You could be forgiven for hoping that, this season, everything would be better. After all, the change of ownership meant that the crackpot amateurs who had been degrading the place for the last few years were replaced by people who were actually sane. The pre-season games were an encouraging affirmation that Mister Warburton was forging an exciting, slick-passing side which the Shy Moor Folk boss described as "Premier League - like". Season ticket sorry card sales were extraordinarily encouraging. The City Ground burned redder than ever. Mister Warburton, whilst trying to dampen expectations, couldn't help teasing us with his observation about a "dark horse" coming through this season. The first league game was virtually a sell out, and newly promoted Mewo would be vapourised. You could be forgiven for thinking that the years of miserable underachievement were behind us.

The trouble with football, however, is that it's football. It is not so much the romance of corporate dreams as a prolonged, wholly unsatisfactory bout of transactional sex. Not, I am sure, that you know what a prolonged, wholly unsatisfactory bout of transactional sex is like, but you must agree that, after a decent start, Forest soon began to look like a gaggle of dewy-eyed innocents unable to cope with the kind of aggressive advances that life hadn't prepared them for. Mewo's direct approach reduced the Forest defence to something resembling a fat girls' drunken night out in Blackpool, and the really disappoiniting thing about this was the realisation that nothing, in this regard, had changed after all. The Forest defence had always been like this. As Mewo pressed and shot and headed and missed, the suspicion grew that Forest had concentrated hard on midfield control and attacking intent, but had sadly neglected the defence. And if your defence is insecure, the rest of the team get nervy. The midfield occasionally showed bits of that slick, controlled football we were expecting, but too often adopted the unwelcome tactic of giving the ball to the opposition. Also, the players seemed badly affected by the size and expectations of the crowd, so that only a few embraced the situation and rose above the ordinary. One was Smith, who tried to hand Mewo a goal at one point, but spent the rest of the match being brilliant. Another was McKay, whose unstoppable shot won us the match and probably quadrupled his value.

So yes, we got three points, but no, it wasn't pretty. There's a lot of work to do, especially on that defence, but people in general seem confident that we will get better.

The sense that not enough things had changed for the better ran on into Saturday, with that channel 5 football programme trying desperately to hype the Championship into something it's not, with a new distressingly gobby presenter insisting "It's the action that matters" while spending the majority of the programme spouting endless patronising bullshit about how good everybody was especially John Terry and how every team was going to win the league especially Fulham and how very important the fans were especially the ones who provided five seconds of buffoonery for the entertainment of the viewers. Here's an idea: make the clips longer, give us some idea of when our clip's coming on, stuff the inexpert analysis, and stop pretending that everybody is interested in any other team but their own. And stop pretending to be so bloody enthusiastic about everything.

Anyway, here's hoping things do change for Forest now that that almost-banana skin is out of the way. I don't want to live through another season of the kind of excitement that kills people.


Well that was exciting, wasn't it Stress?

I tell you Pie, something's happening at Forest.

It certainly is, Stress. And what would that something be then?

I don't know, Pie.

So you know something is happening but you don't know what that something is? Well of course you don't, because you're quite dim aren't you? Let me tell you what that something is, then. It's the developing understanding between forward thinking players.

No, Pie, it's not that.

Really? Then it must be the emergence of some special players, like the McKay or the Mighty Booch, who will threaten danger each time they are on the ball.

Maybe, Pie, but I don't think so.

Okay then, well, maybe you're thinking of something bad, like the improving but still quite brittle defence.

No, it's not a bad something Pie.

I know, it's the quality of the goals, isn't it? Especially the Booch Man's brace. What magnificent strikes they were, eh Pie? An exquisite combination of accuracy and power which were dismissed as "flukes" by those Bentford fans who could form words.

Mighty fine goals, Pie, but not the something I mean.

The quality of individual players?


The off field stuff? The way the club is being run by competent people at last? The improvements to the ground? The rumours of miracles in the gents toilets?

Sort of, but...

The fact we've got six points from two games? Is it as simple as that? Is it the results are everything argument? Because we were a bit lucky to get six points, you know. That's it - it's the luck, isn't it?

No, not really.

The kit? The one we borrowed from Rangers?


The fact that the Bentford team sheet looked like a list of sex toys?


Nothing. I know, it's Mister Thumb, isn't it? Mister Thumb's back, after all these years.

Don't be silly, Pie. Mister Thumb was just a figgins of my imagination when I was poorly in the head.

Ah yes, the good old days, eh Stress?

That's it, Pie! That's the something that's happening!

What, your being poorly in the head?

No Pie, the Good Old Days! The Good Old Days are coming back!

Really? What do you mean?

It's the Second Coming, Pie.

The Second Coming?

Yes Pie. Mister Warburton is the second coming of Mister Clough. The signs are all there.

You're sure Mister Thumb didn't tell you all this? What signs?

The two men are so alike, Pie. Both have a background in finance. Both repeat themselves endlessly in a Cockney accent. Both have the swarthy good looks of an international film star.

I see what you mean, Stress. Apart from the fact that everything you've just said is completely wrong, you could be on to something.

I think I am, Pie. You know what this means, don't you?

I know exactly what it means, Stress. It means that you've gone poorly in the head again. The sooner you stop believing Mister Thumb's drivel, the happier you'll be.

But he said everything was going to be all right, Pie, and I for one believe him. What's a sex toy?


"The first thing to say is that tonight, we beat a very good side. The next thing to say is that we were very, very fortunate. Forest had 26 shots with just 7 of them on target. In all honesty, some of their shooting was embarrassing, especially as compared to their build up play, which was very impressive."

This unusually honest assessment is from a Barnsleh forum, and it sums things up quite neatly. Apart from the first bit, the game increasingly resembled a Premier League side dominating the crap out of some lower league toilers without finding the composure to finish them off. Shot after shot went wide, was saved, was mishit, was fired straight at their goalkeeper, or, we'll swear, was blown off course by a weather fart or went straight through the back of the Barnsleh net.

Yes, it sums things up quite neatly ... or does it? Well, no, not really. It puts the blame on Forest's terrible finishing, but previous evidence suggests that we have more than a few good finishers in the side, and we would suggest that bad finishing will not hamper us too badly in the future. But bad defending will.

It came as no surprise to us that we conceded twice. Neither does it surprise us that Mister Warburton rarely talks about defence. Neither does it surprise us that he signs attacking players, even if they are defenders. The truth is, Mister Warburton seems uninterested in the defensive arts, preferring instead to put all his eggs in the midfield control/attacking penetration basket. This approach is beginning to provide us with tremendous entertainment, as in the Barnsleh game, and all power to Mister Warburton's elbow for that. We have, after all, been craving entertainment for years.

But it shouldn't all be about attack and entertainment, should it? Surely there is a place for defensive discipline and organisation. Consider Barnsleh's first goal. A free kick is swung in with such a mesmerising trajectory that all the Forest players end up running towards their own goal. They're all facing the wrong way. Whoever's marking the bloke who scores doesn't know where his man is, doesn't seem to be watching the ball, and doesn't even jump. The scorer simply lifts himself over him and plants a free header into the net. Consider Barnsleh's second goal. One of their runners goes on such a mesmerising run that each Forest defender backs off and passes the responsibility to a team mate. The Barnsleh player, realising that no-one is going to tackle him, is left with no option but to shoot and score.

We think it's Mister Warburton's responsibility to either coach these fairly basic mistakes out of the defence, or buy some new defensive players who offer better leadership. Our attack may be special, but it shouldn't shoulder the responsibility of compensating for defensive frailty.

There, moan over. Otherwise, everything's going splendidly.

Saturday should be interesting. It could end up 10 - 10.


Tell us about the Great Game, Grandad. Yes, tell us about the Great Game, do.

Ha ha, come now children, presumably you mean the Miserablebugger game of 2017.

Yes we do, Grandad, though daddy says you shouldn't call them Miserablebugger because it proves what an old potty mouth you are.

Ha ha, come now children, you know how your daddy likes a good joke, like the time he pretended to leave you in the bus station.


Nothing. Now do you want to hear about the Great Game or not?

Oh yes please Grandad. Tell us about the Great Game do.

Well, the Great Game took place in August 2017, and despite the many years that have passed since, I can remember it as if it was yesterday. Forest against Miserablebugger...

