August Preview

And then… It’s August… And it begins.

Summer tends to go in stages doesn’t it?

From the initial emptiness following the end of the season and lack of anything football related to do on a weekend (unless we are fortunate enough to be in the bi-annual cycle of watching England crash out of a major tournament) to the transfer window opening with much gusto only to be met with days, even weeks of inactivity as clubs let players contracts run out at the end of June before pouncing like a leopard to snare its prey on July 1st (or shortly thereafter).

It usually coincides quite closely with players reporting back for preseason training, the first preseason fixtures are just around the corner and typically run in parallel to the new kit designs being released and modeled by current players, new signings and celebrities alike.

There’s updates on season card sales, international training camps and pre-season fixtures abroad allowing a few lucky ones to imagine what it must have been like back in the day to watch Forest in Europe.

The lads were invited to a fireworks display whilst holidaying in Greece

There’s the tedium of blocking kids posing as ITK journalists on twitter claiming to have seen Peter Crouch at the McDonalds in Carlton – it’s really happening folks!

Then there’s the calm before the storm where we let our expectations soar and our optimism run wild. These signings, yeah, they look good… I mean, I’d not heard of half of them before Chippers tweeted about them but they look good on YouTube. And that player who’s always had potential but never really fulfilled it? He’ll come good now he’s at a real club with our stadium, history and support. It’ll click. It has to.

And then… It’s August… And it begins.

Often hectic in the same way only December can be, fixtures come thick and fast. League and Cup alike, there’s plenty to get stuck into in the first 4 weeks of the season before the international break arrives as a welcome relief from the carnage.

Starting at home this season, we welcome play off semi finalists West Bromwich Albion to the City ground for a lush 5:30pm televised season opener. You probably remember last season’s fixture well. Adlene put in one of his finest shifts in the Garibaldi, netting Forest’s only goal and nearly scoring a genuine contender for goal of the century and something that could finally surpass McGugan’s free kick as “the best goal I’ve seen at the City Ground” but it wasn’t to be and thanks to a late equaliser the game finished 1-1 and Albion went back to the West Midlands with a point. Despite it feeling like 2 points dropped, there was a tangible sense of optimism about what we’d seen. Memories like that can fade fast in NG2.

Adlene “Foot like a traction engine” Guedioura

Next up is our “other” big rivals in the division and the team everyone loves to hate, Leeds United at Elland Road in another “moved for SKY” kick off time of 12:30pm on Saturday August 10th. Leeds don’t like us much, we tend to have a bit of a sign over them recently as well and were it not for some ludicrous bad luck with refereeing decisions in the away fixture last season, we would have taken 6 out of 6 points from them. Leeds biggest signing over the summer was in retaining the talents of Bielsa as manager. Someone in the hot seat who finally “get” Leeds and what it is to manage such a prestigious club with its great history and Premier League facilities and fan base (sound familiar). There will be a level of expectation from the home supporters this season after they too (like West Brom) lost in the play off semi finals to them down the road, much of their own making having been 2 up on aggregate approaching half time. Leeds always seem to be hindered by a lack of discipline on the field, if Bielsa can get them playing fair, they are going to be right up there again and coming off the back of playing an experienced West Brom side, amounts to two very difficult fixtures to kick off the campaign – not least with a manager at the helm who may need time to learn the league to get the best out of his “big spending” Nottingham Forest squad.

Our first goal direct from a corner since the days of Duncan McKenzie!

Next up is Fleetwood Town in the Cup at the City ground where 3-5,000 fans will watch our second string limp to a narrow victory against a courageous lower league club while half the Forest fans prey they nab a late equaliser to enable their hopes of a late summer reccy to Blackpool to watch the replay before realizing that on 90 minutes that it goes straight to penalties!

Mick Fleetwood Town A.F.C.

Rudderless Birmingham City follow at the City Ground and its anybodies guess who will be in charge for the Blues after the sacking of Gary Monk over the summer, I mean, it could be Pep Clotet but at the same time, it could be Harry Redknapp again. Nobody knows. On paper this is the first easier league fixture we have and with Che Adam’s threat having departed, we might be catching Brum at the right time while they steady their ship. Definitely winnable if we turn up.

Big Dazza Murphy with the equaliser back in August 2018

Charlton Athletic and Fulham away on a Wednesday / Saturday shift gives some fans the dilemma of staying in London for 3 nights and catching both or returning home to work then crawling down the M1 again on one of those vintage Silverdale coaches. Charlton could do anything and thankfully (for them) having dodged the bullet of Fawaz Al-Hasawi ownership last year look to be this years surprise package as they carry momentum from their promotion last season. Fulham away is always a marquee fixture for fans with Craven Cottage arguably being the second prettiest ground in English football behind the world famous of course. Neither team has any tangible form to trace from last season into this so we’ll have to wait and see and hope that whatever team turns up, the one we put out has clicked by then and is better. Could be a big 4 days so early in the season especially if we’ve taken anything decent from the first 3 league games.

August concludes with a home game against Preston North End. A team that we never seem to beat as they always try to stifle any opportunities for decent, free flowing football that we try. If we have a plan B or C that can break them down then there’s everything to play for and Saturday games at the City Ground in August and September are usually fun times to watch Forest. Supporters are still on side with the plan, are optimistic for the season, are allowing the new signings and manager alike to “settle in”.

Coldplay, it’s like watching Coldplay…. Floodlight failure last season against Preston (H)

The glass half empty in me says those opening 2 fixtures are a step or two too far for a new manager getting to know the league, his players and the best system for them to play and that coming off the back of 2 difficult opening fixtures and what will inevitably be a battle against Fleetwood (and disruption to the starting XI as players rotate for game time) that Birmingham already could become a crunch fixture followed by 2 on the road where historically we don’t do well and then Preston who are one of this generations Walsall’s (read: bogey side) and that potentially every point in August is going to be a scrap.

