early promise has slipped from our grasp. Another relegation scrap, then. Not that it should come to that, given the calibre of manager we've brought in - in Aitor Karanka - and the squad he's managed to assemble. But this is Nottingham Forest we're talking about.
Mark Warburton seemed to be doing reasonably well to us, why was he sacked? How was the decision greeted by fans?
JM: I was really disappointed to see Warburton sacked. Not only because I thought we were over the trigger-happy-foreign-owner problems (more on that in a bit), but because I could see his vision: a youthful squad playing decent football and making progress in a sustainable fashion over a number of seasons. I was under the impression that's what the board wanted and that they were fully behind him, but it wasn't to be.
Taking the rose-tinted specs off for a second, though, it's not difficult to see why they swung the axe.
Unfortunately, we were bad more often than we were good, and we shipped goals like they were going out of fashion. It was embarrassing to watch at times - fun, yes, when we were scoring even more than we were conceding, but the goals soon dried up. The team was in desperate need of leadership on the pitch and of players who would show some fight. It's great seeing young players coming through - especially those from our academy making the step up - but it's foolish to not supplement that with experience. You'll never win anything with kids.
Aitor Karanka played some of the dullest football I’ve ever seen at Middlesbrough, what’s been the reaction to him coming in?
JM: If you've stuck with me this far you'll realise he's exactly what we needed. I think generally we're delighted we've managed to attract a manager with such a good - albeit short - record. It certainly dispelled some of the anger surrounding Warburton's departure. If you'd told me when we sacked him we'd be replacing him with Karanka I wouldn't have been half as concerned.
How’s he done so far?
JM: If you're taking the results in isolation, it's been awful. Take away the 2-0 win at Wolves - a bizarre anomaly - and we're at: P7 W0 D2 L5, only scoring twice. Bear in mind he took over immediately after a 4-2 win over Arsenal in the cup, too.That's only half the story, however. We've signed a million new players and shipped the same number out, and the players will take time to adapt - either to their new team or to Karanka's coaching style.
A mad January with half a dozen in and out, what did you make of all that? Is the team any better for it?
JM: Much needed. We managed to get rid of a load of deadwood (including your editor's favourite player, Matt Mills) and replace them with players who have great experience at Championship level and above. More importantly, they're players with the mentality Karanka wants to instill - the kind sorely lacking under Warburton. Notable additions include Ben Watson, Adlene Guedioura (a bit of a fans' favourite from his previous stint at the City Ground) and Lee Tomlin - an absolute wizard with the ball but known as a difficult player to manage. The team is far better for it. We've added strength and resilience, and creativity. I'm confident we'll be OK this season and can build over the summer.
Have you saddled yourself with another mental foreign owner? His reputation in Greece is ‘colourful’ and the last few months have been very typical of modern day Forest…
JM: You'd be forgiven for thinking it was going that way again, but we do now have a very solid, experienced and respected senior management team in place. They have done a lot of work off the pitch to repair the club's reputation, and the decision to sack Warburton will not have been a hasty one. Yes, the owner has a few question marks hanging over him, but the club today is a world away from where it was when the Al Hasawis - whose tenure was an unmitigated disaster from start to finish - finally relinquished their grip. Speak to the majority of Forest fans and you'll hear a quiet confidence that - despite the continued disappointment on match days - after a long and embarrassing few seasons we're back in the right hands.
Player of the season contenders?
JM: Do I have to answer this? Possibly Kieran Dowell, on loan from Everton. Ran the show in the reverse fixture and is our top scorer, but has really gone off the boil in the past month or so. Was dropped against Burton but played against Reading. I'm really struggling beyond that.
Weak links in the side?
JM: Loads. The defence has been the weak point all season, but hasn't been helped by our lightweight midfield. Danny Fox is a half-decent centre back, but if he's played at left back you'll have a field day. On the other side, Tendayi Darikwa is great going forward but is never a full back. I'm not sure I've ever seen him make a successful tackle. We're also struggling to put chances away at the moment.
Short, medium and long term aims for the club?
JM: Short: Avoid relegation (again).
Medium: Build a squad with desire and a backbone, that can be competitive in the Championship. Give our excellent academy players the opportunity to shine with the support of their more experienced teammates.
The Twitter @jack_mccormick
Pictures – Action Images
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