Daddy says...

Shut up. Forest against Miserablebugger at the world famous City Ground. Forest had begun the season reasonably well, and under manager Warburton Warburton were in the process of developing a fluid attacking style which sat well with the fans.

Was that the manager's name, Grandad - Warburton Warburton?

No, children. His name was Warburton, but he had this habit of repeating everything. All the time. Sometimes more than once.

All the time?

All the time. Sometimes more than once. Anyway, Miserablebugger were coming to town with their untold millions in Sky parachute payments.

Tell us, grandad, what were Sky parachute payments? Tell us, do.

Sky were the company that bankrolled the Premier League till they collapsed in the wake of the Licensing Fraud scandal of 2020. Parachute payments were the millions of pounds paid to relegated teams to cushion the blow of their own incompetence. Miserablebugger had already blown its hard earned bonus on a bucket load of strikers, one of whom was Forest's own Britt Assombalonga.

But Forest's no longa, eh Grandad?

Ha ha children, you have your daddy's sense of humour, as well as his slightly deformed nostrils.


Nothing. Miserablebugger were tipped to make an immediate return to the Premier League, so, you see, the Forest fans approached the game with an odd mixture of optimism and trepidation, wheras the Miserablebugger fans were convinced that their team would roll over us as sure as eggs roll downhill.

So what happened, Grandad? Did the eggs roll uphill? Was it a miracle? Tell us about the eggs, do.

Well, from the very beginning the atmosphere was bristling...

With eggs?

No, not with eggs, but with Forest singing and booing Assombalonga and Miserablebugger doing their best to put on a swagger...

Did you boo him, Grandad? Did you boo him like the bad egg he was?

Not at first, but after a short while it became obvious that it was irritating him, so we all joined in. It became an amusing game.

Like Spot the Egg?

In fact it was more than a game. It became a tactical advantage, because it put the fifteen million pound striker right off his game. Sad to say, but that was the best part of the afternoon's entertainment.

But the match itself, Grandad. What happened in the match itself?

Well, Forest had much the better of the first thirty five minutes. They were very good - sometimes breathtakingly brilliant. The combination of Vaughan, Booch and Dowell were streets ahead of the lumpen Miserablebugger grafters. If anybody was showing Premier League class, it was the boys in red. This was illustrated by McKay's goal.

Was it grandad? Was it a rare egg of a goal?

It certainly was a rare piece of work. A sharp ball to Dowell, and the youngster, in one movement, magicked his way past his marker and slid a beautiful ball to McKay, who, as any fifteen million pound striker should, slotted it home with aplomb.

With a plum, Grandad?

Yes, all right, with a plum. Anyway, it was turning out that Miserablebugger weren't exactly the promotion certs they were supposed to be. They had come to bully Forest, but they were being taught how to play proper football. It was great fun.

Daddy always tells us to stand up to bullies, Grandad. He says they are all cowards, and if you stand up to them, they will always back down.

Well, children, your daddy is wrong. Bullies rarely back off. They just get nastier. Miserablebugger reacted badly to being schooled, and just got nastier. They were encouraged in their nastiness by the referee, who seemed reluctant to punish the wealthy promotion candidates for some pretty blatant assaults. The most surprising offender was Assombalonga himself who, upset by Forest's dominance, the crowd's taunts and his own nervous incompetence, proceeded to commit ratty foul after ratty foul.
But then Vaughan was taken off, and the tide of the game changed. Miserablebugger starting clubbing their way through the middle and creating openings. The second half continued in this way, and could have turned into a nightmare, but on looking back I realise that Miserablebugger were never quite good enough to take advantage of the situation. They brought on some speed merchant who couldn't kick straight, cudgeled their way forward, launched long upfield speculators, and all they got for their pressing was to be suckered into a counter-attacking penalty, which Murphy scored with the serenity of experience.

What's the serenity of experience, Grandad? Is it like a nicely boiled egg with a runny yolk?

Surprisingly, it is. That was how it felt - like a nicely boiled egg with a runny yolk. Warm and comfortable and all in all very satisfying.

And that's how it ended was it Grandad?

Not quite. They finally managed to score a goal provided by a combination of fouling the goalkeeper and some pretty rotten Forest defending. Assombalonga continued to spurn chances with the abandon of a fifteen million pound striker, which was enormous fun, and Forest hung on for the win. Warburton Warburton was delighted with the victory and absolutely delighted with the victory, and Miserablebugger manager Monk was as graceless as his players in defeat.

A Great Game indeed, Grandad.

A game of great significance, certainly children. A performance which gave Forest the confidence to progress to where they are now, and proved to be the beginning of Miserablebugger's decline. In that sense, and many others, it was a Great Game.

Huzzah, Grandad, huzzah!

Don't say that, children. Nobody says that. It's stupid.


This game was so devoid of significant action that Stress has decided to pad out his report with clichés, just like a real journalist, haven't you Stress?

It is what it is, Pie.

That's the ticket, Stress. Off you go then.

Forest's two nil defeat to Leed certainly came as a bit of a blow, a slap in the face, a reality check. It put things into perspective, which might be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what putting things into perspective actually means. Perhaps it means Forest aren't as good as they think they are. Perhaps they've eaten too much complacency pie. They should remember that an idle mind is the devil's playground.

I'm sorry, Stress, you've lost me.

Never apologise, Pie, it's a sign of weakness. As I was saying, Forest were certainly below par, considering all the hype. Fine talk butters no parsnips, however, and all talk and no action made Forest a very dull boy who was, for the most part, asleep at the wheel.
Forest began slowly, but all credit to Leed: they pressed Forest high, closed them down, stifled their creativity, killed their buzz, popped their cork, curdled their milk, and did many more things that should only be spoken of in hushed tones. So all credit to Leed for doing the bleeding obvious. Forest's response to the obvious, however, doesn't bode well for the future. As Kevin Costner nearly said in that netball film: If they press us, we will fold. The half time team talk from Warburton Warburton must have been something likeTrust in your own game, lads, because plan B, it seemed, was Plan A in reverse - concede the second goal at the end of the half instead of the beginning.

Bit harsh, Stress.

I say it as I see it, Pie. I will admit, though, that Forest did miss Vaughan, the Welsh wizard. That was plain from the start, as plain as the nose on a spiteful man's face. But overall, too many players were off the boil, too many players couldn't handle the hot kitchen sink, too many players went missing in action. Leed weren't that much better, so the match ended up as something of a dry pie, which is why we ended up talking about "Dunkirk", that so called epic poem of a film which turned out to be little more than a non-interactive video game with pornographic violence. What a waste of money that was. If you're thinking of going, don't. Anyway, to get back to the truisms, Forest have a lot of work to do. There's a learning curve there somewhere. Especially for the defence, which continues to leak like a bucketful of holes. New faces are needed to plug the gaps. I know it's early doors, but at the end of the day the bottom line is that you can't win the title in August but you can lose it, and that's a lesson we could all take a leaf out of. In short, it may have been a bad day at the office, but this is a results business, and if you don't cut the mustard then the bears will shit on your rollercoaster.

That doesn't make any sense, Stress.

Have you looked at the world lately, Pie? Have you taken a really good look? Because I have, and believe you me, it's like getting blood from a turnip.

The world is like getting blood from a turnip.

So you've noticed it too?

No, but I think you'd better sum up now before the green van comes. The match was...

...Nothing to write home about.

Nothing to write sense about, certainly.

As Kevin Costner nearly said in that wolf film: You may say that - I couldn't possibly comment.


Welcome home, sir.

Thank you, Vetch.

I trust you enjoyed your break, sir.

Have you ever been to the Lake District, Vetch?

Alas, no, sir.

Everything's wet. Even the people are wet. They have this saying up there - if it's just stopped raining, or you suspect it's going to start raining at any moment, that's because it's not raining at present. Or something pithy like that. There's a lot of water, Vetch.

I'm sorry to hear that, sir.

No need to be sorry, Vetch - you weren't there, were you? You were down here enjoying the football, no doubt. They don't do football up there, you know. Too wet. And everything's at forty five degrees.

I regret to say, sir, that as far as I am concerned, enjoyment is in short supply at Nottingham Forest these days.

But I thought everything was on the up, Vetch? Sparkly new set up, and all that.

There have, of course, been improvements, in the sense that we are once again functioning as a reasonably proper football club.

Well that must be a relief after five years of batshittery, eh, Vetch?

It is, sir. And the new sense of optimism was reflected on the field of play, at least initially. The new passing style seemed to be working, and the results were good. But...

Don't tell me - things started to fall away.

Sadly, they did, sir.

That's what happens to things, Vetch - they fall away. What exactly is falling away at the Foresters, eh?

I'm not sure, sir, but yesterday's first half performance against the Villa was a wretched culmination of whatever's going wrong. The passing game congealed into a stew of pointless possession, the defence jittered itself to bits, and the spectacle was wholly dispiriting. The second half showed improvement, but the result - and in the end it's the result that matters - was not a surprise.

So who are you blaming, Vetch?

I really couldn't say, sir.

What do you mean, you couldn't say?

It would not be wise in the present atmosphere to apportion blame.

Good God, Vetch, why not?

There is too much at stake, sir. Too many people have invested their trust in the present regime, and will brook no criticism of it. The Creed of Stability blinds itself to even the most obvious faults.

I have trouble understanding you, Vetch. Your words are long and many.

I apologise, sir.

If the Stability Mafia are threatening your family...

No indeed sir, not at all. It's simply, well, I'm worried Forest may well struggle as badly as they did last season. Defensive issues are not being addressed, goals are drying up, but still there remains this complacent belief that everything will be all right. I'm just not that confident, that's all.

It's like growing old, isn't it, Vetch?

I beg your pardon, sir?

Following the Foresters is like growing old.

I don't understand, sir.

Of course you don't, Vetch. Let me explain. If growing old teaches you anything, it's that life is repetitively disappointing. When you grow old, you have to cope with a relentless assault on your common sense and your dignity. The NHS are suddenly desperate to find something toxic in your poo. Some baby-voiced girl rings you up to persuade you that you are lame and need a stair lift or you're deaf and need a hearing aid or blind and need laser surgery or a dog. Odd job men assume you can't mow your lawn or your roof has damaging moss on it or your walls need varnishing or your drive doesn't look expensive enough. In other words, growing old teaches you that life is not what they promised you in the brochure, but simply a cycle of disappointment.
And so it is with the Foresters, Vetch. You must be prepared for cycle after cycle of Endless Disappointment, and dismiss the bullshit of mindless optimists. Do you think you can do that, Vetch?

Er ... I could try, sir.

Because to be honest, Vetch, I've heard this story so many times that it bores the crap out of me. I didn't come back from the Wet District to listen to another whining report about the Foresters' shortcomings. It's time to change the subject, Vetch.

Of course, sir.

How is the delightful Missis Vetch these days?

She died, sir.

Really? How on earth did that happen?

Doctor Bone said her demise was due to a long accumulation of completely explicable injuries.

I see. Good man, Doctor Bone.

Indeed, sir.


Anyway, Forest were puddling along quite nicely in that way they do when I started thinking about rice and cheese. I wonder, have you ever heard of rice and cheese? I ask this because my family seems to be the only people who are familiar with this simple meal. I have travelled far and wide since I left Worksop, and every time I bring up the subject of rice and cheese, I am greeted with sneers of disbelief.

Anyway, Forest were puddling along as they do, with Dowell setting up Murphy who drew a save from Cottaging keeper Benjamin Button, and Cummings going reasonably close from distance, when it dawned on me that what I was watching was, in fact, Warburton Warburton's defensive strategy. I call him Warburton Warburton because he repeats things at least once in his interviews at least once. His defensive strategy is to attack, not necessarily with the intention of scoring, but in order to keep the ball as far away from his own defence as he can. It did not work, of course, as the Cottaging opened the scoring in the thirteenth minute, courtesy of an offside goal from Kamara, which I understand to be a car.

Rice and cheese comprises, not surprisingly, rice and cheese. The rice is boiled in plenty of water until it is soft. During this time, enough cheese to feed an army is finely grated, and added to the steaming rice. It is the nourishing fare of poor folk and not, I am sure, the subject of contemptuous humour.

Anyway, after this early and almost inevitable setback, Forest took a brief time to recover as Smith was again tested by Ojo, which is obviously not a car, but may well be a carpet cleaner, or even a comparison website - we will never know. But recover they did. Dowell put one wide, then Murphy flicked the ball over a defender's head (sublime) only to blast it into orbit (ridiculous). He made up for it eventually, however, with a neatly headed goal from Traore's cross. Forest piled on the pressure towards the end of the first half. They were playing well, and the Cottaging, a team consisting of cars and comparison websites, were struggling a bit. However, as usual Forest had missed too many chances, and we all knew it, including Warburton Warburton, who knew Forest had missed too many chances.

Basmati rice is the best rice to use, because it's fluffy enough without the grains sticking together. When it's ready, pour it into a sieve and rinse it thoroughly in boiling water from the kettle. Use hard red cheese, so it doesn't melt too readily into the rice. You can add a bit of butter if you want.

Anyway, the second half started in much the same way that the first half had finished, with Cummings failing to find the target and a Dowell effort being blocked by Kalas, who we are almost certain was Superman's father or a dead opera singer. There's not much else to say, really, except that the Cottaging scored two more goals. The first came from a free kick after Sessegnon (a spicy ham) had cruised through our midfield and had to be crumpled by the ever reliable Mills. The resulting goal was a superb effort from Johansen, the inventor of modular furniture.

So what's so funny about rice and cheese, then? Too common for you, is it?

Anyway, Forest pushed forward, but conceded a third to an easy counter attack. Mollo (a European confection of sugared paste) fed his team mate Kebano (a codeine based cough linctus) who scored off the underside of the bar.

The prevailing mood at the end was an acknowledgment that Forest had played the better football and had been unlucky in two respects: an attack which couldn't score enough goals and a defence which conceded too many. Apart from that, everything was fine.

Anyway, I went home and had jam for tea. If we'd had some rice, I would have had rice and cheese, but we didn't have any cheese.


Vanilla beat Boln by the minimum allowable number of goals as Codger converted from the penalty spot in the 40th minute. Vanilla manager Steve Bruise accused Boln of having plenty of experience and being ugly, especially Darren Pratley, who is still alive apparently. Boln manager Phil Parkinson said something about socks, then told everybody to bugger off.

Burton were beaten 4-0 at home for the second time in five days as Wonderbras cruised to a victory that lifted them to second in the Championship. Wonderbras were helped by the fact that they appear to be Portugal, whereas Burton were made up of commoners called Jamie Allen. Wonderbras' head coach Nuno Espirito Santa blathered on about "moments of sadness" in that semi-coherent way foreign coaches have while everybody pretends to understand what they're saying but nobody really does, probably because nobody cares. Burton manager said his team had to defend better. Sharpest knife in the box.

Boremingham players admitted that they has "clocked off" half way through this match as Ul put six past the second city strugglers. "To be honest," said one, "as soon as we heard that Cotterill had come in, we had to find the quickest way to get dropped." Ul head coach Leonid Slutsky said he had so many people to thank, but couldn't name them for security reasons.

Bristols extended their unbeaten run to eleven matches with their first win at Natalie Portman Road in thirty nine years. After a game of mostly deflected shots, Bristols' head coach Lee Johnson tried to explain the nature of his team's victory but was prevented from doing so by uncontrollable giggling from the press corps. He sounds like Bart Simpson was the infantile explanation. Dipswitch's Mick McCarthorse made some agricultural noises with his mouth, then spat in a bucket. The whole thing was a farce, it really was.

In the first half, Caerdydd's confusingly named Junior Hoilett kicked the ball towards the Sheep goal, but the second half did not maintain the same level of excitement. Cardydd manager Neil Warlock said he was disappointed not to win, but more disappointed at the peculiar direction his face appeared to be taking. Sheep boss Gary Rowett said "I thought we were magnificent. I thought we deserved to win. I thought we were the better side. I don't think anyone can disagree with that." He subsequently went missing, only to be found in the early hours wandering through a local park in search of a dog he once had called Flint.

Bentford manager Dean Smith said his side had a "stonehenge" penalty turned down when Kamohelo Mokotjo was badly mispronounced by Adam Clayton. "The referee refused to shake my hand at the end," he went on. "He argued that Kamohelo Mokotjo was not really a human name, so no foul had been committed." Miserablebugger manager Garrymonk agreed with the referee. "There's too many aliens in the game," he said. Asked about his side's mediocre form in the first part of the season, he put the blame squarely on "perverts and traitors".

