When the winter transfer window swung open, Ryan Yates saw a loan switch away from Nottingham Forest mooted.

Having previously spent time with Barrow, Shrewsbury, Notts County and Scunthorpe, more competitive minutes were needed.

An academy graduate was not getting them under Aitor Karanka.

He was on the fringes of the fold, but unable to make the breakthrough.

That situation changed once Martin O’Neill took the reins.

A first Championship start was taken in against Brentford on February 9.

‘One of our own’ impressed against the Bees and gave everyone food for thought.

His goal account was then opened against West Brom, before riling Richard Keogh and Co in a memorable win over Derby.

There were, however, signs even at that stage that the wings were being clipped on a flying start.

It is never easy to burst onto the scene, but it is easier when a relatively unknown quantity.

With adrenaline driving you on.

And results going you way, on the whole.


(Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

Once the tide turns, that is when true assessments can be made.

Unfortunately for Yates, he has been rather found out over recent weeks.

He has become a little too one-dimensional.

His work rate and desire to do well cannot be questioned, but his overall contribution can.

What is he bringing to the fold?

And could those qualities not be found in others?

Those with more experience.

That could be considered a little harsh on Yates who, after all, is experiencing life in the second tier for the first time.

If he is going to be a long-term option in the middle of the park, then he has to start somewhere.

A learning curve will need to be completed in order for true potential to be unlocked.

January, though, was perhaps not the time.

To be thrown in at the deep end of a play-off push was always going to be a big ask.

With the benefit of hindsight, a loan switch may have been the better option for Yates.

It may still be.

O’Neill has clearly taken a liking to the 21-year-old, but has made him another pawn in a sometimes bemusing game of footballing chess.

Yates has made plenty of starting XIs, but also been rested and seen his role tweaked.



From operating as an archetypal holding man, his latest outing against Sheffield United saw him nudged further forward.

He is not a playmaker.

And to try and use him as one is an experiment which should be shelved after 90 minutes.

Especially with Joao Carvalho continuing to play more of a role as elephant in the room than a creative No. 10.

Forest need to mix things up for 2019-20.

Additions are required, including in the engine room, and more of a spark must be found – be that from Carvalho or someone else.

Should Yates figure prominently in those plans?

This not to say that he should be cut loose, he just needs to go away and hone his skills.

A set role needs to be determined and time spent working in that away from the pressures of the City Ground.

He should not see that as a step down.

Having got a taste of first-team life at Forest, giving that up will be difficult.

This could, however, be a case of taking one step backwards in order to eventually take two forward.

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