David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Steve Cotterill’

It’s not quite squeaky bum time

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Steve_CotterillBristol City Football Club are 17th in League One. That doesn’t sound right does it? Sadly for all Robins fans out there, that’s the predicament your club finds itself in (And this is a high point in the season!)

As news broke this week of ‘Paulo’s Circus’ coming to Ashton Gate, fans may be excused thinking that they had already arrived, and been here for some time. Performances on the pitch have sometimes replicated that of a circus act, with goals being leaked left right and yes, centre.

However, now is not a time for joking, now is a time to pull together and maintain League One football. I painstakingly said the same thing this time last season, only Championship football was on the line back then. I was convinced then that if we were to drop into League One, we would certainly make a fist of bouncing straight back up. In fact, I ran a poll on Twitter and the optimism amongst fans backed my views, little did we know it would be ‘another’ long hard season of fighting relegation.

After witnessing a tremendous effort in securing three unexpected, yet hugely needed points at Leyton Orient last week, belief was rife that back to back wins would be secured by beating Tranmere Rovers at home. Despite the efforts of the players, a tired, lacklustre performance meant fans left the stadium rather content with just a point, whilst bemoaning the opportunity to take all three against a rather poor League One outfit.

One thing that did fill me with hope as I left the stadium was the reaction of the fans. A mooted applause replaced the boos, whilst Twitter and radio phone ins were understanding of the work load the players had been through.

Between January 14th and February 15th, the club had amassed nine games, playing Saturday-Tuesday in every week bar one of those weeks. This run of fixtures, coupled with the travelling looked to have caught up with the squad in the jaded performance against Tranmere.

As I look cautiously ahead, games look winnable, but every game in League One looks winnable to me. On paper, this Bristol City side is littered with individuals capable of plying their trade higher up the divisions. Yet at Bristol City, it never seems to click. With three of the next four games away from home, one thing is certain, City are going to be fighting relegation right to the wire again.

Will they survive this time? I dread to think what happens if they don’t.

Written by Lee Molland, We Are Going Up’s Bristol City blogger

Lee tweets at @molls28

Manage Portsmouth: Get A Promotion

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Of all the things you are told to put on your CV in order to get a job, from being an all-powerful prefect at school to joining the ever-crucial debating society at Uni, there is one thing you need on there in the football world to guarantee you an improved career path – Manager of Portsmouth Football Club.

Amid the turbulence that has seen Pompey tumble from the heights of lifting the FA Cup in 2008,through financial crisis to end up in the lower reaches of League One, one thing has been a constant, any manager who has failed to stop the rot has been rewarded with a very attractive job elsewhere.  Unfortunately for this trio of south coast failures, their lack of success followed them to the next port of call, but what was it about their time at Portsmouth that attracted chairmen around the country?

The story starts with Paul Hart in 2009 who, in fairness, kept Pompey in the Premier League when he took over as caretaker at the back end of the 08-09 season. Unfortunately he followed being offered a permanent contract with the worst start any team has ever made to any Premier League season, losing seven straight games.  Understandably he didn’t last long but his reputation was fully intact and despite this record breaking failure he was almost immediately ushered in at the newly mega-rich and highly ambitious Queens Park Rangers.  It didn’t go well, lasting less than a month. He then suffered similarly short spells at Crystal Palace and Swindon.

Hart’s successor at Fratton Park was the difficult to warm-to Avram Grant, who had the first ever points deduction in Premier League history to deal with, but given they finished eleven points adrift at the bottom of the table, even without the deduction it would have finished been last place for Pompey.  It was clearly an incredibly difficult situation for the Israeli, but ultimately he failed nonetheless and the club went down.  Grant though seemed to be held in higher regard at that point than he was when he took Chelsea to a Champions League final and second in the Premier League, and he was immediately offered the West Ham job in the top flight.  Like Hart, this next move was a disaster as he took the Hammers down in his only season at Upton Park.

Steve Cotterill was the man to take the reins at Portsmouth after Grant, again in tricky circumstances but with a decent Championship level team to work with.  The former Notts County manager had a half-decent season, stabilising the club to a degree and finishing a non-descript 16th.  Not going down was an achievement of sorts due to the madness that was going on around the club, but as mentioned there were some good players there, 16th was nothing special and Portsmouth fans were far from enamoured with the style of football he introduced.  It was enough for Nottingham Forest to come calling though after the resignation of Steve McClaren and duly Cotterill returned to Nottingham to take charge at the City Ground.  Again though his move away from Fratton Park was not fruitful, he lasted less than a year at Forest after finishing 19th.

Now we find Michael Appleton in charge at Pompey in League One after they were relegated from the Championship last season.  He has arguably had the most difficult job of all, having to deal with a ten point deduction, which if had not been in place would have seen Portsmouth survive, and then losing nearly his entire squad before the start of this season.  The side are now in the bottom half of League One, and although you would be a fool not to recognise just how difficult the job Appleton is doing is, a relegation and encampment in the bottom half of the league below is not really working miracles.  However, he is now being linked with a return to the Championship and is one of the favourites for the job at Burnley.

So what makes these men who have effectively done little to halt the demise of Portsmouth such attractive propositions for management posts?  Well it seems that it has been their attitude and demeanour during what has been a torrid time for the club that has kept their profiles up.  They have all been dignified, not moaned and complained about what is a shocking situation for a manager to find themselves in and just got on with it.  It seems that getting on with it is what appeals to chairmen and they don’t seem too fussed that it was done with no great success.

The comparison could be drawn with a man mentioned earlier, Steve McClaren who arrived at Nottingham Forest, spent a decent amount of money for Championship level, lost a few games and was off again in no time at all.  Although he got his old job back in Holland, there will have been few chairmen in England who would have been keen to offer McClaren a contract after he displayed that kind of spineless attitude.  It seems that like the tenacious full-back that has no real talent but works his socks off for the team and will always be a fans favourite for it can still be a role applicable to managers.

Appleton may be the one to buck the trend – he has a lot about him, is young and is building a good reputation in the game.  Let’s just hope he doesn’t become the latest in the line of much heralded but ultimately unsuccessful men to manage Portsmouth.

Written by Phil Haigh, We Are Going Up’s Barnsley blogger

Phil tweets at @philhaigh_

The Ku-waiting is finally over

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

First of all, sorry for the pun! Following weeks of speculation and endless rumours, Nottingham Forest are under new ownership. The Al-Hasawi family from Kuwait completed their purchase of the club from the estate of Nigel Doughty last night, bringing to an end all the conjecture and ushering in a new era for the Reds.

In a statement issued on Forest’s official website the new owners stated: “It is an honour and privilege for the Al-Hasawi family to assume control of this great club steeped in history and with the outstanding legacy left by its previous owner Nigel Doughty.”

