Guawh, this is drudgery…
It’s that time of year, when a glacial mist unravels over the Trent End and seeps into the innards of each aisle wrapping itself around the brain like a wet blanket. A sudden gasp for air and it calmly drifts inwards chilling the blood and gnawing away at the insides like a hungry rat. The frigidity penetrates a thick frost that sticks to the back of the throat like wet concrete.
Its December, and yet again, Forest have caught their common cold. There was suspicion that a clearing of the immune system in the summer might just help Forest escape it’s annual illness, although as it’s become so apparent, it’s never that simple.
Its been well speculated that this season is all about recovery. The process of prescription and taking medication, mending the madness of the last five years and gradually moving out of intensive care. However, not many would have expected to liken the procedure of reformation to that of the task of necking a scalding hot lemsip – sip by sip.
Every time the midfield concede possession in their own half its like gulping a swig of piquant pesticide that tangs in the tonsils vehemently for hours on end. Supposedly fielding such a young side will mean such catastrophes shall not go on forever and therefore at some point we’ll begin to feel better, but you try not to squint at such a musty proposition.
The real problem is, it doesn’t work straight away as you might expect it to, and in fact, like in Forest’s case, it can make matters worse before it makes them better. It can strengthen the burning sensation for a little while. I’ve no doubt that this years cold feels worse than previous ones. Not because of the performances, on the whole they seemed to have improved, and not because of results, they’re practically the same. More so because of the attitude of supporters and the atmosphere in general.
Rather the comatose lull that descends on a matchday, week in, week out. The drooping hush that follows ‘Mull of Kintyre’ as though the referee’s first half whistle tells all to cease fire. Its draining how one by one each card board cut out plummets to their seat in a domino effect as the referee begins proceedings. That’s assuming blocks K and L of the executive upper had the strength to stand up for their clubs anthem.
Each figure slumping to the sides of their seat and lounging forward as though there’s no energy to maintain a little posture. A tinge of blue peeking through their lips as their eyes bulge into round balls. Their spark gradually fading, yet unlike fire, they permit no smoke. They don’t even rise at a corner. Yet here I am, stood on the cusp of A Block scratching gingerly at the back of my throat and recoiling as a single solitary voice;
“Warburton’s Red Army . . . . Warburton’s Red Army”
Now and then a couple of fragmented wails join in a cumbersome yawn that roughly lasts two renditions until it swiftly clutches the jaw and softly hushes to a fading cry once again, we’re left with one rasping shout bellowing out;
“Warburton’s Red Army . . . . Warburton’s Red Army”
One or two in front choose to make the effort to rock back, swivel and give me an acrimonious glare that implies I’m offending them. Clearly for some reason they either find me amusing, or annoying – either or, I have their attention and so I give them mine. I look straight back into their eyes and sing a little a louder;
“Warburton’s Red Army . . . . Warburton’s Red Army”
… and instantly they turn around again. It’s always someone new every week, some middle aged dunce that tries to ridicule you with a sly scour that is an attempt to make you feel dippy.
Quite ironic really. How I’m the one getting singled out at a football match for trying to galvanise some sort of support.
Support. That’s what we like to imply we do with ourselves on a Saturday afternoon. We like to think we do it in such a way it’s worth noting we’re actually an invaluable accessory to the team; as the Twelfth Man. We’re supposedly essential for getting the team over the line, the super sub that always prevails but never fails.
That’s right, you rarely come away with someone spewing in the back of your ear at the lack of atmosphere generated over the previous ninety minutes. No one ever comes away blaming the support for all their emotional depression.
No, the likes of Sky might ram down your throat every time a new manager is sacked, “football is a results business”, but for fans, football isn’t a business. It’s as far from that as possible. We don’t work all week to wake up on a Saturday morning and be reminded of it.
We go to the football to escape it. We go because it’s supposed to juxtapose last weeks monotony at work, not optimize it. It should be appreciated that the idea of enjoying a football match can be different for some supporters. Some like to tear their throat till their hearts content, while others like to sit silently and really watch the game. Some want to sprawl in a serge after a goal goes in, while others would rather just give a fist pump in the air. Although I’ve always admired our ability to sing from all four sides of the ground. How a “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” will even reverberate around the roof of the Brain Clough from time to time.
I think its fair to imply non of us fantasise about sitting in silence for ninety minutes. Most supporters would say the atmosphere is one of the best things about being at the football, whether there in amongst it in the Lower Bridgford, or set back from it in the Brian Clough upper. Nonetheless, there’s no atmosphere if no one joins in and makes the effort to get it going. Fans at the minute are too reliant on their counterparts reviving the character for them.
Football fans are known for their communality and camaraderie that symbolizes an identity we can all reconcile with. Alright, it’s all a little more difficult when you’ve invested all so much into a project that’s forever stalling. There’s as much a reason to be down about Forest as there is up, its retching to watch us stumble on the same step every week. But, isn’t it our spirit as supporters that makes you dig a little deeper and grasp the pride enveloped deep down. The intimacy between one another that ushers you to grab the guy next to you and hook your arm around his shoulder. To pull together and make mid-table obscurity in the Championship seem alright.
However, in a sporting world under siege by the commercialisation of major corporation’s such as Sky and BT Sport. Football is mutating into the sort of TV series you might flick through on Netflix. The culture of being a football fan is ruggedly malfunctioning into a manifestation of stale redundancy. There has become the tendency for fans to rail in their emotions and cuddle to the backs of their chairs in queasy anticipation that this weeks episode will keep them awake.
