Nottingham Forest vs Reading and The Player of the year award dinner.
This time the story will be written by members from Finland, by request from Egill.
Writing this letter, we have a new owner in Evangelos Marinakis. A five year turbulent time under Fawaz is over, his heart was in the right place and I guess he was meaning well but did never get it really organized in the background, a thing that is as equally important as the things on pitch. Mr Marinakis has already put people into the positions needed and having Mark Warburton there along with Frank McParland gives hopes for the future. As one fan said “ what Fawaz did not accomplish in five years, Mr Marinakis did in five minutes since taking over”
I for one is really looking forward to some good player deals in the summer and around a top 10 place in the table next season.
Our journey started early morning on April 21st , as I picked up Jussi from his home downtown Vasa at 4.45 Friday morning. Not a problem when looking forward to meet some excellent people and watching some real football. You can bet it had been work related the attitude would have been totally different.
The so called “pyjama” flight departed Vasa at 6.05 am and arrived in Helsinki – Vantaa Airport 6.45 where we had time to purchase the gifts for the dinner, Finnish chocolate for Mrs Lichaj and a bottle of Cranberry Finlandia vodka for Eric. Also found the time for one morning beverage.
Then we had a three hours flight from Helsinki to Manchester, and two trains before reaching our destination Premier Inn at the London Road in Nottingham at 2 pm in the afternoon.
As usual when arriving to Nottingham we had a relaxing pint on the terrace of the hotel, then off to Hooters for a deserved meal and then then a visit at the club shop.
Both daughter and wife had a shopping list, the first priority was to perform the shopping at Sports direct and for the first time visiting Nottingham also had to find a toyshop, found Toys r Us in the City Centre, problem solved. Hopefully soon my daughter will be satisfied with Daddy bringing Forest items or even better visiting the games and happening herself for a new Forest supporter to be added. She has of course seen and do recognize the badge, and know that Saturdays at 5-7 pm Finnish time is Dad`s time and sometimes when the game is shown on live stream also have watched some minutes together. At the moment mostly interested in the goalkeeper and referee though.
We had an agreed a dinner with Tor and the two Danish lads Lasse and “The Pilot” Patrick before the trip on Friday evening, so after a couple of pre-dinner pints we headed out to the City Centre to meet up and ended up at The Cross Keys Pub, after a couple of pints and nice conversations I all of a sudden realized that our dinner time at 7 pm was overdue. The lads had already been eating Sushi so never had a chance to eat a good meal at 4550 miles from Delhi (heard that it is indeed the best Indian restaurant in Nottingham) instead ended up eating a less delicious hamburger at the Pub and some more beverages. Later on we were joined by Egill, Børge and Torstein. After a long day, it was time to withdraw and head back to the hotel for some sleep.
Waking up Saturday morning April 22nd was surprisingly easy, when knowing that this day was a big day, a vital game against a very good Reading side that at the moment writing this story is involved in the playoff final at Wembley and also the Player of the year dinner for the second time. My and Jussi`s first dinner was back in 2009 /2010 when the situation was totally different and we had already secured play off status. We did beat a Plymouth side that was already relegated by 3 goals to nil. The only player from that team in the squad today is Chris Cohen, a really appreciated player and a lovely character as well
So continuing, a full English breakfast at Wetherspoons is what it takes to get the engine running again, naturally wearing the Garibaldi Red with pride. Noticed, compared to earlier trips that there was a lot fewer “red shirts” moving around in town pre game. Then had to finish of the provided shopping list before heading to Hooters for pre match brunch.
We met Joan at the Boat Club to give her some gifts as a thank you for all the good work she always does when comes to us asking for favours or tickets. Every trip had excellent seats at B-block. Having one more match pint, before moving on to the Sportman`s Club to meet up with our Scandinavian Friends, enjoying the pre-game feelings
With time to spare before kick-off we moved on to our seats in B-block, not to miss the classic setup and having the chance to experience the almighty Oh, City Ground. Still get goosebumps everytime…
The game was as expected a tough one even though we went 3-0 up after goals from Assombalonga twice and Muzzy Carayol, who had a good a good game and is hopefully finding his feet under Warburton. But then we started to pull back and giving far too much space and time to the opposition. Reading hit the first goal at 58 mins by Kermogant and then a second one at 74 min, scored by the same man. Suddenly we were pulled back to a one goal difference and everybody was eating their own nails. Luckily we managed to see the storm out and snatch the three points that was demanded. Blackburn draw that afternoon and we had some breathing space, but in the end it very tight as you all know.
After the game ended we went back to change to more casual clothes and back we went to the city ground, and for the first time in history the taxi driver had no clue where the City Ground was so we had to start looking for the address on Google.
Before the dinner in the Robin Hood Suite we went to meet the players & staff and fellow Forest fans at the Players Longue, and had some good discussions with Thomas Lam and Ben Osborne and also with Pinillios, Vellios and Mark Warburton. The most memorable moment was still when I met Chris Cohen just walking back to the table, he actually approached me shaking my hand and also knew the name, somebody of our clan had probably been chatting and named us all but the thing that a player even bothers to remember names tells you something about the man.
Afterwards we all moved down for the dinner which will be most remembered for the names on the signs at our table, I think out of 9 persons sitting at the table 2 were named correct and all the rest more or less funny. At our table we had Jussi Krankkala, Frode Waldemar, Borge Haga Torstein Tonnesen, Patrick Anderson and Lasse Jansen, Tor “the Tuc biscuit” Schulstock, Egill Neumann, and myself. Somehow the best spirit was gone and the air was really heavy inside the Suite, so all in all good company but the food was more or less awful and the players had an own table and left after the Player of the Year prices were collected. Considering the situation, still facing relegation it was fully understandable and reasonable that the team left. But it also took out the meaning arranging such a dinner for the fans.
The Scandinavian Branch award went to Eric Lichaj who had to run more to the stage picking up gifts than he probably run in the whole game. Ben Brereton and Benny Osborne also had the honour of picking up awards.
In a way a pretty disappointing evening, would have loved a player at each table as it`s been before, back in 2010, Wes Morgan got the whole table drunk J
A rather early return to the hotel was on hands, since the players had left and also the Robin Hood Suite went pretty empty quickly after the dinner.
Our Norwegian / Danish friends all travelled home during Sunday, and since all shopping was done it was about strolling around the city centre most of Sunday, visiting some pubs watching football and having some cold ones along the way. The every time Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem pint was also completed on Sunday, in the afternoon we ended up watching Premier League at Trent Bridge Inn.
Monday was again all about travelling home, Jussi booked the trains, so we had some 3 tight changes on the way to Manchester Piccadilly. We made it all the way back too Manchester Airport well in time for the flight back to home soil, arriving tired but happy to Vasa at 1.30 pm a couple of hours of sleep an up for work. I can tell you that deskwork is not the most convenient after a long weekend in England.
Egill also invited us to the Supporters Cup in Oslo, I made a promised that one day we will be there to meet up for supporters battle in football. Also anybody for some strange reason traveling to Vasa, please let me know so we can meet.
As for the Finnish supporters, I know there are a few more around, one Pekka in Pori, Janne in Tampere and Håkan in Kokkola, surely there are more but probably the day we are back in the Premier League things will be different.
I`d like to thank everybody making this into a really good trip, and of course not only this but earlier travels as well, always met very good Scandinavian friends and looking forward to next season, the plan is one trip. If we head into the play offs there might be a change of plans for sure.
Best Regards and COYR,
Mikael Mäntylä & Jussi Krankkala