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Match report (sort of): Middlesbrough 3-0 Nottingham Forest

This isn't really a proper match report as such, more of a collection of confused grumblings...

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It's been a long held pet theory of mine that Stuart Pearce's, shall we say 'mixed' results as a manager are related to his image as a player. Pearce knows very well how he was perceived, as an unthinking hard nut who was 50% thigh, 15% tattoos 35% traction engine left foot. Pearce was a man who inspired by aggression and deed, by passion and a magnificent, visceral way of playing the game.

All of that is grand, and we will always love him for it, but it does suggest that little of Pearce's success as a player was particularly cerebral. He didn't think much about things because he didn't have to. His job was taking out wingers and belting in free-kicks from 30 yards, not figuring the best way to pick teams apart. This is clearly not the way that Pearce views himself. While he's hardly likely to call himself an intellectual, he's not an idiot, and perhaps here's where the problem lies.

I think Pearce is hyper-aware of the bruising, 'Psycho' image and thinks that makes him look like a neanderthal, thinks that's not the sort of manager he wants to be and therefore over-thinks things. He tries to be innovative and try out unusual things when he might just be best served sticking to what he knows. This is how we end up with things like playing David James up front and assorted wacky formations when he was England Under-21s manager.

And, of course, playing 3-5-2 with two full-backs in central defence, a central defender in midfield, a winger/forward at left wing-back and keeping the division's top-scorer off the pitch for half the game.

There's a virtue to simplicity. Observe, if you will, Mick McCarthy, who as fans of the previous clubs he's managed will tell you is neither a complicated man or complicated manager. McCarthy gets the simple things right, works his teams bloody hard and, in this division at least, tends to get results. Over-complicating things, particularly when Forest have got as talented a squad as we have, is not the way to go.

It's difficult to properly figure out whether Pearce, because of who he is, getting an easier ride and more time than your average manager is a good or a bad thing. On the one hand this might be the best way to achieve the stability that the club have lacked in recent years, and Pearce might thus be given a decent amount of time to figure things out, time than other managers might have been denied by premature sackings. On the other, we might just be keeping a bad manager in place for longer than is necessary.

All of this is a round about way of saying that while we all desperately want it to work with Pearce, and that he might figure out how to make it work at some point, it ain't working at the moment.

On the one hand Forest have only lost one in the last seven. On the, we haven't played well for a while. The Wolves game aside, Forest have been largely desperate and fairly aimless for a couple of months, with little consistency in team selection and tactics that are both fairly unattractive to watch and often entirely unsuitable for the available personnel. The really troubling thing though, is that he seems to be making errors with the most basic things.

Stability is of course desirable, but stability on its own is pointless if it doesn't come with the right ideas. Stability and a clear line of thinking is what we're aiming for, what has proved so successful for Swansea and Southampton.

This, we should really stress, is not to say that the official editorial position of In The Top One is that we want Pearce to go. As much as anything else, that would inaccurately suggest that we are organised enough to come up with an official editorial position. Giving him time is clearly the sensible option, but we do reserve the right to be miserable/worried in the interim. Sorry about that.

The defeat to Middlesbrough was not a massive surprise. Anyone who saw the way they pulled Derby, one of the best teams in the division, to pieces and could/should have won by more than 2-0 in that game, will know that. Still, Forest are seven points off the playoffs at the halfway point of the season, which while not a disaster is...not ideal. Perhaps the only good thing to come out of the whole thing is that Kelvin Wilson, a man who has looked like a walking error and a liability for most of the season, will be out for at least one game. Jack Hobbs, heal thyself.

Of course, despite all this hand-wringing the real reason for this defeat was surely that blue third kid. It's horrible and it has to go.