After three losses in a row Nottingham Forest have slipped back into dangerous territory. Is relegation a serious threat this season?
Relegation is not just a threat; it’s a possibility. Nottingham Forest are at the wrong end of the table, finishing the season with an interim manager for the third year in four, with none of the structure Fawaz ‘action not words‘ Al Hasawi promised almost 12 months ago.
It’s been a threat for the past two seasons but without any real danger — the three relegated teams were, in reality, so bad both years that 42 points was enough to stay up. Which leads to the question: how much danger are we really in?
In eight of the past 10 seasons 48 points has been enough to stay in the Championship. In several seasons 42 has been enough. In fact, since the Championship was rebranded in 2004-05 (when 51 points were required to stay up) only two other seasons have required in excess of 50 points — 55 in 2012-13 and 53 in 2007-08.
We currently have 36 points with 13 games left. There’s no room for complacency but our sole mission this year is to stay up, so while a minimum of 12 points is likely we obviously need to be aiming higher.
Having lost three in a row to teams in the top eight maybe we can take those on the chin. The nine points gained under Gary Brazil gave us a little breathing space but we’ll need to be taking points off the clubs around us in the coming weeks — Wigan Athletic (A) this Saturday for starters, followed by Brentford (H), Burton Albion (A), Wolverhampton Wanderers (A), Blackburn Rovers (H), QPR (A) and Ipswich Town (H).
The bookies don’t even have us as favourites to beat Wigan though with the odds at 888sport currently 11/10 on a home win and 13/5 on an away win.
And any points taken against the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion (H), Huddersfield Town (H) and Reading (H) will be a bonus. Although given our away record, perhaps it’s these home fixtures we should be looking at. With just two wins on the road this season — and 36 goals conceded in just 17 games — it would be ambitious to expect many more away points.
Having let Dorus de Vries go to Celtic in August — last year’s player of the season no less — our leaky defence could still yet punish us after the loss of Stephen Henderson as well as Matt Mills, Jack Hobbs and Michael Mancienne. Only Rotherham United and Bury have now conceded more goals in the top four divisions.
Based on the past 10 games we’re currently 18th in the form table — but that’s still averaging a point per game. At that rate we could still yet be safe… but our end-of-season form leaves much to be desired. Last year we managed 13 from 13, the previous year it was 12 from 13 and the year before 10 from 13.
Rotherham United look doomed with just 17 points — winning all 13 of their remaining games will take them to 56 points. However, as it stands, the whole bottom half of the table could become embroiled in a relegation battle with just 11 points separating 13th placed Ipswich and Wigan in 22nd. In reality, the bottom three have been there for most of the season…
It’s easy to be glib and suggest relegation would be a punch in the nose to Fawaz, that it could be a fresh start and rejuvenate the club. However, a quick glance at League One shows you Sheffield United might only now recover from relegation six years ago.
We’ve spent just five years in the third tier of English football in our entire history. That’s how devastating relegation was in 2005 — 55 years after a brief period in the Third Division South; North and South were the precursors to the modern Third Division and Fourth Division.
Worse, given that Gary Brazil and the Academy are the only saving grace at the moment, League One would have a devastating effect on the production of youth players. People questioned the point of the Academy just a few seasons ago — before the likes of Patrick Bamford, Karl Darlow and Jamaal Lascelles emerged — when Lewis McGugan was the only player to really make an impact in several seasons.
We’re by no means down and out. The new additions to the squad in January, and the returning players from injury, give us cause for hope. There’s enough hungry talent at the City Ground to fight the cause.