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Nationwide Division One, 3/4/01
Nottingham Forest
Time flies
By Matt Rowson

Jean-Jacques Dessalines. In 1803, he declared Haiti's independence from France. An ex-slave, he was one of the generals in the uprising that ousted Napoleon Bonaparte's troops. No mean achievement.

Ion Antonescu. Head of the notorious Romanian Iron Guard before the Second World War, he ousted King Carol II and installed himself as a dictator under effective control of Adolf Hitler. In 1944 the Romanians revolted, and the Soviets took Bucharest. In 1946 Antonescu was executed for crimes against humanity.

Louis Bleriot. In 1909, he became the first man to fly an aeroplane across the English Channel. Denis Bergkamp still won't allow himself to be flown more than ninety years on, imagine if you'd been the first....

Franz Anton Mesmer. German physicist, reputed to be the inventor of hypnotism, rose to prominence in Paris in the 1780s only to be dismissed as a fraud by Benjamin Franklin and Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier. He left a mark on his discovery in the form of his name, which has seamlessly entered the English Language.

Dessalines. Antonescu. Bleriot. Mesmer. (Tottenham's back four, no?) Remarkable people, in very different ways. What they all have in common is that you've probably never heard of any of them. Before now. And why's that? Because They're Not Famous Any More.

Hellooooooooooo, Nottingham Forest!

Forest are a lesson to us, even this early. Brian Clough turned them into a top First Division club, but since he left (albeit later than he might have done), Forest's support have taken their discomfort at their demotion in status out on a succession of hapless managers. Cloughie was already a hard act to follow. As Nottingham Forest rapidly become Wolves (heaven help them - seventh place, too?), we want to make sure that we don't become Nottingham Forest.

Forest have never really looked in line for a play-off place this season. Certainly, they have been and still are in with a shout, but they've never threatened to cement a place in the top six. Their contention at the moment is despite, not because of, their recent form that has seen five defeats in eight games before this weekend, and their performances have been as apathetic and unconvincing as the muted support at the City Ground.

And if David Platt is to be believed, the chance of a crack at the play-offs cannot be passed off lightly... Platt has warned that players will leave should Forest remain in Division One next season, and that he doesn't expect to have the finances to replace them. It's two years now since Forest dropped out of the Premiership, and the parachute payments will have dried up. Again, we should be taking heed.

A disciplinary record that Antonescu and his Iron Guard would have balked at will not have helped Forest's faltering campaign. Important midfielder Andy Johnson will serve the final game of a three-match ban on Tuesday, and also missing will be centre-half Tony Vaughan. Vaughan begins a four-match suspension for an assault on Crewe's keeper Ade Bankole, his second red of the season and enough for Platt to transfer-list him. These, combined with injuries, begin to restrict Platt's options on Tuesday. Only four of the side we faced earlier in the season can expect to start.

In goal for Forest will be Dave Beasant, who never seems to end. Irishman Barry Roche and former Watford trainee Stephen Collis provide his cover.

At the back, Vaughan's suspension probably opens the door for Norwegian Jan Olav Hjelde, although a partnership with Christian Edwards would leave Forest robust to aerial assault, but very dodgy on the ground. Another possibility in the centre would be the return of highly rated Scottish Under-21 defender Chris Doig, who damaged ankle ligaments against the Hornets at the City Ground in October. He has only one reserve game under his belt, however, and Tuesday may be too soon. With Colin Calderwood having left for Notts County, Forest's only other option in the centre is probably Ricardo Scimeca, although he is more comfortable either at right-back or in midfield. He had a particularly atrocious game in our encounter earlier in the season.

Other options at right-back include winger Andy Gray, who was exposed by Ricardo Gardner in Forest's last encounter, and Frenchman Mathieu Louis-Jean, but Canadian Jim Brennan is on loan at Huddersfield.

On the left, Southampton's Francis Benali is approaching the end of a loan spell and is discovering that without the cult status afforded to his dogged longevity at Southampton, he really has few credits to trade off. Other possibilities include Australian Gareth Edds and Irishman Keith Foy, one of few to impress in our game at the City Ground, but Alan Rogers is out with knee ligament trouble.

In midfield, Chris Bart-Williams is the main man. He has just passed two hundred outings for Forest, and is a particular threat from set pieces. Scimeca may continue alongside him but there are calls for another of Paul Hart's promising youngsters, the creative Gareth Williams, to get a run. David Prutton is another option, although he has been playing wide on the right where he is less effective than as a central player. Frenchman Bernard Allou is another possibility down the right, but the left-sided American Ben Olsen is out having broken a bone in his ankle.

In Olsen's absence, youngster Andy Reid has started on the left. More naturally a striker with good pace and balance, Reid recently hit four against Charlton reserves. Which is small fry compared to four against Chelsea's reserves, but not bad for a kid.

Two key factors blamed for Forest's decaying form are the injury to Jack Lester and the return to Bradford of the lively Robbie Blake. In their absence, a partnership is being worked on between Premiership disappointment David Johnson and the notorious Stern John, about whom fitness doubts continue. Other strikers include former Tranmere man Gary Jones and youngsters Marlon Harewood and Dave Freeman, although the latter limped off against Bolton.

Forest have had in common with the Hornets this season a preference for playing in open games of football rather than against sides who bottle the game up. This is not the only common link between the two sides. In particular Forest's manager David Platt, Assistant Manager Dennis Booth and Reserve Team Coach Jimmy Gilligan have all played under Graham Taylor for Watford, Villa, and/or England.

Not all fame is merely transitory. It's not too fanciful to suggest that Graham Taylor's name will still mean something in Watford one hundred years from now. In the meantime, we have no more than five games at Vicarage Road to enjoy under his management. Promotion back to the Premiership would be as close to a fitting tribute to Taylor's legacy at Watford as we are capable of achieving. And whilst we're at it, a nice round record thirtieth manager of the month award wouldn't go amiss either.

Tuesday is the 3rd of April. COME ON!