When Sabri Lamouchi sends his Forest side out to battle against QPR this Saturday, he will hope there are no lingering demons of last year’s capitulation – after 53 days, is there still a hangover amongst the squad following their shortcomings?
Everyone connected to the club will hope not, Lamouchi more than anyone. The mercy shown to him this summer by owner, Evangelos Marinakis, was on balance a fair decision; make no mistake though, Lamouchi will now be walking a tightrope.
A shaky start to the campaign and Marinakis may well be looking for his 5th permanent Forest manager.
But Lamouchi earned his grace and will be the first Forest manager (or Head Coach) to begin their second consecutive, full, season in the hot seat at the City Ground, since Billy Davies’ first spell. And the historical, frankly rare, second season begins this Saturday.
Loftus Road hosts the Reds in their league opener, where Forest will hope to perform to a much higher standard than that displayed as they crashed out of the Carabao Cup last weekend against Barnsley.
In that game Forest were without a number of last season’s key performers. Joe Lolley, Joe Worrall, Samba Sow and Tiago Silva missed the game with slight injuries – Silva’s injury expected to keep him out until October. Also missing was £16m man Matty Cash and the seemingly departed, former captain, Ben Watson. Five key players who were always going to leave a whole in the Forest side. It is hoped that Lolley and Worrall will be pushing for a return to action on Saturday, with Sow understood to be close to being in contention for the league opener. Their return will bring some needed stability to the starting XI, that looked cobbled together and a little uneasy at times in the Barnsley encounter.
Many Forest fans will also be hoping to see more of new arrival Luke Freeman. The Sheffield United loanee made his first Red’s appearance off the bench last Saturday, and he could be in line for his first start – which would see him come up against his former club. Jack Colback had a watching brief for the first round of the Carabao Cup and will be eager to get involved from the outset in the league. His return has eased the departure of Ben Watson, whilst both men are different types of player, Colback can fill the void left by Watson in front of the back four.
One question on the fans’ mind following Watson’s departure is, who is going to lead the Reds out? Who is the new captain? Before the Barnsley game the Head Coach said that he has four leaders, being Michael Dawson, Samba Sow, Lewis Grabban and Joe Worrall. Grabban skippered the side vs the Tykes, although he was the only one of the four to play. The striker isn’t your traditional captain, he leads by example rather than through his voice and commands. I get the impression Joe Worrall is in pole position to get the armband for Saturday afternoon. The local lad knows the club inside out and isn’t shy of putting his opinion forward. Like Grabban, he’ll lead by example, a fine performer for the most of last season, but he’ll also make sure he drags his teammates over the finish line, by hook or by crook.
As for the home side, managed by ex Reds’ boss Mark Warburton, they welcome back their new number 9 Lyndon Dykes back from international duty with Scotland and will look to hand a debut to former Oxford captain Rob Dickie. It will also be their first game without Eberechi Eze. The number 10 was snapped up by Crystal Palace for a potential £20m in the summer and there remains a question mark over whether the Hoops have solved their over reliance on their former playmaker. Another blow for the home side is the situations around contract rebels Ryan Manning and Bright Osayi-Samuel. Both have interest from teams in the Premier League and have so far rebuffed all advances from the Hoops in their attempts to tie them down to new deals. The duo are both out of contract at the end of the season and so will be available on a free. ‘Rs’ manager Mark Warburton may have his hand forced and these two could be ruled out of contention.
Whatever happens on Saturday afternoon, just remember, it’s only the beginning of another long season where we will see many ups and many downs. Whatever the result, there’s a long way to go and who knows, come game 46 there may well be a full City Ground celebrating a return to the Premier League…
We can all dream, can’t we?
*Article provided by Joe Freeman (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
*Main image @SportIndustry Queens Park Rangers Loftus Road Stadium will be ready for action.