With seven new permanent signings and four loanees, in less than eight weeks, the Al Hasawis have transformed an imbalanced Nottingham Forest squad that was in serious need of rebuilding.
John Henry’s open letter on Liverpool’s past and present failings at Anfield paints the picture of ‘good’ owners trying to do the right thing after a previous regime, albeit following expensive mistakes of their own. Fortunes at the City Ground and the big clubs of the North West have been distant for many years but the parallels are clearly apparent.
Indeed, a quick glance down the A46 tells you all you need to know about new owners spending big in the Championship. Last summer Leicester spent £5 million alone on Matt Mills — now shipped off to Bolton for just £2 million — not to mention the signings of Jermaine Beckford, Kaspar Schmeichel, Paul Konchesky, Sean St Ledger…
Forest have spent a similar amount on seven permanent signings, in addition to four loanees, in a textbook example of how to work a transfer window. The speed, precision and efficiency of the past month has been staggering, notably so for anyone familiar with recent dealings at the City Ground. Positions have been targeted, players identified and practically signed before anybody even had wind of them — a ‘Fawaz tweet’ has become a byword for a new signing on Twitter as the owner has announced the news first.
Bringing in Adlene Guedioura for just £1 million was a coup and a statement of intent for the Al Hasawi family and Sean O’Driscoll. The fans’ favourite was signed on loan with the help of the then assistant manager in January and his return in July set the tone for the next six weeks.
Having lost eight senior players, including the whole of last season’s back four, there was clearly rebuilding to be done. But the same applied last summer, seven players left and Steve McClaren was allowed to bring in just five.
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Some of the credit has to go to chief executive Mark Arthur and chief scout Keith Burt as well as the Al Hasawis and O’Driscoll. The associations with Gianni Paladini, Marc Bircham (now head coach of QPR’s elite development squad) and agent Barry Silkman were quickly nipped in the bud so the new era has very much relied on the old guard. Familiar names cropped up — names previously scouted, recommended and targeted have been assessed and evaluated. What’s been most impressive is the pace that players have been sounded out and either brought in or passed over. You knew if a player’s name had been lingering for more than a few days it wasn’t going to happen — Adam Hammill case in point.
But it’s not just the quantity we’ve bought, it’s not the price, it’s not even the potential; it’s the quality across the pitch with the likes of Simon Gillett, Danny Collins, Henri Lansbury, Simon Cox and Billy Sharp that transforms this team.
O’Driscoll appears to be happy with the squad he has now and, apart from some senior competition for Lee Camp’s place — Karl Darlow and Dimitar Evtimov remain untested — and cover on the left side of defence, it’s a balanced squad.
There may still be additions during the loan window but O’Driscoll’s vision and the players he needs are here — notably three players from his days at Doncaster should ease the transition. They just need time now to fully realise the glimpses of potential we’ve seen against the likes of Charlton, Bolton and Wigan.