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Match preview: Middlesbrough v Forest

Given the way Middlesbrough took Derby apart the other week, we're a little terrified about facing them on Boxing Day. In The Top One spoke to football writer, novelist, good egg, hero & Boro fan John Nicholson

Scorer of Boro's second goal on Thursday, Patrick Bamford
Scorer of Boro's second goal on Thursday, Patrick Bamford
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Nick Miller: So, then. Boro. In every interview I've ever seen him in Aitor Karanka looks a bit like a man caught in some sort of media storm that has nothing to do with him. Eyes wide, darting, slightly baffled by the whole thing, just wanting to go home and tend to his flowers or something...

John Nicholson: He is an unlikely manager of the august working class institution that is Middlesbrough FC and even now, he does look like a man who turned up to service the coffee machine and was mistaken for the new manager, with hilarious consequences. I suspect that slightly confused look he has is a product of trying but failing to understand the Teesside accent. Also, he's probably just realised what a rhyming slang hostage to fortune his surname is if things go awry.

NM: Could get nasty. On a parochial note, I would like to thank you on behalf of the citizens of Nottingham for that very thorough shoeing you gave Derby last weekend.

JN: It was a great win. McClaren (surely the most misspelled name in all sporting history) is held in great affection amongst many on Teesside, after being in charge when we won the League Cup and for getting us to a European final, both events which now seem part of some LSD-induced mass hallucination and the latter of which I based my first novel around, on the basis that you could never make up a more exciting and implausible story.

NM: I think Boro are one of those teams that everyone quite likes, not least because when you had loads of money you did it properly: spend millions on some highly implausible & very entertaining players, then flame out spectacularly...

JN: Boro is a little bit rock n roll. we've always liked a little bit of exotic fruit in amongst the local pig iron. We nearly bankrupted ourselves just paying Mark Viduka's parmo bill. Seriously, though, Boro are a fantastic club to support because we're so rooted in the local community, with an academy that still produces decent players. It still somehow feels like it's our club, run by our people, for our people.  In an era where many clubs seem more like aggressive tax avoidance schemes or the reflection of some egomaniac oligarch's mentality. I feel like this is something we really should celebrate.

NM: Definitely. We have - or had - a sort of watered down version of that, but our kids tend to be sold before they can really even get in the first team. Speaking of which, it seems vaguely inevitable that Patrick Bamford will score on Thursday. He's pretty special...

JN: Yeah Bamford is good, though I'm yet to be convinced he's special. I suspect he'll have a good career in the second tier. Too early to say more than that. Chelsea rejects can be a bit hit and miss. We had the endlessly vaunted Josh McEachran for a season and he was OK but nothing more,  despite being touted as the future of England's midfield by people who clearly hadn't seem him play against adults. Now trying to get a gig at Vitesse, I note.
Bamford is a great name for a striker though. 'He's given it the full Bamford' should go down into football's lexicon.

NM: McEachran looks like a lad perpetually on the verge of a growth spurt, but never actually making it there. One day, perhaps. I've always quite liked the look of the boy Adam Reach - hell of a left peg on him...

JN: Yeah he does look like the real deal, doesn't he? I think being loaned out to Bradford and Shrewsbury has scared him into getting his act together this year. I'm always happy to see George Friend, partly for the football and partly because it's a great name, but also because some fans hold up a rather existential banner that says simply & accurately "You Are George Friend" .  I have yet to work out if it's in support of him or not. Perhaps it just aims to be helpfully informative.

NM: That is absolutely delightful. Let's have a prediction then: I reckon a narrow Boro win.

JN: I'm confident of a 2- 0 win for Boro. *

*I am the most rubbishist ever at predictions. So much so that even when I bet against myself, I still lose. Go figure that out.

Johnny has written for Football365, a site that only employs the most attractive and erudite writers, since the glory days of the internet, and also writes books. You should buy one/some/all of them here...