With the new season upon us, Seat Pitch talks to Paul Chapman about his hopes and fears for the season ahead.
1. Were you pleased with the appointment of Steve McClaren?
Bizarrely, I heard about the sacking of Billy Davies and the subsequent appointment of Steve McClaren whilst trekking Mount Kilimanjaro for charity. The reason this is significant is that I was in the company of Middlesbrough’s chairman, Steve Gibson. I immediately asked his opinion and he explained that he had been Boro’s most successful manager, was incredibly thorough in his scouting and organisation and he would’ve had certain assurances made before he came to the club. Gibson said that he didn’t think Forest would be a contender under Davies this season, but he expected us to be in the mix now McClaren was at the helm. So personally I’m delighted. I think he’s done as much as he can so far.
2. How do you think the squad could be improved?
The squad definitely needs more depth. That much is obvious. As everyone (except Nigel Doughty) has said, a left-back is a priority and it’s important to have a ‘natural’ left-back in that position. I would also love to see a proven goalscorer spearhead the attack, although I’m keeping my fingers crossed that one of our current crop can rise to the challenge of scoring 20 league goals this season. Other than that, a little bit of cover in defence is probably all we are shy of.
3. Who will be our most important player this season? And which youth player do you think will make a breakthrough?
Andy Reid. From what I have seen and heard in pre-season he has been instrumental in our attacking play. Dare I say it, we’ve been lacking that sort of creative midfielder since Kris Commons left. Lewis McGugan figured heavily for us in the creativity stakes last year, but Reid is a different package. He’ll be supplying at least three or four excellent crosses each game for our strikers to get on the end of. And he’ll weigh in with his fair share of goals and provide another option on set pieces.
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I’ve not seen any of the young lads play much but I’m excited about the prospects of Jamaal Lascelles, Karlton Watson and Kieron Freeman. McClaren seems to have given Freeman a good go in pre-season so we may see more of him this season. I’d love to see a striker come through the ranks; we haven’t had a decent young lad come through and score goals for years.
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 our ‘noisy neighbours’ Leicester will have to be up there. If not they will be in administration next year, I have no doubt. West Ham still have a strong squad from last season and they’ve added Kevin Nolan, who I rate extremely highly. Other than that, if Blackpool play the same way as they did in the Premier League — and I hope they do — then they’ll again be an exciting proposition. A lot of people have suggested that Southampton and Brighton will be the surprise package this season, and whilst I expect them both to do well, I think Ipswich will be among the top six.
5. What would you most like to happen this season?
Promotion. That’s all any Forest fan wants. A left-back and five wins over our nearest rivals (Notts County included) would be nice — is that being too greedy?
6. What won’t happen this season?
David McGoldrick won’t lose his attitude — and I doubt he’ll be the striker that ‘steps up’ for us.
7. Finally, where do you expect us to finish in the league?
I expect us to be in the play-offs. If we add to the squad before the end of August then our first XI is as strong as anyone’s in this league so, excluding injuries, I can’t see why we won’t make the top six this season.