It's Christmas and we sit only a few points outside the playoff places. Not a bad position really, something probably 90% of supporters would have settled for at this point before the first ball was kicked this season. Could it be better? Probably 100% think it should be in the face of two shock home defeats and only two points from the other two recent away games, not allowing for handled goals, leads squandered, one-eyed refs with dodgy watches, missed penalties, red cards and ill-timed injuries and suspensions. We should be 6 points better off, maybe ten, maybe many more without getting into the realms of complete fantasy. It might not be perfect but it's not too shoddy and it really should be far better than it currently is based on what we have done so far this season. Short term injuries and freak results aside, are we moving in the right direction? Does the team look like it's improving? I definitely think so. Especially given our inability to claim our 'fair share' of points in the first half of the season it is not unreasonable to expect us to only perform better in the second half terms of points gained and improve our league standing. A top six place looks very much on the cards, the highest reasonable expectation you could realistically place on any team in a highly competitive and unpredictable league. Whilst many were wary about expecting too much I have always thought this team should make the top six and the evidence is it is on track to do so. Noises coming out of the Forest Boardroom seemed equally expectant. Although Karanka is a little short of schedule at half-time maybe it's pretty close and there must be a 'margin of error' between being perfectly 'on plan' and a total failure - a 'could do better' zone where we rightly sit at this point.
The shocking capitulation and surrender of a three goal lead at Norwich is enough to send anyone round the bend but a degree of perspective has to be retained. It was a result everyone would have welcomed before the game, although no one settled for after 80 minutes. We could have easily lost too. Whilst some players had a great game it was a very patchy and ill disciplined performance. Not due to lack of effort, quite the contrary. The intensity and effort shown by our full backs was verging on rabid insanity at times. We should have won. We didn't but we got a result that would be acceptable any day of the week in normal circumstances. Why did it happen? Not because the manager had lost the dressing room, anyone with a passing association with the team know how invested they all are in the club. There's no lack of commitment, quite the contrary. Players are suffering from the pressure put on them by others and they place upon themselves. Our keeper has been shamefully harassed largely for kicking a few balls off the pitch and taking a bit long with his kicks when, you have to assume, he's been told to do this and is really only guilty of thinking Ben Osborn is a bit taller than he is now and again. It's hard to perform well under pressure. You know what's going to happen when you are wearing your expensive, new white shirt and presented with spaghetti! The more you try to ensure it doesn't happen the tomato sauce will find it's way onto it at least once during dinner. Old players will stay up rewatching games and get hardly any sleep before training early the next morning, young ones will wilt under the pressure when it's that intense. Karanka has, rightly, mentioned the slightly uneasy atmosphere created at The City Ground when things aren't going entirely to plan. It's never a good idea to put any of the 'blame' on the supporters so the reaction from some quarters was understandably prickly but he does have a point if we are honest. There are points in games where the crowd do dig in, make a noise and lift the team. There are times when they don't do that and can set an entirely unhelpful uneasy tone. Again, as with the players, the pressure and expectation has come into play. Again, now, as rumours about Aitor's future start swirling about based purely on a range of different answers being proffered to the riddle of what 2+2 equals there's a willingness for some around the club to join in with this entirely self-defeating navel gazing. We need two wins or he's gone! Four points won't be enough! Who knows? Who has any idea what was discussed at the start of the season and what Marinakis is thinking now? Let alone what the options would be. Nick Randall QC and the Board will have their say but Marinakis pays all the bills and their wages too and will ultimately decide the tune played as he pays the piper. I trust that they have the sense to do what is right for the club and hopefully now know the fans are very much behind Karanka. Whatever the requirement over the next two games, nothing or two wins? What next? Two wins and we can lose the next two, no problems? Two defeats and we then need to win the next two? You can't set these crazy, short term criteria unless you want to enter a never-ending cycle of crazy, pressure under which nothing will work. Everything needs far greater perspective.
