For less than two weeks now, Nottingham Forest have been a Premier League club and whilst the dust starts to settle on a stunning Sunday at Wembley, a magical Monday on the square, and a jubilant jubilee weekend of over spilling celebrations across the Robin Hood county, it’s soon back to business as usual for the great Garibaldi cast of 2022… The finest Forest team this side of the Millennium.
Head Coach Steve Cooper has guided his soldiers to the promised land but now the club must end their enjoyment of lengthy promotion partying to concentrate on the task ahead, and trying to prepare for the Premiership and the challenges that lie with it, in the world’s biggest, best, richest and toughest football division on the planet.
It’s not already been without hiccups. News that Djed Spence may not get the chance to continue his love affair with the Forest faithful. When asked where his intentions lie next season, he replied “I have no Idea”. It’s totally out of his hands, but it seems that Tottenham Hotspur may win the race for his signature on a rumoured £15m deal with Middlesbrough.
Brice Samba is another unsettled, rumoured to be wanting ‘more’ ahead of signing a contract extension (his original deal ends in 2023). Samba currently holidaying in Saint Tropez is said to have turned down an offer from Forest, the hope is that both he (or rather his agent) and the club will agree terms to prolong his stay at NG2, otherwise he could be moved on swiftly ahead of the campaign.
With Aston Villa unlikely to offload forward Keinan Davis for a reasonable fee it seems that already, Nottingham Forest have quite a bit of business to do and starting as early as possible for the Premier League’s newest team is essential, in getting prepared in all positions ahead of the toughest of fixture schedule this club has seen in 23 years.
Incoming rumours are a plenty. Nick Pope for £40m, an England goalkeeper that was relegated with Burnley. Some Forest fans asking ‘why do we need him’ as they already start turning their noses up at international footballers with sky-rocketing valuations.
In defensive positions the club have been linked with Welsh star Joe Rodon who’s out of contention at Tottenham Hotspur as well as a potential return for Jamaal Lascelles who’s struggled to hold down a starting eleven place recently at Newcastle United.
In midfield the likes of Joe Rothwell (of Blackburn Rovers) and Will Smallbone (of Southampton) have been talked about as potential replacements for returning loanee James Garner who is likely to feature for Manchester United in pre-season as their new Head Coach Erik ten Haag takes a look at the England U21 star ahead of deciding upon his future at Old Trafford.
In attack, the strongest attention from Forest has lied with Morgan Gibbs-White and a £25m bid for the Wolves and England U21 star who was recently on loan with Sheffield United and who scored at the City Ground in the Playoff semi-final.
Chelsea’s Armando Broja has also been mentioned with a loan move most likely whilst Swansea’s Joel Piroe has caught the eye of Cooper.
Other players linked include Ukranian striker Artem Dovbyk, Swiss forward Noah Okafor and most recently, Argentine youngster Valentin Castellanos, who currently plays for New York City in the MLS.
It’s said that Evangelos Marinakis will propose that £50-75m is spent on transfers this summer so that leaves plenty to dish around but spending it wisely is the tricky part with Premier League-ready players costing a premium and buying overseas seen as a relative gamble.
If a goalkeeper is indeed needed, then £40m seems a lot, all be it for someone of Nick Pope’s credentials. Forest may instead want to negotiate favourably with Brice Samba’s terms, the man who’s penalty saving got them to the Wembley Playoff final, is at least owed an upgraded offer, one that suits both parties with a relegation clause may be safest option to shake hands.
As it looks more likely Djed Spence may not be returning to the City Ground next season (as a Forest player at least), attention turns desperately to wing backs, with right and left, still a concern as the injury prone Max Lowe is probably not going to be signed on a permanent deal either.
Neco Williams was one that impressed for Wales last week, a right back who can play down the left, who linked up with Brennan Johnson well against Ukraine and would suit the Forest way, he is highly unlikely to break into the Liverpool team anytime soon and a loan deal could be good business for all involved parties.
With the wall of Nottingham the least of the clubs concerns, an addition at centre back may simply be to boost cover, whilst in midfield, a like-for-like replacement of the outgoing Garner may be made early, although I anticipate, should Manchester United sign Frenkie de Jong from Barcelona, that could pave way through the exit door for the unfortunate Garner, it could be another deadline day deal for him should he find he’s surplus to requirements again at Old Trafford?
So too Keinan Davis, who’ll be itching for first team Premier League football by now, not guaranteed at Aston Villa, he could be a late addition to the Forest roster (on loan or permanent) should he not persuade Steven Gerrard he’s good enough for the Villain’s. By then however, Forest might have already found there target man.
Wout Weghorst of Burnley and Hungarian striker Attila Szalai could be on the radar? Both have international experience and both stand tall as a traditional number nine.
I’m intrigued of all however by the prospect of seeing Morgan Gibbs-White lining up in a front three alongside Brennan Johnson, some have even said the icing on the cake would be Gareth Bale, who is certainly Forest fodder and would suit the way the club play.
Speaking on TalkSPORT just yesterday, when asked by Jason Cundy ‘which club’ would suit Bale, Tony Cascarino said ‘Nottingham Forest’ and why not for a footballer that needs desperately to be the ‘main man’.
Bale is interesting Cardiff following his exit from Real Madrid, but would a short term Premier League move ahead of a World Cup suit him more? An outside bet, but the club have been linked in the past? Oh how things could have turned out differently had he signed back in 2009.
Forest could do worse than a Welsh trio in Rodon, Williams and Bale to link up with their international team-mate Brennan Johnson and compatriot Steve Cooper, with Gibbs-White in attack, they’ll be plenty in the Premier League fearing Forest if they manage to sign that stunningly ambitious quartet.
The rightful concern is that the club spend too much on receiving too little in return, gambling on foreign names that haven’t yet sampled the pressures of Premier League football, or indeed spending big on proven Premier League players that don’t care enough to improve their own careers. Sure thing is that this next 4-6 weeks is as important to the football club as the full year ahead. Get it right, it could be very exciting times for Nottingham Forest, get it wrong, and it could be a long old tough season of struggle in the top flight.
Last week’s success has rightfully been enjoyed by all, but now It’s time to do business. Let’s hope that ‘business’ brings home the benefits that lift this great football club to another level completely, and we don’t regret not doing it right, like we did in the summer of 98, when failure to be ambitious back then, cost us for the next 23 years!
*Article provided by Daniel Peacock (Editor).
*Main image @talkSPORT signing Gareth Bale would be a huge scalp for Forest.