Nottingham Forest are daring to dream of a promotion push being mounted in 2018/19 after seeing Aitor Karanka carefully gather all of the pieces required for a Championship puzzle.

The general consensus is that the English second tier is among the most competitive and difficult divisions in Europe to negotiate, with a 46-game slog requiring a heady blend of skill and luck.

Experience is crucial and the spine of any ambitious outfit must be strong enough to twist and bend without breaking.

Forest are starting to tick all of the boxes, with proven performers slipping into settled berths from front to back while heavy recruitment has added much-needed depth and options.

There are easy claims to be argued for any number of players filling the archetypal ‘key man’ role, but it is not always those who shout the loudest or tackle the hardest that become leaders.

Priceless commodity

Goals are, and will forever be a priceless commodity, with that statement ringing particularly true in the Championship where a regular source of end product can be worth its weight in gold.

In Lewis Grabban, Forest have found a man to shoulder that responsibility.

He may not be the hardest worker and chances that he would expect to gobble up can go begging, but he can never be accused of hiding and has learned over time to adopt that vital attacking mindset of living in the moment and forgetting about the past.

During trips to Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers, penalty misses could have proved costly and weighed on his mind, but he ended up netting twice in each of those fixtures to help secure would could be four priceless points on the road.

The 30-year-old frontman was also back among the goals away at Hull City on Saturday, with that effort taking him to 10 in the league – only Brentford’s Neal Maupay has more – and 11 in total.

To put that return into perspective, Grabban’s current haul has him keeping pace with promotion heroes of the past.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Allsport/Getty Images)

Back in 1993/94, Stan Collymore had registered 10 league efforts by the 18-game mark (and would end the season with 19), while in 1997/98 Kevin Campbell (23 in total) had nine at the same stage – with Pierre van Hooijdonk leading the charge on 13.

Karanka has said of his £6 million summer signing: “I knew when he signed him that he was cheap for that money. When a player is scoring goals in every game, it is not about his age. It is about how good he is and about how ambitious he is.”

The same words could easily have been muttered about Collymore and Campbell, with their respective £2m and £2.5m price tags representing obvious value for money in a pre-Neymar transfer world.

Both delivered what Forest crave the most – a top-flight standing – and Grabban is offering enough to suggest that he could do likewise if the form and momentum of years gone by can be replicated.

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