Matt Wills is here to bring you more from his Nottingham Forest in the future save. Having fast forwarded 8 years, it’s all about making up lost time for Matt and return Forest to their past glories. Catch up with part 5 here.
Hi, welcome back to my Nottingham Forest challenge. Part 5 was a bit dour as we had a hangover from our near miss in season one, but I’m determined to be more positive going forward.
I start by dropping wantaway Liberian Zizi Debbah and bring in Derek ‘Alan Shearer’ Thompson up-top as we labour to a 2-0 win over 18th placed Sunderland, but in an attempt to be more positive, the board are pleased with the result and it catapults us from 8th to 3rd in the table.
Even Lizarralde’s injury is minor only needing a few days rest. My cup is half-full.
During the international break for European Championship qualifiers, Lloyd Kaye gets his first cap for England in a 2-0 win away to Romania, Noel Whelan and Scholes with the goals. I’m proud of young Kaye.
After the break, we do well to see off 5th placed Leeds, even if we do leave it late, but my inspired substitutions win out in the end.
This puts us 3rd on goal difference from Burnley and only 4pts behind Villa at the top.
This nice little run of form brings us to my biggest test since I took over Forest, AC Milan in our 3rd group game in the Champions League. Milan are the holders and did the treble last season.
I decide to swap out Rubi-Gol and bring back Debbah, as I can only play 3 Non-EU players.
Milan have Thierry Henry upfront and Peter Schmeichel’s regen in goal, this will be some task.
Although we give it a good go, we spend a disappointing evening in the San Siro, and it’s not without it’s casualties.
It would be a divine miracle to qualify from this position. Even 10 points in 2nd is unlikely to be enough to go through as one of the two best runners up. Still, we’ll give it a go.
4 weeks without the lad from Chad.
Debbah enjoys his return to the line-up, although he doesn’t score, he gets Man of the Match against lowly Middlesbrough. Fisher and Kaye notching for us and another clean sheet to boot.
This win takes us up to 2nd in the table, and a Villa loss leaves us a point behind them with 12 games played. Feeling positive!
It’s a break from league action, for the League Cup and Burnley. Debbah adds a hat trick to his previous MOTM award and we’re in the hat for the next round.
This will be an interesting game…
I keep exactly the same team for the next game, which coincidentally is Burnley again, but this time away and it’s a real kick in the teeth given our recent fine domestic form. We’re a proper Jeckel and Hyde team again and we slide to 5th. A win would have put us a point clear at the top.
Our Mission Impossible resumes in Europe and we take away a narrow win from Croatia. It’s probably not going to be enough, but does award us £750k which will pay for Zizi’s hospital treatment for a few weeks at least.
Arsenal beat us to Rai’s regen. Back to the shopping list…
Another 2-1 win, this time against Man Utd. It’s impressive that we achieved this with Antti Niemi in goal and forgotten Italian regen The Borg up front. However, not so impressive when you learn that Utd have a guy called Jon Salako in goal…
We’re joint top with Everton, but we’ve scored less and conceded more so settle for 2nd spot for now.
After missing out on Rai’s regen, I scour Europe for some back up and sign up Brian Laudrup Jnr, he can’t Fahl(en) to improve us.
Fahlen goes straight into the team against bottom club Arsenal, and of course, we play absolutely pants in defence and lose 5-3. This team is starting to drive me to distraction. Down to 5th and Man U top the table! Give me strength!
I give the squad a right good rollicking for that and they respond in our next game at home to Rosenborg. Debbah with 4, Rubi-Gol with 2, lovely stuff. We still have a slim chance of qualifying, but to do so we’ll have to beat Milan in our last group game, no easy task.
Based on that win, I expect us to lose our next match in the league to Norwich, but we don’t and it’s a welcome 3 pts in the bag. Bergkamp and Shearer Jnrs getting the goals here.
3 days later and its Division 1 Liverpool in the 4th Round of the League Cup. Shearer has set his team up to frustrate and the only action in 90 minutes is an injury to Spanish wingback Juanmi. I realise I’ve done my usual thing of not shuffling my subs, so it’s either Fabio Cannavaro or Jesper Blomqvist to replace him. I opt for Jesper and we eventually make the breakthrough via Thompson in the 3rd minute of extra-time and we’re in the hat for the quarter final, which will be Sheffield United at home. The returning Nelo gets man of the match, which was nice.
It’s away to 17th placed Huddersfield in the league next. Huddersfield have Dick Dolby up front, whose name makes me think of American talk show hosts for some strange reason. Juanmi is out for a month, so Costacurta comes in at right wingback and I recall Rubini for Thompson, but we fail to get out of first gear in a turgid first half. Then we concede to Gifton Noel Williams in the second half, and I wonder what I’ve done to deserve such things, but luckily Zizi Debbah is on hand to equalise a minute later and then he seals all three points in the last minute by rounding the keeper to slot home – please don’t leave me Zizi!
So here we go into the final Champions League group game. We’re up against holders Milan, who sit 6 points clear in Serie A with a game in hand. They have already qualified from our group, with a perfect 5/5 and 15 pts. We’re on 7 in second. Dortmund and Aab are the only 2nd placed teams with more points than us with 10 and 8 respectively, so our task is clear. Beat the mighty AC Milan at the City Ground and hope results elsewhere go our way. It couldn’t be simpler…
Fisher is suspended so veteran Guerrero comes in for him and I have to sacrifice Rubini for Thompson to meet my 3 Non-EU quota for European games. We have more of the chances in the first half but the Schmeichel regen Meedom is impervious and Matteo Pelatti makes it Mission Impossible with a goal on 24 minutes. I try to gee the lads up at half time and send them out with their tails up but we need 2 goals and results elsewhere to go our way, it’s a tall order indeed, and one that unfortunately eludes us.
Elsewhere, Aab won but Dortmund drew, so we would have made it had it not been for Milan, and all the other results to be honest. So we are out of Europe, woe is me.
Back to domestic duties and it only takes Nelo 5 minutes to get injured at home to Wolves. Luckily, I had Frank Lampard on the bench. Fisher follows him on 36 minutes and I reluctantly bring on Blomqvist and go in 0-0 at the break. Debbah cancels out a Wolves opener in the second half and then grabs a second 2 minutes later, good old Jesper with the assist, what was I worried about? It’s another 2-1 win! Fisher is out for 3 months with shin splints, the legacy of being Gazza’s regen I suppose. Things get better when Rubini hands in a transfer request as he wants to move to a bigger club, and then Debbah goes down injured for a few weeks.
Word gets out that we’re the walking wounded, and I get a mysterious call from an agent claiming they can send me Debbah’s cousin for a trial, but I politely decline…
2 days before Xmas, we’re away to 3rd place Aston Villa and they’re 1 nil up after 6 minutes following a goal mouth scramble. Apart from Blomqvist rattling the crossbar in the dying minutes, that’s it and it’s a sobering festive break at the City Ground.
That game was our 19th and leaves us half way and at the end of this update. Villa have leapt to the top and we’re now 4th behind Man Utd and last years champions Watford. We’re only 2pts from the top spot but could have been 2 pts clear had we beaten Villa.
We’ll pick this up again on boxing day, hoping for more consistency as we head into 2007, but before we go, a quick look at the other teams we turned down:
Liverpool – Out of the League Cup thanks to us, they are still amongst the play off spots in Division 1.
Lazio – Looking at a swift return to Serie B as they lie 16th in the top division – oh dear.
Espanyol – The best of the bunch as they push Real Sociedad for the Spanish title.
See you soon guys.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills