What might have been a straightforward transfer window — well, at least as straightforward as transfer windows get — Alex McLeish now has just weeks to get to grips with his new squad and decide where he wants to strengthen.
For many Nottingham Forest fans, this January looked to be a very exciting one. With the club close to the play-off places, talk of new arrivals to address the deficiencies in the squad suggested a busy transfer window.
Sean O’Driscoll would, no doubt, have identified the positions that needed strengthening — probably the same ones that practically every fan could see. The defence needed new, permanent faces; Lee Camp in urgent need of some real competition for his place; some pace and width in the form of a winger or a wide forward; and possibly a top-class striker.
With the arrival of Alex McLeish, he now has his work cut out to decide on what he wants and whether he has anyone in mind… Yesterday he talked about “three or four” new additions but who they are is anyone’s guess. Leeds United striker Luciano Becchio has already been rumoured but which Championship club is likely to let their best players go midway through the season? Are the owners still keen on a ‘marquee’ signing? And do we look to Premier League clubs for loans?
McLeish admitted he had spoken to Sir Alex Ferguson which could see the return of a player from last season after the Manchester United manager ‘blocked a bid from O’Driscoll to take defender Scott Wootton on loan as he was unhappy with the way his son, Darren, had been courted by the Al Hasawi family in the summer’.
The Forest manager added: “I’ll be looking to strengthen in several positions. At the moment I don’t want to be specific but we certainly want to bring in players that can enhance the quality. There’s no doubt that we want players that can control a football and take the ball and pass it.
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“But at the same time we need a blend in the team because as everyone knows this division is not just about playing pretty football to get out. We would like to do it in a bit of style — we will try and encourage the guys to have the courage to pass it and take it.”
Perhaps worringly, for some at least, are McLeish’s comments that we need new attacking players. However, what he said reflects what we all know: “In the forward areas, whether that be attacking midfielders or strikers, we need to try to add a dynamic where we can be stronger going forward and do things quicker going forward.”
“Quicker” being the operative word. Who he’d like to bring in, who Keith Burt (and O’Driscoll to an extent) had in mind and who’s available we wait to see. But if promotion is suddenly the goal this season — and it looks like the top five will already be hard to catch — we’re going to need a rock-solid defence and better service to our strikers.
Camp, Radi Majewski, Lewis McGugan and Dexter Blackstock are all out of contract in the summer and have been free to talk to other clubs since 1 January.
Whether Camp’s staying or not, we need another ‘keeper unless Karl Darlow is ready to step up. Majewski has proved his value in the side this season, he can be inconsistent but playing ‘in the hole’ is clearly his best position. Blackstock is a quality Championship striker and will be tough to replace. And does McGugan get another chance under another new manager?
Alan Hutton, Jermaine Jenas and Elliott Ward have all returned to their parent clubs after loan spells which leaves five contracted defenders — Dan Harding, Greg Halford, Danny Collins, Jamaal Lascelles and Brendan Moloney — and only Daniel Ayala and Sam Hutchinson on loan. That’s a back four if they’re fit with a central defender yet to feature this season, a right-back who’s been injured since September and another right-back who had slipped down the pecking order under O’Driscoll. It’s quite clear cover is needed at centre-back and left-back.
And then, of course, there’s the likes of David McGoldrick, Jonathan Greening, Matt Derbyshire, Robbie Findley and Marcus Tudgay (currently injured with a broken collarbone). What future for them?
There are 20 games to go. Let’s see what January brings.
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