Aitor Karanka has embraced the footballing philosophies which are rooted in Nottingham Forest’s DNA, but he is also aware that you only get so far being nice.

Pretty football wins plenty of plaudits, but it doesn’t always win points.

And what do points make…?

The prize on offer for the Reds this season is a top-six finish, at the very least, and a shot at promotion back to the Premier League Promised Land.

In order to get there they are going to need to show that they have the graft to go with their guile.

Promotion puzzle

Karanka knows as much, having solved the Championship promotion puzzle once before, and has laid out his plans accordingly.

He has a sprinkling of magic dust – Joao Carvalho, Joe Lolley, Lewis Grabban etc – but has also brought in much-needed ‘Dogs of War’.

Chief among those is Claudio Yacob.

The affable Argentine is a bubbly, jovial character away from the field that makes time for everybody and rarely has a smile far from his face.

On the pitch, he is a different animal.

(Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

Forest could stand accused of having had a bark worse their bite over recent years, with the Reds almost too nice for their own good.

The presence of Yacob, and a number of those around him, has ensured that is no longer the case.

In the South American – and any combination of Jack Colback, Adlene Guedioura, Ben Watson et al – Karanka boasts the required blend of tenacity and technique.

All of the above are capable with the ball at their feet, but it is their willingness to win said object back by any means necessary which underlines an obvious value to the cause.

Lines may be crossed occasionally, but that is no bad thing.

Right balance

It’s nice to be nice, but it’s better to be good.

Forest are striking that balance and being rewarded for it, with another thoroughly professional performance put in as a collective during a goalless draw with Derby.

Lolley or Grabban could have won that game on a different day, with Lady Luck seemingly otherwise engaged.

It was, however, the likes of Colback and Jack Robinson who stole the headlines with their industry and dogged determination.

Yacob also sank his teeth into the Rams, while avoiding a customary yellow card, and it is those lieutenants prepared to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in that hold the key for General Karanka.

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