Simon Grayson, who made the worst managerial mistake in human history by leaving Deepdale for Underlands, returned to his previous club to a chorus of indifference from Nob End fans. The match itself occasionally burst into life like a lanced boil, but the real highlight was Aiden McGready's celebration after scoring Underlands' equaliser against his old team. Grayson said "He didn't have a choice to come here, so I thought it was a bit unfair what went off," which made little sense to anybody except perhaps the small army of ants that live behind his eyes. Nob End manager Alex Neil just looked disappointed, as he so often does.

Jaap Stam's Ladies drifted to another defeat as Norridge extended their unbeaten run to seven games in this fairly messy encounter at wherever it is that Reading Ladies play. The Madejski stadium, that's it. I'd forgotten for a moment. That's how it is with Reading these days - after a few seasons of promise they're now fading out of our consciousness to the extent that we have to keep checking that they still exist. It's the same with Norridge. Who in God's name is Daniel Farke, for example? Did they find him in a bag of stamps?

A match of low quality ended with Barnsleh grabbing maximum points from a match of low quality. The low quality was caused mainly by Mewo, whose manager Neil Harris said "I was disappointed with the performance, which was low on quality. If I were to take anything away from today, it's if we're not at our best Mewo standard in every fixture in the league this season, we can get beat any time - home or away, because we are low on quality." Barnsleh's manager Paul Heckinbottom seemed less interested in the match than in getting himself sent off, which he accomplished with a plum.

Everybody knows this is a cock-eyed league, and this result confirmed its cock-eyed-ness. Wendies were supposed to be a fading force, with head coach Carlos Carnivalo rather desperately not fearing for his position. Leed boss Thomas Christiansen, on the other hand, was being lauded as the Messiah who would lead Leed to the holy land. Three unexpected goals later, and Christiansen was bemoaning his side's weakness: "We gave too much space," he said. "We were defending back instead of defending up, which makes you lose your second balls." It certainly does, Thomas. Carlos Carnivalo was too emotional to give a coherent verdict on the game - you know what these foreigners are like.

The Undead may be wearing flashy away kit with over-the-knee white socks setting off their tanned and muscled thighs, but nothing can hide the evil deep inside their black souls. They got off to a confident start against the Reds, what with the Reds going through their early "Give 'em a goal" routine, but for all their swagger they failed to sustain their early threat, allowing Forest's defence to strengthen and their attack to cause trouble at the other end. Forest's equaliser came from an expertly taken Osborn corner which found its way to Cummings, who scored with a powerful drive. Forest's second came from Darikwa's cross to the far post, Murphy's return across the box, and Dowell's neat finish. Undead boss Chris "One-Eyed Big Gob" Wilder said "We won't stop going after other teams. We'll go after them, catch them, and eat their hearts out. Not today, of course." Forest manager Warburton Warburton, apart from saying everything at least twice, seemed a personable fellow. "We needed that," he said, after drinking a deep glass of Bruichladdich single malt, brewed in Skye by the Gods of Peaty Pleasure. Come on you Mighty Reds!


Oh dearie me, Stress.

What seems to be the matter, Pie?

I don't know, Stress. I think I must be getting depressed.

Because you're fat?

No, not because I'm fat.

But you are fat aren't you?

I'm not that fat.

There you are you see - denial. That's the second stage of being fat.

What's the first stage?

Actually being fat. Obviously.

You really do come out with some rubbish, don't you?

At least I'm not fat.

Look - it's nothing to do with being fat, not that I'm that fat. It's the football. No, not so much the football ... it's talking about it afterwards that's depressing. I mean, I'm supposed to write a report on this match, but how many times can you write the same thing? Forest play some good stuff, Forest can't keep clean sheets, Forest can't take their chances, Forest lose. That's it really. It's so demoralising.

Let me do it then.

No thank you. You'd just come out with the same old garbage you always come out with. I can see it now: Vydra's goal was the latest fluke in the long catalogue of flukes he always manages against Forest. The rest of the time he's kept in a stasis chamber with all the other aliens.

That may well be true. I'm not saying it is, just that it may well be.

And every goal Nugent scores is a fluke by definition, because Nugent is some form of cucumber, the kind whose tail you cut off but he grows another head. Or something.

I would never say that about a respected but visibly ageing veteran like Nugent. I don't have that kind of spite in me. No, if I were to do the report, I would concentrate on the positives - the fact that Forest played by far the better football, for example.

But that's what's so depressing, Stress. Playing the better football means nothing if you lose, and we've now lost seven out of twelve. The fact that the Sheep were arthritically crap actually makes it worse. But the worst thing of all was that the whole affair was so stale. Gone are the days when the rivalry meant something, when the atmosphere threatened people's lives, when managers kicked each other, players got sent off, sheep's heads materialised, unreadable banners appeared in distant skies. It's all gone now, Stress. Yesterday was a match played at the wrong time on the wrong day between two teams which seemed to have had the life kicked out of them by years of disappointment. After the match, all we got was Sheep fans desperately trying to convince themselves that they have a quality side they really are, and Forest fans kidding themselves that everything will be all right in the end it really will.

My word, Pie, you are depressed, aren't you? Perhaps it's time to let me take over the site.

No, Stress. All you'd do would be copy out the Nottingham Post report and change every tenth word to "arsehole".

You could have a little corner of the website to yourself, Pie. You could talk about things which interest you, like black and white films, or smart motorways, or President Fart, or being fat. That would be nice for you, wouldn't it? Give you something to do. Take your mind off the football. And while you were doing that, I could write a blogue about a club that's just started recovering from years and years of neglect, and making a decent job of it as far as I can see. Despite the result of the Derby derby, I think we saw two teams on different trajectories - the Sheep on the way down, and Forest on the way up. And you can put that in your pipe and eat it.

I don't know what the pipe thing means, Stress, but I'll do a deal with you. If we don't beat Burton Down on Saturday, I'll plunge into a brown study and let you take over the site. Okay?

I don't know what that brown stuff means, Pie, but I suppose the eggs justify the beans.

I don't know what the egg thing means, Stress, but I'll take it as a yes. As old Uncle Boff used to say: "There's no generation without penetration".

I don't know what that penetration stuff means, Pie, but fat boys say what.




The first half of this match showed why Forest will get relegated, the second why they will be ok.

The first half began brightly for Forest with a menacing attack on Burton Down's goal at the Trent End, but soon fell into a frustratingly familiar pattern. At least they didn't concede in the first five minutes, and they did enjoy the vast majority of possession, but that possession comprised pat-a-cake football across and outside Burton's penalty area. The final thrust hardly ever materialised, or when it did, was dealt with easily by the Burton defence. There was simply no-one prepared to drive at the heart of the banked defenders, not even McKay, who spent much of the half loitering out wide making easy return passes. It was made worse by the form of poor old Murphy, whose day was blighted by clumsy touches and tired chases.

And so it went on, this increasingly dull game of keep ball. It was as if the Forest players were hypnotised to play in a certain way and couldn't break out of the spell. It was as if somebody had told them that if they kept the ball for long enough it would eventually end up in the net, presumably by magic. Vaughan did his best - everything centred on Vaughan - but his creative efforts foundered on the poor touch and lack of ambition of his forwards. I think it was Vaughan who eventually produced a goal bound shot, a decent effort which was greeted with the chant of "We've had a shot" from a very frustrated crowd. Stress said that we needed a Cohen, someone who could drive hard at the opposition, put them under real pressure, cause panic, create opportunities. Playing with a bit of wild-eyed aggression will often pay dividends. It's certainly better than hitting a wall with a sponge hammer.

He, Cohen, might also add a bit of muscle too. As the half wore on, Burton seemed to realise that Forest were probably never going to score, and if they pressed them hard, they could easily knock these little blokes off the ball and out of their stride. Forest's control of the ball looked increasingly flimsy, especially in defence, where the insistence on playing the ball in triangles at the back began to look silly as Burton pressed our goalkeeper and defenders into nervous mistakes. Things started to go wrong. Mancienne misjudged a header, and we held our breath. A Burton forward was left completely unmarked in the penalty area to bundle his shot wide. A slightly chaotic situation gifted another Burton forward a tremendous chance, but his goalbound drive was cleared off the line by Lichaj.

