Football: Big Ron bows out after final curtain

Aston Villa 2

Draper 45, Barry 57

Nottingham Forest 0

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 34,492

EMBARRASSMENT IS not something that comes easily to Ron Atkinson. Yesterday should have been an exception. Yet failure to save Nottingham Forest from relegation, and even having it confirmed at the club from which he was once sacked, merely led to a dignified announcement that he will now bring down the curtain on his management career after 28 years.

"Everything must come to an end eventually and this seems as good a time as any," said Atkinson, the former Cambridge, West Bromwich Albion, Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa and Coventry manager. "I've just turned 60, which is a bit of a watershed - but age doesn't come into it," he said. But for Forest, curtains this season could mean a long time out of the Premiership's financial sunshine.

Atkinson ruled out the possibility of staying for another season after his contract expires at the end of the current one. And the realistic alternative, football below the top level, is not his style. He said: "I've got no regrets about taking on the job. We've battled but it didn't materialise. At this level you need quality and we needed more of it. I don't know whether the players can regroup for next season."

Only a fortnight ago, Forest might have faced a then declining Villa and felt that it was an opportunity to meet them, if not on equal terms, at least with shared worries. But Villa have staged a mini-recovery, beating Southampton and Liverpool while Atkinson had all but thrown in his personally initialled towel after a despairing home defeat by Spurs last weekend. Spurs promptly picked up his towel and threw it back by going to the Valley in midweek, winning, putting Charlton in deep trouble and delaying Forest's inevitable relegation until yesterday's poor match.

Even lacking several regular first-team players, including the suspended Carlton Palmer, Christian Edwards and Richard Gough, Atkinson still chose to leave Pierre van Hooijdonk on the bench. Yet it was Forest who busily dominated much of the first half. Michael Oakes, in the Villa goal, nervously hacked at clearances, and for a while Gareth Southgate and Colin Calderwood stumbled over their attempts to control Marlon Harewood and Dougie Freedman. Paul Merson, making his first start in over a month, slowly turned the current in Villa's direction, though never conclusively.

Forest's, whose pride had been in doubt this season, began impressively enough as Jon Olav Hjelde pressed forward to drive the ball across the Villa goal, only for no Forest player to make contact until Andy Johnson carelessly shot wide. Villa wanted to slow the pace but, ironically, a sudden turn by the referee, Paul Durkin, left him with a pulled muscle which meant that his assistant had to take over. He quickly incurred the displeasure of the home crowd by denying Julian Joachim a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area after, seemingly, he was kicked chest-high by Jesper Mattson.

With visible relief, shortly before half-time Villa eased ahead when Alan Wright's free-kick, following an unnecessarily rash tackle by Harewood on Steve Stone, was swept across the goalmouth for Mark Draper to glance in a header with the aid of a deflection. No help was needed for Villa's second except poor marking on Stone whose low centre was easily turned in by the substitute Gareth Barry who had replaced the injured Dion Dublin.

By the time Atkinson reluctantly brought on Van Hooijdonk, Villa were strolling and could reinforce their defence with Ugo Ehiogu, in his first match since early February.

Even a Villa side still playing well below the high standard that they reached in the first half of the season could make this Forest side look inferior but badly organised. Their downfall had its seeds planted many months ago, and Atkinson's famous bouncy confidence was never going to change that.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

Technical Sales Manager

£45000 - £53000 Per Annum plus bonus plus package: The Green Recruitment Compa...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor