With talk of a ‘fire sale’ in January to raise funds, guest writer Peter Blackburn looks at the possibilities available to Steve Cotterill.
The winds of change are whistling through the City Ground, threatening to overwhelm a club that has been relatively stable — league position and mismanagement aside — for many years now. A relic, still standing as a monument to former glory, the peeling paint and tired appearance of this once great stadium only serves to further highlight the gaping gulf that exists between current failings and former joys.
For a significant time now Forest have had few financial worries. Despite massive losses regularly reported on the balance sheet, the black hole has always been plugged by a benefactor either generous, foolish or blood-sucking, depending on your point of view. Regardless of mixed opinions, there can be no doubt that the money poured into Nottingham Forest by Nigel Doughty made the Reds a club capable of competing in the transfer market and endlessly dreaming of a return to the promised land.
But Dylan could have been singing for Forest; the times they are a changing. Doughty has gone and slowly takes his financial backing with him. Forest are in the position of having to be frugal for the first time in many years and are in a precarious position with players out of contract and, in many places, an over-paid and unbalanced squad.
If various media reports are to be believed then the vultures are circling — and rightly so. Despite an unflattering league position and various performances of monumental failings, Forest still possess enough ‘wood’ to make a fire sale a real possibility. Without players leaving, Steve Cotterill cannot offer any new deals; Wes Morgan, Luke Chambers, Joel Lynch and Paul Anderson are all out of contract at the end of the season.
The sale of Morgan and Chambers are perhaps the most real and worrying threats that the Reds face. It would be realistic to suggest a Forest hierarchy without a penny to pinch might have to relinquish its central defensive partnership for fairly measly sums. At least one Championship club attempted to tempt Morgan away from the shores of the River Trent last summer and, after a season of turmoil, who could blame him for wanting to get away having spent 400 games of his career mainly bumbling around in footballing mediocrity despite regularly being referred to as one of the Championship’s toughest opponents by players across the league. Morgan is much undervalued by the Forest faithful; in an age where loyalty is all but dried up, Morgan has given his all for the club.
Aside from the defensive partnership, it would seem that Lewis McGugan is the most likely exit from Forest. Interest from Newcastle last summer did not materialise into a serious offer but the price would likely be significantly lower than it was last summer, such is the effect of the events this season at the City Ground. A highly saleable asset due to his deeply impressive highlights reel, the sale of McGugan could actually provide the best opportunity for Forest to get a bit of capital in to the club to spend. Both Radoslaw Majewski and Andy Reid, should he stay at Forest past January, can provide a relatively similar level of ability in the final third.
Despite being comfortably one of the most talented players in this division, even with the likes of West Ham having been relegated, McGugan regularly flatters to deceive and apart from four or five months of last season has completely failed to live up to the potential that is so obvious. It would be disappointing to see McGugan leave but not overwhelmingly so since a lot of the disappointment towards him has seeped out over the years when more was expected. While many would not be entirely against the selling of McGugan, it remains feasible to build a team around him should no offer materialise. A player like McGugan could still turn around Forest’s season.
However, the worries of a fire sale will be immediately quelled when clubs ring up and find out how much money some of these players are on. Whilst Forest may be looking to let McGoldrick go, the clubs that have scouted him would be unlikely to offer the sort of transfer fee and wages that would see a deal completed.
Suggestions in certain quarters are that Cotterill may look to move on the big name players brought in by Steve McClaren, but there is no doubt that that will be easier said than done. Reid, Jonathan Greening, Ishmael Miller and Matt Derbyshire are all on the sort of wages that many Championship clubs will simply not be willing to offer and, despite them all having reputations to tempt, this will make it difficult for Forest to trade them out.
Only one thing remains definite about the forthcoming January transfer window — it’s impossible to predict what, if anything, will happen.
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