At half time, there were boos, and rightly so, because this Forest side needed waking up to the fact that they might very easily lose this one to a poor side, and if they continued playing like this for much longer into the season they could very easily get dragged into a relegation battle. Stress called it Relegation Football. Stress's friend, who had recently moved from Manchester to Nottingham and was visiting the City Ground for the first time, said he would rather be watching Oldham.

The second half was better. Almost immediately there was a more urgent desire to move the ball forward at greater pace. Osborn's energy dragged Forest onto the front foot. McKay finally turned up, moving the ball fluently through midfield, though still not at great pace. Bridcutt showed a greater willingness to get forward and prompt attacks. At the back, Mancienne played to his strength, darting out of the defensive line to snuff out attacks. Worrall looked after the ball with some composure. Poor old Murphy continued to struggle.

The first goal came from Cummings doing Murphy's job. Bridcutt chipped a teasing ball into their area, Cummings challenged their goalkeeper whose punch was weak, and McKay, loitering with intent (he does a lot of loitering does McKay), drilled it high into the net. It was a very classy finish from an accomplished (if occasionally invisible) player. It was also evidence that most goals in the Championship come not from blithering around but from direct aggression.

Forest now relaxed into the game, partly because Burton were finding the going tough and leaving more gaps. Osborn went close with a powerful drive. Dowell and Booch came on, the former adding a ton of class to proceedings, the latter overhitting passes like a man wearing iron boots.

The second goal was the result of a bewilderingly good passage of play which bamboozled everybody. We thought it had been scored by McKay, such was the neatness of the finish, but soon realised that it was Lichaj charging round the ground in that magnificently dickheaded celebration.

Anyway, that certainly cheered everybody up, and despite one or two scary moments, Forest saw it through. If Forest played like that all the time, we thought, they would be fine.

A few things to clear up. (a) Burton were hard working, but that is not why Forest struggled. Forest made their own problems, not Burton. (b) Warburton Warburton implied that the wind caused us problems in the first half. The ball did behave oddly at times, but again, its role in Forest's poor display was negligible. Presumably the wind went away in the second half. (c) We put the referee's poor performance down to his size. A four foot referee is bound to have inferiority problems, which is why he turned out to be such a martinet. (d) We had to look up the word martinet. (e) Nigel Clough really does have a problem with us, doesn't he? (f) After being 4-2 up away at MK Dons, Oldham managed to salvage a 4-4 draw. We have no printable record of what Stress's mate thought about that.


The worry as Ul began smartly and you wriggled on your seat. The weird atmosphere of tennis balls and loud chants of undefined support which was probably something to do with the City of Culture. Forest beginning to play it around with some confidence. Dowell's endless run through the middle. That moment when you thought he would have to move left to shoot, but didn't. That moment when he moved right, and you thought he might shoot with his right foot, but didn't. That impossibly powerful thirty yard left foot drive which smashed into the back of the Ul net. Benny's exquisite technique as he hooked Lichaj's pass goalwards. The boing as Benny's shot hit the bar. Being surprised by Ul's crudeness. Forest's defence looking pretty good. Lichaj and Worrall playing with maturity and composure. Smith and Cummings performing heroics. Not trusting the referee. McKay's soft, perfect return to Dowell for his second goal. The feeling that Dowell could probably score with his arse from fifty yards if he chose to. Ul getting cruder. Walker breaking clear and Meyler stepping on his heel - penalty. Dowell's hat trick. Anger at their second after an obvious foul in the penalty area. The dread knowledge that Forest might just throw away three points and you would die of a broken sphincter. The utter, utter relief of the final whistle. Telling your mate it was never really in doubt, and you'd rarely seen Forest play better. And after all that magnificent effort, Forest move up one place in the table. Happy days.


Ah, there you are Vetch. What have you been up to?

I have been servicing the local children once again, sir. It's Halloween, you know.

Did you give them the chewing tobacco like last year?

Alas no, sir. You may recall that last year there was some trouble from over sensitive parents.

I thought Doctor Sock dealt with the situation well.

Indeed he did, sir. But you may recall that Doctor Sock passed away some time ago, and his replacement, Doctor Portfolio, cannot yet be relied on to fully appreciate the subtleties of social relationships in the area.

Good man, Doctor Sock.

Indeed he was, sir. So this year, I gave each child a small portion of corn flakes in a paper bag.

Too generous by half if you ask me. So what you're telling me, Vetch, is that you spent your Tuesday evening pandering to the local urchins instead of attending the Foresters footballing match?

I did not attend, sir, though I did follow the proceedings on line.

On line, you say?

On the internet, sir. I followed the match on the internet.

And what would the internet be, Vetch? Nothing to do with fishing, I take it.

No sir. It is an interconnected network of electronic difference engines.

My God Vetch, what sorcery is this?

Not sorcery, sir, but a widely used communication tool, allowing information to be transferred instantaneously across the globe.

You jest, Vetch.

Indeed not, sir, I assure you.

Then what did you learn from your box of electric devilment, eh?

Well, sadly the Foresters lost, sir. Quite badly, as a matter of fact.


Yes sir, they lost three one. It was most disappointing, especially after the previous two successes.

Most disappointinging indeed, Vetch. But that's what you get with all these new fangled gadgets. There's no future in electric football, believe you me. Look at what happened to electric cars.

Er, indeed, sir. But I think the defeat owed more to the Foresters deeply disappointing performance against a Reading side that looked eminently beatable.

Reading, eh? Went to Reading once. It was like Mars.

I must admit, sir, that experiencing the unfolding disaster was like listening to reports from a distant planet.

Just like Mars, I say. Hardly any people. A distinct lack of oxygen. So what went wrong, Vetch?

As far as I can make out, virtually everything. Our midfield was hard pressed. Our forward threat was weak. Our defence regularly fell to bits. The goalkeeper had a poor game, as did the right back. The creative forces of Dowell and McKay spent large parts of the match loitering without intent. Nobody had a good game.

Good man, Eddie Nobody.

Indeed sir, Nobody excelled.

Good man, Nobody.

Yes sir, but he was the only one. It baffles me, sir, how a team can play sublimely in one match and fall so far short in the next. It's so damned frustrating.

Language, Vetch.

I apologiise, sir, but I find myself appalled by this team's inconsistency.

Too much vinegar, Vetch.

I beg your pardon, sir?

Too much vinegar. As Doctor Sock used to say, too much vinegar dries the blood and leads to incontinency. Take my word for it, Vetch, cut out the vinegar and you cut out the diarrhoeia. Good man, Doctor Sock.

I shall certainly bear that in mind, sir.

So who do our incontinent youngsters meet next?

Queens Park Ladies sir, at home.

And is it being played on this electric pitch malarkey?

Not this time, sir. I shall be visiting the world famous City Ground to watch the live action.

Good man, Vetch. Tell them about the vinegar.

I shall, sir.

And what kind of name is Portfolio, anyway?



1. This match confirmed that Forest start slowly on purpose. Whether it is to give the defence a feel for the ball, or to concede an early goal to snap the team into life, or whether it is part of some devious long term plan involving Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, is not clear. What is clear is that Forest made every effort to go behind to attempts from Bidwell and Luongo in the early stages, but were unsuccessful. After this early failure, Forest succeeded in tearing the Ladies to shreds.

2. The Ladies' silly kit is designed as camouflage, rather like the dazzle painting on World War One ships which was used to break up the craft's outline and confuse the enemy. In the Ladies' case, their dazzle kit hides the fact that, underneath the hoops, there is virtually nothing of any real substance. This is why, after a while, it appeared that Forest were playing against a line of washing.

3. Baby Walker hasn't half come on in the past few months. His first goal, in the thirteenth minute, was ice cool in its execution. Later, when he muffed a shot weakly wide, we were concerned that his confidence and determination might drop, but the fantastic, acutely angled blast into the top of the net for his second and Forest's fourth stuffed our fears firmly back where they came from. He played throughout like a man with everything to prove. We just wish he would smile more. He has a lovely smile.

