Hello – we’re into the third and final season of my attempt to return Nottingham Forest to European supremacy after simming 8 seasons into the future. Or the past. Whichever. After a near miss on season one, we completed a domestic treble but performed badly in Europe, so this season we’re setting our sights on European glory.
I decide the team needs some defensive solidity at the back and in the nets. Trouble is, we’re still not that attractive a prospect yet and it’s hard to attract players.
Arno Splinter is available from Barca for £3m but wants nothing to do with me and the regen of Jean Pierre Papin is available on a free, but despite zilch interest from anyone else, he snubs me.
So, it’s youngsters and unknowns again. I sign up the regens of Luis Figo and Finidi George to compete down the right hand side, sign a German defender with 2 caps to his name and a promising looking French goalkeeper. I trim some deadweight from my squad, releasing Anti Niemi in a free and selling The Borg, some squad players and Frank Lampard to Derby.
Paul Scholes is available for £2m but turns me down too and Marcello Lippi is sacked as England manager, so I apply, but just like Cloughie, I am ignored – not even an interview for me! Spain also sack Claudio Ranieri, I can only assume for calling up Julen Guerrero and then not playing him. I throw my hat in the ring and the Spanish FA set fire to it. Cheers for that.
Anyway, with the squad surgery done for now, (I also added everyone’s favourite Icelandic DM/FC) after a few pre-season friendlies to get us fit and in the mood, we take on Man Utd in the season curtain raiser.
It’s not a classic encounter and it’s not until the second half when Fitzgerald cancels out Rubini’s opener and after pummelling the opposition keeper, we can’t find a winner but we’re five from five in the shootout with Beckham fluffing his lines.
That’s another trophy in the cabinet at the City Ground.
We kick off the league defence against our old foes Watford.
They are a star-studded team as you can see. Robbie Fowler, Emile Heskey, Ryan Giggs, Shay Given, Tom Youngs and the hilariously named Gerry Cherry on the bench. Inge is the difference, but we lose the Lad from Chad, Nelo, in the first minute, which is not ideal as Guerrero is out for 3 months after a pre-season injury.
Boy ‘Finidi’ George comes in to replace Nelo for the next match against Huddersfield, who scores and then gets injured and we stumble to a disappointing draw. We’re losing midfielders as fast as Spinal Tap lose drummers. Dobly gets the equaliser for Huddersfield. Tap fans will enjoy that.
Marco (Luis Figo) comes in for the injured Boy George/Julen Guerrero/Nelo/Gazza Regen against Swindon and it’s not until Dennis Waterman scores an own-goal that we start clicking. Not so good for you, Dennis. (He’s not really called Dennis). Thompson and Bogie make the score look more comfortable than it really was.
Next up, it’s a midweek look at what you could have won, as vote option Liverpool are back in the Premier League. It’s an unchanged side for me.
The regens of Figo and Shearer condemn the real Alan Shearer’s team to a 2-0 defeat and it’s 10 points from 12 for Forest.
While all that was going on, Jesper Blomqvist leaves us for Rotherham and our Champions League group is drawn and it’s a beaut. I hope.
Our happy bubble of a fairly easy Champions League group is pricked when we play Spurs and lose our first game of the season. 3 goals disallowed! I’m spitting feathers! Now we’re 6th and Spurs go top.
4 days later, we entertain Man Utd and Boy George nets as Ricken is stricken. Paul Scholes tries to show me what I’m missing in the final minutes, but is denied by the post and we collect the 3 points.
Norwich City next, and it’s all fairly routine this time out.
Liberian Debbah getting his first goal of the season along with Brendan ‘Gazza’ Fisher.
Debbah is in fine form as we start our Champions League campaign at home to Rosenborg. We’re actually 1 nil down at half time as I give a start to new German defender Jurgen Levy, but he manages to concede a penalty and get sent off allowing Metallica bassist Rob Trujillo to slot from the spot, and nothing else matters. We come out of the blocks after the break firing on all cylinders and put the game to bed before Trujillo nets again from the spot. What a great start to our European adventures.
Back to reality now as we welcome Chelsea to the City Ground and he just can’t get enough. Rubini and young Marco Figo getting on the scoresheet. I’ve kept faith with Lizarralde in goal, or The Lizard as I’ll intermittently call him from now on, who rewards me with a clean sheet.
It’s back in the air in midweek as we fly to Sofia. Debbah has been so good lately I don’t want him getting big-headed so I drop him for veteran Alfonso who scores his first goal since joining in the 2nd minute. Barely 60 seconds later, Boy ‘Finidi’ George doubles our lead and it’s the crying game for CSKA when Guerrero puts us three to the good after 10 minutes. It’s too good to be True, so to cut a long story short, CSKA reply with two before half time, Boy George scores again and Inge makes it 5 before half time. The second half is like an exhibition match and we fly home with 3 more points on the board.
After all that, we’re only second to AaB, who we’ll face next time out.
All that excitement means we have played 9 games and are roughly a quarter of the way through the season. Despite the setback to Spurs, we’re a point in front at the top, with plent of seasoned Premiership teams breathing down our necks.
At the bottom, Sunderland, Chelsea and Swindon all look like being cut adrift already.
Well, that’s it for this update, the league is going well and we’ve made a positive start in a fairly comfortable group in Europe, so it can only go wrong in the next save.
Before I go, my customary round up of the teams we could have been following instead of Forest.
Liverpool – They may be struggling in the league, but their Cup Winners Cup campaign is off to a flyer as they hold a 1st round 1st leg 6-0 lead against Finnish team TPV Tampere (No, me neither).
Lazio – Midtable after 6 games and already out of the Coppa Italia – it looks like a long season is in store for Dario Hubner’s men.
Espanyol – They are top of the pile in La Liga after games and 2nd in their Champs League group, but they have also signed Mickael Silvestre, so you can’t have everything.
Thanks for reading, see you next week!
PS Catch me on Twitter for my infrequent postings of my Alex Ferguson challenge where I try to emulate another managerial legend and follow his career path from East Stirling to Man Utd via St Mirren, Aberdeen and the Scottish national side. Only if you want to of course!
You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills