Best British football ground…

…is of course the home of the mighty Reds, at least according to The Guardian:

1) The City Ground, 1935 – present

Why on earth Nottingham Forest’s board want to move away from the City Ground is be££££££££££££££££££££££yond m£££££££££y k£££££££££££££££££££££en, sorry, a key on my computer got stuck for a moment there. There’s more than enough space for paying customers as it is, and in any case, the place is a magnificent reminder of the glory days. Forest might be a third-tier club now, but the shining modernity of the Trent End Stand, overhanging the river, is positively top-class and qualifies the ground as the most idyllic of any in the country. Meanwhile take a walk round the other side of the ground past the souvenir hut – club shop it ain’t – to the cramped car park, and the place positively reeks of the 1970s; you can almost see the ghosts of Brian and Peter unloading crates of ale to feed the squad before a big match. And across the river … Meadow Lane. To move from here would be sheer lunacy, and madness to boot.

Quite right, too.

Larsson’s Greatest Goal

Am not surprised at all about the impact Henrik Larsson has had at Man Utd since joining. You can’t help but feel it was a shame that he spent so much of his footballing life in the backwater that is Scottish football.

I found a YouTube video of one of my favourite ever goals – the diving header Larsson scored for Sweden against Bulgaria. Great stuff.

Jason Lee

Nice article on the BBC website about Jason Lee, the ex-pineapple headed ex-Forest striker.

At 24 years of age, Jason Lee was living the dream of every professional footballer.

The year was 1995, Lee was plying his trade with Nottingham Forest in the Premiership and the Uefa Cup and his dreadlocked hairstyle and ferocious commitment to the cause were making him a cult hero at the City Ground.

But when a poor run of form came along, Lee’s world threatened to come crashing down around him.

Mercilessly mocked by comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel on the BBC programme Fantasy Football, Lee’s occasionally off-target shooting and “pineapple” haircut became a national joke and his confidence took a battering.

Now, 12 years on and at his 13th professional club, Lee is making waves on the other side of the River Trent as he propels Notts County towards a League Two promotion push.

England 0 – 1 Spain

When, oh when, will Steve McClaren, or whoever else is managing England, learn?

Square pegs, round holes. Square pegs, round holes. Square pegs, ro… you get the picture.

Picking Ben Foster and Jonathan Woodgate was good.

Picking Phil Neville at left back was very bad – we know he can’t cut it in that position (or, probably, any position) at this level. Was there no U21 left back who could have been brought in for some experience? Why bother picking older players to play out of position in internatial friendlies? What’s the point?

The midfield of Wright-Phillips, Gerrard, Carrick and Lampard was absurd. Pundits bag on about having Lampard and Gerrard in the same team, and whether or not it is possible. Of course it is, and McClaren has proved it himself – you play Lampard in the middle and Gerrard on the right. Stick a holding midfielder next to Lampard and then choose a left sided player to, guess what? Play on the left hand side.

What on earth was the point in asking Lampard to play on the left? We knew he couldn’t do it before the game, and we were proved right. Barry should have started from the off, because that’s his position – it’s what he does!

The problem for the England midfield is lack of consistency. The players should know what their role is in the team. The first choice midfield is fairly obvious: Gerrard on the right, Lampard and Hargreaves in the centre, Joe Cole on the left.

Now, if any of these players are unavailable, then replacements, who can play in that position, should be brought in. The others should stay in their regular role. If Gerrard can’t play, then Lennon should, or Wright-Phillips. If Cole doesn’t play, then Downing or Barry should step up. Hargreaves can be replaced by Carrick or Parker. Lampard is the only problem here – if he can’t play, and I don’t think Jenas, Barton or Dyer are good enough, then Gerrard should probably come across and then Lennon or whoever brought in on the right.

But this insistence of selecting players out of position – especially in matches designed for giving experience to younger players – can’t continue if England are to be anything other than a dull, distinctively average side.

