Nottingham Forest’s safety is all but secured and Chris Hughton has to start thinking about a conversation with Manchester United.
James Garner has been utterly superb since arriving at the club. His two goals over the Easter period have highlighted his quality and showcased just how much Forest could do with him next season.
Getting him back to the City Ground won’t be easy though. Plenty of clubs will be interested and Forest might have to play a waiting game to get their man.
With survival pretty much assured though, it wouldn’t hurt for Forest to register their interest in taking the 20-year-old next season.
Eyebrows were raised among some supporters when Hughton chose to sign him in January. Some fans felt that a more experienced performer was required; or that a player from the club’s own academy should be used.
Having fallen down the pecking order at Watford, plenty felt uncertain that he’d have the required quality to make an impact at the City Ground.
How wrong could those harsh critics prove to be? Garner has excelled under Hughton’s guidance and relished the regular game time.
The United prospect looks to have all the tools in his bag to make him the real deal. He boasts a physical frame, has a superb passing radar and shows intelligence beyond his tender years.
Forest will have far greater ambitions next season. As a serial promotion-winning manager, Hughton will want to compete in the higher echelons of the Championship.
In order to do that he will need to add touches of quality and Garner’s performances have suggested he’d be capable of playing in a team higher up the division.
How realistic is Garner’s return?
A former Forest boss once came out with the line ‘if you don’t buy a ticket, you can’t win the raffle’, shortly after the Reds had signed Aaron Ramsey on loan from Arsenal.
The same notion could apply to Garner and that’s why Hughton simply has to speak to the right people and register Forest’s interest.
Of course the club could still be fighting a losing battle. If a Premier League club emerges, United would surely love for him to be tested in the top-flight next season.
That is a big if though and if offers aren’t forthcoming, a window of opportunity could arise for Forest.
Quality over quantity should be the order of the day for the Reds in the summer.
Garner ticks all the boxes when it comes to fitting such a strategy and getting him back could prove the catalyst to a strong 2021/22 campaign.