News first broke just before 7pm when Fawaz Al-Hasawi posted on his Twitter account the takeover had been finalised. Less than an hour later, local journalists also confirmed the purchase as Forest fans everywhere were taking in the news they had all been waiting for.

It is unclear exactly how much the Al Hasawi’s are worth – or how much money they intend to invest into Nottingham Forest – but they are said to be one of the richest families in Kuwait and have a successful track record in football there. Fawaz Al-Hasawi is known to be a huge football fan and was president of one of the Middle East’s most successful clubs, Qadsia FC.

He resigned from his position in May, just as rumours began that Middle-Eastern businessmen were interested in purchasing Forest. Following confirmed interest by Fawaz and the rest of his family, at the end of June the Al-Hasawi’s were granted an exclusive period of negotiation to buy the club and due diligence was carried out. Two weeks down the line, the deal has been done and the future suddenly looks a lot brighter.

Pre-season preparations have been firmly on hold whilst everyone associated with Forest waited for news of the takeover. Several out-of-contract players left the club, including Garath McCleary, Joel Lynch and captain Luke Chambers, leaving the squad woefully short in some departments as they reported back for training on Monday. As it stands, the club only have two senior defenders on the books and both of them – Chris Gunter and Brendan Moloney – are right-backs. Young centre-half Jamaal Lascelles has been subject to a bid from Tottenham and could also leave, meaning a squad top-heavy with strikers and midfielders may become even smaller.

The sudden death of Nigel Doughty in January has seen Forest reign in their spending, struggling to find the funds to extend expiring contracts or make offers for new players. Manager Steve Cotterill has been unable to add to his squad, but it now seems as if the money will be there to do so.

However, with new owners come new ideas. In the past few weeks, there were rumours the Al-Hasawi’s were looking to recruit a new manager, with Neil Warnock supposedly on their list. Peterborough United manager Darren Ferguson was supposedly approached by controversial ex-QPR chairman Gianni Paladini on behalf of the family, but such reports were soon denied. Former Wolves manager Mick McCarthy has also been linked, along with Reds legend Stuart Pearce.

There are many Reds supporters who would be glad to see the back of Steve Cotterill, with some making their feelings known recently on social media and fan forums. Having kept Forest in the Championship last season it would perhaps be harsh if the former Portsmouth boss was shown the door, but he is known as a manager who is more used to steering clubs through difficult periods rather than building sides aiming for promotion. New-found wealth will undoubtedly raise expectations at the club and it remains to be seen whether Cotterill is the man to live up to those.

Aside from player recruitment or potential new managers, the most important thing is that the future of Nottingham Forest looks to be secured. The club is now in the hands of wealthy businesspeople who are passionate about football, which is promising. In their statement the Al-Hasawi’s go on to say: “We look forward towards a successful future. You can be assured of our best efforts in bringing the Reds back to the top of the table.”

Encouraging words indeed.

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and Nottingham Forest blogger

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis

Re-signing on the dotted line?

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

For many people the end of the football season provides a welcome break from the rigours of the game. However for managers, chairmen and directors at clubs up and down the country, preparations for next season are already underway.

At Nottingham Forest, manager Steve Cotterill will also be hoping to put his plans into place for the 2012-13 season, having secured the Reds’ Championship status. But this may prove more difficult than expected, as the club is currently up for sale and without an owner, so it is more difficult to buy new players or offer contracts to existing ones.

Since the death of Nigel Doughty in January, there have been shadows cast over future of the club. After resigning as Chairman he generously pledged to cover contracts signed under his chairmanship until 2014, and the club have confirmed they will be funded by his estate until the end of next season at least.

Without Doughty’s money available upon demand, Forest have had to spend within their means. Their January loan signings were funded by the £2.5 million received from the sales of Wes Morgan and Patrick Bamford so with money tight, preparations for next season may have to be put on hold.

The contracts of seven first team players are expiring at the end of June. Garath McCleary and Joel Lynch have already been offered new deals, but it looks like Luke Chambers, Paul Anderson, Paul Smith, George Boateng and Marlon Harewood have not been offered extensions, simply because the funds are not there to do so.

Four loan players are also returning to their parent clubs and there is no guarantee that Adlene Guedioura, Greg Cunningham, George Elokobi or Scott Wooton will be back at Forest next season.

Seven contracts have been allowed to run down together, meaning all the players concerned may walk out of the door for free and leave a big dent in the Forest squad. Next summer could be even worse as thirteen deals expire, including the ones for key players such as Chris Cohen, Lee Camp, Chris Gunter and Dexter Blackstock.

This week Blackstock expressed his concern over the club’s transfer policy, questioning how so many contracts are coming to an end at the same time, when they could have been renewed a year ago or before.

In many ways he is correct. This isn’t the first time Forest have allowed players to enter the final weeks of their contract and risked losing personnel for nothing. Last summer Robert Earnshaw, Nathan Tyson, Paul McKenna, Dele Adebola and Julian Bennett all left on free transfers and Forest had to spend more money to find replacements. In hindsight, some of the funds given to Steve McClaren could’ve been used to extend contracts.

Prior to those departures centre back Kelvin Wilson also left, joining Celtic on a free transfer. As his contract entered its final six months in January 2011, he signed a pre-contract agreement with the Scottish side and we ended up with a situation where one of the club’s best defenders was left out of the first team until his departure. It may well have been Billy Davies’ decision to bench Wilson, but his contract should have been renewed sooner to avoid such a situation. If he was under contract at least Forest could have commanded a fee for his services should he have still wished to move on.

In the summer of 2008 Kris Commons joined Derby County on a free transfer. The move caused controversy as he was one of the club’s best players, signing for our great rivals without Forest receiving a penny. Forest had left it late before offering him a new contract, but he rejected it to move down the other end of the A52. Two years later he moved to Celtic for £300,000, making Derby a tidy profit.

Earnshaw, Tyson, McKenna and Wilson cost Forest over £4.5 million in total transfer fees and in all were allowed to leave for nothing. Had the club sold them there’s no guarantee they could have recouped all of that money back, but they would have received decent amounts sums if those players were under contract.  It does not make good business sense to allow players to exit the club for free on a regular basis.

Prior to the sales of Patrick Bamford and Wes Morgan, the only profit Forest made on a player in recent years was the £1.5 million Newcastle paid for James Perch in 2010. Revenue from transfer sales could prove crucial if the club wishes to be financially self-sufficient and this is an area where Forest must improve.

Some will point the finger at Chief Executive Mark Arthur or even Nigel Doughty for the reasons why Forest’s contract policies have not been up to scratch over the last five years. As Financial Fair Play begins to come into force during the next few seasons, Forest will have to take a look at their transfer policy and learn from mistakes made in the past. Either players are sold for good fees or they are tied down to longer deals that will prevent them from walking away for nothing.