The glass half full in me says the players we’ve signed feel better than those we signed last season and a home opening fixture against a team that will probably let us play football is the perfect opportunity to settle on a style, grabs some points and gain some momentum before going to a team that hate playing us and will suffer from an immeasurable amount of fan pressure to do well this season which will stifle them against one of their greatest foes. And everything after those 2 fixtures will be a walk in the park.

And we won’t have to worry about player fatigue later in the season when Fleetwood knock us out of the cup in Round 1 allowing us that much needed facility of being able to “concentrate on the league”.

Feels good to be back, doesn’t it!

2019 Meet Up @ The Globe Pub, Chicago

Wooahhhhhh Chicago’s on fiiiirreeeeeee!

For most people who attended the 2019 Annual NFFC North America meet up in Chicago, there are probably 2 residing memories. The first being that Nottingham Forest North America was legitimate, that it had grown into something really unique and special and that now it genuinely allowed fans from all over the USA and Canada to connect and that despite the distance, unite as one.

The second being weather in the mid west in April is bonkers and that next time, we should probably aim for somewhere a bit warmer or at the very least, predictable!!!

At some point in 2018, Chicago was chosen as the host. Riding off the success of the Chicago groups engagement and relationship with The Globe, a popular sports bar just up the road from Wrigleyville and home to large supporters groups from Arsenal and Aston Villa, it was a good spot to accommodate a large group of people – so long as Arsenal weren’t at home that day, we’ll get to that!!!

An expression of interest was created and numbers looked good. A WhatsApp group started, an email chain grew into something unfathomably big. Suddenly, a few weeks before the big day, we all realized this thing had a bit of momentum.

Taking in the whole weekend, people were looking to fly in on the Friday, catch the game (vs Blackburn) on the Saturday and then do as they pleased for the rest of the time. So lets start with the Friday, because we’re here right, we should probably do something!

On a clear but bitterly cold evening, a group of just over a dozen ventured out to Bridgeview, IL to the Seat Geek Stadium to watch the Chicago Fire play the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The evening began with most of us tailgating with the Section 8 group. Plenty of time for introductions, re-introductions and a few beers prior to the game.

Once inside, we took up our spot behind the goal and watched as the Fire went a goal down early in the 2nd half only to claw back a point with an 84th Minute Penalty. If you watch the highlights and keep an eye out behind the goal to the left, you might see some glimpses of the Red and White Army!

Some didn’t make it to the end… The cold and wind was just too bad but overall it was a fun start to the weekend. Afterwards everybody went back to their hotels and straight to sleep…… right?

Saturday was an early start as it always is when watching the Saturday 3pm kick offs. Central Standard Time had the game kicking off at 9am local and of course, the desire to get there early and claim a spot, meet some more people and take in the event as it built up to kick off…. Saturday was an early start!

The game itself was typical of Forest at that stage in the season. With little to play for and a lack of confidence on the pitch, we wound up on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat, but the overriding feeling in the pub was that today was about more than just the result. There were new friendships being created, new locations / groups being identified, competitions / raffle prize draws, shots (lots of shots), lots of singing, some great banter with the Chicago Villains (Aston Villa’s Chicago Supporters Group) including the now legendary chant “We’re only here for the cake!”

A year prior, the first annual meet up was held in Atlanta. There were 18 people – still a great number and more than enough to make that event great. On April 13th 2019, in a pub in Chicago, we had 62 people.

The classic alley way photograph from The Globe Pub, Chicago.

After that, groups splintered off and went their separate ways. Some chose to take in the city, some chose to stay and drink at The Globe, some went elsewhere and continued to drink! A small group went to Wrigley Field to watch a Cubs game, some went back to their hotel or in a few cases even, went back to the other reason they were in Chicago that weekend – we had at least one person from Nottingham in town for the Star Wars Celebration being held in Chicago that weekend! A red sun shone down on the city that day in more ways than one. It was a very very good day!

Sunday….. Now that was a different story.

You can tell very quickly when things are starting to go a bit pear shaped. A few messages on the WhatsApp group early on indicating that flights out of town were being impacted by the weather…. Wait, weather? But wasn’t it Sunny on Saturday?

Welcome to the mid west.

A few lucky ones got out early before the delays started to heavily impact flights. Others weren’t so lucky. Flights were delayed and even cancelled in some cases. People made alternative arrangements where possible. But all in all, it was a bit of a bummer and not the way anyone wanted the weekend to end.

By lunchtime on Monday, everything was resolved and the last of the stragglers announced they were home allowing the curtain to finally fall on the 2nd annual NFFC North America Meet Up.

Obviously, this is a subjective account of the weekend from someone who had a very positive experience. The weather on the Sunday did cause some issues and stress no doubt but hopefully for the majority, the overall feeling was that the weekend was a success and that we had taken huge strides forward as we continue to build a strong foundation for NFFC North America to exist on.

There have been discussions internally on where to go next and what form the meet ups should take. Some great ideas on the WhatsApp group on location and frequency. All we can say is we’re all very excited to see where we can take the annual meet up. As the signature, most visible thing we at NFFC North America do, we want these to be a success. Chicago was most definitely a success and the credit for that success belongs to everyone who attended and made it what it was.

See you all again next time. But somewhere a bit warmer right?

We’ll meet again!

“Somebody call 9-1-1, Chicago Cubs are playing at the ball park, oh woaaaaaa ohhhhh”

Also, check out this video produced by Karl of NFFCNYC featuring some of the highlights of the weekend!