City travel to Nottingham Forest on Saturday, expecting a tough examination. Jon Punt spoke to Forest writer David Marples to get the intel on this new look Karanka side…
Jon: Aitor - discuss. My view of him at Boro was he knew how to win football matches, but that Karanka-ball was dour, cynical and at times, well, shit-housing at its finest. Not exactly what you'd call vintage Forest-fare. Has he had to adapt to the Trickies' philosophy or is this very much a means to an end?
David: The narrative is that Aitor will, as you say, bludgeon his way to promotion via a strong impersonation of Arsenal circa 1991 (interestingly - or not - Arsenal won the title that year but turned in only five 1-0 victories). The reality is slightly - and pleasingly - different.
We look at our best going forward since we have some very exciting talent in Joe Lolley and Gil Dias to name just a few. In terms of goals scored, we are in a very respectable joint 8th place in the table. Our bigger problem has been living up to the Karanka stereotype and keeping the ball out at the other end, frustratingly conceding a flurry of otherwise avoidable late goals.
It's intriguing that you so very nicely acknowledge the famous Tricky way. We certainly did have a reputation for playing the ball on the ground under the guidance of a man who still means so much to us. Thinking back, if there was a definable Forest way, it was to hit on the break at pace - ball on the deck - by utilising a deep lying striker (our Nigel) or pacy wingers (Franz Carr/Gary Crosby). These days, like so many other teams these days, we play a lone striker supported by three in behind, we are frightening on the break and look to our beloved Joao Carvalho to drop deep and get his Teddy Sheringham/Nigel Clough funk on.
What's been most pleasing about recent games is our strategy to not settle for a draw away from home but chuck the kitchen sink at the win in the closing stages of games. In short, we haven't been as Karankaesque as we initially thought. Brentford fans would say otherwise and had some strong opinions about our performance at Griffin Park - they shouted very loudly at us and our players and those shouts consisted mostly of not very nice things. Yet, that was by far our worst performance of the season - our only defeat.
Franz Bloody Carr, did like him. As we say in Norfolk, hulluva plaar.
So, if it's not quite Karanka style, do you think it's Wolves-lite? The money splashed around seems to be a declaration of intent more than anything.
The money thing....big-spending Nottingham Forest.. here they come again, waving around £5m pound notes like Loadsamoney, smearing it into everyone's faces and acting like Phil Bardsley on a night out at the casino.
It's true - we have spent a bit of money on a few players, most notably the beautiful Joao Carvalho who cost £13.2m. It's also fair to see some parallels with the Wolves approach. It is worth pointing out though that prior to the 2018 January transfer window, our outlay on players over the previous three years or so amounted to about four used Chupa Chup wrappers, a can of Rola Cola and a bag of pegs.
This was down to a transfer embargo - a consequence of the stewardship of that guy from Kuwait. Money has certainly been spent over the last two windows, not only as a statement of intent but more of an absolute necessity to build a squad worthy of the name. May I remind you that we paid Nicklas Bendtner money to sit on a bench with a blanket over his legs for a period of time - that's how bad things got.
Come the end of the era of the previous ownership, we had a very weird and unbalanced squad. We needed a new one. Besides, we made stacks of money from the sales of Oliver Burke and Britt Assombalonga and the guy from Kuwait wrote off his debt so we had the money to spend. So there.
Oooh touchy, I like it. Are the Forest squad that easy to wind up? How do we get into their heads?
Definitely. Just sidle up to one of them and whisper in their ear, 'that shirt looks a bit tight on you.' Our new shirts are a little unforgiving in terms of size. They are Italian made and figure-hugging. Most fans have had to buy three sizes or so up than usual.
Do that or press us deep. Sheffield Wednesday stood off and let us play up to the halfway line, which was awfully bloody nice of them and allowed us to look really really good.
Brentford selfishly kept the ball all game which was less sporting and Millwall pushed three men up high when we had a goal kick, meaning we could only mostly succeed in booting the ball out of play rather than out wide.
Personally, I'd go with the former suggestion though - you'll certainly have more fun.
Are you sure you haven't just cloned Andy Reid and subsequently all the shirts look too small? He did like a pie that lad.
