As Nottingham Forest prepare to make their way down to the south coast tomorrow, Seat Pitch asks five regular contributors how they think the 2015-16 season will go

Arsher Ali


The season ahead: This season, Nottingham Forest have gone about their business like an overweight slugger who has worked his damnedest to trim the excesses of the past and make the weigh-in. The question of whether or not they can actually win the fight is irrelevant. Sometimes, it’s just about getting healthy first.

Obviously, that was all just an overwrought simile about Forest wrestling with the expectation of promotion as best they can, within the obtuse complexities of Financial Fair Play.

The aborted Ben Hamer loan the latest reminder of our self-induced plight. Our ‘Financial Department’, who may or may not be just a team of monkeys around an abacus, furiously waving their arms in the air to call a stop, “No! Are you mad? We can’t pay a loan bond! There’s no money left! Where are the nuts? We’ve been working here too long without pay!”

On the field — I have absolutely no idea what to expect this season. Not a clue about how much or how little is in the glass. And that is quite liberating. Or just cack. I dunno.

But I do know this — keeping a tether on Henri Lansbury and Michail Antonio will be central to our fortunes. Two players still full of promise, roaming our little ‘Football League’ paddock as ‘Premier League’ passers-by look on, exhaling cigarette smoke and saying, “Those two little ponies are too beautiful for that sad little paddock”.

Well sling your hook, because they’re our little ponies. And we need them now tonight. We need them more than ever. And if they’d only hold us tight. We’d be holding on forever.

Yes Forest are now approaching lean, they may even be a little bit mean but are they a fighting machine? Who knows?

In (insert manager’s name here as applicable throughout the season) we trust.

Prediction: 8th (including a late, fading run for the play-offs. AGAIN)

Andrew Brookes


The season ahead: It hasn’t been a bad summer has it? The constraints of the dreaded FFP embargo have actually stopped the usual transfer cycle: identify an ambitious target; make several ‘derisory’ bids; miss out; panic-buy an alternative.

Instead we’ve shopped in the market available to us and done some decent business while – as yet – managing to keep hold of our assets.

Dougie’s dose of understated realism has kept the usual pre-season hysteria in check and his work on and off the field should have earned him time to get it right.

Jamie Ward should add some much needed bite and ruthlessness to an attack that often didn’t finish off opponents. I’m less sure on Matt Mills, who had a torrid time at the City Ground with Bolton last year, but he has Championship experience and pedigree. So too does Ben Hamer, who looks a shrewd goalkeeping loan. Daniel Pinillos will need time to adjust.

Most worrying for me is how we can set up in midfield to dominate games without the influential presence of ex-Villa loanee Gary Gardner. Making do with Michael Mancienne isn’t really the answer and sadly David Vaughan has never been able to show his class over a sustained period. Robert Tesche looks set for a second chance under Freedman but the squad certainly misses a midfield general and, in Britt Assombalonga’s absence, a striker too.

In embargoland though, it’s easy to see why these positions are proving hard to fill. Assombalonga’s Christmas return will be crucial and it’d be a bonus to get anything from injured duo Andy Reid and Chris Cohen.

In the meantime we need to get the most from the raw pace and power of the explosive Antonio – easily our most exciting attacker in years.

I reckon we’ll flirt shamelessly with a possible push for the play-offs but lack the consistency needed to make it.

Prediction: 10th.

Forest Boffin


The season ahead: If there is one time of the year for any football fan to be optimistic, it is now – before their team’s inevitable shortcomings have been exposed by the scrutiny of competition, and despite my own slight misgivings about Dougie Freedman, I’m excited about what the season has in store.

At the very least we’re going to see some of Forest’s home-grown talent unleashed on the Championship; I look forward to Ben Osborn’s first goal in front of the Trent End. Tyler Walker looks a fantastic prospect, and I’ve a good feeling about Jorge Grant and Oliver Burke.

And we know what our senior players are capable of; even the least-loved members of the squad have proven they can succeed at this level. Freedman has a strong stable of proven talent just waiting to be harnessed.