For the long-term benefit of the club, the powers that be must sort out a coherent transfer strategy which provides value for money. Most recently teams such as Reading and Swansea have shown that you don’t need to spend big to be successful in the Championship. Through having a good scouting network, a willingness to give academy prospects a chance to shine and a bit of patience, teams can go far.

Joel Lynch, who cost £250,000 when bought from Brighton and Garath McCleary, signed for a £25,000 sum from non-league Bromley in 2008 are two examples where Forest have unearthed good players from the lower leagues, turning them into consistent Championship performers.

This could be a pivotal summer for Nottingham Forest. The prospect of new ownership is exciting and would give the club some much-needed stability behind the scenes. It may also offer an opportunity for Forest to set out a proper plan of how they want to operate as a club in the future. If this is done well, they could be reaping the rewards for many years to come.

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and Nottingham Forest blogger

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis

Safe at last

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

For Nottingham Forest, this season has largely been one to forget. Having reached the Championship play-offs in 2010 and 2011, the Reds kicked off in August with hopes of promotion, instead they battled to avoid the drop into League One. Thankfully safety was secured last week by virtue of Coventry City losing at home to Millwall, while Steve Cotterill’s Forest watched Reading celebrate promotion back to the big time as they lost 1-0 to the Royals.

At the beginning of the campaign it was hoped such jubilant scenes would be witnessed at the City Ground, instead the relief was palpable as Forest earned themselves Championship football for next season, which is some form of success given the events of the last eight months. There were times when it seemed the club were doomed to the drop, but much improved form since February hauled them out of the bottom three to secure safety with two games remaining.

With the high-profile managerial appointment of Steve McClaren being replaced by Cotterill in October after a sluggish start, Chairman and club owner Nigel Doughty stepping down from his chairmanship before tragically passing away in January and the financial uncertainty which has arisen, many are glad to see this tumultuous campaign nearing its end.

Steve Cotterill may still not have won over the Forest faithful, but he deserves credit for the turnaround in the last couple of months. Working with a squad which was top-heavy with strikers but woefully short on defensive cover, Cotterill addressed the problem with the astute loan signings of George Elokobi, Danny Higginbotham, Scott Wooton, whilst bringing in midfielder Adlene Guedioura, who has been nothing short of a revelation since joining from Wolverhampton Wanderers until the end of the season.

Nigel Doughty put funding in place before his death, promising to fulfill contracts signed during his time as chairman and that will continue until 2013, but his resignation in October left Cotterill – and new Chairman Frank Clark – working on a tight budget without the luxury of spending money to reshape the team.

The January sales of Wes Morgan to Leicester City and young striker Patrick Bamford to Chelsea brought in £2.5 million, which funded the loan signings to provide a more balanced squad, which ultimately led to improved form and Forest’s climb out of the relegation zone. Cotterill then brought in Sean O’Driscoll as First Team Coach and the former Doncaster Rovers manager has also played a part in the revival. The quality of football had decreased after Cotterill joined Forest and the results were not forthcoming either. Since O’Driscoll’s arrival the Reds have improved on that front, playing some attractive, passing football once more and picking up points in the process.

That magnificent 7-3 victory over Leeds United at Elland Road was the undoubted highlight of a forgettable campaign and it is the Reds’ away form that has propelled them to safety. With the worst home record in the division, Forest collected impressive wins at Blackpool, Birmingham and Crystal Palace amongst others – which is quite a contrast to previous seasons when their home form was excellent but their away form patchy.

The fact Forest will be in the Championship next season is significant, as the club can now expect greater revenue and can begin to plan for a new campaign knowing which division they will be in. With the club up for sale, they are a more attractive proposition than if they were a League One outfit, so this will hopefully attract more potential investors.

As we head into the summer, the club’s ownership is the most pressing issue. Rumours are already circulating of investors from Kuwait battling a consortium from the United States to buy the club. Whether it is one of those two or another party who takeover the club, the financial stability it will provide is vital for Forest’s future. As it stands the club have to spend within their means and work to a tight budget, which makes the signing of new players and the offering of contracts difficult.

As many as six players could walk out of the City Ground when their deals expire in the summer including captain Luke Chambers and Paul Anderson, with a further eight seeing their contracts ending in 12 months time and Steve Cotterill has already expressed his concern with the club’s policy over retaining players.

Garath McCleary and Joel Lynch, two of Forest’s stand-out performers this season, have been offered new contracts but the club’s financial plight means it may not be easy to offer new deals to other out-of-contract players. Until the ownership issue is settled, there isn’t much Cotterill or anyone else can do.

Recent defeats to Reading and Hull City only served to highlight some of the shortcomings which have blighted Forest’s season. Despite performing well and carving out good opportunites at the Madejski and KC Stadiums, the Reds lost 1-0 at Reading and were beaten 2-1 by Hull, with Radoslaw Majewski’s strike a mere consolation. A lack of cutting edge has cost Forest crucial points across the season so a new striker will be top of the list of transfer targets.

Garath McCleary’s explosive form under Steve Cotterill, including a four goal haul at Leeds, has seen him go from squad player to first-choice winger in a matter of months. The former Bromley man, signed for £25,000 in 2008, could also end up being the club’s top scorer, he currently sits top of the list with nine for the season. Despite having the likes of Ishmael Miller, Matt Derbyshire, David McGoldrick and Marcus Tudgay on the books, Forest’s striking options have not delivered the goods this season. Dexter Blackstock has arguably been the best performer of the lot since returning from injury in January, netting six times.

The players brought in on loan have largely performed well and many supporters would like to see their stays made permanent, none more so than Adlene Guedioura. The Algerian midfielder arrived at the City Ground in January from Wolves and quickly caught the eye with some dominant displays in the middle of the park. He has provided both defensive steel and attacking threat and he could easily be the best midfielder in the Championship next season. Hopefully he will be proving that in the Red of Forest rather than the Gold of his parent club.

Fellow Wolves loanee George Elokobi and Manchester City defender Greg Cunningham have ably filled the left-back spot and either of them would be welcomed back should they return. Danny Higginbotham would be a good signing, his experience and leadership skills were crucial in defence during a period when Forest were battling for their Championship lives. Scott Wooton has also done well, the 19-year-old centre-back is highly rated and if Manchester United were willing to let him go, either on loan again or permanently then Forest could do a lot worse than bringing him back.

Steve Cotterill could potentially have a strong squad on his hands should his loan signings become permanent, but again that would all rest on the finances being in place to make that happen. It only makes it all the more important that Forest can secure new investment through owners who want to take the club forward.

It is going to be a nervy wait until those new investors are in place, as everyone associated with the club hope the ownership issue can be resolved sooner rather than later. The football club and all parties involved will rightly remain silent until a deal is struck. For now though we can all breathe a big sigh of relief that Nottingham Forest will be a Championship side next season and happily draw a line under the current campaign.

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and Nottingham Forest blogger

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis

Seventh Heaven

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

In November, a 4-0 home defeat to the hands of Leeds United was one of the lowest points in Nottingham Forest’s season. On Tuesday night came one of the highs as the Reds gained glorious revenge, running riot at Elland Road to secure a memorable 7-3 victory.

The result was remarkable given Forest’s struggles in front of goal this season, despite improved results in recent weeks. The fact that Leeds won 4-1 the last time they hosted Forest and are now managed by Neil Warnock – a man Forest fans have loved to hate down the years – makes the victory all the more sweet.

It is the first time Leeds have conceded seven at home, the first time Forest have scored seven on the road since a 7-1 demolition of Sheffield Wednesday in 1995 and is a victory which moves Forest seven points clear of the relegation zone. For those who like stats,  the 3-7 scoreline cropped up in Forest’s 37th league game of the season and it came the day before what would have been Brian Clough’s 77th birthday. An omen perhaps?

From a Forest perspective, the performance could not be more different to their last outing a week before when they were beaten 1-0 by bitter rivals Derby County. That match at Pride Park was a completely dour affair, with both sides doing their best to avoid playing football.

A major gripe of that Derby defeat was Forest’s reluctance to keep the ball on the floor, instead resorting to belting it upfield whenever possible, which only kept inviting their hosts to pile on the pressure. Had the Reds tried to play some passing football they may well have found some success. They did it at Elland Road and reaped the rewards.

Radoslaw Majewski had become somewhat of a forgotten name at the City Ground since Steve Cotterill took charge, but the Polish midfielder was a surprise inclusion in the starting lineup on Tuesday night, coming in to replace suspended striker Marcus Tudgay. Many fans have been clamouring for the skillful Majewski to be given another chance by Cotterill, to bring his passing ability and creative influence to the team. He wasn’t necessarily the most influential man on the field at Elland Road, but he gave the Leeds defenders something different to worry about in his attacking midfield role whilst helping Forest to play a passing game.

Majewski’s inclusion was the only change to the starting eleven which faced Derby, with the 25-year-old playing in an advanced berth behind lone striker Dexter Blackstock to make up a five man midfield. The system gave the Reds defensive steel whilst allowing the attack-minded players to cause Warnock’s side problems.

Having fallen behind after five minutes despite a good start, many Forest fans were fearing the worst but Adlene Guedioura soon changed the mood, as the on-loan Wolves man hit a thunderbolt from 35 yards to equalise just two minutes later, a goal well worth looking up. Forest continued to play with a confidence not seen at Pride Park, as they were keeping the ball on the deck and having the better of the game. It cast aside any thoughts that Cotterill’s side would repeat the ugly performance seen a week previously, trying to matching the often direct nature favoured by Neil Warnock’s teams.

Deservedly 2-1 up at the break thanks to Garath McCleary, Forest extended their lead early in the second half when Dexter Blackstock nodded Andy Reid’s left wing cross into the net, then followed an incredible sixteen minutes of football which produced five goals. Leeds hit back through Luciano Becchio and equalised two minutes later thanks to Michael Brown’s excellent strike. “Here we go again” was a phrase running through the minds of Forest fans everywhere, as another good away performance would no doubt end up turning into a nightmare.

However this was different. Two minutes after Brown’s leveller, McCleary was played into space down the right and unleashed a tremendous volley over Andy Lonergan to make it 4-3 to the Reds. The wonderful technique from the Forest winger makes it another must-see goal, Van Basten-esque! Over the next fifteen minutes McCleary scored two more to take his tally for the evening to four and send over 1,000 travelling Forest fans, plus the thousands more listening to the radio at home in Nottingham, into delirium.

By the time Dexter Blackstock made the score 7-3 with ten minutes remaining, Leeds supporters were streaming towards the exits while Reds fans were wondering if it was all some wonderful dream. The unexpected result is not only a scoreline which will make the rest of the Championship stand up and take notice, it also shows that Forest have got the quality in their ranks to avoid the drop into League One.

Several of the team impressed on the night, but the man grabbing the headlines following the win is Garath McCleary after he got on the scoresheet four times. He has been given an extended spell in the side by Cotterill and is now finally showing his ability on a consistent basis after previously struggling to make an impact at the City Ground.

McCleary has been a Reds player for four years, having been signed by Colin Calderwood in 2008. The former Oxford trainee impressed scouts whilst playing for non-league Bromley and after a trial with Forest, the club paid £25,000 for his services. He made his debut against Carlisle United in League One in March 2008 and netted his first Reds goal in a vital 2-0 win against the same opponents a month later, as Forest eventually won promotion back to the Championship later that campaign.

Prior to this season, McCleary was mainly used as a squad player, with many of his Forest appearances coming off the bench. When he was given a chance in the team, either starting or as a substitute, he showed promise but was often lacking that crucial final product. With pace, skill and trickery in his locker he always looked a decent prospect, but it seemed as if he would never quite make the grade at Championship level.

However Cotterill is the first Forest manager to give McCleary a lengthy run of first-team games and his faith in the 24-year-old is paying off. McCleary has quickly developed into a major attacking threat, creating goals for the team and finding the back of the net himself. Before his four-goal heroics at Elland Road, he had scored nine goals in 117 games – five of them this season. That £25,000 investment looks like a bargain now, but McCleary’s contract is expiring in the summer so the club has to offer him a new deal, and quick.

Favourable results both on Saturday and Tuesday now see Forest seven points clear of the bottom three, with a game in hand on most of their rivals. In-form Brighton and Hove Albion visit the City Ground on Saturday and the Reds will no doubt be buoyed by the magnificent seven against a Leeds side who still harbour hopes of a play-off spot.

Steve Cotterill deserves much credit for the Leeds success. There are many fans, myself included, who’ve felt the former Portsmouth manager has failed to deliver since taking the Forest job in October, but he got his tactics and team selection right on Tuesday. Having witnessed the poor display at Derby, he encouraged the team to play in a style which suited them and will hopefully stick with a winning formula from now on. If he does keep Forest in the Championship then he will have utlimately done his job for the season.

Tuesday’s result should rightly be enjoyed by the team, fans and everyone associated with Forest, but more importantly it should act as the springboard for the team to go into a tough run of fixtures with renewed optimism. After the Brighton match, successive away trips to Leicester City and Crystal Palace follow, plus a televised home fixture against fellow relegation candidates Bristol City a week later.

The manner of victory at Elland Road also highlights the inconsistencies which have continually blighted Forest’s survival hopes all season, especially in recent months. Good displays against Birmingham City, Coventry City and Millwall have been undone by equally poor ones in the matches with Doncaster Rovers and Derby County, to name but two. Ideally the Leeds success will give players the belief to produce consistent displays, which will lead to them taking the points needed for survival from their remaining games.

