An editorial in the Evening Post about a humiliating cup tie defeat by Nottingham Forest prompted the football club’s manager to question the integrity of the newspaper.
Forest boss Gary Megson has found adjusting to life after relegation to Division One tough – and the patience of the big crowds who watch the games is wearing thin.
After a chorus of boos at the end of the Carling Cup match against lowly Macclesfield, the Post reported his after-match comments on the crowd, the club, and the players, and then ran an editorial condemning his attitude to the fans’ response.
The Post reported Megson as saying: “I am seriously annoyed at what you have to put up with as manager at Nottingham Forest.
“Last night I was sworn at and told I was the worst manager they’ve had here – and that’s saying something.
“I don’t like that and I will fight against it. I will fight. I also don’t like the treatment the players got, it was over the top. But there has to be accountability sometimes and our wage bill would pay Macclesfield’s for the next ten years. But they still managed to compete with us, they still beat us.”
Its opinion piece the same day said: “Yes, Gary Megson should get nasty after the humiliation of his Forest team by Carling Cup minnows Macclesfield.
“But not with the fans. He says the abuse he and his players took was ‘over the top’. Over the top?
“Here are fans who have watched the former champion club of England and Europe wilt to the point of mediocrity in what is effectively the third division.
“It’s time that devotion was rewarded. And until it is, no one – least of all manager and players – should complain about the anger and despair of a long-suffering and incredibly loyal band of supporters.”
Megson then back-tracked on the quotes given to the newspaper and published a retort on the club’s official website: “I would never have a go at the club’s supporters who, I agree, are long suffering and incredibly loyal.
“Their support is highly regarded by everybody at Nottingham Forest but most of all by myself as I’ve said repeatedly since I took the job in January.
“The comments that I made last night are from my own hurt, anger and frustration at losing games and being in this predicament.
“I didn’t think the crowd’s reaction was ‘over the top’ and what’s more I certainly didn’t say that. It was fully expected and my reaction at half-time and afterwards was every bit as angry and despairing as the supporters.
“What I don’t expect is our local newspaper trying to drive a wedge between us – myself and my players – and the most important people at the football club, our supporters.
“For the paper to try and curry favour to sell a few more copies is pathetic but not at all unexpected.”
But Evening Post editor Graham Glen knows his readers.
He said: “Forest fans, who are our readers, know the truth. Undoubtedly Megson had a real go at them.
“This is not about criticism of the club’s performance, dismal though it is at present. It’s about the manager attacking the wrong targets.
“His comments were ill-judged – and we said so.
“Of course, the Evening Post wants Nottingham’s football teams to do well. We’ve been consistent in that view for more than 100 years and will carry on demonstrating it.
“Gary Megson’s reaction on the club’s website was daft. What he said about the newspaper was wrong and unjustified. But we are not going to get over-excited about a flaky moment from a manager who is under a lot of pressure.”