Paul Newman: Davies' revival of Forest gets bogged down in committee
The Football League Column: If the club's refusal to pay over the odds for players is admirable, the manager's frustrations are clear
Monday 08 November 2010
For those of us of a certain age it would be a gimme of a quiz question, but if you are under 40 then you might well struggle to answer it. In the last 30 years, which is the only club other than Milan to have successfully defended the European Cup or the Champions League?
Multiple champions in that period include Barcelona (three wins), Liverpool (three), Real Madrid (three), Juventus (two), Manchester United (two) and Porto (two), but no one but Italy's Rossoneri, who won in 1989 and 1990, can match Nottingham Forest's achievement in triumphing two years in succession. Brian Clough's men did so in 1979 and 1980, defeating Malmo and Hamburg 1-0 in Munich and Madrid respectively.
Sadly for the City Ground faithful, however, another statistic relating to Europe's premier club competition emphasises how far they have fallen. Since Real Madrid won the first European Cup in 1956, a total of 21 clubs have been crowned champions. Forest are the only club among them not currently playing in the top division in their own country.
As the decades go by, the number of books, films and documentaries about the Clough era seem to increase in inverse proportion to Forest's chances of recapturing their former glories. It is now 11 years since the 145-year-old club – lest we forget, one of the oldest in the world – played in the Premier League.
Last season, when Forest finished in third place in the Championship before losing to Blackpool in the play-off semi-finals, offered the best hope of a return to the top flight since Paul Hart's team fell at the same hurdle in 2003. After a dodgy start, Billy Davies' men, having just avoided relegation the previous summer, went 19 matches without defeat from the end of September and were in one of the automatic promotion places by the end of January.
However, eight defeats in their last 19 games sent Forest into the play-offs. That form has continued this season: after 15 matches, they have just four wins under their belt and lie 14th in the table.
Davies insisted at the start of this year that his directors need to build on their good run by bringing in new players in the upcoming January transfer window. He has been banging a similar drum ever since.
Under their chairman, Nigel Doughty, Forest have entrusted their recruitment policy to an "acquisitions committee". Davies has identified players he would like to sign, but attempts to complete the transfers have met with disappointment. During the summer, having failed to land Cardiff's Peter Whittingham and Swansea's Darren Pratley, Forest's only significant arrivals were Ryan Bertrand, who joined on loan from Chelsea, and Radoslaw Majewski, who made his loan move from Polonia Warsaw permanent.
If the club's refusal to pay over the odds for players is admirable, the manager's frustrations are clear. "Because of the lack of expansion when we were on a high point, then what you see is what you get with this team," Davies said after Saturday's 1-1 draw at Watford. "We are not a top-six side and for anybody to think we are is like comparing that to Britain ruling the world as far as I'm concerned. We are what we are, we're getting what we're getting. I can ask no more of this team.
"I compare ourselves with Liverpool, for example, where you can't blame the previous manager, you can't blame the current manager, but the facts are if you want to be a top-six side in the Premier League, if you want to be a top-six side in the Championship, then you have got to, in my opinion, bring in stellar signings to keep the club moving forward."
Forest have just 17 goals to show from their first 15 games and have the worst scoring record in the division outside the bottom six. Apart from the midfielder Lewis McGugan, who scored his eighth goal of the season on Saturday, Dexter Blackstock, with four goals to his name, is the only Forest player who has scored more than once this season.
It will probably do little to cheer Forest hearts to see what is happening a few miles away down the A52. After six wins from eight games, Derby County are up to fourth place in the table. It just goes to show what a Clough can do for a club.
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