The Camel Column: Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

What happens when Nottingham Forest gets hold of your heart? Or when the play-offs say hello, and wave goodbye? And can you look to Star Trek for your post-season analysis? The Camel has the answers

Standing at the door of the Pink Flamingo, my eyes were transfixed by a very attractive-looking lady. With a gorgeous smile and deep, jet black hair covering only half her face — she seductively beckoned me inside.

This particular place was legendary in the mid-90s. Just around the corner from Rock City, the mood lighting in there could be quite deceiving – often leading to gender roulette. I had to be on my guard.

Jammed packed full of New Romantics and with The Human League’s Sound of the Crowd blasting out on the dancefloor, I quickly smeared on my pink lipstick and blusher combo and headed straight over to the lovely lady who’d waved me inside.

I cautiously approached the bar area where she was now slumped in her seat, nursing a bottle of scotch whilst sobbing uncontrollably. I took a deep breath and gently placed my hand on the distressed lady’s shoulder.

She glanced up at me, smiled, and began to sing:

“Take your hands off me. Hey… I don’t belong to you, you see… And take a look in my face, for the last time.”

Well I couldn’t believe my bright pink myxomatosis-themed eyes — It wasn’t a beautiful lady after all. Even better… I was being serenaded by none other than the legendary New Romantic popstar, Marc Almond.

Taken aback at that point, I replied with force:

“First off, I’ve only just met you. Your make-up is all smudged. What would Gene Pitney say if he saw you in this state?

“Come on, put that scotch down, that’s not going to help matters is it… I’ll buy you a bottle of red instead — it’s a quid a bottle all night.

“Let’s get on it Almond”

Marc swivelled his head 180 degrees, and like an owl that’s finally escaped from a cosmetic testing laboratory after years of captivity, burst into more rapturous song:

“Something’s gotten hold of my heart. Keeping my soul and my senses apart.”

I shushed him with my index finger… Putting on my best Gene Pitney voice, I belted out the follow up line:

“Something’s gotten into my life, cutting it’s way through my dreams like a knife.”

Marc smiled and we embraced for over a minute. He’d found his new Gene Pitney and I’d found a friend for life, or so I thought…

Fast forward 25 years and it’s now me, head in hands, watching my beloved Nottingham Forest spontaneously combust on the last day of the season.

Our best season in 10 years, play-offs all but guaranteed weeks earlier, disintegrated in 20 suicidal minutes. Our usually reliable back line was leakier than a Welsh stew. My player of the season, Brice Samba, was unavailable yet again – and with Joe Lolley and Matty Cash scooped up off the treatment table and thrust back into the side along with Mr Glass Samba Sow, it felt like one last desperate effort to get over the line.

It’s easy to point blame when things don’t go according to plan. Emotional reactions are the norm, with some calling for the manager and our recruitment team to immediately tender their resignations. That, of course, was never going to happen. But where did it all go wrong?

Well, in homage to my heroes — The Borg in Star Trek — I prefer to take the emotion completely out of a situation in order to analyse those key checkpoints of underperformance on and off the pitch.

I’ve concluded that in a season which began with an unknown manager, he must be congratulated in forming a style which suited the players at his disposal. Often not pleasing on the eye, it was effective. Teams were assimilated with Borg-style efficiency during the first half of the season.

The key checkpoint came in January. Could we strengthen, especially in the final third of the pitch which would allow enable Sabri to switch to a less pragmatic setup — should he choose to do so?

The answer was emphatically no.

Dwight Gayle, Kamil Grosicki, Luke Freeman were all desired. None of whom materialised through the City Ground transporter. Instead we beamed in a reserve left-back, a relatively unknown striker who then proceeded to get injured, and a player from Huddersfield Reserves who I can only assume won some sort of competition to play professional football.

I said I don’t apportion blame. Well, I lied. The reason for not making the play-offs can be traced back to poor recruitment in January. An efficient summary. The Borg would be proud — if they could feel emotion of course. Which they can’t. So that’s a pointless, bizarre thing to say. Bit like this article in general really.

Sabri, not without criticism himself I might add, must be backed… and as I came to that conclusion whilst watching the Forest players trudge off the pitch, my phone rang. It was Almond. In full voice, singing:

“Say hello, wave goodbye – to the play-offs.”

And with that, our friendship, just like Forest’s season, was over.