The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

You Only Know How Bad You’ve Had It When You No Longer Have It …
June 27, 2023, 8:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, England, Football, Nottingham, Nottingham Forest, Paul

I know with a headline like that, you think I’m going to announce some major revelation to do with health.

Or happiness.

Well, in some ways I am … just not what you may think.

This is about football … and while it’s a good few weeks since the Premiership ended, it’s taken me this long to calm down.

As you all likely know, my beloved Nottingham Forest got promoted last year to the Premiership after 23 painful years away. More than that, they got promoted after being at the bottom of the Championship after 7 games – where they only had one point – before our manager, Steve Cooper, joined and took us on a fairytale that no one could have imagined.

Of course we knew it would be hard to compete – especially with our team being made up of 5 loan signings – which is why I convinced myself that as long as they were enjoying themselves, I’d be happy with whatever happened.

Now I know I was utterly lying to myself.

It was a tremendously hard season. We had – in the end – over 30 new players join us [which was needed given we didn’t have a proper starting 11] so it was no surprise we were whipping boys for all the teams we faced in the first few weeks.

3-0. 4-0. 5-0. 6-0.

Then we had a couple of wins.

West Ham and – amazingly – Liverpool.

We had faith. And then the bad results kept coming and the media increasingly wrote us off.

Then we had major injuries to key players that were going to last for months.

Worse, we were hearing our beloved Steve Cooper – the man who had achieved what over 20+ managers couldn’t – was going to get fired. Other managers were being sounded out. The old dark days were coming back with a vengeance.

I don’t mind admitting, I couldn’t read about the team.

Everything was bleak and negative and it actually was affecting my health.

I was getting down. Weekends were getting ruined. The feel-good factor was done.

I tried to convince myself that football just doesn’t matter.

The only positive was the Forest owners kept faith with Steve.

Sure, part of it was because they couldn’t find a better alternative, but at a time where clubs chopped and changed managers like people change their clothes – it was a little bright spot in an otherwise dark situation.

That said, I wouldn’t have blamed them if they had.

Yes we had terrible injuries but we couldn’t win an away game if we bribed the officials.

Then we had a little run of positive results and it was amazing how I felt my entire body change. Mentally and physically. I felt excited to read articles about them – and how they played – again. Sure, there were still some negative stuff, but when we reached the highs of 13th in the table [even though 13th-20th was separated by a few points] it felt good.

Then bad times came back.


In the relegation zone.

Pundits revelling in our downfall.

But somehow we put ourselves in a position to get out and with 2 games left, we were in 16th, two places above relegation. Of course, being Forest, we only needed to slip up once and have a team below us win – and we would literally swap places with them.

Worse, if any of the teams below us ended up on the same points, we’d still go down because those early games gave us a goal difference that was one of the worst in the league.

If that wasn’t hard enough, our next game was Arsenal.

2nd in the league … and the teams around us had easier games.

Sure, if we lost it wouldn’t be 100% relegation and sure, it was at home … but given our final match was away, the chances of us pulling off a miracle were low.

But against all odds, we took the lead on 19 minutes.

The Forest ground was utter pandemonium … WE WERE WINNING … but we also knew we had the worst record of losing from a winning position and Arsenal had the best record of winning from a losing position.

But we got to half time still up … which meant we would guarantee safety which meant we would still be in the Premiership for another year.

Then the second half started.

And unlike other matches, we kept doing pretty well.

The team wanted this. They wanted to play their final game at the City Ground in a way that would honour the fans unwavering support over the past 9 months.

And to be honest, so they should … because even fans of all other teams have said what an amazing atmosphere our fans create at the City Ground.

But I’d seen us fuck up too many times so with 12 minutes to go, I went on to instagram and zoomed through reels to take my mind off things. I knew the game would be over at 6:32am NZ time and my intention was to not look till my iPad said it was that time.

Did I manage to do that?

Nope … but I did manage to last a few minutes at a time.

And then at 6:31am I couldn’t hold back any longer and flicked over to the BBC where I saw the letters FT under the score, signifying full time.

Signifying we had won. WE HAD WON.

And, in a surprise to myself, I burst into tears.

Massive tears. Tears of relief, pride, happiness, shock and calm.

What made this even more surreal was that while this was all going on, I was lying in Otis’ bed as he was in ours with a bad head cold.

So there I was a 52 year old bloke … in an 8 year olds bed … crying at a football result and that’s when I truly knew how invested I was in that team.

How they represent more than just kicking a ball around a pitch, but my identity … my cities identity … our hopes, belief and values.

I was a mix of elation and exhaustion … resulting in me spending the whole day watching interviews of the footballers and fans revelling in their joy.

Joy for defying the odds.

Joy for proving the pundits wrong.

Joy for my great club earning the chance to keep getting better.

I love them. I love them so so much …

The team. The manager. The owners. The fans. The city they represent and belong to.

As the legendary Liverpool manager – Bill Shankly – once said:

Football isn’t a matter of life and death. It’s more important than that.

He wasn’t wrong.

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