Sunshine, Moonlight

 Ref:  00498HR-7

Salary:  Competitive

Contract:  Temporary

 

Do you dream of a new challenge, every day?

Are you an ambitious, locally-based masochist, with your own transport?

As a one-time market leader, we’re looking for an enthusiastic self-starter to help rebuild our brand.  You’ll have a can-do attitude, and at least five years’ experience as a manager, fireman, or mental health advocate.

Due to trading restrictions, and the ongoing absence of key support staff, you’ll be adept at making the most of your resources.  You’ll be a versatile thinker, as things can (and will) change quickly in this role.  Our discerning customers aren’t interested in excuses / facts, so strong communication skills are also a must.

Benefits include a lifelong severance payment, a charming riverside office, and a complimentary ‘I Got F*cked in the Forest’ bumper sticker.  If you think you’ve got what it takes, send a crayon summary of your plans to PO Box 4, Rushcliffe Civic Centre, Nottingham.

 

* Please note that whilst we are an equal opportunity employer, it helps if you’re Scottish.

The Forest job’s a shitter.  Let’s be honest.

It swallows managers whole.  Fifteen of them, in twenty-three years—the meh, the bad, and the ugly.

For a while, some of them sparkled.  Clark, Bassett, and Hart; even Billy, the first time out.

But in the end, none bettered themselves.  They didn’t go anywhere; just out, or away.  Three quit, and ten were sacked, and only Platt – mercifully – was taken off our hands.  None of them were pinched, or poached—eventually, they all just left.

So many managers, and so many methods.  Whatever their plans, they always seemed to be snookered by something—some mix of budgets, patience, and principles.  The project-planners, and the shit-or-busters; the warhorses, and the bright young things.  Line-towers, and the belligerents; the pass-and-movers, and the hoofists.

Some were screwed.  Some screwed themselves.  But whatever the circumstances, they all went: most of them chewed so badly out of shape by the whole ordeal, they were never quite the same again.

And now here’s Douglas, still standing tall, some twelve months on.  Four more than many of us thought he’d ever deserve, or get.

For that – for all he’s been through, and for what he’s managed to not only retain, but create – I owe him an apology.

Because I can remember walking out after the Cardiff game, in August–the last warm day of a so-so summer.  Antonio had just played his final Forest game, we had five points on the board, and safety – let alone progress – seemed a world away.

And I said it again, walking up the embankment: the bloke’s a loser.

I said – again – that he’d be gone by November.

I’d been saying it for months.  I’d hung on to that opinion (that sentence) since the day he was appointed—just as people made their minds instantly up about Bassett, and Calderwood, and Cotterill.

After that game, on the radio, Dougie did what he always does—he insisted that we were making progress, and that the signs were there.  It’s maddening, especially when you know that we’ve been shite, but then that’s his thing: it’s what he does.  It worked for Alex Ferguson, after all.

Never an ounce of negativity from Freedman:  he just shrug-smiles through all of the nonsense, and pushes on.

And what nonsense there’s been: what thorough trouble for him, from the outset.

None of us wanted him here, in the first place—he’s ploughed his own solitary path, knowing that.  Knowing that he wasn’t Pearce; knowing that minds in football are quickly made, and rarely changed.  Knowing that he’d always be working twice as hard, to prove half as much.

The embargo came.  And after that, Britt’s knee.  The long and stretching months without him, and Fryatt, and Reid, and Cohen: the ones with Danny Fox.

FFP rearing up in some new and inventive way, every time he tries to patch one of our ever-rotating holes.

The 150-year anniversary, and its own weird pressures.

The formality of his sacking, always just a month away.

Boxing through every minute of every day, with one arm pinned firmly behind his back.

Last week, I wrote about what I feel we’ve lost as a club.

But how’s about we take a look at what we’ve gained?

Because we have gained.  In small but important ways—ways that could be the start of something new, and something better.

Something more than fourteen months.  Finally, perhaps—something sustainable.

We’ve gained a bloke who actually seems to enjoy being the manager of Forest: one of the few who doesn’t treat the job as an inconvenience.  So many others were weighed down by it, and the peculiar pressures of Nottingham Forest.  Dougie, though—he’s kept it all on a level.  Not for him, Kinnear’s bully-boy rants; Megson’s neurotic waffle about ‘dark forces’; Billy’s passive-aggressive swings at everyone, and anything.  Granted, this Forest team might not be to everyone’s / anyone’s tastes, but Dougie’s put more time than any of his predecessors – Psycho included – into reminding us that we’re worth managing.

And that’s the bigger picture, for me.  Through him, we’ve gained a Forest team with bollocks.

A Forest team that can actually concentrate; from front to back, and start to finish.  A team without ego, and a concentrated sense of purpose.

“I don’t mind, as long as they’re trying”—that’s the holding principle of all football fans.  It’s what we all say, when times are lean.  And what have these past months been, if not a triumph of raw bloody effort?

So forgive him his Huddersfields, and his Brentfords.  They’ll come, inevitably enough, and they’ll go.  As a self-declared great man once said: “it is what it is.”

Dougie’s still not loved; in the darkest corners of the internet, he’s not even liked.  But what’s clear now is that his own players like him, and that they believe in him.  In a season that was harpooned before it’d even started, that’s a small joy.  A little victory, that bodes well.

There’s too many who won’t let go of their contentions; too many who won’t dare to see him as anything other than a loser.  Too many – like the bloke who sits in front of me – who’ll say they’re only telling it like it is.

Yet Dougie doesn’t mind.  Dougie just gets on with it, and it’s hard not to admire the guy for that.  Maybe he’s not our clinching answer; maybe there are limits to what we can realistically be under him.  But let’s give him proper credit for what he’s done this year.  Sat in 10th place, it’s getting easier and easier to forget what a wreck this season could have been, in the wrong hands.

There was only ever going to be one way to do it: with a smile, and with teeth gritted firmly behind that smile.

You keep it up, pal.  You’ll get some strikers one day.

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