Football is now an international trade: reference the strange-but-true fact that more countries are members of FIFA than of the United Nations. And what used to be true at a global level is now true of the local too. From the unfashionable and now firmly pro-Brexit East Midlands of England, Nottingham Forest won the European Cup twice in 1978-80. They did so with teams consisting almost entirely of British players, inspired by the distinctive English eccentricity of Brian Clough.
Now Forest are owned by a Kuwaiti businessman, who is currently trying to sell the club to an American. The team is managed by a Frenchman and they had prior to this game (according to the BBC sport website) selected first team players from an astonishing and record 19 different nationalities so far this season; conceding 30 goals and amassing only 16 points in the process. Forest fans have been in open revolt for many months and recently the players were, apparently, on the brink of refusing to train.
For anybody seeking simplistic solutions about how best to resist or accommodate globalisation, in football or anything else, this match had a clear message. The Dis-United Nations of Forest strolled it. Despite Ipswich having two thirds of the possession by the end of its 94 minutes, the game was decided after 17 seconds.
A Scot, a Dane and two Englishmen in the Ipswich back four all contributed to gifting Forest possession and a clear shot on goal, quicker than it takes to say Britt Curtis Assombalonga. That is the name of Forest’s Congolese opening scorer and at least in this match, a fine number 9. It was the quickest Championship goal of the season and Ipswich never recovered. Much of their subsequent possession in the first half was spent literally tracking the ball up and down the half way line, like a squad of table footballers who can do nothing to escape the shining rod down their backs.
When that wasn’t happening all that Ipswich managed were a few variably effective corners; yet even those were interspersed by brief but far more dangerous Forest moments, buzzing around Ipswich’s goal. It was 19 minutes before Lawrence mustered an Ipswich shot, wide from a free kick; and 30 minutes before an actual Ipswich threat when McGoldrick’s beautiful mazy run from the right hand wing took him into the Forest box, drawing a fine save from the banana-hued Forest keeper Stojkovic. His bright yellow defiance proved a beacon for the rest of his team, now growing in confidence, and in the 37th minute they nearly scored again from one of their own infrequent but far more threatening corner kicks.
So it was hardly unexpected for anybody in the crowd when on 44 minutes Nottingham Forest doubled their lead; although it obviously did come as a massive surprise to Knudsen and Berra, left back and left half in the Ipswich back four, who appeared to lack the ability to talk to each other in any meaningful way. Together they charitably donated Forest the ball once more, on the edge of the Ipswich box. Cue further pathetic, ineffectual scrambling across the whole blue backline before true Britt’s second of the game, with a deft glancing close range header, from just about waist level.
Ipswich’s Anglo-Irish icon Mick McCarthy needed a second half miracle, and did his best to prompt one by at half time bringing on a Welshman in Williams, and a Mauritian in Bru. McCarthy had started with a fiercely attacking line up and refreshed that with these two quick and skilful players. The cosmetic effects were immediate and a succession of half chances ensued, arising often from incisive and more direct running at the Forest defence by both substitutes.
Corners, crosses and even a few shots followed. Pressure mounted and several six yard box scrambles saw Forest legs, chests, heads, ankles, knees and shoulders pump, lunge or unwittingly deflect the ball to safety. An Ipswich goal apparently threatened: although to be honest, it never felt like one would actually happen. Even the Ipswich penalty appeals, and there were two decent shouts, were shrouded with an air of fatalism. It was hardly a shock to see Kasami thunder a shot against Bart Bialkowski’s right hand post in the 63rd minute; and although it rebounded to safety further out than the original strike Forest always threatened a third.
They didn’t manage it but by the end of the game they had secured 8 attempts on target. Ipswich despite 65% possession, had managed only two. Mick McCarthy must be hoping for a new flurry of trade deals in the January transfer window, or he is in genuine danger of being shipped out himself. For once again on the final whistle it was the international language of booing which rang around the half empty Suffolk grandstands.
It will be fascinating and for Ipswich fans, nerve-wracking, to see whether the club’s owner Marcus Evans, international trader in tickets, events and knowledge, himself largely tax exiled from England, decides whether Mc-exit is now his only hope of making that elusive Premiership fortune…
Match review by Grant Bage