- Nottingham Forest’s unity last season was the envy of Premier League teams
- Everton would be close to the top half of the table without their points deduction
- Manchester United in a mess – they have a collapse in them – It’s All Kicking Off
The 10-point deduction handed to Everton last month gives them a sense of purpose that Nottingham Forest are struggling to find.
Sean Dyche and his side would clearly rather not have the penalty, against which the club are appealing. Yet it is a pretty effective way to bring together players, coaches, directors and supporters.
Forest’s unity last season was the envy of the Premier League but that bond seems to have weakened. Even though owner Evangelos Marinakis twice came close to sacking boss Steve Cooper, the atmosphere at the City Ground was unmatched as supporters and players drove each other forward.
In their first Premier League campaign this century, Forest knew they had been written off before a ball had been kicked and they were determined to prove those doubters wrong. Cooper called the challenge of integrating 30 new players ‘unique’ and Forest did not half rise to it.
Where is that clarity of ambition now? Forest look directionless. Their predicament has been experienced by so many clubs that it has its own name – second-season syndrome.
Last term Forest forged an ‘us against the world’ spirit in a difficult but exciting new league
Forest’s unity last season was the envy of the league but that bond seems to have weakened
Your browser does not support iframes.
Last term Forest forged an ‘us against the world’ spirit in a difficult but exciting new league. They returned for pre-season in July knowing that the best they could probably hope for was a lower-mid-table finish.
Hardly something to set the pulses of players or fans racing – as good a man-manager as Cooper is. There were some boos at the City Ground after Forest produced one of their poorest displays of the campaign to lose 1-0 at home to Everton, thanks to Dwight McNeil’s second-half strike. That reaction would have been unthinkable as Forest marched towards survival last spring.
‘There are always lots of emotions when supporters are leaving the ground and whatever those are, they come from support and love for the club,’ said Cooper. ‘I’ve no problem with that. It comes from the heart.
‘We’ve lost two on the bounce at home. We can talk about refereeing decisions that have gone against us but we have to work hard to put it right.
‘I don’t know if confidence is the right word but I’d like us to be braver in the final third, focused on making the final pass the right one. You need that quality to create chances.’
Marinakis is targeting a top-10 finish after spending close to £300million on transfers in the last three windows and that is why Cooper finds himself in danger again, with the matches at Fulham and Wolves on Wednesday and Saturday respectively looking pivotal.
Marinakis admires Fulham coach Marco Silva, who he employed at Greek giants Olympiacos from 2015-16, and a comfortable win for the Cottagers would not reflect favourably on Cooper.
The penalty has brought together players and supporters for Everton manager Sean Dyche
Everton are still in the relegation zone due to the deduction but without it, they would be close to the top half. Dyche’s men will fancy their chances on Thursday at home to Chelsea, who have looked wobbly all season, though Newcastle at Goodison three days later will be a severe test.
Their success at the City Ground owed much to James Garner, who took control of midfield. Garner spent the 2021-22 season on loan at Forest from Manchester United and Cooper was very keen to sign him permanently after promotion, only for the 22-year-old to stay in the north-west instead. Garner’s form this term suggests it would have been a wise investment.
This was Everton’s third win on the road, achieved without star centre-forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and Dyche said: ‘There has always been a lot of noise about the away form and we wanted to correct it. The mentality and belief have been improving all the time.’