With the new season just days away, the constraints of a transfer embargo could actually have improved Nottingham Forest’s fortunes over the summer


Back in 2012, the press conference that introduced the Al Hasawis as the new owners of Nottingham Forest saw mention of a ‘three- to five-year business plan to develop the club and bring it back where it should be’.

Well, if the list of managers, coaches, players and millions spent reflect the first three years, the next two years, forced hand albeit, will be a significantly different phase.

Financial Fair Play has its critics — and let’s be honest, it’s by no means perfect — but its intentions were good; and Championship clubs voted in its favour. Living within your means hasn’t proved too difficult for most clubs — QPR excepted — so we only have ourselves to blame for the transfer embargo.

But, in reality, this enforced frugality looks likely to be good thing for Forest. Admittedly we might have done more this summer, but trimming our wage bill and bringing in solid performers such as Jamie Ward, Matt Mills and Ben Hamer, as well as the unknown Daniel Pinollos, is on the surface very good business. And the potential addition of the ‘mystery striker’ and the rumoured return of Gary Gardner on loan could bolster the remaining weak areas in the side.

A balanced squad, without wholesale changes, means better prospects under Dougie Freedman, who’s only the second manager to have had a full preseason preparation under the new owners. A level of stability, in whatever form it is, allows the players to gel, the manager’s training methods and philosophy to embed, and, hopefully, add some steel and robustness that has evaded the midfield and defence in recent years.

This season should see the return of Chris Cohen, Andy Reid and Britt Assombalonga but their rehabilitation isn’t going to be immediate. Clearly hanging on to the coveted Michail Antonio and Henri Lansbury (so far) will be one of the key aspects of the summer.

Terminating the contracts of Radi Majewski and Djamel Abdoun has been costly but, given our restraints, crucial — the freeing up of two places in the squad where FFP only allows 24 ‘established players’. Some will mourn the loss, or at least the potential, of Majewski but the jettison of Abdoun, like his countryman Rafik Djebbour, sees the end of an expensive experiment gone wrong.

More importantly the exit of Majewski, Abdoun, Jamie Mackie, Dan Harding, Danny Collins, Greg Halford, Louis Laing and Lars Veldwijk (on loan) will save the club, at a conservative estimate, over £6 million a year in wages.

Freedman was exaggerating when he claimed Mackie’s release alone “will change the whole situation for us when it comes to the embargo situation”. But as part of other cost-cutting measures it makes a difference, given his rumoured £30k a week contract.

“I let Mackie go on a free transfer and people might have thought we were mad to do that. But we needed to balance the books a little and, by letting just one player go, and getting him off the books, it has made a massive difference.”

But a leaner squad, with a tighter wage control, is pointing the club in the right direction and, assuming we can prove to the Football League that our finances are in line with the demands of 2016/17, we could be out of the transfer embargo by next summer.

Hopes have been dampened but it’s better for fans and players not to have the heavy weight of expectation on their shoulders. That’s not to say promotion can’t happen; this is the Championship after all.

And with Tyler Walker, Jorge Grant and Oliver Burke looking to follow in Ben Osborn’s path from the Academy, there is hope for the further transition of youth players. Indeed the recruitment of Leon Hunter and Omar Yabroudi suggest the scouting set-up has already been improved for future development.

Forest’s odds are not unrealistic at 7/1 for promotion — and it’s still possible to find odds as long as 33/1 to win the Championship; although, perhaps refreshingly, a top six finish is more like 2/1. While it’s still early for FA Cup betting, it’s no surprise that we’re 150/1 for League Cup.

The club could still benefit from the appointment of a chief executive and a focus on long-term structure and strategy, but the news that Adrian Bevington is joining on an advisory basis is a huge step in the right direction. The Football Association’s former head of media, director of communications and managing director of Club England will add some serious business and administrative expertise.

They say one swallow doesn’t make a summer; we’ve had several promising transfer windows to know it takes more than a few signings to be competitive. But if we can see progress this season, it’ll beat three seasons of throwing caution to the wind and diminishing league positions (8th, 11th, 14th). And perhaps that five-year plan might come to mean something.


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