4. When every Forest player did so well, it seems unnecessary to choose a man of the match, but if we had to, we would choose Mancienne, for delivering a masterclass in the defensive arts. Or perhaps McKay, both for his goal and his persistent screwing of the Ladies' defence. Or Dowell, for his neat goal and imaginative contribution throughout. Or Baby Walker for his goal heroics. Or Bridcutt for his steely covering after a wobbly start. Or Benny, for being able to play in any position on God's good earth and make a good job of it. Or Traore, for winding up the Ladies' fans something rotten. Or Worrall, for his growing composure. Or the mighty Lichaj, just for being there. Or Smith, for keeping a clean sheet. Or even Murphy, for no reason whatsoever.

5. Hologram was surprised his side got beaten so badly because he's "done so well at Forest in the past", and hoped a little of his magic dust would rub off on his players. Sadly, "Ollie's" magic dust faded long ago with his homespun image and queasy stories about how his grandad used to beat horses with a stick or some such nonsense. Now he's just a music hall has-been of a manager who looks like Nosferatu and works for a broke club.

6. It was a biggish crowd again, but this turned out to be annoying because every time Forest attacked the biggish crowd stood up in anticipation of a goal, which, because of the nature of the match, meant that the biggish crowd was standing an awful lot, thus preventing little people from seeing. People need to show more consideration and self discipline. Perhaps the PA bloke could tell everybody to sit dahn all the time. Not that anybody understands anything he says in the first place. Bah.

7. There's something about Forest fans (perhaps all football fans) which prevents them fully enjoying the best of times. Even before the end of this wonderful exhibition, doubts and questions were rising to the surface like dead fish : It was only QPR ... Now we'll go and blow it against Brum ... Dowell will be back at Everton soon ... You know the kind of stuff. As old Uncle Boff used to say: "Forget the past, enjoy the present, and drown the future with whisky."


Who's that guy, Stress?

That, my obese chum, is The Hood.

You mean like Robin Hood? Or Marvel Comic's supervillain The Hood?

No, not like any of those people of whom I've never heard. This is Forest's brand new superhero, The Hood.

Forest have a superhero?

They do now, my portly pal. All the other Championship clubs have a superhero, so why shouldn't Forest?

That's a new one on me, Stress. Who are these superheroes of whom I've never heard?

You've never heard of Thug Boy from Mewo? Or Doctor Dour from Miserablebugger?

Can't say that I have.

How about Captain Zombie from Sheffield Undead? Or Ramrod from the Sheep?

You're just making these up, aren't you?

Never, Mister Pie. For too long Forest have struggled without a superhero, and now they have one. The Hood. Neat, eh?

Not really. Tell me, my young idiot friend, what superpowers does the superhero The Hood possess?

He wears a hood.


Well, his powers are not those associated with your communal garden superhero type.

Common or garden.

Exactly. His powers are more subtle.

Such as?

Well, his greatest power is the ability to confuse men's minds. Just when you think you've got to grips with him, you find yourself clutching at shadows.

I see. That must be kind of frustrating.

Oh it is, Pie. He's certainly not your regular kind of superhero at all. Sometimes he can drive you nuts. One week he can perform like a god, the next he's blundering around like a f***ing idiot. Captain Consistency he's not.

Well, at least he's not boring.

Sometimes I wish he was, Pie. I mean, look at Superman. He always turns up when he's supposed to, he always goes through the same standard procedures you've come to expect of him, he always ends up winning by speed or strength. He never lets you down. The Hood, on the other hand, turns up when least expected, exhibits a pattern of behaviour which is at best random, and ends up winning or losing on the toss of a coin. Sometimes you adore him, sometimes you want to throttle him.

He doesn't sound much of a hero, Stress. Surely he's got some physical attributes which make him special. For example, he looks like a big guy.

Not really. He's about five foot seven.

But he must move with some speed.

Occasionally, but much of the time he can be maddeningly indulgent. "Finish it, Hood!" you find yourself saying, but he's wandered off down some shabby side street and lost all focus.

So when does the next edition of The Hood come out?

Tuesday. It's billed as a titanic struggle between The Hood and Birdman, the Norridge bloke.

Well, perhaps The Hood will zap his opponent with those laser eyes of his.

Laser eyes?

Yes - those are laser eyes in the picture, aren't they?

Oh no. The Hood was blinded in an accident involving hot soup, so he had his eyes replaced by led lights. They look cool, but are of limited practical use.

We're going to lose again, aren't we?

Probably, but then again...


As Old Uncle Boff might have said, that was proper, grown-up football. One nil is a proper, grown up score. You can keep your "goal fests" - they speak only of indiscipline, weak spirits and complacency. Give me a game so tight it could strangle a rat, then stab the rat to death with a bodkin. Perfect.

Actually, the perfect game, up to the stabbing of the rat, had seemed more like the usual frustrating affair from Forest, and from Norridge, to be fair. An early chance for Norridge, after Darikwa gave away a free kick, was thumped into the defensive wall. Dowell shot over the bar, Murphy tried his luck with a drive well saved by Gunn, Norridge's Watkins completely muffed a chance when put clean through, Murphy laid the ball back to Dowell, whose placed shot was batted behind, Murphy wastefully headed over a good cross, Watkins tried again, Murphy tried again, and the referee blew his whistle for the end of the first half, a task he accomplished with a degree of good sense lacking in his overall performance. I don't know who came out on top in the first half - the two sides seemed well matched, and neither made the most of their limited opportunities. In hindsight, however, Forest's defensive effort was reassuringly solid. It was a professional display. A grown up display. We even had dreams of a nil nil draw, something not seen at a Forest game since the flood.

In the second half, things might have slipped away. The dangerous Hoolahan fired one over, Smith had to make a sterling save from Oliveira's free kick, Darikwa had to go off because (a) he was a bit of a liability, or (b) he had been injured after a sneaky foul from Oliveira, or (c) both, to be replaced by Mills, Mancienne fell really badly and probably died before carrying on bravely at full back, and Forest's attacking threat had faded badly.

So on came Carayol for McKay, who had been marked out of things by a very good Norridge defence. And suddenly the game became perfect. He announced his intentions by firing in a powerful shot straight at Gunn, proceeded to scare the bejeesus out of the Norridge defence, and finished by delivering the cross which Murphy prodded in at the near post. The game became perfect because of that one precious goal, but also because Forest managed the game so professionally afterwards, refusing to back off and sit deep, but continuing to press and limit Norridge's opportunities.

Really grown up stuff it was, literally, because the side, especially the defence, seems to be growing up both as individuals and as a unit.

Bear in mind that Norridge's away form has been remarkable this season. In September/October, they have claimed away victories at Sheff Utd, Brentford, Miserablebugger, Reading and Ipswich. They are certainly no pushovers away from home. So give Forest credit - they knew it was going to be tough, they knew they would have to be patient, they knew they would have to defend grittily ... and they did. Well done lads, well done Mister Warburton Warburton, on a proper grown up win.


We've never had much time for Warlock, (interestingly, a warlock is a male practitioner of evil magic, as distinguished from a wizard or sorcerer, whose magic may be benign. The most commonly accepted etymology derives warlock from the Old English wǣrloga meaning "oathbreaker" or "deceiver"), so we'll make this short.

We do love defensive football, like what the Italians used to do, but Warlock does not deliver defensive football. We think the technical term for what he delivers is shitball. From beginning to end, his Caerdydd team were concerned with the business of intimidatiing, frustrating, and reducing the game to a grisly, lowest common denominator struggle in which talent, vision and ball skills were throttled at birth. The fact that Forest let him get away with it shows that they have a long way to go, but it doesn't excuse Caerdydd's approach to the game.

And Forest were not entirely to blame for letting them get away with it. The referee did little to stop Caerdydd's timewasting, which was just plain embarrassing, refused to award Forest a penalty when the ball clearly struck the hand of Manga (which, interestingly, is a comic style read by people of all ages in Japan. The medium includes works in a broad range of genres: action-adventure, business and commerce, comedy, detective, historical drama, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction and fantasy, sexuality, pornography, sports and games, and suspense, among others), completely missed the foul on Walker which would have stopped Caerdydd's first goal in its tracks, and generally behaved like somebody who would rather wet his pants in public than incur Warlock's wrath.

