CURRENT SET UP
With the club now in a much better place under its current ownership, there were parallels drawn from Billy Davies first stint to the current squad. Chippers highlighted the likes of Matty Cash, Michael Dawson, Joe Worrall, Joe Lolley and Lewis Grabban all being good guys to work with. Sabri is a ‘lovely guy; polite, good to deal with, interesting and has things to say. What is most striking is that Sabri has ‘everybody singing from same hymn sheet.’ Chippers has not seen a squad so united since Davies Part 1 and the equalizer at West Brom was symptomatic of their togetherness; ‘Two years ago, that doesn’t happen.’
Whilst there has been the fair share of difficult times covering Forest over the years, ‘there’s been some good stuff on the way too, some really good days. The 5-5 draw at Aston Villa last season was definitely up there as an outstanding game but in terms of drama and what was at stake, the defeat to Sheffield United (in the Play-offs) was the most memorable given there was so many twist and turns’.
The Leeds game just a few weeks ago was ‘as good as it has ever been’ and there was a real sense that Forest could go onto achieve promotion. Even the West Brom 2-2 all draw was a great game to present on; ‘there was loads to talk about in the game, the atmosphere was great and there was a real sense of justice when Matty Cash equalised at the end’. Chippers knew how important the game had been to the neutrals that had been watching the game; given that Keith Stroud was trending on Twitter at 2.45pm.
The rivalry games with Derby County were ‘almost perfect under the lights at the City Ground with Mull of Kintyre booming out ‘. Recalling his experiences from his first ever Forest Derby game under Paul Hart, Chippers came away thinking ‘bloody hell, that was proper’. He knew that a full house in The City Ground was loud but reporting on that game for the first time, he understood how much it meant.
THE FAWAZ YEARS
In terms of his decisions, Chippers had a degree of empathy for Fawaz at times; ‘he gave too much power to the wrong managers and not enough to the good ones, having had his fingers burnt previously.’ As a local sports reporter, there was always a story and drama to report on but it was a relentless period. As social media has become more prominent in providing updates to the fan base, the job required ‘attention on a 24/7 basis.’ Whilst Chippers accepted that it was his job to cover a change in manager on a Sunday afternoon but ‘Fawaz would make announcements late at night which really wasn’t helpful.’ On the back of those announcements, work would be required to be done on social media and preparation for the morning Breakfast show. A night out could never really be scheduled; ‘you couldn’t go out for a couple of drinks in town’, thinking he could be putting social media content together at any given moment. It was all consuming for a while and a football club should not have been operating in that manner.
During those difficult years reporting at Southend United, as both a fan and a professional, it seems that experience really benefitted the Radio Nottingham listeners in terms of Chippers understanding and getting the tone right for listeners. I was interested to know if a reporter, new to a city would fully embrace their adopted club or report from a distance? Not being a Forest fan, Chippers found that he could ‘report more objectively if it’s not your club and you don’t mind digging a bit deeper to get to the bottom of what was going on’. As a supporter, it seemed there was a very thin line to be navigated during those times by members of press and it’s with massive credit that it was done with aplomb by the BBC RNS Team.
THE RADIO NOTTINGHAM SPORTS TEAM
In my search for scandal from the match day presenting team; stories of weekend debauchery weren’t forthcoming unfortunately. Trips up and down the country only got out of hand with regards to Chippers’ over liking for Liquorice allsorts. ‘Sex, drugs and rock n roll!’ A hogger of the packet, it was rare if Colin Fray or John McGovern would get any more than a single donation, Chippers couldn’t stop eating them. ‘Excuses were made to buy a bag of sweets if Forest won away but given that stopped under Gary Megson, it was only right that I bought a bag just to cheer everyone up!’
In terms of a double act with Colin Fray, a partnership that has lasted over 20 years is pretty outstanding in any industry. When asked why the partnership had been so successful; ‘it’s ‘mainly because he’s really good at his job.Not only is he an outstanding football commentator (having covered Carl Froch’s journey to greatness) I told him (Colin) I thought he was an even better boxing commentator.’ In all of their time working together, he couldn’t recall ‘ever having a single argument’ with his partner in crime. ‘There’s not a lot of ego about Colin and for a presenter that’s great as he will answer any question that is thrown at him.’
FAREWELL AND THANK YOU
As a football club, Nottingham Forest have an awful lot to be thankful for over the years. The coverage from Chippers and the team during the Fawaz years was outstanding given communication from within the club was pretty abysmal. The Radio Nottingham Sport Team’s integrity and level headed approach kept me relatively sane amongst the madness. It was crucial that emotions were kept out of those broadcasts when they could have furrowed much further along that path. It couldn’t have been easy at times. Whilst Chippers was pretty humble when I compared the team to other local radio stations; the professionalism, knowledge and sprinkling of humour from our lot is second to none in my book. That doesn’t happen overnight and these are the rewards of 20 years hard work. Chippers will be sorely missed.
Although I say this with tongue firmly placed in cheek, every cloud has a silver lining. Wouldn’t it be ironic that after 21 years without seeing top flight football in Nottingham, Forest find themselves back in the Premier League as Chippers is sunning himself in the Southern Hemisphere?
Chippers, it has been an absolute pleasure to have listened to you on BBC Radio Nottingham. On behalf of Nottingham Forest supporters, many thanks for your service and contributions over the years. We wish you all the very best for your exciting venture ahead!