Why Clough should live up to his nickname
“Non-League Nigel” is the uncompromising nickname Nigel Clough has inherited among Nottingham F*rest supporters and the single-brain-celled proportion of Rams ‘fans’. Now, I’m not saying I agree with the name-tag and will use it myself, but I can certainly muster a case for it being acceptable.
It’s not too harsh. In fact, I see it as a Forest fan’s rather feeble attempt of wit. And I doubt it has a substantial affect on Sir Nigel either. Let’s face it, we’ve called Billy Davies every name under the sun and you’d be hard pushed to find one as soft as pointing out the level at which he used to manage. Perhaps, the Rams faithful should have unlawfully labelled the former Motherwell boss “SPL Billy”. Or even attempted to ridicule Steve McLaren by seeing if “Eredivisie Steve” would catch on (Of course, in relation to his FC Twente days in Holland).
Anyway, more to the point, it seems quite clear to me that if Cloughie tries to emulate what his supposedly derogatory nickname is suggesting, there’ll be a larger chance of the success returning to Pride Park. And that’s what we all want, don’t we?
Basically, I reckon all clubs should be vying to dip into the lower leagues in search for promising talent (unless you’re Man City) and believe we’d be better off for it if we took such gambles more regularly.
Wind back the clock to last season and, arguably, three of the most consistent performers were John Brayford, James Bailey and Dean Moxey (until he left in January). Brayf originally rose through the ranks at Burton in the Conference, before joining Crewe and plying his trade at League One and Two level. Bailey, similarly, broke through to the first team at Crewe, whilst Moxey was part of the Exeter side that sensationally achieved back-to-back promotions from Non-League to League One. The biggest success story, as we all recall, was Brayf who won the Jack Stamps trophy by a country mile at the end of the previous term. How much did those cost us combined? A million quid? Just over? A small price to pay for three top class Championship players.
The thing to remember is, not all of them will work out. A local Sunday league striker may not be the answer to our attacking issues. You often hear the phrase “it’s an inexpensive gamble”, which is probably partially correct. But, it has to be a calculated gamble. You can’t just fork out for each and every guy who puts in a couple of decent displays in the Zamaretto Premier League.
For example, when I was watching Brayford week-in, week-out at Burton, I KNEW he had the potential to play at a much higher level. I even said years before Derby finally made the move for him that the Rams should snap him up. Yes, this is 100% true! I know, I’m wasted writing this blog, why aren’t I out scouting for the Rams? Anyway, you could see he had every attribute needed to make several steps up the football pyramid.
The same goes for Steve Morison at Norwich. When I had to sit through the torture of him banging goals galore past the Brewers in the Conference for Stevenage, I couldn’t help but think: “This just isn’t fair, he shouldn’t be playing at this level!”. I was right, again. Unbelievable. To see him ripping up the Prem hasn’t overly surprised me and it has only increased my sympathy for Albion’s defenders who tried in vain to stop him.
Just to chuck a few more names into the ring, what about long-time Clough target Jamie Mackie? Once of Exeter, scored in the Prem yesterday (Wednesday, 21st December). Adam Le Fondre who’s joined Reading from Rotherham has made a seamless transition to life in England’s second tier and the goals are flowing. Oh, and how about the pair who combined to net Bristol City’s strike against the Rams the other week. Albert Adomah, who supplied the assist, for Martyn Woolford can boast Harrow Borough and Glasshoughton Welfare (who?) among their former clubs, respectively.
Problem is, too many clubs seem adamant that they need a full squad of ‘proven’ quality at their level to succeed at all. With this attitude, however, comes a few stumbling blocks. Firstly, in these tough financial times, clubs just can’t cough up a significant enough sum to acquire such high calibre players. Also, if the player in question is a so-called ‘proven’ asset in that particular league, they will presumably already have a club at that level and will most likely only consider a move to a higher division – which is another variable in itself.
So all-in-all, it’s a tough job chairman and managers alike have to contend with in this day in age. The Rams managed to bring in a few faces you could call ‘proven’ in the summer. Jason Shackell more so than anyone, who arrived for £1 million from Barnsley – daylight robbery if I ever saw it! Fact is, though, goal scorers, or any players with real attacking quality are almost always far dearer than defenders or goalkeepers. It’s not remotely feasible that the Rams could prize Southampton’s Rickie Lambert away from the Saints for a couple of hundred grand, is it? How I wish it was!
With January looming, I am fully hoping Nige lives right up to his comical nickname and delves deep into the lower leagues in a bid to discover a football genius from the Blue Square North, or something along those lines. If it comes at a consequence of ironic jeers and chants of “Non-League Nigel” from Forest faithful to uncover the next Steve Morison, I’ll happily welcome it with open arms.