Saturday January 7th will live long in the memory of Nottingham Forest supporters, the day that Eric Lichaj showed us all what a real captain is made of.
Forest crashed out of the FA cup at the very first hurdle, in what can only be described as an embarrassing defeat away at Wigan.
With promotion to the Premier League virtually impossible, this famous old trophy was the only hope of success this season.
Would we have gone on to win it? The answer is no, but a possible date with some of the country’s elite in the next round would have been incentive enough.
It was also a chance for Philippe Montanier to get his beleaguered team back to winning ways and more importantly save his own job.
The Frenchman set up with 4-4-2 formation which once again included Nicolao Dumitru in the starting line-up.
I had to laugh when I noticed that Max Power was in the Wigan first eleven, which conjured up visions of a player with lowered boots and a spoiler on his back.
That was the last opportunity to smile for the entire game, which was completely dominated by the Latics.
Former Man United starlet Nick Powell smashed a free kick just wide of the Forest goal in the early stages and Wigan looked like the only side capable of winning the tie.
They had to wait until the final minute of the half to break the deadlock though, Will Grigg tapping home Warnock’s low cross. Jack Hobbs was furious with himself for allowing the Northern Irishman to give him the slip in the box on route to goal.
Surprisingly, there were no changes at half time and the game continued in the same manner.
The reds looked disjointed and completely out of sorts, a second Wigan goal was not far away.
Michael Jacobs nearly provided it but was thwarted by the brilliance of Michael Mancienne’s last ditch tackle as he looked odds on to score.
The inevitable second arrived in the 57th minute; Warnock again was the provider,
Wildschut took his goal well having drawn in Carayol and Mancienne before taking aim. Matty Cash had been given a torrid time by Stephen Warnock and something had to give, at this point as a player, you’re looking at your coach to address the issue. But as the problem intensified there was nothing in the line of protection or innovation, the opposite in fact.
Britt Assombalonga had already been dragged off by Montanier due to a lack of service, so why not replace the service provider instead?
As the issues down the Wigan left reached boiling point the captain stepped up to the plate and took the situation into his own hands.
Eric Lichaj was so bemused by the inactivity from the technical area that he ordered a positional switch between himself and Cash to stop the haemorrhaging. In only his fourth game as Forest skipper Lichaj proved his capability as the leader on the field.
A sad indictment on the Manager it must be said, but Montanier has lost the dressing room.
Just look at the body language of the players, they have no faith in the coach and it’s a look I’ve seen before.
When Stuart Pearce was in charge I noticed the very same disbelief on the faces of the playing staff, and the results are on the pitch are all too similar.
Wigan are a poor side and had only won one of their last seven before the visit of Forest, but the reality is that we’re just as bad right now if not worse. The attendance also spoke volumes; the traveling tricky trees making up over a thousand of the pitiful five and a half thousand total gate receipts.
Some are saying that it’s the worst performance they’ve ever seen by a Forest side but even this has frightening similarities of the Pearce era when you look at the defeat at Rochdale in the very same competition, just two seasons ago.
When the chips are down it’s so easy to just join the bandwagon, and go on the attack, which is why I’m highlighting the ultimate positive that occurred in the FA cup exit on Saturday. Eric Lichaj gave people hope and a little something to be proud of on the darkest of days.
His penalty miss towards the end of the game sums it up, standing up to be counted when the so called bigger names didn’t look interested in taking the kick. He may not be the best full back in the division or naturally gifted with the ball at his feet; but it he gives everything he has.
Philippe Montanier said that it was his own idea for the full back switch, in his post-match interview. Well Phil; I think Carl Pilkington would have just one word to say to that.
The actions of Captain America on Saturday will stay with me forever and prove that he’s a natural born leader, worthy of skippering Nottingham Forest.
The words of the famous Mexican Revolutionary Emiliano Zapata perfectly describe how Eric Lichaj acted at the weekend; “Es mejor morir de pie que vivir de rodillas!”