But for now let’s celebrate one of the best performances seen from a Nottingham Forest side in the last fifteen years. It has been a tough season for the club with very little to shout about and Tuesday was a truly memorable night. Hopefully, there are more reasons to be cheerful to come between now and the end of the campaign.

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and Nottingham Forest blogger

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis

Mad Dog’s swift demise

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Life. You could be getting on with things as normal. Business as usual. Steady. Ticking on. Same old, same old. Then, all of a sudden, something happens so quickly that, once it’s taken place, you think “what just happened?” Like the time I was temping for a company many moons ago, and I made a small mistake on the job. The manager spotted it, called me to her office, and told me she was letting me go. There and then. At 3pm on a Wednesday. No notice. One minute I was in, then a blur, then I was out.

I remember sitting in my car for a while afterwards, not so much disappointed at the situation, but bewildered and shocked by just how quickly it happened. This is the feeling Notts County fans are experiencing now. Martin Allen was managing the club quite admirably. Though it had been a while since talk of automatic promotion, the team sits 11th in the table and, although they suffered a poor 3-0 defeat away at Jeff Stelling’s Hartlepool, previous results had been decent and, all in all, things were steady.

Then, on February the 18th, a notice on the Pies’ website: “Notts County wish to announce that Martin Allen has been relieved of his duties with immediate effect.” What?

Just like that, he was gone. A manager everyone thought was getting on ok and had turned County into a steady, top half League 1 club, no longer there. And while the dismissal of a manager usually leads to several days, if not weeks, of finding a suitable replacement, a new manager had been brought in within 48 hours. Not Steve Cotterill, who, despite his woes on the red side of the Trent, would have been a popular choice at Meadow Lane based on his previous County spell, but Keith Curle.

Yes, Keith Curle…What?

An eccentric, popular manager, who was liked and respected by his players and who actively strived to raise the team’s profile in the city, dismissed and replaced with one whose previous posts are limited to Mansfield Town, Chester and Torquay United – and let’s be honest, they weren’t exactly flying high with him in charge. Mad Dog was there on Friday, gone by Saturday and replaced by Curle on Monday. It’s like some twisted surreal footballing version of a popular Craig David song. It does not make sense.

But despite the madness, rational thinking is needed. One thing to take into account is that Neil Warnock has just been appointed manager of Leeds United, and could have attempted to recruit Curle to his backroom team at Elland Road, as he did at Crystal Palace and Queen’s Park Rangers, so County owner Ray Trew may have wanted to move quick to secure Curle’s signature. The fact that Curle and Kevin Pilkington were at the Exeter game should have raised eyebrows. This, combined with the speed of Mad Dog’s dismissal and Curle’s swift appointment, are tell-tale signs that changes may have been in the pipeline for some time. By the looks of it, there were some serious backroom problems which we don’t know about – a Nottingham Post interview with skipper Neal Bishop hinted at “irreconcilable differences” between Allen and Trew.

So, as things are, where should the fans stand? My opinion is that, as a County fan who remembers nearly dropping out of the Football League altogether, not to mention the crazy financial doping period, complete with Trainspotting-style comedown which had Portsmouth, Leeds United and Gretna written all over it, Trew’s tenure has so far been a success, bringing much needed stability to the club, and thus, I will give him the benefit of the doubt and get behind the new manager. Like I said, there may have been good reasons for Allen’s dismissal. We don’t know. However, animosity at this stage is not beneficial.

Curle has not managed a club since 2007, but has been a coach at Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers (who, let’s not forget, were promoted the Premiership) under Warnock, so let’s hope this will reflect positively in his managerial tenure and that this Keith won’t end up a lemon. So, let’s see how things get on, onwards and upwards, and as always, COYP!

Written by Giuseppe Labellarte, We Are Going Up’s Notts County blogger

Giuseppe tweets at @JoeJonesHome

Time is running out….

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Nottingham Forest’s status as a Championship club looks more perilous by the week. The Reds are sitting second bottom of the table, six points from safety with sixteen games of the season remaining and have only beaten Ipswich Town in the league since the 19th of November, picking up four measly points in the process. Few Forest supporters can remember such a tumultuous season on Trentside, which took another twist on February 4th.

The club was rocked by the tragic news that owner Nigel Doughty died suddenly at his Lincolnshire home at the age of 54. Doughty became Forest chairman in 2001, stepping down in October of last year on the same day Steve McClaren resigned as manager. The millionaire businessman stepped in when it seemed as if Forest would be heading for administration, staving off that threat, before going on to invest the best part of £100 million pounds into the club during his chairmanship.

A life-long Forest fan, Doughty’s dream was to see the Reds return to the Premier League but unfortunately it did not happen, despite some near misses. He may have made mistakes as chairman with regards to managerial appointments or the timing of his investments in the playing staff, which saw him face criticism from some sections of the Forest support, but his passion for the club could never be questioned. He was the only person to invest significant sums of money into Forest to keep the club going and for that, the fans will be forever greatful. The tributes after his death from Reds supporters and the wider football world showed just how thankful people were for his generosity as Chairman and he will be greatly missed.

Upon resiging as Chairman, Doughty pledged to fund the contracts of players signed during his chairmanship, which could see a futher £15 million of his money pumped into Forest between now and 2014. His passing has cast some doubt as to the financial future of the club, but as for now things are unclear.

What is clear is that Forest are operating under tighter financial constraints and have been since the end of last year, which has meant little investment in new players during the January transfer window. Long-serving centre back Wes Morgan – who made over 400 appearances for the Reds since making his debut in 2003 – was sold to local rivals Leicester City for £1 million, which represents good business as the defender’s contract was due to expire in the summer.

Young striker Patrick Bamford, who caught the eye thanks to prolific goalscoring form in this season’s FA Youth Cup, joined Chelsea for £1.5 million after making just two appearances for Forest. It was disappointing to see the promising 18-year-old leave as he could have been a worthy addition to the first-team squad at the City Ground, however the club could not turn down the money. Perhaps that is an indictment of where Forest find themselves now, considering in the past they could keep hold of their best young players, giving them first-team experience before selling them on.

Manager Steve Cotterill addressed an imbalanced squad before the window closed, bringing in several loanees to fill the gaps. Experienced defender Danny Higginbotham joined from Stoke City, young centre-back Scott Wooton followed from Manchester United while left-back George Elokobi and midfielder Adlene Guedioura both arrived from Wolves until the end of the season. These signings have strengthened the team and brought a freshness to the squad, which could provide an extra impetus going into the closing stages of the campaign.

However results on the pitch have not improved, with Forest winning just one of their last thirteen league games. On Saturday they hosted Watford at the City Ground, a side who have also been under threat from relegation but had pulled away from the drop zone thanks to some good form. Despite that it was a big opportunity for the Reds to get all three points and close the gap on teams above them, which was not taken as the game ended 1-1. After some poor performances in recent games Forest put in a better display and for the first time in a while resembled a team – it was a relief to get at least a point to stop the rot.

