This is the season to be jolly, right? So, in a bid to find some festive spirit and forget about the bad stuff for now (you know, the left back situation, falling attendances, the transfer embargo, mid table mediocrity etc) and focus on the fact that it hasn’t all been that bad in 2015.
Before you choke on your mince pies in indignation, here’s 8 highlights of 2015 (in no particular order)…
1. Beating Derby…twice
In essence the article could end here. We beat the Sheep at their place and ours, so surely that makes 2015 a resounding success in its own right? That both victories were against the odds made them all the sweeter. The first was a fairytale win for Stuart Pearce. The injury time winner from Ben Osborn and Pearce’s joyous celebration will love long in the memory, even if it failed to reignite the iconic left back’s managerial reign. The home win gave a faltering Freedman side a huge scalp and has inspired an upturn in results ever since. If the first was a fairytale, this was a blueprint – a masterclass in pressing, character, tactical awareness, energy and some good football to boot.
2. I Believe In Miracles
Those wins against Derby might have been pretty miraculous but the ultimate footballing miracle was also recognised in some style this year. Jonny Owen’s superb silver screen depiction of the European Cup wins was a real treat for fans young and old. The film – and accompanying book from Daniel Taylor – have not only given the squad as a whole some rightful recognition among the wider footballing public but have also finally started to give John Robertson the acclaim he’s long deserved. We’re sometimes mocked for wallowing in our past but stuff everyone else, if there’s a story as good as this to tell then why not celebrate it?
3. Peter Taylor Stand
While we’re on the past, the club honoured Clough’s invaluable right hand man Peter Taylor by naming the Main Stand after him in October. Quite right too.
4. Honeymoon home wins
Remember ‘Freedmania’? When Dougie Freedman arrived at the City Ground many fans – myself included – were pretty underwhelmed yet the Scot surprised us all in a glorious honeymoon period that featured some of the best football we’d seen at the City Ground in years. The home demolition of Bolton was an absolute treat but, even more impressively, Dougie showed his tactical nous in masterminding 2-1 wins over soon-to-be-promoted Bournemouth and a formidable Middlesbrough side. Yes the season may have petered out but those few weeks – with blistering wing play from Michail Antonio, midfield masterclasses from Gary Gardner and even Danny Collins coming in from the cold to contribute – did lift the mood considerably after the sad end of the Pearce regime.
5. Reading away
In amongst that honeymoon period – the ‘sunshine, moonlight, good times, Dougie’ era if you will – I had the pleasure of seeing us on the road against Reading. Outside of the Derby games this was probably my on-field 2015 highlight. A great day out, an assured away performance and three of the best goals you could hope for flying in in front of us. I still can’t quite work out whether Gary Gardner’s or Ben Osborn’s is the better strike, but it’s ruddy good fun to rewatch them and try to work it out. Dougie, of course, prefers Matty Fryatt’s intricate striker’s finish.
6. 150th anniversary
The 150th anniversary of the club has brought with it some nice touches so far. Chiefly, a couple of cracking kits and the retro programme covers – alternating between different eras each game. It’d still be nice to see a little more from the club, in particular to celebrate the heroic 1959 FA Cup win and some of the other great sides from Forest’s past, but this little football saddo was pleased to get his first shirt in years – ‘that’ yellow away shirt – and has started buying a programme again. Hats off to all involved.(Ed - especially an excellent egg by the name of George Solomon, the now sadly departed programme editor)
7. Tyler Walker
He’s one of our own, and he opened his account in 2015. I’d have liked to have seen a little more of Tyler, but let's hope that we look back on that goal at Brentford as the start of something big. Of course, it’s not just about Tyler. Ben Osborn continued his progress to become a vital first team fixture in 2015, while Oliver Burke and Jorge Grant knocked on the door of the matchday squad. More of that in 2016 would be nice.
8. Budget trimmed
The hard work done in 2015 should, fingers crossed, bear fruit going forward. The amount of money trimmed from the wage bill – and brought in from Michail Antonio’s transfer fee – should help us to emerge from a transfer embargo next summer. Getting rid of the likes of Djamel Abdoun and Jamie Mackie should draw a line under an era of poor mismanagement, let’s just hope that Fawaz doesn’t go back to ‘business as usual’ once the embargo is lifted. It might have been hard going at times, but much of the necessary legwork is now done for us to build a better club in the coming years.
Alas Daniel Pinillos was going to be on my list until, well, let’s not mention that. 2015 hasn’t been a vintage one, let’s not kid ourselves, but there have been some highlights and – hopefully – some important steps towards future success for the club.
Andrew Brookes is on the Twitter right here.