So how could Forest have done better, apart from hiring a proper referee? Well, they could have scored, for a start. Dowell, Murphy (twice), Walker and Carayol could easily have scored on a good day with the wind in the right direction, but they didn't. Caerdydd captain Morrison (who, interestingly, does not own the fourth largest chain of supermarkets in the United Kingdom, headquartered in Bradford) could not even manage an own goal. Caerdydd did score from a very limited number of efforts, with a short range header from Hoilett and a goal from Ward so spectacular he will never ever come close to matching it again.

We were going to criticise Forest for their slow play, but they did have a few moments of swift interplay; overall, however, we imagine playing against a Warlock side must be like wading through a river of jam full of piranhas, so we'll let them off that one.

This is all sour grapes, of course. It's bound to be, when Warlock's shitball leaves such a nasty taste in your mouth.


Here are 6 of the things we didn't do in Hamsterjam:

Body Worlds (featuring more than 200 anatomical specimens of real human bodies) - because we wouldn't be seen dead there.

Museum of Prostitution (take a look behind the scenes of the oldest profession in the world) - because all we had to do was go behind the Basilica of St. Nicholas for free.

Amsterdam's Weirdest Museum - because, well, just because.

Torture Museum (punishments and instruments of torture from the Inquisition to the Guillotine) - because we follow Forest already.

Hemp Museum - because we have no interest in rope.

Dipswitch 4 Forest 2 - because we were in Hamsterjam, thank God.

Anyway, the match. It was business as usual as Forest conceded within three minutes of the start when ... no, wait a minute, that's wrong.

It was not business as usual as Forest scored within three minutes of the start when Baby Walker galloped down the right and crossed perfectly for McKay to nip it into the net. Two things: Baby Walker looks bigger, stronger and sharper every time he appears; and the goal was not an own goal, despite what some mardy-arses might say.

Baby Walker was at it again later, when his smart shot was spilled by the Boln keeper, but Murphy was slow to react to the chance because he was smoking a pipe or something.

To be honest, after the goal Boln's influence had grown, especially in midfield, where Forest's nippers were finding it difficult against a team of Neanderthals and their tame referee. It was, sadly, no surprise when Boln equalised just before half time, mainly because the Forest defence were bamboozled by a simple cross. They really do have trouble with horizontal football - as when, in the second half, a Boln corner was headed just wide by Matthew Madine, star of "Memphis Belle", or a cross from Buckley reached an unmarked Vela, who headed over. Somebody really has to do something about the Forest defenders' responsibility, spacial awareness, peripheral vision and all those Dougie things which contribute to being a solid unit, or they'll collapse into a hole of their own digging.

As the game progressed, Forest were being out-beefed and out-refereed, and ended up launching long balls to miss out their struggling midfield. They were, in other words, playing Boln's game instead of their own.

This Forest side may fall short physically in certain areas, but they are not mentally weak, nor do they lack spirit, and their salvation came on 60 minutes when a weak Boln defensive header reached Worrall on the edge of the area, and the young defender thumped it low and hard past the Boln keeper. It was one of those occasions when crowd members shout the name of the goalscorer at each other to confirm they have not died and gone to heaven. It was Joe Worrall's first goal. He would score his second twenty minutes later.

At last Forest sort of settled down and Boln wobbled. Bridcutt won the ball with a couple of crowdwarming tackles and found Baby Walker, whose composure deserted him as he blasted wide. And Brereton, on for the pipe-smoking Murphy, out-muscled and out-paced a couple of Boln defenders to slot home a third under the keeper.

I suppose three one would have been a bit harsh on Boln, who were nothing if not brutishly persistent, so Forest allowed them a second goal courtesy of Worrall's deflected interception in injury time - a period which was stretched towards infinity by the Boln referee.

Still, Forest won. It was not a memorable game, but a good result against the odds on the day. As Old Uncle Boff used to say: "It may not be nice to win ugly, but it's always nice to win." Answers on a postcard.


As I was saying, Vetch, I'm sorry I couldn't attend the footballing game, but there were good reasons for it.

I'm sure there were, sir.

For a start, it was my birthday. Did you know that, Vetch? Of course you didn't. Do you know how many presents I got? Not one. Apparently they're all "on the way". Sometines the world is a hugely disappointing place, Vetch.

Alas, sir, that may be true.

And then there's this stinking cold I can't seem to get rid of. Doctor Sock would have knocked it on the head with some laudanum and a good cigar, but not this new bloke Portfolio. I ask you, Vetch, what kind of a name is Portfolio? Anyway, I couldn't risk travelling to the dog's bottom of the universe in this state, now could I?

Of course not, sir. I fully understand.

And then there's the rat.

The rat, sir?

You know very well which rat, Vetch. The one in the loft. The one that's supposed to be dead by now having consumed the industrial quantities of poisoned bait you left out for it. The one that's still scratching around up there, plotting.

I warned you it might take a while, sir.

The servants call him Nameless Pete, you know.

Really, sir?

Anyway, I couldn't leave the mansions with Nameless Pete scrabbling around in the roof, plotting his next move, now could I?

Of course not, sir.

So I suppose you'd better tell me about the match which I was forced to miss for the various reasons stated above. Wouldn't want the idiot Stress thinking I didn't know what I was talking about, would we?

No, sir.

Get on with it then, Vetch, but make it brief.

Very well, sir. There is indeed not much to say. It was an away match, so we lost. I'm afraid that's a bit of a given these days. The first half didn't go well. We spent half an hour pretending we had got things under control, then conceded twice. Awful, skanky efforts they were, from players I have never heard of. The first came from some bloke who appeared to be waiting for a bus on the edge of our area before drilling a deflected shot into the bottom corner. The second came when some bloke smashed the ball in the general direction of Christmas before another deflection took it past the helpless Smith. Bristols then played with the burgeoning confidence of a thoroughly mediocre side which knows that the Law of Absurd Consequences has decided to crap on the opposition, at least until half time.

Not good eh, Vetch?

Not good sir. The second half was better. Dowell pulled one back almost immediately with a quite remarkable looping drive which may have been deflected but who cares, and from then on, Forest proceeded to prove that they were a better footballing side than Bristols ever would be. Sadly, several efforts to equalise were spurned, and the game was won by the side with the silly manager.

Why so bitter, Vetch? To almost match a top three side at the dog's bottom of the universe is nothing to be bitter about.

Forgive my tone, sir. It is not so much the match itself as the public relations noise which surrounds everything. After last season's near disaster, it was made clear by the new hierarchy that rebuilding would be a slow job and patience would be needed. But week on week the players and the manager insist that the top six is not beyond us. I would be happier with something like "Let's reach 50 points, then see where we are". That would at least be realistic, as would some proper defensive coaching. But to keep blaming everything on fine margins seems a little hopeless to me. Don't you agree, sir?


I was asking whether you agreed with my views, sir.

Sorry, Vetch, you lost me at "silly manager". Can you hear him, Vetch?

Hear him, sir?

The rat, Vetch. Nameless Pete, scrabbling around up there in the rafters, plotting.

I think you'll find that's the central heating, sir.

We have a central heating?

Of course, sir.

How long have we had a central heating?

Oh, for many a year, sir.

And nobody told me?

It was not felt necessary, sir.

So the central heating is called Nameless Pete?

Not exactly, sir.

Good God, Vetch, I am at a loss. What with this stinking cold, your endless moaning about some mediocre footballing team, and the troubling confusion over Nameless Pete ... I fear for my sanity, Vetch, I really do.

I shall bring you laudanum, sir.

You are a fine fellow, Vetch. And a good cigar, if you don't mind.

Of course, sir.


"What is this thing called Draw?" was the question on our lips as we left the string-and-pipe stadium of Preston Nob End. The answer came fairly quickly. A draw is the thing you get when you play Preston Nob End.

If we're going to be honest about things, it was a fair enough result. Both teams had their strengths. Nob End's strength seemed to be a rather dull edged organisation, Forest's a lively threat on the break. Both had their weaknesses. Nob End's seemed to be a rather dull edged organisation, Forest's an imaginative use of spacial ignorance in defence. Both teams had a few chances, both scored a goal. Forest's goal was the result of some feisty work by Bridcutt, Dowell's defence splitting pass to Brereton, and Brereton's neat finish under the Nob End goalie. Nob End's goal was a mess - a long throw caused the Forest defence to behave like schoolyard twerps until the ball rolled out to the D where their centre half scumbled it home. No I don't know what scumbling is, but that's what happened.

