Must we dance this dance, again?
The media forces are corralled. Natalie Jackson is unboxed, and plugged in. You do your damp-eyed interview with EMT, and there’s open, honest palms, and big talk, and – sometimes, like last night – just that flash of a dig. A floated threat.
The Fawaz megamix. Disappointment-cum-promises-cum-belligerent sincerity.
And now, a brand new line: maybe I’ve had enough, phrased in E-minor.
Maybe I’ll just walk away.
You need some sleep, mate. That’s what it looks like to me. At the very least, you should have shaved. All of a sudden, for the first time, you look like a man who’s missing home. Sat in the manager’s chair – vacant, again – beneath the motivational poster that says together, everyone achieves more. A thorough sadness, pinned in your eyes.
But then it’s sadness for yourself, isn’t it? Not Forest.
There’s people filling in the gaps for you, already. They’re saying you sacked Freedman because there’s someone better lined up. They’re saying it’s because we’ll be out of embargo in the summer, and now’s the time to go for it: to attack the league, next year, with a proper manager.
But it wasn’t that, was it?
It wasn’t that at all.
Let’s not claim it as a strategy. It was an argument, plain and simple, and you got upset again. All that ego, and hubris… and then a clinching swipe at the man who – finally, on Saturday afternoon – could no longer cope with the impoverished conclusions of your own damn mess.
A bloke who reached deep into his rabbitless hat, and pulled out Chris O’ Grady, up front, on his own.
A phone call, I’m thinking, that just got out of hand.
And now it’s happening again.
Freedman’s gone, and the two circles on that Venn diagram – ‘people who could manage Forest’, and ‘people who’ll answer the phone to me’ – have gotten that little bit smaller.
The sweet spot between them shrinking, down to a sad, thin slit.
You’ve got the look of a man who’s tired of being laughed at. The good news, I suppose, it that no one’s laughing. Not anymore. They haven’t laughed since Billy, because so normalised is this club’s dysfunction, folk have stopped noticing it. Nowadays, our insanity is hidden in plain sight. There was a time when Forest sacking their manager would have been newsworthy: on Sunday, it got sixth billing on the BBC Sport website. Just below Ross County winning the Scottish League Cup.
And you’re confused. Visibly, you’re hurt. Hurt by the abuse, and the conflict, and the rank bad luck.
But here’s the thing—here’s something to consider, if you’re trying to qualify that abuse, and if you really want to know why crowds are down. Because it wasn’t Dougie, and it wasn’t playing three holding midfielders at home to Huddersfield: they were just symptoms, and there’ll be plenty more.
Simply, it’s that people are bored.
Bored, on your watch. Thousands of them, now wholly indifferent.
And we could talk about the reasons why—the high-piled fuck-ups that have delivered us to this point. The embargo, and the winding-up petitions, and the late payments, and the shitty PR, and the lack of intelligence or class that seems to pervade everything.
We could go over them all again… but I can’t be bothered. Not this time. Why waste those words on an inattentive man, who – from his first day on the job – seemed too proud to listen?
Bored, by the inevitability of it all—the sackings, and the crises, and never-ending rebuild.
So you crack on, fella. Do your interviews. Make your threats, and court the love. It’ll still be there, with those who think they owe you. Grab yourself another tinpot manager—some bloke who couldn’t even imagine the Forest job, were it not for the dead-end you’ve delivered us into. Enjoy that five-game bounce.
Do what you like, on your own terms, and watch what happens. Take in seat after bare red seat on a match day—each one another person who just can’t be arsed anymore, because it’s not good, and it’s not bad, and it’s not anything. Each one a finger, pointed at you.
The fans aren’t fickle. Balls to that. They’ll only want what we’ve always wanted: what you – with your populism, and your pouting – have so singularly failed to grasp.
They want something they can identify with. Something definable, with bit of personality. Something that speaks to the traditions of this great, great club—some swagger, and guts, and finesse. There’s no proviso of glory there—no conditions of any great success. It’s a need that defies money, and it’s hewn deep into the DNA of this thing you’ve bought into. It’s been there for decades, and it always will be. It is the soul and the beating heart of this football club.
Simply, it’s our spirit. It’s something for us to believe in, on a Saturday afternoon.
Something we’ve expected from our football club, through the seasons before us; something worth to get excited about, down through history.
You want to get people back on side? You want to be loved? Then give the job – and this club – the attention and the dignity it deserves. Pay the bills on time. Keep us out of court. Fill a pitch with young men who’ll treat the garibaldi as a reward, and not a stepping stone. Hire a manager brave enough to try beautiful things, and stand behind him when it doesn’t work. Because it won’t—not all the time.
Give us a chance to make friends again.
It’s the Forest way—it’s who we are, and what we look like, and how we do our business. Then, now, and forever.
And it means more than your own hurt, or your threats. It’s cheaper than you think, and rarer than you seem to understand.