Football: Atkinson has no parting regrets

Aston Villa 2 Nottingham Forest 0
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The Independent Online
RON ATKINSON says he has no regrets after announcing he will retire from management at the end of the season, following Nottingham Forest's relegation. "Everything must come to an end eventually and this seems as good a time as any," he said.

Atkinson revealed his decision after Forest's 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa on Saturday sent them back to the Nationwide League. Mark Draper scored on the stroke of half-time with a backward header from Alan Wright's well- placed free-kick. Gareth Barry, who replaced Dion Dublin at half-time, scored 12 minutes after the break when he latched on to a curling cross from the former Forest player, Steve Stone. It was the young defender's first goal in senior football.

"It was not pretty stuff, and you could say that we dragged Nottingham Forest down to our level today," the Villa manager, John Gregory, said after the game.

Atkinson, who was brought in at the start of the year to try to rescue Forest's Premiership campaign, said he would not change anything in his long coaching career. "I've enjoyed every minute of it, and there have been more ups than downs," he said. "The Forest experience hasn't soured my taste for football. In fact, my zest is as powerful as ever.

"I have to remind myself I'm that old, because most days I think I'm still 32," he added in typical jocular fashion. "It would have been nice to bow out at the top, but you can't pick and choose the moment. But it was always going to be an uphill struggle here and the climb was a lot tougher than I imagined."

Atkinson will see out his managerial career with three more games with Forest; the first next Saturday at another of his former clubs, Sheffield Wednesday. After that, his media career will take up most of his time.

Forest will take their time choosing a successor, with their former player Stuart Pearce sure to be a contender.

Goals: Draper (45) 0-1; Barry (57) 0-2.

Aston Villa: Oakes; Watson (Ehiogu, 72), Calderwood, Southgate, Wright, Stone (Delaney, 83), Draper, Taylor, Merson, Dublin (Barry, h-t), Joachim. Substitutes not used: Vassell, Enckelman (gk).

Nottingham Forest: Crossley; Lyttle, Stensaas (Van Hooijdonk, 68), Mattson, Chettle, Hjelde, Johnson (Bart-Williams, 57), Louis-Jean, Rogers, Harewood, Freedman (Shipperley, 74). Substitutes not used: Woan, Beasant (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Portland). Booking: Forest: Hjelde.

Man of the match: Stone.

Attendance: 34,492.

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