After the disappointment of last season, there are some encouraging signs heading into the 21/22 Championship campaign with the third victory of the summer so far played out at Northampton Town on Tuesday night (following wins against Alfreton & Port Vale) and there have been some standout performances too. Many of the Reds have impressed during the friendly wins which gives Manager Chris Hughton the opportunity to further assess his players and start to build his starting XI with the new season not too far away, a trip to Coventry on Sunday 8th August first up for the reds after further friendlies today at Crewe before tough tests against Premier League opposition in Aston Villa and Burnley.
The activity at The City Ground so far this summer has been quite steady. Steady in the sense, not too many players have actually been signed as of yet but a major clear-out has been made. Trimming the squad numbers was of paramount importance to stabilise the group and the harmony and spirit within it. The so called exits will be a massive weight lifted off the Forest books and gives them scope to add a few numbers to replenish the side further. Hughton has to find the types of players for the positions he feels need the most attention. It will all depend upon how he wants to set up this season and what philosophy he wants Forest to have. Having a normal window will be very beneficial considering what happened last season where the hierarchy went into overdrive with their shopping spree and this clear mismanagement led to an inflated squad number that was largely unbalanced.
The main component of this season which will need to change if Forest are to succeed is the mindset. Last season it seemed like everyone at the club had a very laid back approach and this showed in their eventual league standing. Changing the way they see either winning, drawing or losing will determine where the reds will end up this coming campaign. We could all see last season the pragmatic nature from the manager and the filtering of that onto the pitch. Being more positive and seeing draws as lost points as opposed to a point gained will be the kind of psychological changes which should yield a far greater return this year.
With only one new player signed, a goalkeeper Ethan Horvath who will contest the number one shirt with fans favourite Brice Samba, the latest biggest news of all is the appointment of a new CEO, Dane Murphy. From the initial interview which he gave, it’s clear to see the enthusiasm and drive he has to make Nottingham Forest a Premier League club again. He highlights his background in football and what got him to the stage he is now. He also talks about what he intends to bring to Forest in terms of all aspects of the club. This is quite refreshing to hear and time will tell how he manages to use his experience in football so far to formulate a success story at The City Ground. For many Forest fans, just hearing about a change at the helm would have been music to their ears after the previous CEO’s tenure which is best not spoken about. This should give an uplift to the entire fanbase knowing someone who has a decent track record, especially from last season with Barnsley, can bring those expertise and implement them at the club.
This season will be challenging like any other year in English football’s second tier. The clubs who have dropped back down to the Championship from the Premier League will have a head start with parachute payments and money to burn. This puts Forest into a position where they’ll have to be smart and subtle in a Covid stricken transfer market where prices would have naturally fallen. Hopefully, the restructuring at the top of the club will help massively with this. Overall, the quality of the Championship and the style has changed greatly in recent years. The emphasis has swung from being more of a physical form of football to more of a technical one. Forest will have to find a team with the right blend to counter both to give them the best chance of success. The last twenty years have been such a massive disappointment for a club steeped with such historic value, from the glory days of years gone, realism is now needed with this recent history, but that doesn’t stop us as fans dreaming and believing, so let’s hope this is the year Forest go up and reinstate their position in English football’s top division.
*Article provided by Davina Bhakta (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
*Main Image @NFFC Manager Chris Hughton has won three out of three friendlies so far.