Garath McCleary’s long-range strike put the Reds in front prior to Troy Deeney levelling matters before half-time, but in the second half Forest spurned great opportunities to retake the lead. Chris Gunter, the full-back playing in a more advanced right-wing role, hit the crossbar with one close-range effort and put another two over the bar, before Robbie Findley’s awful first touch denied him the chance to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper in the final minutes and potentially score a winning goal.

Forest were left frustrated but the three debutants – Higginbotham, Wooton and Elokobi – acquitted themselves well in the back four, while Adlene Guedioura put in a commanding performance in central midfield, winning tackles, shielding the defence and also creating opportunities on the attack.

On Tuesday night the Reds travelled to the North East to face promotion chasing Middlesbrough, where the home side were expected to win given their league position, but Forest were more optimistic after their showing in the Watford match. The game was a fairly dull affair in the first half, with ‘Boro enjoying more of the possession and Forest occasionally threatening on the break, but it was the home side who took the lead just before half-time through Marvin Emnes’ deflected effort. Soon after the break, Forest fell further behind when Lukas Jutkiewicz spun Luke Chambers on the edge of the area and fired past Lee Camp for 2-0, with Reds fans fearing a capitulation.

Forest fought back and halved the score when Joel Lynch headed home substitute Andy Reid’s free-kick, before Kevin Thomson was sent off for the hosts after a second bookable offence, to give Forest hope. Guedioura, putting in another encouraging performance, then hit the bar with a thumping 30 yard drive which bounced off the crossbar to safety. That was the closest Steve Cotterill’s side came to equalising as Middlesbrough held on for a 2-1 win, despite late Forest pressure, but a lack of creativity proved their downfall once more. In reality a 2-0 deficit was always going to be difficult to overcome as Forest left themselves with a lot to do.

Manager Steve Cotterill, when questioned by local radio after the final whistle, surprised many Reds fans when mustering the response “If we hadn’t conceded two goals, we would have won.” In stating the glaringly obvious he seemed at a loss in finding a way to explain the result and how to turn around his side’s fortunes. He has been heavily criticised in recent times and it is not difficult to see why.

Cotterill was hired in October with the remit of getting results. Encouraging wins against Middlesbrough, Blackpool and Reading early on in his tenure provided a good start, but since then things have gone downhill. He has won just 5 of his 22 games in charge and there have been little signs of improvement on the pitch. He did inherit a tough job, working with little money and the previous manager’s backroom staff, but there is still enough quality in this Forest squad to be comfortably in mid-table. The players have to take some stick for lacklustre performances, but the buck stops with the manager.

The quality of football on show since Cotterill arrived on Trentside has gradually got worse, to the point where Forest are playing a direct game, lumping the ball forward to big frontmen in a primitive style of football which is terrible to watch. Radio Teeside reported on Tuesday via their pitchside correspondent that Cotterill lambasted Luke Chambers for passing the ball along the floor rather than hoof it into the corners, which says it all really. A direct style is fine if it gets results, but that is not happening.

Creative players such as Radoslaw Majewski and Lewis McGugan have been frozen out of the team, while Andy Reid – who has created five of the Reds’ last nine goals – is brought on for the last twenty minutes of games in the hope he will make something happen. The manager’s tactics have come under scrutiny also, after changing a winning 4-2-3-1 formation at Ipswich earlier this year to an ineffective version of 4-4-2 ahead of the visit of Southampton, where Forest were soundly beaten.

Against Watford and Middlesbrough, Cotterill opted for 4-4-2 which included Chris Gunter on the right of midfield, central defender Scott Wooton at right-back with captain Chambers remaining at centre-back, despite his poor form for much of this season. Joel Lynch is more deserving of a starting berth, having been Forest’s most impressive defender thus far, so his omission was surprising. Gunter missed several goalscoring opportunities in the Watford match, but he cannot be criticised too harshly as he is a right-back being played out of position.

Prior to the visit of Watford Cotterill spoke of his happiness at being able to bring in some of his own players, so he could no longer put “square pegs in round holes” which in effect is what he has continued to do.

Forest fans are disillusioned and losing faith in the team and the club as a whole. They are calling for Steve Cotterill to leave but with chairman Frank Clark a previous vice-chairman of the League Managers’ Association, perhaps he is unwilling to pull the trigger just yet. It is never good to see a club chop and change managers, but the lack of progress and direction under Cotterill means something must be done.

Cotterill was handed a three-and-a-half year contract when arriving from Portsmouth, which seems a staggering decision now. It means that compensation could be costly should he be sacked, but many supporters on Twitter and Forest’s LTLF Forum have suggested there is someone already at the club who is ready to take Cotterill’s place – Sean O’Driscoll.

He was brought in as first team coach last month and has a reputation for getting his teams to play attractive, pass-and-move football, which would suit the current Forest squad as they played that way under Billy Davies and, to a certain extent, Steve McClaren. A popular move would be to place Cotterill on gardening leave and give O’Driscoll the manager’s job until the end of the season at least.

Forest could find themselves in a slightly better position on Friday as Cotterill’s former club Portsmouth are expected to be docked ten points after going into administration again – which would place them below the Reds in the table. However fellow strugglers Coventry City overtook Forest into 22nd on Tuesday night and they visit the City Ground on Saturday in what is arguably the biggest game of the season – a relegation six-pointer if ever there was one.

If Forest were to lose, they would be staring League One in the face and the manager’s job would surely be under threat. Billy Davies saved the club from relegation in 2009 with a squad which was probably weaker than the current one and Cotterill is running out of excuses for his side’s plight.  Forest have scored 6 goals in 13 league games and out of the 72 Football League clubs, Forest are 71st on current form, which is a damning statistic.

The club needs support at this difficult time of course, but after witnessing a host of abject performances with no signs of improvement, who can blame the fans for becoming disillusioned and wondering what is happening to their team? There are sixteen games remaining to save Nottingham Forest’s season – for the good of the club a change may be what is needed to sort out this mess.

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and Nottingham Forest blogger

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis

It’s looking bleak on Trentside

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Make no bones about it, Nottingham Forest are stuck in a relegation battle. Sitting third bottom of the Championship after an embarrassing 3-0 home reversal to league leaders Southampton on Saturday, Steve Cotterill’s side are beginning to look destined for the drop.

After going seven games without scoring a goal, losing six and drawing one of them, Marcus Tudgay brought ten barren hours of football to an end when he gave Forest the lead at Portman Road, five minutes into the Bank Holiday Monday encounter with fellow strugglers Ipswich Town. His goal gave the team the confidence they needed as Garath McCleary’s fine solo strike and a second from Tudgay saw Forest depart Suffolk with all three points. The 3-1 scoreline was more than welcome and seemed as if things would begin to improve in the New Year.

