In a season where there’s been tragedy both on and off the field, it’s the off field tragedy that overshadows the football on the pitch as a whole, as former Nottingham Forest chairman and owner Nigel Doughty, died aged 54.
When the season begun, there were mixed feelings from the Forest contingent, as some were confused and bewildered after the departure of Billy Davies, whilst a few were cautiously optimistic, having witnessed Steve McClaren’s bouncebackability, achieving success abroad in Holland, with FC Twente, and was starting to get his managerial career back on track after the England debacle.
The few who found themselves cautiously optimistic early on, soon had their optimism dampened down, after some dire results, coupled with the fact McClaren came out in most interviews, looking a man resigned to defeat, also not looking like he had the desire to work with what he had, insistent that he needed to bolster his squad.
They showed glimpses of what they could do however, performing a spirited comeback against a disjointed Leicester side, battering Wycombe 4-1, and putting in a commendable display against high-flying Southampton, despite the 3-2 loss. Those few signs of life were put to bed however, after losing to our local rivals, 10 man, Derby County. The 10 men factor being a particular feature of their boasts, having forked out £2,000 on a “We only had 10 men” flyover, which you would’ve struggled to see with a pair of binoculars, consequently meaning it flew over un-noticed by the large majority. To the outside world, it’s probably a little more understandable that Derby County are having to reduce their wage bill by millions nowadays, if they take that kind of approach to money.
The 4-1 defeat at home to Birmingham, proved to be the last straw of McClaren’s disastrous reign as Forest boss, and he was soon out of the door, followed by the regretful Nigel Doughty. Doughty came out publically immediately, expressing his frustration that his risky decision to appoint McClaren didn’t work out. It was obvious to hear the pain and outright distress in his voice, as he announced he was stepping down as chairman. The type of individual he was though, was epitomised by his next move. He ensured he was going to see out his financial agreements, for the next 2 years. He could’ve easily dropped all of his agreements, therefore dropping the club as a whole, but this one intention he had underlines the key point, which was that he had the club in his heart. He was a red, through and through.
On February 4th, it was announced of Doughty’s tragic passing away. In a season when things had been horrible viewing on the field of play, this put everything into perspective. He was a red. This was a man, who had put a colossal amount of his personal fortune, just to keep Nottingham Forest going. Despite his high economic position, he was one of us. He was never a man that was smug about his position, but was a charitable man, who took nothing for granted. A man that should be remembered for his ability to be so extremely generous, and as many people labelled him, a ‘gentle giant’.
In what was an unimaginable situation, the players still appreciated that there was a season to be played. What looked like a divided group of players pre-tragedy, soon transformed into a united bunch. The message coming out of the club was that they were ready to ‘Do It For Doughty’. Whatever had gone on in previous months, was ready to be thrown out of the window, as everybody, fans and players alike, looked on events in a fresh manner. For what was an awfully sad and shocking situation, if there was one small, shining light, it was that it coincided with a ressurgence in form, which Doughty would’ve looked down proudly at.
A vastly improved performance at home against Watford, was soon followed by an enormous victory against fellow strugglers Coventry, and an unbelievable performance and result against Birmingham, inflicting their first home league defeat of the season. The signing of Sean O’Driscoll, who is now Cotterill’s right-hand man, has had a telling influence. Previous to his arrival, Cotterill had proudly kept to his reputation. Boring, uninspiring hoofball, leaving out talented players such as Andy Reid, despite his influential performances, and the disappearance of Raddy Majewski, who is very integral to our passing football. Cotterill’s bizarre decisions, were then followed up post-match most weeks, with remarkably unusual interviews. “If we hadn’t conceded 2 goals, we wouldn’t have lost 2-1”, is the quote that sticks out amongst the rest. Insisting he’d rotated the squad, when the man the majority of fans were screaming for, Majewski, was being left in the cold.
All of that aside however, the introduction of O’Driscoll has seen a fine blend in a lot of games of playing nice football, courtesy of O’Driscoll, and being hard to beat, which I’m sure, is down to Cotterill. Furthermore, the loan signings of George Elokobi and Danny Higginbotham, have sured up the defence, with Adlene Guedioura providing the adventorous energy and magical spark in the middle of midfield. Then there’s the great form of winger Garath McCleary, who is our top scorer, and who I’m sure, will probably end up playing in the Premier League next season, and deservedly so, if the tradition of Forest allowing to run his contract down, without offering a good enough deal, is continued.
With an encouraging run-in to come, and with recent performances satisfying even the most pessimistic, the only hope is that Forest get to the summer safe, enabling the club to regroup in the summer. With new owners possibly on the horizon, and a number of players with contracts running down, it’s of paramount importance that renewing their contracts are the priority.
It’s sad it took a death of someone so close to the club, for the players to discover a siege mentality, and to develop a spirit that was lost for most of the season. Nothing would delight Doughty more, than to see this good form continue, to witness HIS ‘Red and White Army’ retain Championship status.
(On behalf of all Forest fans, I wish Patrice Muamba and Stilian Petrov all the best for their recoveries)