I never wanted Stuart Pearce to be Forest manager.
But once he arrived, I didn't want him to go. That's the problem with emotion and football; it clouds logic, throws sense out of the window, declares rational thinking to be irrelevant. Which of course means that his black and white record didn't really matter.
Pearce's previous record as a manager doesn't need to be repeated, because you all know it, you were all warned by it, and if you chose to ignore or discount it then you were just kidding yourself. He was, by most objective standards, not a particularly good football manager, and the only reason he was even considered for the Forest job was because of who he is.
And it was because of who he is that I didn't want him, because what could he have possibly done to improve his standing in our eyes? What could he have achieved to elevate him above his status as, aside from Brian Clough, probably the greatest man and certainly biggest fan favourite in the club's history? It could only have gone down, and in the end we should probably be grateful that he was canned before he really lost the fans.
The odd thing is, at points that hardly mattered. And specifically, it hardly mattered because of two moments, one of which he had little to do other than walk in a straight line and sit down.
When Pearce walked out before his first game, against Blackpool on the first day of the season, there was an atmosphere at the City Ground I've not felt since...well, I can't remember. The big games in the last 15-odd years – Reading in 1998, playoffs against Sheffield United, Yeovil, Blackpool and Swansea in 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2011 respectively – were really all too tense to actually enjoy, but this was a celebration and a homecoming. A genuine tingle down the spine moment, something to feel truly emotional about. Pearce was back.
You don't know how these things are choreographed, but as we are all too aware the chances of anyone at Forest actually organising anything successfully are fairly remote. So one can assume that it was just the mystical force of theatre that meant Pearce emerged from the tunnel at the exact moment the fans stopped the a cappella rendition of 'Mull of Kintyre/City Ground.' From the upper tier of the Brian Clough Stand, I've never known noise like it.
And then Derby. Of course, Derby. For lengthier thoughts on that game, go here, but you are also directed to the piece I wrote for the Forest v Millwall programme, which we'll put up here in full at some point, but for now here's an extract:
I've been in some away end bundles in my time, but even for the first goal it was incredible. The man next to me, who looked like he had been taking full advantage of the local refreshments, shoved me half into the row in front in his excitement, and I'm still discovering new bruises a fortnight on. They're more trophies than bruises, though.
And then the second goal. If there's a more perfect moment in football than beating a rival in injury-time, having come from behind, with a goal from a youth team product and with a club hero as manager...well, there isn't, so stop thinking.
Cue chaos, pandemonium, catharsis, limbs flying everywhere, unintelligible screaming and hugging the nearest person to you. Luckily for me that person was my dad, who hasn't been too well recently, so after the final whistle I hugged him a little bit tighter.
The win was all the better for sharing it with him, and the other 2,000-odd Forest fans in the iPro. What a day.
We can, and probably will, talk at length about the tactical deficiencies, the lack of defensive organisation, the strange team selections, but in the grander scheme of things, as fans, not much of that really matters. Pearce clearly wasn't an objectively good manager, as we probably knew from the start, and it's all ended as many of us feared it might, but he gave us all two moments we'll never forget, and in this modern football world where the chances of a team like Forest actually winning anything are reasonably remote, that's enough, surely?
That, realistically, is about the best we could've hoped for from Pearce, wasn't it? Here was a manager who had shown his deficiencies elsewhere and who was in our dugout because of emotion and sentiment, so if he gave us a couple of emotional and sentimental moments rather than anything more substantial on the pitch, we can't be excessively annoyed about that.
What we can be annoyed about is the lack of anything approaching a plan from above Pearce, that the chief executive seems just to be a man to organise the minutiae without actually running the club, where the money is coming from etc, but again, that's for another time.
Pearce was clearly doing a few things right, from an emphasis on youth players to simply bringing a sense of continuity to the club. The statement announcing his departure said he had been offered another position at the club, and perhaps that might be as a director of football. Perhaps that's the job he has always been better for. Who knows?
What we do know is that, in all probability, we'll never have this again. We'll never have a man who was ours in the same way that Pearce was as our manager. There isn't another former player out there to come close, and unless the whole way football now works alters profoundly then there will never be again.
For the moment though, we'll always have Blackpool and Derby. And perhaps that's just enough.
I never wanted Stuart Pearce to be Forest manager. But just for those two moments, I'm glad he was.