The first thing Dougie Freedman did after scrawling his scribble on the contract of indefinable length, was to swivel in the big chair in the manager’s office until he got a little bit dizzy. He then tidied the desk tidy - a tautological enterprise if ever there was one - but nonetheless, a necessary job. A layer of dust and fluff had settled amongst the ink blobs at the bottom, rendering it useless and unable to fulfill its raison d’etre. Inspired by his success in this enterprise, he peeped his out of the office door and, feeling emboldened, stepped out with the intention of sneaking a peek around the place. His joy at being able to use his desk tidy had given him a thirst for more. Marigolds on, armed with a tub of hot, soapy water spilling over the edge, he meandered around, looking to indulge his inner cleaning monkey.
Freedman embarked upon an epic root around the City Ground: inside old cupboards, behind sofas, and under tables – where he found numerous globules of old chewing gum bearing the sweet aroma of Britt Assombalonga. But this wasn’t all he found: in the cupboard under the sink, he found Dexter Blackstock. In the groundsman’s lock-up, he stumbled upon Henri Lansbury’s form and discipline. Cowering under the treatment table, he located the two Dannys: Collins and Fox. Lurking behind an old and withering yucca plant, he spied Chris Burke’s confidence. Finally, after scrubbing the sinkholes in the showers, he retrieved Michail Antonio’s mojo. He squirrelled his bounty back to his office and scribbled lots of formulas on his whiteboard.
In spite of this glorious hoard, Robert Tesche was still unaccounted for and while putting a whole load of glass bottles out for recycling, Jack Hobbs got scooped up, mistaken for an empty jar of pickle and dumped in a big green wheelie bin, wonkily parked in the City Ground car park. Freedman delved in and rummaged around for Hobbs, successfully retrieved him, but noticed he had been cracked in the ensuing deposit from small tub to green wheelie bin. With gusto, he salvaged the broken Hobbs and took him back to his office where at some stage, he would get busy with the super glue.
So, apart from the weird goings on outlined above, what’s different? As usual, it’s not simply down to just one magical thing. Employing a deep lying midfield in front of the back four in the shape of Gary Gardner, who actually lies very deep, is proving to be highly effective. He has somehow managed to persuade Lansbury to ditch his extended sulk after he ran up to his room, slammed the door and tuned Linkin Park up to 11. In amongst the cleaning frenzy, he found a captain’s armband, just as he noticed Henri kicking a cat in the corridor. Freedman felt that he probably needed a hug but his hands were full with the tub of water. Consequently, he had to make do with throwing said armband, which was clenched between his teeth, at him. Henri was as surprised as anyone but suddenly felt a sense of duty to stop kicking anything that moved.
Those goals though: Chris Burke managed to squirm free early on and dizzily ran through the Bolton defence. Although his shot was blocked, he would not be denied and smashed home the rebound. Off balance, it was all he could do to fall to the floor and in a scene reminiscent of ‘Fantasy Football’s Phoenix from the Flames’, re-imagined Charlie George’s Wembley celebration in the 1971 FA Cup Final. Then Michail Antonio did a one-man impersonation of a Leopard 2A7 German tank and propelled his way through half of Nottingham and the surrounding hamlets, villages and parishes in a run emulating Michael Owen’s through the Argentinian defence in way back in 1998.
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Thus far, Danny Fox had restrained himself in not unleashing 60-yard long balls for a whole 45 minutes. Yet as the half time whistle approached, he could contain himself no longer. Although hoofing the ball long was currently not an option, his desire to do so manifested itself in taking a swing at Zach Clough to concede a penalty. Adam Le Fondre took his first touch of the game well to take the shine off an excellent first half for Forest.
In the second half, lots of weird stuff happened: Matt Mills dragged Antonio down to warrant a second yellow card. Actually, that wasn’t so weird but utterly and totally expected. The sight of Emile Heskey lumbering on to take his place at centre back though was irrefutably weird.
Bolton keeper Andy Lonergan clashed with Blackstock, got concussed (we wish him well) and conceded a penalty for his efforts. Lansbury converted to ensure that Forest fans were not just pinching themselves, but punching themselves hard in the face in disbelief that the Freedman goal bonanza was rumbling on like a runaway train loaded with TNT and remotely controlled by John Lithgow adopting a British accent. Chris Burke weighed in with a second after some decidedly suspect Bolton defending.
As soon as Freedman had delivered his congenial interviews to the press with boyish delight, he returned to his swivel chair and spun like a whirling dervish shouting ‘wheeeee’ in a gleeful Scottish brogue. And well he should.