Stylistically we'll look to keep the ball, dance about with it a bit at the back then hope we can find Moritz Leitner to pull the strings. You'd do well to try and shut him down. I didn't tell you that though, right?
I hear the City Ground will be close to a sell out on Saturday, for the first time in a fair few years. Obviously they're only there to see the champions elect and to gain a glimpse of future Ballon D'Or winner Teemu Pukki, but are we to expect a bumper atmosphere? Are Forza Garibaldi still making inroads into improving things in the stands?
Teemu Pukki and Shefki Kuqi should go in together and sell kooky Pukka pies to Green day's Dooky on a loop at Halloween. 'Pukki and Kuqi's spooky kooky Dooky Pukka pies.'
...Yeah. Attendances are well up this season. We did our annual trip down the Trent before a home game last month and before this game, we are gathering in the Nottingham Bierkeller in the city before the game to listen to an oompah band (seriously) and drink oversized glasses of beer at long tables. Such events are increasingly popular. The aim is to take the atmosphere created in the Bierkeller into the ground. The pre game tifos really help too and are getting better and better. All in all, we're in a good place at the moment. The club is in good nick and we all feel a lot happier about stuff. Hold me.
Breaking news on the wires, Pukki may well have picked up a hamstring injury during the Nations League matches for Finland so he's a huge doubt for Saturday. This happened when we made t-shirts for new fans hero Onel Hernandez, now Teemu is broken after we sold garments to half of Finland. We can't help feel we're partly to blame here.
Oh, and don't mention Kuqi to the Norfolk natives, his association with our 'friends' south of the border means he's on the blacklist. Spooky Pukki Pies only please.
So, here's your opportunity for a shameless plug, bearing in mind at least 4 Forest fans might read this. I hear you've written a book about great Forest goals. Tell me all about it.
It’s a book with words and pictures celebrating 30 iconic goals/players (and one save) in the history of the club. There are loads from around the late 70s, mid to late 80s and some from the mid 90s. Not so many from our time in League 1.
You can buy it online, from Waterstones in Nottingham and from MSR Newsagents/Forest memorabilia shop opposite the Trent Bridge Inn.
It would make the perfect Christmas present for and discerning Forest fan and even any Norwich fans looking to brush up the history of Forest.
There - that's all the plugging we're going to allow. So which of the current crop might score an iconic goal come Saturday? And you can't say Lewis Grabban, because most Norwich fans seem to lose their shit about him. Although for balance he was a great player for us, he just infamously downed tools on one particular night in Rotherham to try and force a move to Bournemouth. Silly boy.
We’ve all downed tools on an evening in Rotherham to be fair. Rotherham makes one do such things. Joao already has one iconic goal contender this season, as does Lolley. Reckon Dias might be hankering after one now.
Dias can bloody well wait until mid-week. Otherwise we’ll pack him off to Rotherham with a £20 gift voucher for Yates Wine Lodge, that’ll be sure to end well.
Now our dearest Wes has departed, is there anyone you actually fear from the current Norwich squad? I get the sense a lot of teams may have underestimated us this term, potentially due to the lack of ‘star’ names.
Wouldn’t bet against Klose nodding one from the near post from a corner: we’ve struggled a little in that area at times. Jordan Rhodes is precisely the type of striker who scores against us. Bit worried that Ian Culverhouse will stick one in the top corner too.
Left field pick, I like it. Given Cully only scored once for us (memorably in a 3-0 win against Everton) and he’s probably focused on management duties not too far away from you at Grantham Town I reckon you’re safe. Just about.
So, very specific score prediction time. I’m going for Forest to take the lead on 17 minutes, from a scuffed and deflected Grabban effort (he’s dead good at them). Onel Hernandez will then cap a fine cameo from the bench off by grabbing an 85th minute equaliser, celebrating by running the length of the pitch shirtless, only to trip over the club mascot, rupturing his ACL and sidelining him for 6-9 months. Essentially a 1-1 draw then. You?
I’m horrible at predictions. 9-8 to us.
Thanks to David for his time. You can get his book ‘The History Boys’ here or read his musings for BandyandShinty.com regarding the match sometime on Sunday.
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