A 0-0 draw followed at the City Ground against Leicester City in the FA Cup, which was a decent result against local rivals, although it does mean the two will do battle again at the King Power Stadium this week. In both games manager Cotterill opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation, using two holding midfielders, three attacking midfielders and Tudgay as the frontman. The formation gave Forest some defensive solidity with Jonathan Greening and George Boateng shielding the back four against Ipswich, which allowed the attacking players to do what they do best without fear of leaving the team exposed.

Andy Reid has been Forest’s best player of late, creating all three goals at Ipswich and two great goalscoring opportunities against Leicester. However Cotterill abandoned the successful formation against Southampton, reverting back to a 4-4-2 and dropping the in-form Reid to select Marlon Harewood as Tudgay’s strike partner. When Cotterill first took on the Forest job an orthodox 4-4-2 seemed to be his best option, however the team’s improved performances in a different system have proved otherwise.

The classic phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” was pretty apt on Saturday as Forest found themselves overran, out-passed and out-thought in the midfield as Nigel Adkins’ Saints strolled to victory. Without Reid in the team creativity was lacking, and Lewis McGugan was shunted out to the left hand side, where he put in a rather lethargic display.

Southampton’s opening goal seemed to sum up Forest’s season, as Marlon Harewood missed a good opportunity at one end, before the visitors broke up the other and scored when the ball fell to Guly do Prado from close range, who finished clinically. Forest had their moments but were largely outplayed by Southampton, even more so when the home side were reduced to ten men four minutes into the second half.

Reds captain Luke Chambers was harshly adjudged to have elbowed David Connolly in the head when challenging for an aerial ball. Connolly made a meal of the situation as he fell to the floor, as the Southampton players and coaching staff bayed for action to be taken, which did Chambers no favours. Connolly was certainly sprightly soon after when he doubled the visitors’ lead, before a long range drive from Morgan Schneiderlin made it 3-0, which led to thousands of Forest fans walking out with eleven minutes still to play.

It was another lacklustre display from Forest, who have not scored at home since November 19th. The mood amongst the support is changing as they witness gutless performances, many losing patience as shown by the mass exodus before the final whistle on Saturday. A relegation mentality is setting in at the City Ground and it is not nice to see.

The players are feeling the brunt of the fans’ anger but so too is Steve Cotterill. He made a tactical error on Saturday which handed the initiative to Southampton right from the off, and after a bright start to his Forest reign, the performances are getting worse and so too is the football. On Saturday the Reds resorted to hoofing aimless long balls upfield, which ended up giving possession back to Southampton time and again.

In his post-match interview Cotterill couldn’t provide any answers for the poor performance. When asked if the squad is good enough to keep Forest in the division, he said “I don’t know, I do not know the answer to that.” Not the most convincing response given the circumstances, but Cotterill one again lamented the imbalance of his squad, with the defensive cover due to be stretched even further now Chambers faces a three-match suspension.

Cotterill’s ability to wheel and deal in the transfer market has not yet surfaced since the transfer window opened at the beginning of January, with striker Marlon Harewood the only player arriving thus far on a free transfer. Harewood starts a second spell at the City Ground, where he began his career in 1999. At 32 years of age he brings some experience to the front line along with a big, physical presence, but he won’t be the man who fires home the goals at a prolific rate to steer Forest clear of trouble.

Sheffield United midfielder Nick Montgomery is a player who has reportedly been interesting Forest, along with several other Championship clubs. However there are at least four central midfielders already on the books, so strengthening the defence should remain the priority. Chambers’ suspension, coupled with injuries to Wes Morgan and Brendan Moloney leaves the Reds short on defensive cover, with Guy Moussi expected to fill in at centre-back for the cup replay against Leicester.

For Forest to do business in this transfer window, funds will have to be made available by moving some players on. Two bids for full-back Chris Gunter have been rejected, but it remains to be seen whether any interest will be shown in other members of the squad. On current form, few of them are hardly putting themselves in the shop window.

It is the time of year when rumours surrounding players and managers surface and the latest involving Forest could be interesting. The much-maligned Chief Executive Mark Arthur may be leaving to rejoin Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club while Steve Cotterill could be out of the door soon, with Billy Davies to return as manager due to Arthur’s exit. This sounds almost too good to be true and for that reason, it probably is.

However if things do not improve on the field, will Cotterill be the one who pays the price? He is still the manager of Forest so perhaps it is unfair to speculate on whether he will walk away from the job or be sacked – while he is the boss he should be backed by the fans. The team have gradually gone downhill since the positive impact he made upon taking the job and it looks as if some of the players have lost their desire to fight for the cause and win football matches.

Cotterill is regarded as a nice guy with an upbeat, cheerful personality who has built a reputation for motivating players to get the best out of them.  However as the team’s performances have steadily worsened in recent weeks, particularly at home, the buck must stop with the manager. The vast majority of this Forest squad took the club into the Championship play-offs for two seasons running and it is Cotterill’s responsibility to get them performing consistently. He has come into a very difficult job, given everything which has happened at the City Ground earlier this season, but if there is no progress on the pitch, questions will be asked of him.

Billy Davies’ motivational style of management was coupled with a disciplined approach, which saw the Reds players produce the goods when it mattered week after week, along with building a team spirit and togetherness in a kind of ‘them against us’ mentality. It worked as Forest enjoyed success under the Scot, which makes it all the more frustrating that the same personnel who excelled with Davies at the helm now look devoid of ideas and confidence in their ability.

It would not look good if Forest had to appoint a third permanent manager this season, but talk on fan forums has brought up a name whose appointment would not go down too well with some sections of the Reds support – Neil Warnock.

Recently sacked by Queens Park Rangers, Warnock enjoyed success across the River Trent at Notts County, taking the club into the old First Division and at Sheffield United, where his Blades side defeated Forest in that unforgettable Division One play-off semi-final in 2003, before taking them into the Premier League automatically in 2006. His track record speaks for itself, with seven promotions won with six different clubs and three of those promotions coming in the second tier.

Regardless of what some may think of Warnock and his outspoken nature, he is a manager who would keep the players disciplined and focused on their jobs. Having turned around the fortunes of a floundering QPR side so quickly, he knows how to deliver results at Championship level. In the summer Steve McClaren was hired because ‘he was available,’ according to Mark Arthur at the time. Warnock is now in a similar position and there could be an opportunity for Forest to make a move if it becomes clear things are not improving on the pitch.

Of course this is all speculation and nothing is certain. In the wake of Forest’s plight, some fans have been hoping to see ex-manager Billy Davies make a romantic return to the Reds, but given the manner of his exit in July last year, that is highly unlikely.