England 0 – 0 Portugal

So, England’s World Cup campaign has come to an end, through the usual medium, the penalty shoot out. A few things came out of the tournament for me:

  • England were nowhere near as bad as their critics have made out
  • England have to play with two strikers. I don’t think they necessarily have to stick to 4–4–2 (after all, Bobby Robson was successful in 1990 with 3–5–2), but two up front is a necessity for me. Other countries who play successfully with 1 up, like France against Brazil, last night, have a midfielder with a spark of creative genius. In France’s case it is Zidane, in Portugal’s it’s Deco. With one up and no Deco, Portugal looked ordinary against England. England’s creative urge is with the strikers, currently Rooney. He needs a partner to feed to take advantage of his good work. Gerrard is a wonderful player, but he isn’t a playmaker.
  • Frank Lampard really shouldn’t play for England again, unless some sort of dramatic improvement occurs. What is it that he does that Gerrard doesn’t? The two, for me, are too similar when played in the middle of the park. One option might be that if Beckham stops being a #1 choice, Gerrard could play wide right and that might give Lampard the room he might need – but the emergence of Aaron Lennon as Beckham’s replacement precludes that.
  • Taking four strikers, when two are unfit and one you have no intention of playing, just isn’t enough for a major tournament
  • Pinning all your hopes on an emotionally combustible 20–year old is probably not a good idea
  • England are almost certainly a better side than Portugal, or at least a better side than Portugal without Deco

As for Eriksson’s reign, well, I think he did alright. People are quick to forget the total mess England were in when he took over; after a clueless defeat to Germany and a draw with Finland that was considered a good result. He deserves credit for creating a relatively settled side, and passes on a good squad to McClaren. What McClaren will hopefully bring to the job will be a little more creativity in squad selections and bravery in terms of picking the best players to fit a settled system, rather than trying to play the best XI regardless of how they fit together.

My England side for the Euro 2008 qualifiers:

Robinson
Neville, Ferdinand, Terry, Cole
Lennon, Hargreaves, Gerrard, Cole
Owen, Rooney

I think Hargreaves emerged during the Portugal game as a quality holding midfielder – he might not have Carrick’s ability to pass, but his all-action style would give Gerrard the freedom to bomb forward at will.

Clough to Forest?

From the Guardian‘s perennially unreliable Rumour Mill:

And we’ll usher in the weekend with a long-awaited bit of good news for Nottingham Forest fans after more than a year of Gary route-one Megson: Nigel Clough is rumoured to be tempted by a return to the City Ground.

Hmmm. I have long said that Clough Jnr would be mad to take the job – but maybe, just maybe, he is the man to bring the club a bit of self respect back, if not the glory days like those enjoyed under his father.

Links 26/1/06

The Magic of the Cup

MJR thinks of an explanation for the proliferation of cup upsets over the last week:

England’s football fans had the pleasure of random football scores last weekend: the FA Cup. Why is there so much expectation of upsets? I think it’s partly because the match is at an ideal time to help level things out, especially if it’s at a non-league ground:

League clubs
  • usually full-time
  • 4 or 5 games over the holidays
  • mostly still negotiating new players
  • some of their players seem to expect it to be easy
  • usually play on expensive, well-kept pitches
Non-league clubs
  • often part-time
  • 3 games over the holidays
  • often introduce new players in the cup match
  • many of their players relish playing a top club
  • probably have a pitch more damaged by winter

 And he is almost certainly right.

To add to it, though, I once read the autobiography of Frank Clark, an ex-Forest manager (and the last one who could genuinely be considered a success for any length of time) who now works in some capacity at the League Manager’s Association. He wrote extensively about cup upsets and how they come about, and one of the most convincing reasons he gave was simply that in terms of the standard squad player, there is little difference in ability between (say) a Conference side and a Premiership one, as long as everyone plays at the top of their game. The obvious star players, your Rooneys, Henrys and Alonsos, are clearly a cut above, but they can be taken out of the game with efficient marking.

 The difference between players in the higher divisions and the lower is usually one of attitude and mental stamina – something that can be surmounted in a one-off game.

Forest Staying Up!

Great result for Forest today.Link below from the Guardian. More to follow when I get back online.

Championship round-up

Championship: Sunderland went top with a win over Coventry, as Wigan could only draw against Nottingham Forest.

I really can see us staying up now. In Megson we have the best manager in the division, and now things are tightened up a the back, when we get some of the injured players back, we should be in a strong position come the run-in.