Late Christmas Presents…
December 30, 2010

David Cameron hasn’t had much to say for himself lately, leaving Cleggy to pick up the pieces of a coalition government in disarray, but he hasn’t taken his eye off the ball and was quickly off the mark yesterday cashing in on England’s Ashes victory by referring to it as a ‘great late Christmas present’.

There is nothing like sporting success to lift the mood of the nation and we certainly need it with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development already predicting unemployment is set to hit a seventeen year high during 2011. But that’s for another day…            

As expected it didn’t take too long for England to wrap up a historic innings victory on the fourth day of the 4th Test at the MCG.

There is no doubt this is not a great Australian team and before the series started, it could have been argued, on paper there was very little between the sides. However the Aussies, playing in their own backyard, have become so accustomed to pummeling the whingeing poms over the last 24 years that there was always an underlying feeling of inevitability about the eventual outcome.    

But not so, England have comprehensively out batted, out bowled and out fielded the Aussies, with the exception of the opening day of the series, in Brisbane, and a couple of sessions at Perth when Mitchell Johnson finally clicked into gear and bowled them briefly back into the series.

England’s preparation and attention to detail has been outstanding and much credit should go to Andy Flower’s coaching team and captain Andrew Strauss. All that now remains is to ensure, that with the Ashes secured, they don’t allow the Aussies any crumbs of comfort in the final Sydney Test.

With the Aussies in such disarray anything less than a 3-1 series victory might be considered disappointing!  How long is it since we have been able to say that?  

It will be interesting to see how the notoriously unsentimental Australian selectors deal with the Ponting question. He is great player at the fag-end of his career.

He could be dropped due to his dismal batting form, where unthinkably he is averaging just 16 for the series. Alternatively he could be omitted due to the hand injury, sustained in Perth, which he struggled with at the MCG.

Punter is nothing if not a battler and deserves a final chance to show that he isn’t quite finished.    

I’m sure celebrity cricket supporter Sir Elton John will have considered England’s victory the icing on his seasonal cake  following the announcement of his own special Christmas gift – a surrogate son born to him and his partner David Furnish.

I’ve always been an Elton fan, both of his music and personality. Let’s be honest he does genuinely fall into that increasingly over used category, national treasures.

However, on this occasion, I’m not at all sure about a 63-year-old pop star, still touring and living a highly publicised superstar lifestyle, arguably acquiring a newborn baby as if he were some sort of fashion accessory.

I hope I am wrong and that the happy couple can provide Zachary Jackson Levon with the start in life that he deserves.

Elton, formerly Reg Dwight, is also well-known, at least in Nottingham, as the nephew of Roy Dwight who scored for Forest in their 1959 FA Cup victory over Luton Town.

Elton’s uncle opened the scoring after 10 minutes. However with 33 minutes gone, and  Forest winning 2-0, Dwight was carried off the Wembley pitch after breaking his leg in a tackle.

These were the days before substitutes were allowed but Forest held on, winning the match 2-1, to become the only team reduced to 10 men by injury to lift the trophy.

Which brings me nicely to last night and the current Forest team who presented their fans with, the best possible late Christmas present, a beautifully gift wrapped 5-2 victory over local rivals Derby County.

The rivalry between the two clubs is as intense as any in the country. Both have seen better days but currently share aspirations of returning to the Premiership.

How often do former players return to haunt their old clubs? Last night was no exception. Marcus Tudgay and Robbie Earnshaw both picked up a brace for the Tricky Trees and Kris Commons withstood a torrent of boos to slot home one of his trademark free kicks for the Rams.    

The following is purloined from the http://www.thisisderbyshire website and will be music to the ears of Forest fans everywhere:

Forest’s pace and attacking play combined with Derby’s wretched defending made it a nightmare night for the Rams.

It was the first time in more than 100 years Derby had conceded five goals to the Reds. The last time was in March 1904.

The Rams are leaking goals at an alarming rate. Seventeen have found their net in the last seven games.”

Happy New Year!

Earnie on a roll and Martin O’Neil for Forest?
August 25, 2010

Forest have hardly got off to a flyer this season but it is early days and their displays have warranted a better points return than the meagre two out of a possible 9 they  have accrued.

On Saturday, having dominated the first half at the splendid Madejski Stadium, they went in 1-0 down after Reading scored from their only meaningful attack of the half.

However, shortly after the interval Forest got their just reward when Reading’s, otherwise outstanding, Italian keeper, Federici, produced a goalkeeping howler to gift them a deserved equaliser. A clearance against one of his own defenders rebounded to Robbie Earnshaw who reacted in a flash to round the keeper and roll home his first goal of the season.   

Earnshaw has worked hard and looked very sharp this season but been denied, in previous games, by a combination of the woodwork and good keeping. He had earned his slice of luck and it was good to see the trademark celebratory somersault in action again.

Given that once Earnie gets on a roll he tends to get goals in clusters, I wouldn’t bet against him appearing on the score sheet again next weekend when Forest take on one of his former clubs, Norwich, at the City Ground.

I hope so as this will be my last opportunity to see the Tricky Trees before leaving for Rwanda. I would like to think that by the time I return, in early December, they will be sitting in the top six!   

In his post-match interview, Forest manager Billy Davies once again berated the acquisitions committee for its inability to dip into the transfer market.

Billy’s familiar mantra is born out of frustration and his realistic assessment that if last season’s promise is to bear fruit this time a round Forest need a couple of quality players to strengthen a pretty thin looking squad.    

It is difficult to know what is going on behind the scenes but are Billy’s protestations beginning to grate with the committee and are they, in turn, keeping a firm grip on the purse strings, hoping that he might step down?   

I was astonished to see the News of the World speculating that should this be the case Forest are lining up Martin O’Neil as a possible replacement!

Martin was a great European Cup winning player for Forest who has an emotional attachment to the club. He seemed to be in line to take over as manager when Cloughie retired but things didn’t work out. Instead he went on to enjoy management success at Leicester, Celtic and Aston Villa.

If Forest were to get promoted to the Premiership a manager of O’Neil’s stature would certainly enhance their chances of staying there but I can’t really see him stepping down into the Championship unless the acquisitions committee hand him total control over the spending on players. After all he apparently quit Villa because he was unhappy with the transfer funds being made available to him there.

Much as I would love to see Martin O’Neil and his assistant John Robertson (another Forest legend) at the City Ground I can’t help feeling it would be very harsh on Billy Davies who has done a tremendous job at the club since he took over.

I would certainly say he is the best manager we have had since Cloughie and he has a proven track record in the second tier. However there is still a question mark over whether he has what it takes to operate in the top league.

If, and it’s a big if, Forest have enough money to approach O’Neil they surely have the funds to make realistic bids for the couple of players that would strengthen Davies’ squad.

It’s an intriguing situation but I think if Martin O’Neil goes anywhere it’s more likely to be as England manager, should Fabio Capello fail to convince over the coming months!