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.
Looking for new season match day attire? Official shirts from £18 at @CampoRetro. Ends Tuesday http://bit.ly/1CSHHj7
Staying at Hearts is best option for Leeds United linked Harry Cochrane
The 16-year-old has had a brilliant breakthrough campaign at Hearts this season.
Leeds United were seemingly in the hunt for Hearts midfielder Harry Cochrane this summer.
The 16-year-old was apparently a target for Leeds as well as Premier League side Brighton and Hove Albion, according to the Scottish Sun.
But the news this week suggests Cochrane is going nowhere.
According to the Scottish Sun, the teenager is set to sign a contract extension at Hearts, keeping him at the club until the summer of 2020.
Such a move would be the wise choice for the immensely talented midfielder.
Leeds United have a history of bringing through young players so, on the one hand, Cochrane could not pick a better team to join.
That said, at just 16 years of age, playing in the Championship looks a very unlikely scenario.
Considering the current influx of players into the under-23s under Victor Orta’s reign, Cochrane would have a battle on his hands to play regularly at that level.
Whilst Leeds have struggled in centre-midfield this season, summer improvements are likely. If Leeds bring in experienced options in the heart of midfield then Cochrane is again likely to miss out on playing regular first-team football.
Staying at Hearts is a far more sensible option. The teenager has played 16 times in the league for the Edinburgh side this season and that highlights how highly rated he is at Tynecastle.
Moving to Leeds would see him move into a youth team. Staying at Hearts will see the Scot playing regularly at a first-team level.
As tempting as a move to England – with a club the size of Leeds – must be, remaining at Hearts and playing on a regular basis is easily the best career choice for this precocious talent.
Is Oscar Borg’s Aston Villa career at an end?
The young left-back is out of contract at Aston Villa this summer.
Back in March 2016, Aston Villa snapped up promising left-back Oscar Borg from West Ham United.
According to the Daily Mail, the defender had trials with Manchester United and was highly thought of at West Ham, but he made the move to Villa and was soon making an impact in the reserves.
Recently Aston Villa found themselves short of left-back options.
Neil Taylor was out of action and Alan Hutton was also missing. With Axel Tuanzebe struggling, Villa found themselves short in the position.
But instead of calling on Borg, Steve Bruce called up James Bree, playing out of position at left-back.
It seems Borg may not have been available for Bruce, even if the 20-year-old was set for a first league call-up.
He has not featured for Villa’s under-23s since the 6-1 win v Wolves last month, with Mitchell Clark featuring at left-back instead.
Borg is undoubtedly a top talent at Aston Villa but injuries have been a major problem for him since arriving at Bodymoor Heath.
He spent most of last season on the sidelines and this year needed to be a breakout campaign for the talented full-back.
Borg has played 13 times for Villa’s under-23s this term, as they hunt for success in the Premier League 2, where they are currently second in their section behind Blackburn Rovers.
But, despite being Villa’s only other natural left-footed left-back, bar Taylor, the 20-year-old has made little impact in the first-team.
Borg only signed a two-and-half-year deal when arriving at Villa in 2016 and that contract expires in the summer.
Considering his lack of impact and history of injury problems it will not be a surprise if Borg does not remain a Villain beyond the end of the season.
If he does move on, hopefully, he can remain fit and push toward a professional career elsewhere.
Leeds United fans will be wondering what has happened to Pontus Jansson’s magic hat?
The Swedish defender has been out of form for most of the 2017-18 campaign.
Leeds United’s poor run of form has seen them drop firmly out of play-off contention in the Championship. Since Boxing Day, Leeds are bottom of the form table and look set to finish in mid-table.
Much of the blame has been laid at the door of the club’s defenders. Rightly so, Leeds have been incredibly leaky at the back and conceded heaps of soft goals. One player who must receive a large scoop of the criticism is Swedish defender Pontus Jansson.
Last season he was a colossus at the back for Leeds. Playing alongside the more reserved Kyle Bartley, Jansson’s gung-ho displays were rightly applauded. Soon enough he became a Leeds United hero. The fans loved him and Jansson was back in the Sweden squad being linked with Premier League teams.
This season has been vastly different. Jansson has had periods of good form but overall his campaign has been mixed. His judgement has been poor this season and he often finds himself out of position. It has been suggested that Jansson needs to be playing in a settled defence to play his best.
Last season he was alongside the composed and confident Kyle Bartley with the experienced Robert Green behind him. This season he has played opposite Liam Cooper and Matthew Pennington with the erratic Felix Wiedwald in goal.
Jansson himself has commented on his bad form this season but it appeared to take an upturn in December. However, the last few weeks he has been poor. Once again that was the case against Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend and Leeds fans are surely wondering where on earth the Swedish star has laid his magic hat recently.
If Jansson cannot pick up his form for Leeds soon, his place in Sweden’s World Cup squad in the summer must be up for debate. If he carries on the way he has been at Leeds, his place in the Elland Road starting XI could even be up for grabs.
Are Chelsea finally going to see the best of Alvaro Morata?
Sessegnon or Bale? Past or future? Spurs must make right move this summer
Sevilla triumph will have Everton fans regretting Steven N’Zonzi failure
Amadou Haidara released by Leeds United, bringing an end to bizarre transfer chapter
Ryan Sessegnon should look at Tottenham pair and make switch
Tottenham Hotspur3 weeks ago
Tottenham Hotspur must push Toby Alderweireld toward Barcelona
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Jurgen Klopp’s brave January decision is playing off thanks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Brentford4 weeks ago
Romaine Sawyers – Blossoming in the Championship with play-off contenders Brentford
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Mohamed Salah: Is Liverpool’s Egyptian star the best player in the world right now?
English Premier League2 weeks ago
Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle United: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain growing into role under Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold finds himself at the centre of Jurgen Klopp’s plans
Chelsea1 day ago
Are Chelsea finally going to see the best of Alvaro Morata?
Barcelona4 weeks ago
Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona: Three talking points from Stamford Bridge