THE devastating injury to Chris Cohen means Nottingham Forest have lost an entire back four this season.
Cohen, above – who missed the whole of the 2011-12 season with ruptured knee ligaments – will now sit out the remainder of this campaign after suffering the exact same injury in the dying seconds of last weekend’s draw with Burnley.
I’m gutted for Cohen, a lovely bloke who would play in goal if Forest asked him to. The fact he tried – unsuccessfully – to see out the game says everything.
He now joins Kelvin Wilson, Eric Lichaj and Danny Collins on the sidelines, yet what appears to be a crisis could in fact be a blessing.
Jamaal Lascelles wouldn’t have got near the side with a fully fit squad. But last weekend, the 20-year-old centre-back was immense.
Agile, intelligent, absolutely unbeatable in the air – he could even have had a brace with two fine headers that sailed narrowly wide.
He’s had a few rocky games in a Forest shirt, but the home-grown youngster, a regular for the England age groups, looks a real rough diamond.
With a little more bulk and a bit of confidence, Lascelles should soon be challenging for the first team not by necessity but on merit.
DON’T BATTER REFS – GIVE THEM A TV SET
ANOTHER week, another refereeing mistake. Another chance for angry fans and irate managers to spit bile on refs and demand they grovel for forgiveness.
“I would like the referees’ chief to apologise to me,” said Sunderland boss Gus Poyet after Wes Brown’s admittedly bonkers red card for a clean tackle on Charlie Adam.
“They call a British manager to say sorry, maybe it is time to call a foreign manager, and we can make it one-one.”
Poyet, of course, was referring to the call Mike Riley made to West Brom boss Steve Clarke to apologise for Andre Marriner’s mistake in awarding Chelsea a match-saving penalty in the recent 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.
In his case, sorry definitely isn’t the hardest word. But it should be. Because what does saying sorry solve?
In the aftermath of Brown’s red card we had the usual 606 guff. Calls for video evidence, demands for referees to hold Press conferences or be “punished” – presumably by stoning, or maybe tar and feathers.
The justification, as ever, was that a player is punished for mistakes by losing his place, a manager is punished by losing his job, yet a referee who makes a blunder goes whistling back to the wife and kids without a care in the world.
Well so he should. He’s paid a fraction of the salary for twice the scrutiny.
Let’s say we start punishing referees. Withhold their match fee, perhaps, or demote them a couple of divisions. Maybe force them to face the music on Match of the Day.
Would that make you, the aspiring 16-year-old ref, keen for a career at the top? Or would you think: “Blow this for a laugh, I’m off to study sociology”?
All that would be achieved is a haemorrhage of referees, which in turn would lead to a drop in standards. And for what – the pleasure of seeing an honest bloke squirm for the cameras? That’s pretty short-sighted.
If you want to help refs, don’t batter them. Give them what they need – a monitor and an extra pair of eyes.
Forget video technology. Forget a challenge system. As I’ve said a million times, all you need is a fourth official watching the telly. If the ref gives a penalty and it isn’t, he can watch a replay and within ten seconds the mistake is rectified. That’s no more time-consuming than the usual bout of post-pen histrionics.
The same goes with red cards. Blow the whistle, kill ten seconds, wait for the bloke in your ear.
Dives? The ref has blown for a foul anyway, so the play is stopped. It’s simply a matter of reversing the decision and whipping out a yellow card.
Even in real time, the fourth official could be in constant dialogue, halving the chance of a bad decision. No delays. No errors. And all for the cost of a flatscreen Panasonic and a couple of mics. Surely that’s better than saying sorry?
DAY DOZY PARKER MISSED A PLANE SCARE
MAN United’s rocky landing in Germany reminded me of a similar experience I had while flying back from Italy with England C, the international Non-League side.
Seconds from touchdown at Gatwick, the plane suddenly roared back into the sky and proceeded to spend the next 45 minutes circling the countryside dumping fuel.
Most of us were bricking it, including the nameless League Two player beside me who had sweat literally dripping from his clenched hands.
The plane was dead silent. Even the stewardesses looked nervous.
In the end, it transpired the front wheel wasn’t locked in place. This made for a nervous landing, but we got down with nary a bump to great cheers.
Back in the terminal, we were all buzzing with nervous relief. Then Paul Parker, who had been over to the game with Setanta, sidled up.
“What you talking about?” said the former England and Man United defender. “What happened?”
Turns out Parks had been on the phone to his wife the whole time and hadn’t realised anything was awry.
I’m glad he showed more awareness in Italia 90!
COMICAL DYCHE IS KING OF THE ONE LINERS
WHEN Sean Dyche was at Watford I thought he was a bit dull, an identikit modern manager full of the usual bland sound bites about shape and systems.
In fact, he’s one of the most entertaining bosses around these days. Last weekend’s Press conference at Nottingham Forest was full of droll quips.
On Forest’s injury crisis: “It must be tough – I hear Billy’s down to 32 players he can pick from.”
On trying to sign Jamie Paterson from Walsall: “We offered £4.99 and a packet of crisps, then Forest came in with a million quid.”
On being asked if he’d ever scored a penalty: “Yeah, once. You probably won’t remember though. It was only an FA Cup semi-final, 50,000 people at Old Trafford.”
And not forgetting earlier in the season when, after Blackburn’s Lee Williamson hauled down a breaking Danny Ings in the final minute, Dyche was asked if he’d have done the same.
“What me? No, no. He’d never have got past me in the first place. I was rapid.”
Of course, it’s easy to be jovial when you’re top of the league. But it’s great to see a manager having a laugh and being himself.
The stage-managed waxwork that is Billy Davies could certainly have learned a thing or two about PR by watching his counterpart at work last week.