So it’s Derby day tomorrow, and not for the first time in recent weeks, it feels like there’s an accident waiting to happen as we travel down the A5-2 on Saturday lunchtime.
On paper, it certainly looks like Derby’s best opportunity to pick up the Brian Clough Trophy in seasons gone by, given our disastrous start. The question is: are we willing to have a go at our local rivals to salvage some much-needed pride on Trentside?
It’s just typical for this fixture that despite Derby being a shambles off the pitch, even by the admission of their own fans, Forest are in even worse shape on it with no points on the board so far. It’s almost inconceivable that after all the jibes and mockery at our woolly friends, we are now the butt of the jokes.
The knives have well and truly been out for Chris Hughton since the opening day defeat at Coventry, with Forest’s performances and results taking a further downward turn. The pressure has only intensified to the point of almost no return in supporters eyes. The ‘almost’ is the hope that a Derby day fixture provides ‘if’ indeed we do turn up.
In reality, the writing is on the wall for yet another managerial casualty that has topped off the fixture in years gone by. Will Hughton be the next victim that has seen the likes of Joe Kinnear, John Gregory, Nigel Clough and Billy Davies all out of work following Derby day defeat? Even the infamous 2-1 win that Psycho masterminded at Pride Park didn’t keep him in a job for too much longer back in January 2015.
It may well be a blessing for the Forest manager that it’s Derby up next. With a crowd back in for the first time since our 1-0 victory at The City Ground in the autumn of 2019, there will be added incentive for our players to treat it as an almost one-off game.
There is an incentive to be a hero tomorrow – even if it is just for one day. You only have to look at the number of ex-players dining off Derby day victories from years gone by to see the adulation it can achieve for those with the most average of Forest careers.
At this current time, any additional ingredients to improve us will be most welcome. Wayne Rooney’s words that we will ‘need to be ready’ for them should also be pinned to the dressing room wall.
If anything, the confidence from those down the road always provides me with a bit of extra hope alone; they are the chief architects of getting carried away with themselves. Their fans are rubbing their hands together at the prospect of taking us on tomorrow so let’s hope that we can weather an early storm and throw some caution to the wind ourselves.
I saw Derby at Hull the other week, and they have certainly been using the ‘world’s against us’ mantra to very positive effect, Forest will need to be mindful of a side that is giving everything for their manager. With the likes of Louie Sibley, Ravel Morrison and Sam Baldock in the side, Derby have the players that can hurt us if we don’t get to grips with them.
They may have lost Kazim-Richards, but Derby’s ability to play in pockets and play Baldock into space is a concern. Aside from that threat, however, I wouldn’t say there is too much to be overly frightened about. The biggest concern of course will come from our own quarters.
What Forest will find difficult is trying to break through the experience of Phil Jagielka and Curtis Davies. It’s again inconceivable that we are not relishing the opportunity of getting at a defensive partnership with a combined age of 75 but considering our lack of nous to threaten in the final third, it is a concern that the pair will use their experience to nullify an already futile Forest attack. If Forest are to get any joy, it needs to be in wider areas or through working the channels. Aimless long balls will be bread and butter to Jagielka and Davies.
In more positive news, at least we will have a proven left-back in the form of Max Lowe, who looks a solid signing on a season-long loan. Things haven’t worked out for him at Sheffield United, so fingers crossed there might be a possibility of it becoming a permanent move if things go well.
Lowe and James Garner are big upgrades to the first eleven. It’s taken Forest a while to bring players in, but considering that Phillip Zinckernagel carries our biggest threat and Ethan Horvath may well make his debut due to his first impressions and the ‘must do better’ form of Brice Samba, business doesn’t look too bad with an expected busy last day in the transfer market.
It is a huge shame that we’ve lost Arsenal loanee Jordi Osei-Tutu to injury that plagued him last season, but we’ll have to wait and see how his situation progresses after his positive start in a red shirt. Jordan Gabriel or Finn Back will have another opportunity to impress it seems.
Forest have to find another way of playing, and whilst I can hope that will happen tomorrow, I sit here humming Go-West’s King of Wishful Thinking. Brennan Johnson, Alex Mighten and Ryan Yates will be relishing the chance to get at Derby tomorrow as Academy graduates, and that can only be a good thing despite the run of defeats. The latter may be getting some stick currently, but he’s never let Forest down in a red shirt in this fixture. In fact, he’s been one of our better performers against Derby for a few seasons now.
If we are to go down tomorrow, a blaze of glory I could cope with. I just don’t get the feeling it will pan out that way. A win will, of course, bring much-wanted bragging rights in these strange times we live in, but a smash and grab win victory would only paper over the cracks.
It’s a big one for Hughton tomorrow, and I hope that he helps himself. I still find it bizarre that there is yet another tried and trusted manager falling on his own sword in the Forest hot seat. Joe Kinnear played this fixture down many years ago and paid the price, so I do hope that amidst the cool and calm persona in front of the media, Chris will try to pull on the extra motivation to get a result tomorrow.
We are hurting as Forest fans, and we need the lift that only the management staff and players wearing the shirt can provide.
Come on, you Reds.