Forest fans haven’t had the easiest last few decades. It’s fair to say we have generally stuck by the club through very thick and very, very thin and it was only the clowns in Uncle Fawaz’s Circus that ever managed to really empty large numbers of the seats at The City Ground. Credit where it is due too, maybe not quite pre-emptively but eagerly in response to the obvious good intentions and sensible pricing of the Marinakis-Randall-Cook leadership, the seats are already well filled by season ticket holders for next season - the fans are backing the club in record numbers of 20k and counting. We definitely are doing OK in quantity but I have to say I have been a little disappointed by the lack of quality, or maybe class, from some fans on social media in recent weeks.
Whilst the club is clearly making every effort to make the club something we can all be proud of once again some supporters seem to be unable to lift their own standards. The knee jerk reactions that were somewhat acceptable and certainly understandable in the dark days under Fawaz should have no place at our new club we are rebuilding. We have something to live up to at last. We can see the club making bold statements of intent in their words and deeds. You can tell they care about the fans as much as the club as a business entity. They are trying to drag the shambles left for them not only into some sort of coherent operation but they are actually trying looking far beyond that. People will say ‘who do they think they are?’ Of course. We know who we are and what it means. We are Nottingham Forest. In the glory years it meant just as much that we played football the right way with the right discipline. It’s easier to ‘do it better’ when you can do it any way you like. When you’re not winning games everything becomes harder and standards fall. We are still not winning games which only makes the club’s aspiration towards much higher goals than just scoring them even more admirable. We really do have a club we can be proud of again regardless of how poorly we have done in recent seasons. The hard work and investment on and off the pitch is going to pay off in time, maybe sooner rather than later, but that’s incidental and transitory. The important thing is the club is out of the ER and alive again. There will be some awkwardness and bumps along the way. I wasn’t quite convinced about the actual policing of internet conduct for example although the principle is laudable. The platforms and governments can’t seem to figure out what’s right themselves so it’s probably not something a football club is going to have much success with either. More worrying in general and particular is where you fear there’s a constraint on free speech and an attempt to make opinions acceptable or not and apparently blocking fans without warning. All a bit strange. Coming from the software world and seeing what has happened with smoking during my lifetime has slowly led me to believe, or at least hope, that education is the long-term answer to everything in the end. Most people are essentially good and will support each other in a common cause if that cause is of priority over their own self importance. In an environment where you don’t feel the need to assert your own self-importance, where you are joined in a common cause and feel valued you can put aside the petty squabbles more easily.
In recent weeks though I have been sorely disappointed by the behaviour of a ‘Forest legend’ and the treatment of a great Forest family in equal measure. We have a player we have all held in the highest esteem is dredging the depths of decency and spitting the most obnoxious slurs against people who he considers himself qualified to judge and insult at his whim. Given his own past misdemeanours and the amount of slack society has been prepared to cut him only makes it more galling that he seems to think his only ‘crime’ is being ‘opinionated’. You have to think it’s a case of spare the rod and spoil the child as he hasn’t been able to develop a more sophisticated world view and appreciate what he has been given - unless it is to defend himself in a smug self-assuredness of being 'right' about everything which no one can ever really claim to be really, Clough aside. It’s not about having opinions that’s the problem. It’s about what they are to a small extent. What they are based on, the way they are expressed and who is saying them. Not for the reason he cites but quite the contrary - for who he is and how he has always conducted himself. So whilst he has fallen a few steps off his self-declared pedestal we also see a loyal soldier leaving the City Ground with his ears ringing with insults and ingratitude.
