Saturday, January 21 might just go down as a poignant moment in the 2016/17 campaign for Nottingham Forest. On an afternoon when peaceful protests overshadowed a much-needed win for the Reds in what was Gary Brazil’s first game in charge on an interim basis.
Let me start by saying that I salute every single one of the near 1,000 people who occupied positions in the Peter Taylor car park prior to kick-off, protesting at the abysmal running of the club by Kuwaiti businessman Fawaz Al-Hasawi.
I’m not quite sure, however, what the supporters in the Southbank on Trent Bridge were hoping to achieve by getting their rather large banner out in the bar on Saturday afternoon. In all my years of drinking there, I haven’t seen too much of the Al-Hasawi family while knocking back my pre-match booze, so I’m not too sure what that was hoping to achieve.
The media awareness raised by the well-mannered protest is vital and the next one has been planned for Saturday, February 4 when Aston Villa arrive in town and, perhaps more importantly, the Sky television cameras.
On the pitch, just over 17,000 people witnessed a much-improved performance against a Bristol City side that look in a perilous position at present. Based on Saturday’s performance, their boss Lee Johnson must be clinging to his job by a fingernail because they were as poor as any side I have seen at the City Ground all season, the Reds included!
Brazil’s team selection was interesting to say the least. Just one summer signing -– goalkeeper Stephen Henderson -- was included in the starting 11 to indicate that Brazil is clearly in agreement with the majority of Forest fans who believes a large percentage of the summer recruits are simply not up to the demands of Championship football.
Jamie Ward was recalled from his loan spell at Burton Albion, and his energy levels offered the Reds a much-needed boost. I have often said that Ward isn’t the most technically gifted player in the league, but boy, does he have guts. His workrate and never-say-die attitude could be a vital asset for the Reds over the next few months.
Ben Osborn and Matty Cash both put in shifts to show testament to the work which Brazil and his team have done with the academy. The two Forest youngsters combined to give Forest the matchwinner, courtesy of a delicious free-kick from Osborn, who added another million-or-so to his valuation.
The standout performance for me on Saturday, however, was that of central defender Jack Hobbs, who was simply outstanding at the back for Forest. Hobbs headed every ball, won every tackle and was part of a much more balanced back four for the Reds, which had so often been rotated under former boss Philippe
The fact that Hobbs didn’t get in the side for a long period of time under the French boss told me everything I needed to know about his ability to be successful in the Championship as, on his very best form, I think Hobbs would get into most second-tier outfits.
The return of Daniel Pinillos in the starting line-up allowed Eric Lichaj to return to his more natural position of right-back, and I genuinely believe that the back four which started against Bristol City is the strongest at our disposal.
The Reds now have five more points than Burton Albion, who currently sit just inside the relegation zone, and Forest need 20 more points to reach the magic number of 50.
Over the next four months, the club needs support from its fans, both on the pitch and off it. Protesting is fine, great even, but don’t boycott the team. Buy your tickets and get to the City Ground because the players thrive on the superb support that was so evident during Saturday’s fine victory.
People who are saying they will go to the City Ground and protest but are not going to watch the games are just cutting their noses off to spite their faces.
This is your football club and if you’re a season-ticket holder, then use it and back the players wearing red on a Saturday afternoon because they sure as hell need us all right now.
I remain convinced that the club can emerge from this storm and truly believe that this once-proud club will soon be void of Fawaz. But in the short term, our duty as supporters is to do our utmost to roar the team towards Championship survival.