A week is a long time in football.
But in Sean O’Driscoll’s first week of league games in charge of Nottingham Forest, he’s managed to retain the belief and posotivity of the fans. Emotions of football fans fluctuate at the best of times, but the thousands following Forest at the moment remain quietly optimistic.
It’s tradition for Forest to get off to a slow start. This is a new era, though. New owners, new manager, new team.
As they headed into the opening game against Bristol City at the City Ground, there was a different feel to the game, as if times were about to change, and so they did. Forest ran out 1-0 winners thanks to a goal from Adlene Guedioura on his 2nd debut for the club.
Tapping the shirt as he runs away in elation, Guedioura showed more passion in his celebration than many that represented the club last year did when they played.
Forest had got their first goal on an opening day for so many years, and coupled with that, their first win. A great start to the Al-Hasawi reign, leaving the supporters going home satisfied, and many staying behind to queue at the ticket office, buying for future games. The taste of a convincing victory, the positive atmosphere, and people were left wanting more.
What was the message from O’Driscoll and Fawaz Al-Hasawi?
“Forest will do better in future games”, says Fawaz Al-Hasawi.
“It’s a beginning”, remarks Sean O’Driscoll.
Nobody is getting carried away, and that will be the story for every game. Everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, with the intention of striving for improvement in the next match. Anything beyond the next game is quickly dismissed in a calm but stern manner.
In the second game of the season, 2,200 Forest fans followed their team to Huddersfield, ready for a testing game from the team that had just gained promotion from League One and were bound to have momentum on their side.
Huddersfield Town were outplayed, and were taught a footballing lesson by a Forest side yet to gel. The much talked about Jordan Rhodes barely got a kick, as the away team left them chasing shadows for long periods. Simon Cox finished brilliantly to put Forest into the lead, and the game was there to be killed off.
It wasn’t, and Dan Harding’s silly mistake in the final minute meant Huddersfield had a penalty, which was put away by Rhodes.
Negativity from Forest fans perhaps, for chucking away 2 points?
Far from it. Despite the obvious initial disappointment, the Reds contingent were in a positive frame of mind. They had witnessed a Forest side who had yet to gel, dominate a Huddersfield team full of very capable Championship players. The new front line of Blackstock and Cox were showing promise, as was Simon Gillett, the free transfer who was receiving plenty of plaudits.
It was always going to be a tougher test against recently relegated Bolton. Their style of play and quality of players meant the Forest players had to be on their game.
They did not disappoint.
It finished 2-2, and it was a fair result at the Reebok. Not many teams will go to Bolton and pick up any points, but Forest did, and were well worthy. They went there and in the first half especially, proved to Bolton and the division they are to be taken seriously.
How did the respective managers of both teams react?
“Give credit to Bolton”, O’Driscoll kindly commented.
“That’s a game we should have won”, Owen Coyle sharply said.
Two totally different reactions. The unassuming Sean O’Driscoll showing respect to the opposition, whilst Owen Coyle’s reaction is one of a man under intense pressure, wanting to convince himself more than anyone his side did enough.
O’Driscoll is under no pressure, which will work in his sides favour this season. The only factor that has worked against O’Driscoll and Forest so far is that two of the games have been chosen for television coverage.
‘SOD’ is known for playing things down, but televised games get neutrals talking. Televised games get the media talking.
Whilst outside appreciation is nice, it’s not needed.
Nottingham Forest fans are all smiling. That in itself is a very good achievement.
Nobody is sniping unnecessarily. Nobody is expecting. Everyone is just sitting back and watching, as it all takes shape.
Sky Sports, BBC, and any other media outlet: There’s one message… Everything is going just fine, and there’s nothing to see here. Turn around and televise the headline makers.
Who cares if The Football League Show only show 30 seconds of highlights, and it largely gets portrayed as the opposition dominating, when every Forest fan knows different.
The longer Forest go unnoticed this season, the better chance there is of success at the end of it.
@will_forest to get in touch via Twitter.