Eric Lichaj deserves to be judged on what he has done as much as anyone. He won’t complain any sooner than he wouldn’t give 100% on the pitch. When he signed for Forest he mentioned his nickname was ‘the rash’ because you couldn’t get rid of him, he always gave his utmost and could play a bit. Well I never heard the nickname mentioned again but no one could doubt he ever gave 100%. Not even the biggest moron on the internet has ever said that. Stop there. That’s enough for me. That’s all you can ask. He doesn’t pick the team. If he’s not good enough then blame the managers who picked him and the fans who made him player of the season the year before last. Having said that he wasn’t at all bad either. Not infallible, but who is? Not a game-changer, but knocking the holders out of the Cup with a couple of goals isn’t too bad for a right back’s CV either. He’s a decent player who will rarely let you down and play when and where he’s asked to. Not the World’s greatest player but good enough to captain his country and at least 50% of people don’t think Ronaldo or Messi are the GOAT either. In my estimation he’s one of the best in The Championship but Aitor doesn’t rate him as highly and expects to sign a better player. I have faith he can and hope he doesn’t regret his decision, only time will tell. No one is suggesting we build statues or anything but any player that wears the Garibaldi with the distinction Lichaj has deserves respect and I begrudge a few small-minded fans not only sullying our reputation but also seeking to sour the relationship the Lichaj’s have had with Forest Fans and Nottingham - most particularly Annesley. A few stupid people saying a few stupid things out of jealousy, ignorance or just because they don’t know how to behave can go a long way to spoiling what has happened over those 5 long years. Not only has he given everything on the pitch, right or wrong, he’s done all he has been able to do the job he’s paid to do. What makes the Lichaj’s more special though is what he’s done ‘for free’, above and beyond his responsibilities he signs up for. He’s parted with his money to buy a box for his family and friends to support him, he’s quietly spent probably more hours ‘working gratis’ in his spare time and donating his money to good causes than he has on duty on match days. He’s never breathed a word of it, just like the best of them. He’s also been the one literally going around banging his head against the wall about the state of the team culture whilst keeping his counsel equally religiously. He’s never rocked the boat whilst the passengers driving him mad have come and gone without breaking sweat. OK so Kat, his Mrs., is far more showbiz it’s only the style that is different. She doesn’t seem the sort but she’s managed to not only bite her lip on a regular basis but also been such a positive ambassador for the club with fans. In a cold, hard analysis both Mr. & Mrs. have been the best of the best, going above and beyond the call of duty for the club. It’s not a reason to keep Eric as your first choice right back if Karanka thinks he has an alternative who is 1% better. It’s a game of fine margins and it’s his job to make these calls. What it does justify however is that he and his family should be granted the respect they have well and truly earned. If you really can’t say anything nice then please don’t say anything at all. The Lichaj’s will always have Forest in their hearts. Abusing them online says nothing about them and everything about you and what’s been wrong with our club.
We are all allowed opinions. We can certainly have doubts about the ability and attitude of players in their professional capacity. You are welcome to express these to the world and offend people if you really feel it necessary. It’s your right. But let’s aim a bit higher. If you really feel the need to vent your spleen about one of our players do it with some consideration towards them. Don’t tag them unless you would be happy to say it to their face and in front of their friends, family and your own too. You might feel a bit better for a bit but you’ll not impress anyone worth impressing in most cases. Leave the abuse for supporters of other teams with lower standards. This is Nottingham Forest. What do we ask from our players? What do we offer them in return? What can we do to help them perform and attract new players to the club? Where does your behaviour fit in with Forest? The new Forest. What would Brian say? He was outspoken, he was opinionated, he upset people - but everything he did was done with love and often sealed with a kiss.
Last week in response to the Greek fires in which many lost their lives Marinakis gave a million pound donation to help the affected families. Obviously a wonderful gesture by any measure but not good enough for at least one Forest supporter who 'didn't trust him' and felt it was in 'bad taste'. Not quite sure how he could think that whilst not seeing that making these sorts of statements whilst the fires are still burning are the absolute height of bad taste... to me that beggars belief. I tweeted my view and had to intervene to avoid a real-life punch up but I can understand how annoying such gross statements can offend people and incite even this sort of over the top response.
It would be nice if Forest was a club every player wanted to play for. Where the fans were the 12th man. Where everything we said and did was with the best intentions even if we were unable to always meet the standards we set for ourselves. No one could say we didn’t have them. Manage this and you have already won the moral battle. There’s not much the average fan can do to help the club we all love. In this day and age though there’s a lot more damage that can be caused by a thoughtless tweet or Facebook post. Every player who we sign should sign a contract with the fans. They aren’t above criticism but they are owed our respect and support. Give the club 100% and at the very least they will be guaranteed a firm handshake and genuine good wishes when their time comes to depart. Life is cruel, there’s no doubt. The way Karanka has had to let players go who aren’t in his plans isn’t nice and cosy but players know they have to accept that. The fans should do everything they can to say goodbye to players they know, just as warmly as they say hello to those they don’t. Forest should be a club that every player would love to play for and one they would always be warmly welcomed back to. There’s more honesty and purity in treating the club and it’s players the same way. With respect, love, warmth and sometimes a tear in your eye because you care about it so much. It’s the way the club are starting to do things again and the way we should too. It’s the Forest way, our way and definitely Cloughie’s way. #ThatLovingFeeling - don't lose it, let them.