Over the years, my interest in football has evolved, from an obsessive interest in the players to a more thoughtful approach.
I think the main catalyst for this change was Forest’s relegation to League One. Throughout their gradual slide from Premier League to the bottom of the Championship I had been able to kid myself that their demise was down to a chain of events which started with David Platt saddling the club with enormous financial commitments and finished with them forced to sell and weaken the squad in order to keep the wolf from the door. In each instance, Forest’s poor performances were a direct result of inadequate players bought because they were the best we could afford.
Once in League One, I firmly believed all that was over. Gary Megson had recruited good players, and as the most attractive (reputation-wise) side in the division, we had a head-start on the other twenty-three clubs which would ensure our imminent return to Championship football, the level at which we surely belonged for the moment as we prepared for an assault on the Premier League.
In the event, I couldn’t have been more wrong. As a quick look at the final league tables would show, Forest floundered, and finished seventh, in the play-offs before imploding at home to Yeovil Town, and finally scraped promotion on the final day of their third season in League One. In the meantime, Southend United, Scunthorpe United and Swansea City won the division with ease whilst operating on significantly smaller budgets than Forest. During this time, Forest also lost to Chester City and drew at home to Weymouth and away to Salisbury in the cups.
More than anything else, these experiences showed that in football, motivation and organisation mattered more than the quality of the players. Thus, a well organised and confident team could outperform a more expensively assembled side, not just on the odd occasion, but regularly.
This was my Road To Damascus moment in my relationship with football, though to describe it as a moment would be slightly misleading. It took until the World Cup last summer to really come together, with the discovery that there were plenty of places on the internet to feed my interest in the more ‘intellectual’ side of football. Below is a list of the blogs/journalists/podcasts I read or listen to on a regular basis:
- The Guardian Football Weekly
- The Game, from The Times
- Chappers’ Premier League Podcast
- The Football Ramble – podcast or blog
- Zonal Marking
- Jonathan Wilson – The Guardian (special mention should go to his column, ‘The Question’) or Sports Illustrated
- Gabriele Marcotti
- And last, but by no means least, The Blizzard