It is now 17 years since Nottingham Forest were in the Premier League – that’s a heck of a long time and no matter how red tinted the spectacles of the most ardent fan, their club is now the epitome of a Championship one.
Last season was a headache-inducing traumatic one. Bona-fide legend Stuart Pearce was back, resulting in an inordinate number of grown men complaining about the high pollen count or dust in their eyes on the opening day of the season. The dream was on as Michail Antonio bulldozed his way through defences like a bowling ball through skittles and Britt Assombalonga looked every inch a £5 million pound signing. And then…nothing. By the turn of the year, Pearce was looking every inch a desperate man as his team lumbered between one defeat and another. With trigger-happy Fawaz al-Hasawi at the helm, the inevitable happened and Dougie Freedman took over in February.
A bright start to Freedman’s tenure led briefly to talk of gatecrashing the play-offs but again, paralysis kicked in and the team reverted to the seeming default setting of struggling to chalk up a victory as they limped home in 14th. With a transfer embargo to contend with, Freedman has a tough job ahead to raise spirits amongst the Forest faithful.
Despite a transfer embargo (which isn’t actually a full embargo but certainly restricts trade somewhat), the club has managed to do some business:
Jamie Ward – well known to Forest fans after a heart wrenching goal for Derby County against ten men Forest while club captain and all round hero Chris Cohen lay in a heap on the ground. Nonetheless, his attacking threat from the wings will be a useful addition to a squad shorn of Jamie Mackie.
Matt Mills – the vastly experienced central defender was plucked from Bolton to be reunited with his old boss, Freedman.
Daniel Pinillos – left back signed from Spanish outfit Cordoba who slipped out of La Liga.
Ben Hamer – the highly rated stopper has signed on a season long loan from Leicester City.
Sadly for Forest fans, the key ones are all still out injured: Chris Cohen, Andy Reid and Britt Assombalonga. But enough crying over split milk:
Michail Antonio – if he’s still at the club come September, his Panzer Tank-esque approach to dribbling will probably remain the team’s most potent threat.
Henri Lansbury – again, if he’s still at the club come September, it’s time for him to start bossing the middle of the park on a more sustained basis like everyone knows he can.
Jack Hobbs – capable of being the rock around which a team can gain promotion to the upper tier but needs to remain injury free and consistent.
It’s a tough call between Hamer and Dorus de Vries for the post between the sticks. Freedman may well persist with Michael Mancienne in midfield, despite his qualities as a central defender. Ben Osborn deserves a place in midfield but will have to fight off competition from David Vaughan to attain it. Dexter Blackstock and (once fit) Matty Fryatt will slug it out for the right to keep Assombalonga’s place warm up top until February, unless young Tyler Walker can secure his place in the team.
Most are finding it difficult to muster up any strong emotions towards the ex-player. He started well but then made some odd selection decisions in seemingly ignoring the promising batch of young players at his disposal. Any feelings about him seem largely redundant since few expect him to be around after Christmas anyway.
First Six Fixtures:
Rotherham United H
The odd win here, the odd defeat there and a series of uninspiring draws look the likeliest outcome from this opening sequence. A fiver on ex-Forest players Matt Derbyshire, Danny Collins and Greg Halford to inspire Rotherham to a rare victory at the City Ground would be a smart move.
Despite the embargo – likely to last until at least this time next year – and the general feeling of doom and gloom regarding the general running of the club, there is enough quality in the squad to mount a challenge or at least be a thorn in the side of those making the serious running. A serious challenge is possible, but improbable.
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