Its tedious to think Wembley sold pop corn at one of England’s last home games, although football is steadily slipping that way. Down the docile route where a waiter urges you to pass along a tray full of snacks and fizzy pop just as Barrie McKay carves space to go through on goal. The same route that leads to a different bloke turning around in dismay at the constant slurping on a slush from the kid behind. When the act of singing a football chant is thought be an act of hooliganism.
Is there anything worse than in this day and age to flick through the feeds on social media after a matchday at the City Ground? We’ve become so placid we need an account on twitter to show a little emotion. We’re at a stage where supporters express more on the internet than they do at the game. It’s ridiculous.
Turn 360 degrees and its startling how many are glued to their phone screens as their interest in the game disturbingly pewters out. Forest earn a free kick on the edge of the box and still at least three in the two rows below are entrenched within electronics. They were so consumed in whatever they were doing, they probably hadn’t realised there was a free kick. Its a key moment in the game where goal mouth action is almost guaranteed and yet they don’t look up.
It disheartening to watch the dwindling passion leak out of us. The tepid attempts we make to remind anyone we make a difference. We don’t anymore. You only have to look back to the protest last year. How when a group of supporters stood up to save some dignity and retain their clubs worth, although the majority agreed with their views, they undermined their efforts as petulant. They mumbled amongst themselves; “What’s the point? It wont make a difference”. Well what difference do you make sulking about it all on a Saturday afternoon?
Instead, its become common for one to passively blame the bland flavouring of football fans on the removal of the terraces, but that’s a roll over and die mentality. For goodness sake you only have to look a few years back to when A Block was rocking at home to Leicester in a 3-2 thriller. It stands out because even sections of C Block were having a frenzy after Paul McKenna snatched a winner. Bodies mounted other bodies to salvage to cascade their cries on to the stage. Now there’s a goal and the tail of B Block return to their seats like children tussling to sit in musical chairs.
There are many things that could help improve the atmosphere at the City Ground. Although it doesn’t need to be rebranded. I’ve always admired our ability to sing from all four sides of the ground. There are few stadiums I’ve visited that can conduct a chant that echoes simultaneously around all four ends. There have been culminating moments like the “Nottingham Forest FC” that blew away the visiting Middlesbrough fans. And there is often a tenacious roar of “Come On You Reds”, although it’s more the mundane silence that haunts the field of play afterwards. Sometimes for twenty or thirty minute spells where it rots away at your nervous system and numbs any sense of excitement. We don’t want to become that side that only sing one song, even so we risk turning into Queens Park Rangers. They only sing at corners and its a dreary hum of “Come On You R’s”.
It’s clear we have the volume potential, its more a case of maximising it on a more regular basis to improve the all round atmosphere. Possibly the best solution for this is to introduce a renowned stand and sing section. The approach to open half of the Lower Bridgeford to home supporters has been jubilantly received. A lot of people think it has improved the atmosphere, after all it is usually louder than A Block. However, one’s beginning seems to have marked another’s end. The once well known ‘Capital One Corner’ appears to have perished because of the move as what remains amidst its sunken seats are its memories of play-off miseries.
While at the same time, A Block is beginning to strangle itself within it’s shrivelled skin, like a scrunched up towel dispensing every ounce of moisture. Each droplet hesitantly hanging on to eventually trickle away down the sink, never to be seen again. Until Derby visit of course.
There are still supporters positioned all around the ground wanting to contribute. Each one beckoning with a twitch to make some sort of noise, irritated by the lack of life that sits by their shoulder, putting them off and discretely contaminating them with a stagnant pain that tries to stick them to their chair.
It seems only sensible to try and bring them together by implying that a certain area of the ground is dedicated for those that want to stand and sing. Whether that means moving the away end to else where so be it, the ‘Capital One corner’ is desperate for new home owners. Or it might be a case of re-igniting the old A Block and inviting a larger away contingent to spark some witticism that winds everyone up. One or the other, tickets should be sold with the knowledge that one particular area is designed to enhance that atmosphere. That way you don’t end up with a group of infants prompting you to sit down at a Kids for a quid match when you’ve bought your season ticket next to A Block so that exactly that never happens.
One or two might imply that the Lower Bridgford has recently evolved into the ‘singing’ section of the ground. However it isn’t sold as that. I’m sure there are still people who don’t usually visit the City Ground and buy a ticket with no desire to contribute anything to the atmosphere. Equally, there are probably people who want to contribute to the atmosphere and sit elsewhere as I do. For example, one of your biggest issues at the moment is the disparity between A Block and Lower Bridgford. The two most vocal areas of the ground without question, but neither of them at a home game against Cardiff or Bolton can sustain a considerable amount of noise.
Occasionally one might get a little something going but by the time the other has latched onto it they’ve already finished singing it themselves. Meanwhile, if either of them have an influx of energy at the same time, they usually drown each other out with completely different songs. It’s a real nice thought having two separate singing areas, its been comical at times when each side has sung at the other as if there were no away fans. But lets be honest, it isn’t helping the atmosphere at the minute.
A specific stand and sing section would hopefully breathe life back into one part of the City Ground. Potentially a small draft of commotion in one corner might just cause a swell of it elsewhere. To the extent where a cacophony of roars sweeps through the ground as contagious as the plague we now endure. This is a step the club would most likely have to initiate, although with a better atmosphere there comes a better chance of success meaning it’s likely to be a task at everyone’s best interest. As supporters its our job to make watching Forest as fruitful as possible – we so often like to imply we should have the chance to post a bit of input. So here’s your chance…
We could clamber out of our shell and follow our passion. For it will lead us straight to our purpose. To support.