From promising youngster to ‘square peg in a round hole’ and now, arguably, player of the season (so far), guest writer Peter Blackburn charts the rise of Joel Lynch.
A curious sense of symmetry has emerged from the mess caused by managerial upheaval and structural crisis at Nottingham Forest.
Once upon a time Forest were in possession of a young, up-and-coming centre-half bought from a League One side (at the time). The defender found his path to first team dreams blocked by a solid central partnership who kept one of the cleanest sheets in the league and the young centre-back found himself shoe-horned into a full-back role where he was criticised for lack of positioning and vulnerability to pacey wingers.
The defender bided his time and played for many games in his unfamiliar and awkward position without question, but when his moment came along he grasped his chance in the first XI with sufficient aplomb to embark on a tremendous run of form to the gasps of the adoring public.
The protagonist in this footballing fairy tale was Luke Chambers but his story has been played out once again in near perfect symmetry this season, by the much-maligned Joel Lynch.
Joel Lynch has provided a near lone highlight in an otherwise drab and disappointing start to the season for Forest. The beneficiary of a significant lack of any available wingers, Lynch found himself taking a place in the starting line-up as Steve Cotterill sought to address the problems by pushing Chris Gunter further forward and shunting Chambers to full-back.
It seems bizarre to consider that Lynch has never been given a run in his natural position of centre-half given the obvious ability we are now seeing on the pitch. Have we really had a series of managers who simply weren’t looking every time Lynch made an inch-perfect slide tackle or strode magnificently out of defence with the ball in training? Or perhaps Lynch is the type of character who only performs to such standards in pressured match environments. Either way, Cotterill’s luck or judgement seems set to reap bountiful rewards for Forest.
Lynch’s strengths are multiple. In the run of games in which he has starred, a tough-tackling, committed, classy and agile defender has emerged. Capable of reading the game, nipping in front of the attacker to steal the ball and hold his own in the air, Lynch also seems to possess the sort of driven cross-field ball out of defence not seen on the fair shores of the Trent since prodigal son, Michael Dawson so entertained the crowds.
At just 24 years of age, Lynch is a relative rookie in defender’s terms. Presumably the least well remunerated of Forest’s first team defenders, the new frugal set up may well be licking their lips at the financial joy his promotion to first choice could bring should Chambers or Morgan seek a move elsewhere as was mildly rumoured during the last summer window.
With Jamaal Lascelles waiting in the wings, although currently hampered by injury, all concerned with Forest — from the chairman Frank Clark down to the fans — should be thrilled by long-term stability and depth at centre-half… Now to sort out the rest of the team.
Follow Peter on Twitter: @petermblackburn