Andy Reid, Jermaine Jenas, Michael Dawson, Gareth Williams and David Prutton all left for more ambitious or impressive sides, and failure to replace such stars ensured that a once in a lifetime group of young players was quickly replaced with sub-standard, ageing Championship players who unsurprisingly failed to live up to the sort of free-flowing, buccaneering attacking football that Paul Hart had so successfully brought to the Reds in that fabled season.
I have also experienced the absolute joy of promotion from the miserable depths that had been several years of failure in League One; the sort of joy that one might think was lessened by the very fact that it was a promotion from League One, and not the Championship, but I can confirm that this was not so. I celebrated, and I celebrated brimming with love for the club that runs through my veins.
I understand that I am far from the only person who has felt the ecstatic highs, and the deflating lows that we all come to love, nay, need from this national religion that is football, but as a Nottingham Forest fan, I have seldom felt lower than I do as I write this.
Nottingham Forest, a team who, admittedly before my time, were loved worldwide for the wonderful exploits of the late Brian Clough and his merry band of wonderful footballers, who conquered Europe, and brought a new brand of the beautiful game to the world, have become a complete and utter mess. With ten games having passed in the 2011/12 N Power Championship season, Forest find themselves languishing in the lower reaches of the table, with a handful of miserably scraped together points, without a manager and with a chairman and owner, who no longer has the time, inclination or desire to fund the sinking ship.
Steve McClaren arrived at Nottingham Forest in the close season to a great fanfare of impressive, ambitious talk about promotion, and embracing the culture of a top division club. However, somewhere between the men at the top of the Reds’ hierarchy, and the manager himself, It failed to be communicated that actually, priorities had changed, and with the introduction of Financial Fair Play potentially imminent, finance for this great adventure was no longer to be made available.
McClaren was left with admittedly a fairly good squad, but one massively lacking balance, and with no funds with which to redress this lack of balance. Further to this, and somewhat more importantly, the manager was left in the fundamentally untenable position that was far from the one sold in the original presentation. I cannot blame McClaren for leaving, and whilst I bear no malice to the man, or the manager, my mourning is not for him, but for the state of this football club.
Forest have, for some time now, been a club of empty promises. As sure as the beautiful, and abundant crisp golden leaves that nestle, and line the streets as Autumn comes into full view, so sure is the yearly stream of broken promises, failed PR stunts, and the sort of communication that would be unimpressive between children in an infant school.
Nigel Doughty has without doubt, in my opinion, always had Nottingham Forest in his heart, if not fully in his head. It is a great shame to see him leave his post, and remove his vital financial backing without having achieved any of the dreams that I am sure he had always hoped might come. I have no major axe to grind with the man, apart from my disappointment toward the series of mistakes that have taken place under his ownership.
A string of poor managers backed too readily with major finance, and excellent managers given limited financial backing has left Forest disorganised, and incapable of ever making the final step toward the hallowed ground of the English Premier League. I understand however, as most fans do, that mistakes are a fundamental and deeply inherent part of humanity. This cannot be overlooked, and I do not seek to completely castigate a man who has put his money where his mouth is, and given it his best shot.
On Sunday evening, as events unfolded I was left dumbstruck once again with the events taking place at the City Ground. Not for the first time in my years as a fan, the place that meant the most to me, the place where I desired to be as the famous song suggests, had become a circus. Steve McClaren, apparently the final piece of the jigsaw in the Forest promotion piece had resigned, and so touched by the failure was Nigel Doughty that he left to, leaving the entire club worryingly in the hands of a Chief Executive who has been at the heart of far too many unpleasant events in the Forest narrative.
As things stand, Nottingham Forest are an empty shell of a club. However, perhaps there is some light at the end of an increasingly bleak tunnel. A blank canvas is a wonderful thing, it represents the absolute, and great potential for human endeavour; almost anything can be created from this point. Nottingham Forest have a massive chance to finally start again, and begin to piece together the workings of a club that can challenge for promotion from this league.
Forest already have wonderful training and youth facilities, an excellent stadium and fan base, and a playing staff that many in the league should be jealous of. It is about time that some familiar and competent faces were brought back to Nottingham to help return success, and with Frank Clark making his desire to help at the City Ground clear, it would take a fool not to consider this approach. A formal structure in which a footballing man oversees the day to day running of the club, with all areas apart from first team football under his wing is necessary.
No longer can the Reds afford a business man to make mistakes that hurt the club over and over again. A young manager, with unlimited potential, and one who wants to make his own history with this wonderful club must be found. The rumoured arrival of Paul Hart as technical director, or director of football, would go some way to restoring some dignity at the football club, and it is in this vein of thought that things must continue.
The end of one thing is always the potential beginning of another, and it is with this saddened, but unyieldingly optimistic outlook that Forest must build for a better future, a future with more fan involvement, with men who love the club throughout, and a future where pride and passion are intertwined with all things Forest; A future with transparency, and communication and a future with kept promises.