It’s not been the best of starts for Nottingham Forest this season, after the well-documented car crash that was Steve McClaren’s tenure finally reaching meltdown after a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Burnley at Turf Moor, the club appeared to go into total disarray - with a select few of the fans heaping the blame onto the chairman for the clubs dismal drop in form under the new manager. After a 1-3 home defeat to Birmingham City, that saw those same fans stage a protest outside the ground against the chairman – it was decided McClaren would leave the club, sneaking out the back without uttering a word to the press. The Chairman Nigel Doughty also announced he would be stepping down as chairman at the end of the season. Leaving the majority of the fans wondering how the club would recover from such a catastrophic start to the campaign.
After the nostalgic appointment of Frank Clarke as club chairman, with Nigel Doughty still providing the financial backing for the mean time – Portsmouth’s Steve Cotterill was named as the new manager following compensation being agreed with the Hampshire club. The appointment was confirmed on a Friday, meaning Cotterill would get to see the team he’d inherited in action immediately the following day against Coventry City. My expectations of the manager it has to be said were low, but after the cliché’s and rhetoric of our destined return to the Premiership sold to us by McClaren, a low profile appointment was the best option for all concerned.
Having little time to tinker with the set up already installed at the club, Cotterill has been quick to act on matters off the field by banning the players from using Twitter following Ishmael Millers rather embarrassing outburst at the fans accusations of his laziness on the pitch. An action that quite frankly more managers would do well to follow. Cotterill has quickly shown himself to be extremely meticulous in the way that he manages a football club. Alongside the banning of Social Media, he has also set a few ground rules in place about respecting the environment of the clubs training facilities, something that can only improve respect between playing staff and management in the long run.
The back 4 look much like their old selves, and the hopefully permanent addition of Joel Lynch has added much needed solidity and determination into a defence that has leaked a heinous amount of goals this season.
So with expectations low across the board and player confidence in tatters, Cotterill does the unthinkable – and wins his first two games in a row. Firstly at home to a unbeaten Middlesbrough side, which got us our first 3 points at The City Ground and then away to a Blackpool side that we’d not beaten in 6 previous attempts. Quite how he managed this from a squad who’ve shown about as much togetherness as Roberto Mancini and Carlos Tevez in recent weeks is beyond me, but the man must have some incredible motivational skills to have pulled off what was previously, in a bout of true Nottingham Forest pessimism, pretty much unthinkable.
As I sat down to watch us play Hull City on an overcast Saturday afternoon, the gleeful expectation of victory that I’d so often experienced under Billy Davies’ reign had returned. Watching the manager, it was gratifying to see him active in his technical area, often crouching down to take notes – always thinking and barking orders across the pitch. The game marked a milestone in the career of Wes Morgan, this being his 400th game for the club he was named captain – a decision that had little outcome on the game. We started well, attacking fluidly for the first 10-15 minutes, looking much more organised from the outset - defending well, high up the pitch. Although we undeservingly lost the game due to lack of invention in the final third and Hull's water-tight defending - the positives were there to be seen. Cotterill has given us more structure in 3 games than McClaren could've ever dreamed of, and players such as Radoslaw Majewski, Marcus Tudgay and Jonathan Greening who’ve experienced tough starts to the season, were looking much more confident in possession. The most impressive feat achieved by Steve Cotterill in his short time at the club, is that he has somehow managed to instil a fighting spirit back into the side. The back 4 look much like their old selves, and the hopefully permanent addition of Joel Lynch has added much needed solidity and determination into a defence that has leaked a heinous amount of goals this season.
So can the man who steadied the sinking ship that was Pompey do the same in Nottingham? It’s imperative that we aren’t too quick to judge or let expectations get dangerously of control. Ultimately there is still plenty of work to be done, but the building blocks certainly look to be in place. Only time will tell if Cotterill can truly make a lasting impact, but for now at least, things under the new Steve are a little calmer on Trent side.
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