Both managers bent the truth, as managers do. Alex Neill said "For the opportunities we had and the pressure we put on we deserved to win the game." No they didn't. Mark Warburton Warburton said, "It's like a morgue in the dressing room " , implying that he and the players were frustrated at not getting three points. First of all, they shouldn't be, and secondly, this constant "we deserved more" theme is getting tiresome. Forest are playing mid table football, and until something is done about the defence, that's what they will continue to do. Considering their present strengths and weaknesses, they should be delighted with a point away from home against a decent enough side with their own referee, as were most of the people I know.

Anyway, a propos of nothing, we'll leave you with the thoughts of Sam Allardyce, when he was asked about his visit to a local food bank.

"It's extremely depressing that a country of this magnitude, and where it thinks it lies in itself, can allow so many food banks to be operating in this country. But for the good will of the Liverpool people - and the fans have a big say at the food bank that we went to in helping donate food for people less fortunate than themselves, I think it's going back to the dark ages to allow that to continue. It's not only allowing it to continue, it's growing at a rapid pace, where people who are in work, not just on benefits, cannot afford to live at a decent level and have to go to a food bank to feed themselves and their children. I think it's incredibly sad that a country like ours has allowed that to happen ... and will continue to allow it to happen. I think it's a disgrace."

Well said, Sam. Merry Christmas.


Well that fair ruined my Christmas, Pie. So much so, that I've decided to commit suicide.

You can't imagine how much of a shock that is to me, Stress.

I mean it, Pie. I'm going to throw myself in front of a bridge.

That should do it. It might take a while, though.

Did you watch that garbage yesterday, Pie?

Well, yes, but I must say I'm surprised at this negative attitude, Stress. I thought you were a champion of the new regime.

Not me, Pie. I've been saying from the start that we'd end up as relegation foddle. Now perhaps my warnings will be heedled.

Warnings? You were the one who said that Warburton would take us to the Promised Land.

More like Disneyland, Pie. Yes, I think I must have said Disneyland. Warburton is turning out to be little better than a peddler of pipe dreams.

You said he had us playing like Barcelona.

Again, you must have misheard me, Pie. I said we were playing like Barce-loney.

Oh I see, like baloney. So clever to disguise a funny joke as something which is not a funny joke. Anyway, You said we were making progress.

Progress is a relative term. Compared to last season, continuing to exist as a club is progress. But look at this season.
First 4 games - 12 points.
Second 4 - 3 points.
Third 4 - 3 points.
Fourth 4 - 12 points.
Fifth 4 - 3 points.
Sixth 4 - 4 points.
That's not progress, Pie. That's stagnation. And not the good kind of stagnation, either, where you end up wallowing in the lukewarm soup of mid-table boredom. This is the bad kind of stagnation, like belatedly noticing you have a gangrenous foot.

Really, Stress? You're sure this is not your regular bout of mid-season panic? Didn't you say we'd made some good signings?

Cheap signings, Pie. Good signings kick on and improve. The ones we made with our cutting edge scouting system have turned out to be the runts of a very small litter. The youngsters and the regulars are just as bad. I'm beginning to wonder whether any coaching at all goes on at Forest. They can't shoot straight. They can't stop leaking goals. It's almost as if they're being reverse-coached.

This is just stupid, Stress.

And I've heard rumeurs.


Rumeurs of unrest, Pie. Unrest in the dressing room. I can't say any more because it might customise my sauce.

We wouldn't want that, would we?

We certainly wouldn't, Pie. But believe you me, Warburton's days are numbered.

That's a funny expression, believe you me, isn't it? I mean, the you is completely redundant. If you were drowning, you wouldn't say save you me, would you? It might be a fatal waste of breath.

What are you talking about, Pie?

Or if you were trying to get away with talking crap, you wouldn't say trust you me, would you? People might think you were insanely stupid. And only insanely stupid people would make stuff up about rumeurs and customised sauces. And there are more effective ways of killing yourself than throwing yourself in front of a bridge, believe you me.

You'll see, Pie. When we lose to Underland, you'll see that I was right all along.

It's a pity you won't be there to witness the fulfilment of your predictions, won't it?

Will it?

Well yes. You'll be fully engaged in the most tedious suicide attempt in history, won't you? Here's an idea - perhaps you can do it in stages. You could catch a few matches in between. You never know, these runts of a very small litter led by a peddler of pipe dreams might just surprise you.

My God, Pie, you're right. Your solvent words have showed me the error of my ways. How can I ever repay you for guiding me back to the true path, for is it not said that a righteous man is worth more than a box of used cigars?

You've gone mad again, haven't you?

You may say that. I couldn't possibly comment.


You've got to admit, we're clever. We put up that "Judgment Day" video which turned out to be mightily prophetic. In the Wendies report, Stress said he had heard "rumeurs" about Warburton's days being numbered. You will forgive us therefore if we take a moment to indulge in a little bit of self congratulation. We deserve it for being so very, very clever.

We have been cleverly, though indirectly, warning about what was going wrong from fairly early in the season. Warburton's neglect of the defence, both in recruitment and coaching, has undermined progress. The signings, which were described as "Bargain buys", have declined into "cheap makeweights". But most of all, Pieman's clever insistence that, in the end, Only Results Matter, has proved to be true. How clever we have proved to be. Some might say we're the cleverest football writers on the planet.

Except, of course, that it was all meant to be a joke. It was meant to be a mockery of the mid season panic that perennially grips keyboard Trickies when things go wrong. We made these jokes safe in the knowledge that the new regime would avoid the feral dimwittery of the last five years by investing in some degree of stability. We forgot our own rules: Only Results Matter and You Never Trust Anyone. So, in the end, the joke's on us.

Too clever by half, that's us. Far too clever to predict who the new manager will be, or, at this moment, to pretend to care. Whoever it is, he's been left with a dustbin full of disillusioned players and an awful lot of pissed off fans. Again.

GAME 26: LEED 0 FOREST 0 Forest's last minute winner against Leed rendered me hysterical, in which mood I clumsily bundled over a woman on my way through the concourse. I apologised and helped her to her feet. She was a striking looking woman with elfin features and eyes as wide and beautiful as I had ever seen. "I see you're a Forest fan from your firm chin and proud chest," she said, to which I replied, "I see you're a Leed fan from your pale skin and hunched left shoulder." She laughed at my wit. "I like you," she said. "Please, come with me to my apartment in town where you can spend the night debating footballing issues with me and my sister."

And that's what happened.

There are, of course, different versions of what happened at Elland Road on New Year's Day 2018, but they all end up being as illusory as mine. Some saw the 0-0 draw as the triumph of a defence allowed to defend rather than imitate Barcelona. Others thought Forest were lucky not to concede three or four goals. Some thought that Traore shored up the left side of our defence effectively. Others described him with curses, not loud, but deep. Some said McKay simply needed a rest to get his mojo back. Others pictured him as a kid who'd crapped himself in a deserted car park and needed his mummy to take him home. Some saw Dowell put in a decent shift at both ends of the pitch. Others suspected he was sulking at the departure of Warburton.

Such divergent views were, I suppose, inevitable, and many of them were driven by the viewer's attitude to Warburton's sacking. Those disappointed by his departure tended to see a performance in which little had changed: the defence got lucky, the attack was woeful. Those relieved by his departure pointed to the increased level of defensive commitment, especially that of the senior professional Bridcutt, who was extraordinarily impressive. Some say Warburton has left us a squad of talented players with real potential. Stress says this is the worst squad for years.

So you pays your money and you takes your choice. The same applies to January recruitment, too. Will the new manager be of Brian Clough's persuasion - that you build from the back, or adopt Warburton's approach of using attacking possession so effectively as to render your own defence redundant (theoretically)?

My view of the match was that I didn't enjoy it, partly because I lived through it in the constant fear of Forest conceding, and partly because my dislike of Leed, like so many Forest fans, is hard wired. And yet I ended up feeling mightily proud of them for refusing to crumble after a disturbing few days, and heartened that the new manager has not inherited a bunch of quitters.

As for the ladies from Leed, well, that was not the last delight the new year would offer. Indeed, only six days later I would watch in wonder as a resurgent Forest dismantled a team of Arsenal youngsters in a 5-1 FA Cup drubbing.

And that's what happened.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.