In the second of the series, Seat Pitch talks to fans about their hopes and fears for the season ahead. Next up is James Bolton.
1. Were you pleased with the appointment of Steve McClaren?
Having seen him linked with the likes of Aston Villa, I couldn’t believe our luck when we acquired such a talented and highly regarded manager. For me, it was just a case of forgetting his time as England manager. We all know it didn’t go well and he obtained the infamous ‘Wally with the Brolly’ nametag. But international management is a different kettle of fish to club management and we know he has been successful in the latter, doing a great job abroad as well as in the English game with Middlesborough.
I was interested to see his demeanour on the touchline when I went to the PSV friendly. He was vocal, active on the touchline and patrolling his technical area; a complete contrast to the lonely man who stood under that umbrella at Wembley.
2. How do you think the squad could be improved?
Simply, we need men in shirts, because our squad is fairly thin. It baffles me that Forest aren’t looking to resolve the left-back problem that has plagued us since we were promoted back into the Championship. With Chris Cohen, Kieron Freeman, Chris Gunter and Joel Lynch all being linked with filling the position.
Secondly, our pursuits of Wayne Routledge and Wesley Verhoek seem to be in vain as they won’t be heading to the City Ground. We have fast wingers in the shape of Paul Anderson and Gareth McCleary, but they are inconsistent and often lack an end product, so I would say a creative, tricky winger would seriously improve our team.
Finally, we need a top class striker. If you look at the teams that feature around the top of any division, they almost always have a quality striker bagging them 20 goals a season. I fear we don’t have that man in our team. The chances of Forest getting hold of one seems to be getting less likely, as Nigel Doughty talks of sensible moves in the transfer market and not rash spending sprees.
3. Who will be our most important player this season? And which youth player do you think will make a breakthrough?
I think that Andy Reid will be an important player for Forest next season. He has a terrific left foot, and can often produce pinpoint crosses, passes and through balls. I can see him giving our forwards great service throughout the year, and with some good forwards at the club, hopefully an understanding will develop and create plenty of goal scoring opportunities.
In terms of our youth players, it looks as though Kieron Freeman is an exciting prospect. As Nigel Doughty and Steve McClaren have said, we have a strong set of youth players coming through. Freeman has impressed in pre-season friendlies playing in both midfield and in defence. He is a Wales under-19 international and has a great future ahead of him and, who knows, he could be the youth sensation that makes a breakthrough into the first team.
4. Who do you think will be the main rivals for promotion? And which team do you expect to be the surprise package this season?
Obviously at the moment it’s hard to look past Leicester City and West Ham United. They have both spent big and brought in a wealth of talent to add to already strong squads, in an effort to get back to the big time. Sven and Big Sam are being backed massively by their owners, and it’s looks like nothing less than promotion is acceptable. I also fancy Birmingham to do well, as they have a good squad and a manager who has experience at getting promotion to the Premier League.
My tip for the surprise package is Ipswich Town. They’ve brought in some good players for this level like Michael Chopra and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas who offer a potent goal threat. They could create a forceful partnership as they both played together at Cardiff. They also have experience and maturity in midfield having brought in Lee Bowyer and David Norris. While I wouldn’t say they’re automatic promotion contenders, I would fancy them to have a push for the top six.
5. What would you most like to happen this season?
It’s got to be what every Forest fan wants to see — promotion. While we have had our fair share of heartbreak (and bad luck) in the end of season lottery, if I was offered a place in the play-offs, I would take it. What is key to a successful push is beating the teams around you — Forest took just 19 points from 54 available against the teams in the top 10 last season, winning just five of the 18 games. Winning more games against close rivals could be the vital difference between a top six finish and a top two finish. If Forest can improve this record and add some more faces, then that will stand them in good stead for a third promotion push, most likely via the play-offs.
6. What won’t happen this season?
Hopefully, some of the excuses that we constantly heard under Billy Davies will disappear. The squad can no longer be branded ‘young, naïve and inexperienced’. The average age of the players that featured in the Swansea play-off games was around 27 and 11 of our players made appearances in both play-off campaigns. Yes, some players have left since then, but the players brought in are 29, 32 and 35, so the levels of experience have only grown. Hopefully McClaren will instil the feeling in the squad that they are good enough, unlike Davies who publicly said his team ‘was not ready for promotion’.
7. Finally, where do you expect us to finish in the league?
Although we seem to say it every year, I believe this season’s Championship is the strongest ever, with big fish coming down from the Premier League and ambitious clubs being promoted from League One. I think promotion has become more vital with the implementation of Financial Fair Play for next season, as mentioned by Nigel Doughty, who plans to tighten the club’s finances when it comes to playing staff. With the current squad we have, I’m not sure if we have the depth to sustain a convincing promotion challenge. I think we may flirt with the play-offs, but eventually finish outside the top six, maybe around seventh or eighth. However, if we do bring in a couple more faces, we may be looking at a third consecutive promotion push, and hopefully playing attractive and attacking football in the process.
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