This Saturday, Nottingham Forest will play their first Premier League match in almost quarter of a century, after they were relegated in 1999 despite successive wins against Sheffield Wednesday, Blackburn Rovers and their old friends Leicester City in the final three matches of the season. Despite coming up through the play-offs in May, they currently look the best equipped to stay up of the three promoted sides but their fans are almost certainly under no illusions that anything better than a 17th place finish come season’s end would be an absolute triumph upon their long-awaited and welcome return to the top flight.
Forest are due to face Newcastle on Saturday at St James’ Park, a simmering cauldron full of raucous natives who are genuinely enthused by the prospect of a new campaign for the first time in 15 years. For the majority of Forest’s players and their manager, Steve Cooper, it is likely to be a top-flight baptism of fire but in loanee Dean Henderson they have a player who is, by his own account, one of the best goalkeepers in the world, even if assorted figures at his parent club are too blind to see it.
In an airing of grievances with Talksport reminiscent of Father Ted Crilly’s embittered acceptance speech at the Golden Cleric Awards, the 25-year-old described the manner in which he was treated by Manchester United last season as “criminal”. Speaking to Faye Carruthers, he explained how he had been promised the position of first-choice keeper by Ole Gunnar Solskjær, only for the Norwegian to change his mind and plump for David de Gea when Henderson … er, got knacked before the Euros and then fell ill with Covid.
“The conversation I had coming out of the Euros squad was: ‘You’re coming back here to be the No 1’,” he said. “I got Covid-19, came back, so I should have still been the No 1 but then nobody followed through with what they had told me. To sit there for 12 months, it is criminal really, at my age. I was fuming. I told the hierarchy that I need to be playing football and to let me go, and I was almost gone before the manager [Erik ten Hag] came through the door. I have not spoken to him since.”
While Henderson may well have been promised the No 1 spot at Manchester United, the sensational form of De Gea, one of very few United players not to thoroughly disgrace themselves last season and the man voted the club’s Best of a Bad Bunch in the end of season awards, render his comments a tad moot. On his non-relationship with Ten Hag, Henderson said – without batting an eyelid – that “I didn’t really want the manager to come in and be able to see me in training because I knew that he’d probably want to keep me”.
With that kind of bulletproof self-confidence, Ten Hag’s loss is likely to be Cooper and Forest’s gain, even if Henderson turns out to be only half the signing he thinks he is. With war historian and his fellow new Forest recruit Wayne Hennessey waiting – or possibly waving – in the wings, he can’t afford to mess up.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Dear Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss, we have made incredible strides in the women’s game, but this generation of school girls deserve more. They deserve to play football at lunchtime, they deserve to play football in PE lessons and they deserve to believe that they can one day play for England. We want their dreams to also come true. This is an opportunity to make a huge difference. A change that will impact millions of young girls’ lives. We – the 23 members of the England Senior Women’s Euro squad – ask you to make it a priority to invest into girls’ football in schools, so that every girl has the choice” – Sod a drinks reception at No 10, the Lionesses pop an open letter into the in-tray of the new British prime minister with a very reasonable set of requests.
“I only read Big Website like all right-minded people but I did come across this fascinating piece in the New Yorker. Apparently, French has no word for homesickness and Chinese lacks a term for self-esteem, potentially suggesting that those emotions aren’t universal. One they appeared to miss, however, is that the English language is clearly lacking a word for the desperate yearning by Chelsea F.C. for a defender, any defender, any defender at all” – Noble Francis.
“With all this talk of capitalising on the Lionesses’ success to leave a legacy, based on my experiences may I offer up a marketing slogan to grow the women’s game: Football without the D1cks” – Ben Clay.
“At first I thought your admission that the Fiver was ‘happy to be corrected by younger readers’ [Tuesday’s Fiver] was a bold, confident statement accepting the possibility of being wrong. Then I realised that it was a bold and confident statement because you don’t have any younger readers, do you?” – Z Snook.
Last but not least, Max Rushden has linked up with Barry Glendenning, Nedum Onuoha and Troy Townsend for Football Weekly. It’s the first of a two-part Premier League preview and, as per usual, it should be a Good Laugh™.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Premier League players will not take a knee before every league game. However, the anti-racism gesture will be undertaken at specific moments such as the opening and final weekends, Boxing Day, March and October, as well as the FA and League Cup finals.
The Lionesses’ match against USA! USA!! USA!!! in October has sold out in 24 hours.
Tut tut! Erik ten Hag has condemned Cristiano Ronaldo for leaving Manchester United’s pre-season friendly early. “This is unacceptable. For everyone. We are a team and you have to stay until the end,” scorned the Dutchman.
West Ham will be hoping to agree personal terms with Amadou ‘Rihanna’ Onana after agreeing a £33.5m deal with Lille, while Chelsea have moved quickly to agree a deal with Aston Villa for Carney Chukwuemeka and are interested in signing Southampton’s Kyle Walker‑Peters, who is somehow still just 25 years old.
Manchester United have reached an agreement in principle with Manchester United Supporters Trust regarding a fan share scheme.
Alessia Russo, who is something of a national treasure herself these days, has handed over her match-worn Euro 2022 boots to the Tower of London to be displayed alongside the nation’s treasures.
STILL WANT MORE?
Jonathan Liew is looking forward to the first ever Premier League season bisected by a winter World Cup held in an autocratic state with a horrendous human rights record. And by “looking forward to” we mean “quite angry about”.
Will Unwin’s latest Premier League preview covers Steve Cooper’s hopes of keeping Nottingham Forest in the top flight this season.
After England’s Euro 2022 triumph, Cath Bishop has called for cultural change and better sporting opportunities for girls and women across the country.
Suzanne Wrack, meanwhile, has opened up about what England’s victory means for her and others who have dedicated so much time and effort to championing women’s football.
Meandering back to the Premier League, here are six new arrivals worth keeping an eye on this season.
Get your fill of transfer tittle-tattle in The Rumour Mill.
And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!