With the 2014/15 accounts submitted to both Companies House and the Football League, Nottingham Forest are set to face another transfer embargo under Financial Fair Play regulations. But the whole saga has the potential to be a positive for the club, says Paul Severn

When Nottingham Forest were placed under a transfer embargo by the Football League a year ago, it didn’t come as a surprise. Large transfer fees and high wages had been handed out for several seasons: some worked out well, others were a disaster, and many more suffered from injury – most notably Britt Assombalonga.

From the outside, slipping into an embargo almost seemed accepted by Forest as part of a ‘strategy’. Building a talented squad with strength in depth appeared to be a useful buffer against a lack of incoming future transfers, which would tide the club over until the rules were relaxed, or possibly, promotion was achieved. It was a risky approach, but understandable in a way, especially after Forest started last season so well under Stuart Pearce.

For me, the embargo situation began to bite before it was even imposed. In the September 2014 clash against Derby County, Forest lost their captain and vice-captain in Chris Cohen and Andy Reid. Both were difficult to replace for differing reasons and even more so under an embargo. When Assombalonga later suffered a knee injury against Wigan Athletic, the harsh realities of the situation really did hit home and the ‘embargo approach’ unravelled.



RONALDO NEEDS TO STOP WHINING.

Once Dougie Freedman’s honeymoon period ended, Forest began a freefall which has been all too familiar. On the eve of the recent Derby County match, Forest had just one home win all season, against Rotherham. I had predicted that Forest may finish 12th this season if Michail Antonio stayed and three key injured players returned. None had yet returned and Antonio had left for West Ham. The situation looked bleak and sacking Freedman looked the only plausible option as a short-term fix.

We all know what happened against Derby, and this time we appear to have used the win to turn a corner. Two more home wins have followed and having been at the Brentford game, I can report we were unlucky to come away pointless from Griffin Park. But when you analyse the positive direction Forest have been travelling since some shambolic early season displays (especially Walsall), there are reasons to be cheerful at last.

One key failing at the City Ground in the Fawaz Al Hasawi era has been getting poor value for money in the transfer market. For every signing of a player on an upward curve like Antonio, there have been more on the decline – or in the case of Rafik Djebbour and Djamel Abdoun, expensive disasters. The embargo has demanded and implemented a new strategy by its mere presence.

One problem in football that is rarely mentioned is that squads can be too large. Managers and clubs have to play expensive signings to justify their decisions. Rotation can breed confusion and signings can act as a total block to young players’ progress. While Freedman and Forest haven’t had a 100% clear approach on the above, you can see clear improvements in form and/or fitness in a number of players. Eric Lichaj, Nelson Oliveira, David Vaughan, Ryan Mendes and Dorus De Vries are surely playing some of the best football of their careers due to playing regular football. The team organisation has improved, as has the will to win.

Signings have been frugal but, with the £10,000 wage cap, we have players like Chris O’Grady who really do want to play for Forest. He’s a local player giving everything for his hometown team. It’s a massive difference to Djebbour isn’t it?

Longer contracts have allowed us to sidestep the rules to a degree with Matt Mills and Jamie Ward, who from day one looked decent additions. But the signing of left-back Dani Pinillos for me is the revelation of the season. This position has dogged Forest for years and out of nowhere we have a young, all-rounder full-back who oozes class. The question is, would Forest have scouted La Liga free agents if we weren’t under an embargo?

Despite our current form, we can’t be complacent. The Championship is a tough, unrelenting league and I am quickly writing this article before two tough away games. But we have a solid team with an assured goalkeeper, two good full-backs, several experienced central defenders and midfielders and strikers who are beginning to fire. Credit must go to Freedman, but I don’t think it is 100% a strategy.

There have been missteps with a couple of unnecessary signings and times when younger players should have been given greater opportunities. But overall the necessities of life under an embargo are starting to have an impact in a positive direction. Fingers crossed, Forest could well come out of the embargo stronger, and certainly wiser than before.


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