Sunday, 18 December 2011
Interview with a Forest blogger
My latest article from Bristol City's matchday programme, Red Alert: Nottingham Forest, Dec 19th
This week I’m pleased to welcome Forest obsessive Pat Riddell to ‘On the Social’. Pat writes an excellent blog called Seat Pitch covering all things relating to twice European Champions, Nottingham Forest. The website can be found here: www.seatpitch.co.uk
It’s safe to say you’ve had plenty to write about in the past nine months, with play-off disappointment, the appointment of a former England boss as manager, the resignation of said former England boss and the subsequent resignation of your Chairman. Can you quickly summarise your view of the recent club history?
Billy Davies’ ongoing battles with the board saw his departure in June after two unsuccessful play-off campaigns — something which fans were seemingly split about (even more so now). He was swiftly replaced by Steve McClaren who proved to be an unmitigated disaster. Clearly he hadn’t done his homework and there was a suggestion that he’d have substantial transfer fund but his tactics were woeful, his man-management appalling and it didn’t take long for him to resign. Chairman Nigel Doughty followed, aware of the discontent among fans, appeared to be disenchanted with life as chairman and apologetic that he’d been responsible for the McClaren fiasco. The appointment of ex-player and manager Frank Clark as chairman proved popular but we’ve gone from a club with promotion aspirations to a cost-cutting set-up hoping for survival within six months.
Until a couple of years ago bloggers were fairly niche, known to each other in quite a small world, but Twitter has allowed some fairly major-scale expansion and PR. Would you agree and how have you used Twitter to benefit your site?
Three or four years ago I don't think I'd even read a blog let alone written one. The subsequent growth of Twitter has opened the door to a world that existed but few knew how to navigate; there's clearly been a proliferation of blogs at the same time but word-of-mouth travels a long way online so it's quite easy to find recommendations and sites that suit your interests. Twitter was very important when I started and remains so, for different reasons, now – it's a fantastic way of keeping up to date with transfers, opinions and rumours as well as engaging and interacting.
Do you feel forums, blogs and Twitter have influenced the 'instant success' requirement we see at many clubs?
In many ways it's the reverse I think. Being exposed to a variety of opinions and viewpoints, as well as information you were unlikely to have been privy to, from fans of your team means you're more likely to understand the issues concerning the club. Of course, if opinions are only going one way then it's often possible find yourself being carried that way... A healthy cynicism regarding rumours is required.
Your outgoing Chairman Nigel Doughty was one of the few Chairman to use Twitter and I thought he used it very well to communicate with fans and repel certain stories, especially around the transfer window and spending plans. He hasn’t used it since disappointing results on the pitch have caused consternation amongst the fans – do you see this as a sensible step or him backing away from the criticism?
Forest haven't exactly had a great record of communicating with the fans over recent years and it was a breath of fresh air when Doughty popped up on Twitter in the summer. Sidestepping some of the inevitable abuse, while attempting to address some concerns, it was clear he was a fan like the rest of us and it humanised him... until the season began. It was, however, no surprise when he disappeared and, in the aftermath, the underlying feeling is that it was an exercise in selling Financial Fair Play to the fans rather than any altruistic gesture.
Can, and should, the clubs do more to embrace this still relatively new world of communications?
Clubs can do a whole lot more... whether they should or not is dependent on having a strategy on using social media. Many simply use it as another medium to communicate news. But engaging with the 'social' aspect is a very different beast; making decisions that fans aren't happy about, a run of bad results, dealing with complaints – where do you draw the line?
What's the best thing about Twitter?
The immediacy; the constant news feed; the links to features, blogs and opinions you'd never find otherwise; the views of other fans, both home and away; the humour; the engagement with like-minded (and not) individuals.
There are an increasing number of footballers on Twitter, not without controversy. Do you think they will still be allowed to tweet in two or three years?
Steve Cotterill has banned Forest players from football-related tweets so what's left isn't quite as interesting before. When players do actually have views or insight it's quite revelatory but they're still quite rare – Joey Barton included.
Who are your favourite football-related 'follows' on Twitter?
Invariably I'll read almost anything Jonathan Wilson (@jonawils) or Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) has written, their analysis of tactics is unsurpassed. I'm also a sucker for Surreal Football (@SurrealFootball) and The Seventy Two (@The72football) generally has some of the best Football League writing around.
And finally, back onto football matters: you’ve had a highly disappointing season so far when many expected you to be challenging near the top. New boss Steve Cotterill looked to be instilling some trademark discipline and organisation into the side until the recent reverse at home to Leeds. How has he started off in your eyes & what lies ahead?
Steve Cotterill initially impressed with a back-to-basics approach following the confused tactics and man-management of McClaren. The honeymoon ended with the 4-0 home defeat by Leeds United but we followed up with a sprightly performance against Brighton, despite losing again. It's hard to judge him until he can reshuffle the squad – we have a glut of strikers and central midfielders but little cover in defence and wide positions. On paper the squad’s good enough to be challenging for the top half of the table, as long as Cotterill can instill the type of confidence Davies gave the players we should be ok.
Lewis McGugan normally impresses me, is he the man City should be looking out for today and what do you think the score will be?
McGugan is quite clearly one of our most talented, attacking players on his day. He hasn't hit the highs of last season and, while we're not dependent on him, it clearly makes a difference to our performances – when he's on the pitch. It's difficult to know which Forest team will turn up this season and on recent results we'd probably be happy with a draw away from home. That said, I'll take a late winner for 1-0.Follow Seat Pitch on Twitter @SeatPitch
The Exiled Robin (@TheExiledRobin)
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