Supporters who are now coming up with bizarre theories and endlessly speculating about his future are doing more harm to the club long-term than giving away a three goal lead has. We all need to have the sense we expect of the owner and chill out a bit. It's a long season, we are not doing too badly, we are far from perfect but we are not too far off any expectations however high they are set. People can believe the secret of success is not through stability and is best achieved with constant chopping and changing of managers. Forest fans who do can't have paid much attention to how that's gone since we bid a sad farewell to Cloughie though surely? However it's a point of view. We can strive to be the 'next Watford' if we like but I don't only think that's a rather modest ambition, it's not something that anyone has ever said they aspired to. The new owners have been very clear. They want success. They want stability and will be patient and they have almost placed the most importance on doing things 'properly'. I applaud those sentiments and hope and believe they are sincerely held and enduring. I believe that doing the right things is the single most important aspect too, the rest follows from that. I don't know but I would like to think Karanka knew his job and what was expected very clearly when he took it and whatever assurances he was given are upheld and written in stone. Not because of my undying love of Aitor, rather that any manager should be given this. We will have another manager one day and I would like to think he will be given his chance just as he will have seen Karanka was, or how will we ever attract anyone decent in the future? Stab our mangers in the back and we will get the mangers we deserve.
Rather than rant about the ranting about nothing. Let's examine what might make sense with a bit of perspective. Imagine you're a farmer and you plan to sell various fruit. You plant a tree with the knowledge, as with football, that you might not see any fruit for several years. What do you do? Ideally you wait patiently. In time your patience bears fruit. Sure you might have done things wrong along the way and maybe the harvest is a disaster. You might have played the lottery along the way with the hope that you could chuck it all in if you had an incredible stroke of luck. You could always lose faith and change career half way through too if you think farming is just not for you. What Forest, and most clubs, do relentlessly is to replant seeds every year before they have any chance of a harvest from the seeds planted the previous season. They never learn and just continually repeat the process because they either don't understand they need to wait for the fruit to blossom or they are just wracked by uncertainty because of their friends and family constantly complaining about the lack of fruit. The farmer who understands the process and is able to stick to their plans are the ones who will see the fruit. Those who panic and constantly re-seed just find themselves in and endless, insane cycle. We are seeing our crops grow, there will be doubts, success is not guaranteed, but we will only be able to judge properly when we have allowed enough time. There will be sun and rain and we need bother to make the crops strong. Then we will also have the benefit of actually learning from seeing, for once, what happens when you actually allow long enough to see a return on your investment and hopefully enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Regardless of what's right or wrong. What's best for the club and what actually happens... We will never know much about any of it. Before, during or after. There are some well established theories, almost 'true facts' in today's jargon, and the Owner and Board seem to be doing everything 'the right way' these days. Why a vocal minority seem so ready to get hysterical on social media about these daft rumours that start flying around based on absolutely nothing but lazy speculation is beyond me. They're the same people who think giving away a 3-0 lead is a 'bad choice' more than anything. It's not. It's crazy, it should never happen, but it can and sometimes does - all too often to Forest it feels. Then again you are now the ones doing exactly the same thing but entertaining this sort of counterproductive negativity around the club. Let people who don't care about Forest speculate about us doing stupid things on or off the pitch. Let's get behind the club, manager, players and make it easy for the Board and Marinakis to stick to their desired course without us encouraging them to shoot themselves in the foot by feeding this stupid speculation that does nothing to make the task ahead of us any easier. The facts might change. There might be a time when this insanity makes sense - newsflash! Karanka will not manage Forest forever! #fact - but for now let's get firmly behind the team. Do everything we can to be part of the solution, not the problem and leave Marinakis and the Board to make the decisions as only they can and only they have any idea about what is really going on. When Sky Sports News make the decisions I'll start to listen to what they 'think'. Until then just take any of their speculation with a huge pinch of salt as usual. They can write what they like. They just have to fill their pages with any rubbish. We can just ignore it, doing so will only help us progress further down the road and we shouldn't be distracted from that.