It was important Forest did not lose any key players – particularly in creative areas, and it appears they have fended off interest in Henri Lansbury and Michail Antonio. The presence of these two players alone makes Forest a dangerous prospect.

But perhaps just as crucial will be the club’s fortunes concerning injuries. The City Ground infirmary has been a crowded place in recent seasons – perhaps the most important factor in derailing the careful plans of Billy Davies and Stuart Pearce. Freedman will need more luck on this front.

But with a little luck Forest could go all the way this season; they are one of twenty or so teams with a chance of promotion in this open, unpredictable league. And the good news is that even with bad luck, these players have shown they are probably too good to go down.

Prediction: Anywhere between 2nd and 15th! I’ll say 5th.

Paul Severn


The season ahead: Last season was a really tough one – even for Forest fans. The joy of Stuart Pearce returning quickly faded away and was replaced by a list of injuries to key players, a transfer embargo and Dougie Freedman’s honeymoon period ended too. When the campaign ended, it was a relief.

However, an exciting Ashes series, a few rounds of golf and some positive developments off the field at the City Ground have restored some of my enthusiasm – and if you can’t be optimistic in August, why bother being a football supporter?

Freedman has a lot to prove as manager, but I think most fans would applaud the way he’s handling the embargo. To lose Karl Darlow, Jamaal Lascelles and Jamie Mackie and replace them with Ben Hamer (hopefully), Matt Mills and Jamie Ward is exceptional business under such restrictions.

The manager’s promise to promote youth was finally given some substance when Oliver Burke and Tyler Walker signed new contracts. Robert Tesche was rightly brought back. Radi Majewski was a popular figure, but this was based more on nostalgia and sentiment, rather than any evidence of consistent displays in recent seasons. Djamel Abdoun will go down as one of Forest’s most expensive blunders since erm… Rafik Djebbour.

So how will we do? Much depends on whether we can cling on to Michal Antonio and Henri Lansbury. The latter had a mediocre season last term, but his talent still yielded double figures in goals. Against Aston Villa, he again showed his quality and cutting edge. It is difficult to see Forest seriously challenging the top six, unless Chris Cohen, Andy Reid and Britt Assombalonga recover to make significant contributions. I fear all of them may not, but if we can sign a striker to add some more goals to the side, we should have a comfortable, stress-free season. And wouldn’t that be nice?!

Prediction: 12th.

James Bolton


The season ahead: For me, any success this season is based more on a foolish hope, rather than logical expectation. And yet, on the eve of the new season, it’s impossible not be a bit excited.

There is no doubt that this summer has been very different for us. Gone is the lavish spending and, hopefully, in its place emerges a prudent and strategic approach to recruitment, which will balance a competitive squad while keeping the club on a stable financial footing.

In fairness to Dougie, I think his overall approach to dealing with the embargo has been spot on, in terms of both incomings and outgoings. Jamie Ward, Matt Mills and Ben Hamer are all pretty impressive acquisitions given our constraints, and getting the likes of Djamel Abdoun and Jamie Mackie off the wage bill is reportedly going to be enough to see us embargo-free by next season.

In some ways, the embargo may well be a blessing in disguise, if – and that is about as big an ‘if’ it’s possible to fathom – Fawaz has learned his lesson. We all know that our off the field operations have been in dire need of repair, with the club crying out for some professional, experienced help. Leon Hunter seems to making his mark, and hopefully Adrian Bevington can do the same. As we saw happen with Paul Faulkner, we do have an uncanny habit of taking one step forward and two steps back.

On the field, despite the competent additions and, thus far, holding onto key players, I don’t see us making any notable push for promotion, or even the top 10. I think the loss of Britt Assombalonga until at least the New Year will be enormous, and with only young or injury prone understudies currently available, I think we’ll struggle for consistent sources of goals. That places a lot of pressure on Michail Antonio and Henri Lansbury to be ideally reaching double figures once again, with others needing to find the net on a more regular basis.

On a more positive note, to see the likes of Tyler Walker, Oliver Burke and possibly others emerge in the way Ben Osborn has done would be fantastic, and nothing would please me more than seeing Andy Reid and Chris Cohen pulling on a red shirt sooner rather than later.

Prediction: 12th.

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