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View from the South Stand - Nottingham Forest 03/12/11

Brighton and Hove Albion host one of the biggest clubs outside of the top flight with the visit of struggling Nottingham Forest.

The Tricky Trees not only have the best nickname in football but are two time European champions and have sold out their South Stand allocation. We spoke to Alex Walker from Lost That Loving Feeling for the Forest perspective

You pulled off what appeared to be quite a coup by getting the only English manager since Sir Bobby Robson to win a European league title in charge in Schteve McClaren in the summer. What went wrong for him to resign so quickly?
If Schteve had been hired because the last manager was a failure then he would have had a greater chance of success here – he would certainly have been given a period of grace to rebuild the team and turn things around. But he took over off the back of two successive play-offs campaigns under Billy Davies, campaigns in which the squad over-achieved to a great extent – that is a gamble in anyone’s book and to pay off it would have to yield instant results. If it had worked the board would have been heralded as visionaries, but most fools could see McClaren was always going to struggle to get on the right side of what was very strongly Billy’s team and fill the boots of a charismatic, if controversial, leader. The people running Nottingham Forest, it seems, were a particularly foolish lot and McClaren wasn’t particularly bright in not realising this either. There’s that saying about a fool and his money being soon parted – well the same applies to footballing fools and their jobs, it turns out.

Both Schteve and Billy Davies appeared to be less than happy with your continental style "transfer acquisition committee". What was it and just how much of an impact did it have on the club?
Good question. Nobody has ever been sure what the “committee” or “panel” actually was. It may or may not have involved David Pleat in some capacity, many fans suspect if of being bureaucratic nightmare befitting a Kafka novel, and others doubt it existed in the first place (probably those who watched too much X-Files during the ’90s). The only that is certain is that it categorically didn’t work – players were targeted, but either terms couldn’t be agreed, other clubs beat us to the chase or some other farcical event would take place and no one would arrive. It was, however, something club owner Nigel Doughty felt needed to be in place if he was to pump his millions into the transfer market, a rather excessive safety gauge to prevent rash buys. In the end we didn’t buy anyone for three very depressing transfer windows. Now it has gone, but so has Nigel Doughty and that may mean yet another barren January.

Steve Cotterill became a popular figure among Brighton fans after a loan spell at The Goldstone in the 90's. How is he shaping up at the City Ground?
His arrival prompted a resurgence in form with the players benefiting from Cotterill’s undoubted motivational skills (something McClaren was severely lacking). But we are still a long way from what we were under Davies – this time last year we were midway through an incredible unbeaten run at the City Ground and our defence was known for its mean spirit – fast forward 12-months and we’re giving away goals like they going out of fashion. Nevertheless Cotterill’s honesty and enthusiasm is a breath of fresh air after the aloof McClaren.

Joel Lynch will be making his first return to Brighton since Micky Adams incredibly decided that Colin "calamity" Hawkins was a better defensive option. How has he done for Forest?
For a while many fans would have given Lynch the same epithet, and to be fair he did look out of his depth in his first two seasons at the City Ground, but our threadbare squad saw him used as a makeshift left back under both Davies and McClaren, which first team exposure helped him grow in confidence. Now playing in his preferred central role under Cotterill he has been arguably our strongest player so far this campaign, though there hasn’t been much competition elsewhere.

It's been a while since Forest dined at the top table of English football. Where do you see their level now and will there ever be a return to the glory days of the 80's?
We’re in limbo at the moment, Nigel Doughty’s oft-stated Premier League ambitions curtailed by his own haste in sacking Billy Davies for off-the-field differences. Doughty has stepped down as chairman (replaced by Forest legend Frank Clark) and is effectively withdrawing his financial support too. He’s promised not to leave us in the lurch, but that amounts to covering the existing contracts for a few more seasons at a time when any hope of promotion lies in strengthening the squad with new blood. Eventually we have to assume someone else will take over, but whether they will have both the footballing and financial wherewithal to take Forest where a lifelong fan and Times Rich List regular couldn't remains to be seen.

This is your fourth season in the Championship and you've had a couple of battles in the play-offs in that time. What does it take to get out the division?
A lot of hard work, a little bit of luck on the night and a permanent left-back. We certainly had the first under Billy Davies, but given our lack of the other two requirements for his entire reign its a miracle we got into the play-offs at all, let alone twice. In truth, we would have struggled in the Premiership (though hopefully not as badly as D*rby did under Billy) but on the other hand it is a crying shame the club weren’t able to add the one or two players in key positions we needed to make ourselves real promotion candidates. You miss these opportunities at your peril and the summer’s reshuffling has left us even more investment (and we still don’t have a full-time left-back!).

Which visiting players should Albion fans be keeping an eye on on Saturday?
The players haven’t lent themselves to hype this season as its mainly been a case of underachieving, but our pacey American forward Robbie Findley has been amongst the goals this year and as I mentioned before Joel Lynch has surprised many with his form in defence. Lee Camp in goal is often our saviour but his confidence isn’t great at the moment. However, our main problems seem to stem from midfield where we have the talent but not the performances at the moment – Guy Moussi, Lewis McGugan, Andy Reid, Paul Anderson, Raddy Majewski – they all have the potential to be match winners for us, but more often its been a case of misplaced passes, aimless runs and lazy defending. If any of those five are picked and perform to their best you will certainly notice them, but on recent form they could go 90 minutes without that happening.

Finally, a prediction of the game please?
Our 4-0 defeat at home to Leeds on Tuesday showed that we have a lot of lessons to learn about concentration, commitment and tactics, and I’m not sure three days will be long enough to learn them all. If nothing else I want to see the lads fly out of the traps on Saturday, not roll over expecting their tummies to be tickled as they did in midweek. Your form seems to a bit erratic at the moment after that great start so maybe we’ll catch you on the slide, but the best I can hope for is a draw. And if we get that it will be a bloody huge improvement on the last match!

Many thanks to Alex Walker for his insight into the forthcoming fixture. You can follow LTLF on Twitter and console him on Forest's lack of improvement should the Albion make it three wins on the bounce!

 


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