“There is no reason I’d want to leave” - Such reassuring words from a fan’s favourite this week, as Chris Cohen pledged his long term future to Nottingham Forest.
This refreshingly open admission of a player’s loyalty is something you’d be hard pressed to find these days, as footballers tend to use their contracts as bargaining chips, to either manufacture moves away from a current club, or to stay at the expense of doubling their wages.
No-one is oblivious to the quick money culture football brings any more: A win in a play-off final can earn you £90m, and hosting the rights to broadcast Premier League games can set you back a mere £3bn. These abhorrently inflated cash prizes make loyalty a dying art, in a game where money is king.
Football is their job, and players can be absolved from blame for getting pound signs in their eyes when a better deal is offered to them. (Except you Kris Commons. Kris crossed a line.)
However, I feel that we at Forest may just have a loyal few. The sentiment from Cohen’s interview is delightful; he’s settled, happy, and enjoying life in Nottingham.
Dexter Blackstock is fast becoming a cult hero round these parts too. His industrious work rate and knack of scoring important goals help that, but his humble personality really speaks volumes. His work off the pitch includes opening a soccer school in his name, and putting a percentage of those profits towards charity.
On a similarly heroic scale, he used his Twitter account to help a fan who had lost her tickets for the Huddersfield game in August. Dexter contacted her to say he had left two tickets in her name at the Huddersfield Town ticket office... And here’s me thinking footballers, Twitter, and hash-tags spells nothing but a “Bunch of” Trouble.
What is more apparent is just how committed the Al-Hasawi family are to the club. Last week, they announced plans to open a ‘Nottingham Forest Academy’ in Kuwait; a statement of long-term ambition, with an eye on developing talent.
When it came to finding a new manager last summer, our new owners took the unconventional step of asking the squad, a then threadbare assortment of players that only just registered double figures, who they would like to see in charge. They unanimously asked for O’Driscoll.
Though we have brought in a plethora of players since then, it doesn’t change the fact that those who had worked with him in the past season did more than just take a shine to him. The respect was unconditional, a loyalty had been instilled, and a man ironically nicknamed ‘Noisy’ has a team that want to play for him.
Home town heroes, such as the returning Jermaine Jenas, and Lewis McGugan - into his seventh season at Forest - punctuate our regenerated club with locals, putting the ‘Nottingham’ into Nottingham Forest F.C.
Taking into account the players who have an unforgettable legacy, such as Lee Camp and ‘that’ last minute penalty save at Derby, as well as Andy Reid’s second coming being just as brilliant as when he burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced teenager 12 years ago, then we see that this is more than just a hastily assembled squad.
Feel free to romanticise, and call this a squad of fan favourites, old and new. So far it has been heart-warming to see, but do remember, loyalty can be a brittle, fickle concept.