With Nottingham Forest very much in a relegation dogfight, it is going to be a very difficult few months between now and the end of the season. There is enough quality within the squad to pull away from the bottom three, but it is time for the players to perform. Unless things change and fast, I fear the club will begin next season in League One rather than the Championship.

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and Nottingham Forest blogger

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis

All change in the New Year?

Friday, December 16th, 2011

For the past few seasons, the January transfer window has been regarded as a big opportunity for Nottingham Forest to do business and strengthen a squad which was pushing for a place in the Premier League. Ultimately the manager and fans were left disappointed every time as the window came and went with little or no activity at the City Ground. The rumour mills might have gone into overdrive and we may have hoped to finally see a permanent left-back arrive on Trentside, but alas it never happened.

Ironically, Forest could be one of the most active clubs in this coming window – arguably the most pivotal in the club’s recent history – as manager Steve Cotterill attempts to wheel and deal to build a squad which can pull the Reds away from the Championship drop zone.

On the financial side, things are changing at the City Ground. Chairman Nigel Doughty – as has been so often discussed – will no longer be ploughing great sums of money into the club and Forest have to adopt a more frugal stance when it comes to refreshing the squad. Despite the club being in debt to Doughty, his money and generosity allowed Forest to pay transfer fees and wages to bring new faces in, in the face of criticisms he received from some Forest supporters. This approach has meant there are some big earners at the club, hence the need to trim the wage bill.

Doughty will continue to fund contracts signed during his chairmanship, some lasting until May 2014. However there are players whose contracts run out far sooner than that and Cotterill understands that some of the playing staff must leave to free up funds for offering new deals to existing players, not to mention bringing new ones in.

Wes Morgan, Paul Anderson, Joel Lynch and Luke Chambers could all leave on free transfers in the summer unless offered new terms and would be able to speak to potential new employers in January, as Kelvin Wilson did before agreeing to join Celtic last year.

Despite the club’s poor current league position, there are players who would attract interest from other sides so Forest will have to act fast to tie down those they want to keep. A criticism levelled at the club in recent years is that contracts have been allowed to run down and good players, who they could have demanded a decent fee for, have left for nothing. Wilson was one, Kris Commons before him as well as Robert Earnshaw and Nathan Tyson most recently.

Allowing Wes Morgan to leave would surely be a bad move, as he’s been a first-choice centre-half and stalwart of the backline for the last eight years. Fellow players in the Championship have said he is one of the toughest opponents in the league and despite his limitations, he is an honest pro who gives his all for the Red shirt. Fellow centre-back Luke Chambers has been heavily criticised for some lacklustre performances this season so some supporters would be happy to see him leave, while Joel Lynch has improved hugely this year since breaking into the side. However if any of those three were to depart, it would see Forest short on defensive cover unless the manager can find a few adequate replacements.

A great challenge which faces Steve Cotterill is finding a way of restructuring an imbalanced squad. Forest have many midfielders on the books and at least five first-team strikers in Ishmael Miller, Dexter Blackstock, Marcus Tudgay, Matt Derbyshire and David McGoldrick. Miller and Derbyshire were signed by Steve McClaren on sizeable wages along with Jonathan Greening, Andy Reid and to a lesser extent, George Boateng. Last week Cotterill showed his frustrations with the tools at his disposal when he said “We have 101 strikers, 101 midfielders but on Saturday (against Crystal Palace) we only had 4 defenders.”

One of Forest’s most saleable assets would be Lewis McGugan. The midfielder is talented and was reportedly interesting the likes of Newcastle United after some standout moments in a Red shirt last season. He has blown hot and cold throughout his Forest career but is a match-winner on his day, capable of the spectacular. He could still play a vital role in dragging the Reds away from the relegation spots but at the same time, should the club receive a decent fee for the 23-year-old then it would be sensible to sell him. His value has gone down thanks to indifferent displays and Forest’s current league position. £1 – £1.5 million may be the best Forest can hope for, despite a fee double that size being banded about last season.

This is all pure speculation of course, there is no guarantee that clubs will be queuing up in January to take players off Forest’s hands given their league position and inconsistent form so far this season, along with potential fees and wages to be paid.

The wage bill will be a contributing factor to players coming in and out of the club. Some of Forest’s players are on wages which few Championship clubs could match. McGoldrick, Reid, Derbyshire, Miller and Greening would all attract interest but clubs would be put off by wage demands. Greening and Reid have begun to find their feet in the Forest side recently, so they would certainly be worth keeping. McGoldrick cost £1 million from Southampton three years ago and has struggled to nail down a starting berth at Forest, showing signs of what he can do in occasional appearances. Unless Cotterill wants him to play more of a role in the first-team he could be on the way out.

Matt Derbyshire‘s situation is an intriguing one. A former Premier League player with Champions League experience, it was hoped the former Blackburn Rovers man would get goals at Championship level. The striker has not featured as often as he would have liked and only has two Forest goals to his name. He has struggled to adapt to life in the second tier, but signed a three-year deal in the summer and should still have something to offer up front, however getting him off the wage bill would help financially.

Ishmael Miller was bought for £1.2 millon in August and is one of the biggest earners at the City Ground. It is unlikely he will be moving on and the former West Bromwich Albion frontman has proven in the past he can perform in the Championship. A strong player with a good turn of pace, Miller is a versatile option in attack, the kind of player Forest need.

For all the strikers Forest may have at the club, none of them is regarded as a twenty goal a season player. Blackstock may get ten to fifteen a campaign, but he is just coming back after a year on the sidelines with an horrific knee injury so it is unfair to expect him to start banging in the goals just yet.

Marcus Tudgay meanwhile is a hard-working forward who plays more like a supporting striker, he has got goals to his name already but has struggled to find the back of the net in recent games as Forest have gone the last four matches – or six hours – without scoring. Derbyshire has struggled for form, McGoldrick is not prolific and Miller’s goalscoring ratio is similar to that of Dexter Blackstock. Strikers are at a premium at the best of times, so it would take some excellent business for Forest to find a consistent goal poacher.

One reason Reds chairman Frank Clark brought Steve Cotterill to the club is for his ability to work on a tight budget and these qualities will be tested to the limit during the next few weeks as he tries to get his squad in order. He is clearly unhappy with its imbalance and will want to change things to give Forest the best chance of staying in the division. Given the form shown by some of the team so far this season, it may be for the best if we see new players arriving in January. As a priority, the defence and attack are departments which need addressing and the squad as a whole would benefit from freshening up.

For the immediate future, supporters have to accept that a rebuilding job is needed at the City Ground on limited resources. As frustrating as it may be after being so close to promotion under Billy Davies, success this season would be Championship safety with a view to developing the squad further in the summer.

Forest are expected to do some business in the January transfer window and it will be interesting to see just how Steve Cotterill rings the changes.

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and Nottingham Forest blogger

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis