European Cup winner Garry Birtles has heaped praise on two Nottingham Forest players for their recent form, during an interview with Nottinghamshire Live.

The Reds have picked up seven points from Steve Cooper’s three games in charge and look a different team from the one under Chris Hughton.

Forest do still have work to do but in the space of just over a week, they’ve gone from bottom to 17th in the Championship.

Birtles thinks the upturn in fortunes has been down to the midfield having the shackles released.

Coventry City v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship
(Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

Ryan Yates partnered with Jack Colback at Birmingham, with James Garner starting the contest on the bench.

Earlier in the campaign, the Yates-Colback pairing had drawn criticism. In Hughton’s rigid 4-2-3-1 system neither player seemingly had the courage to move the ball forwards.

That now looks like a thing of the past. Both players were outstanding at Birmingham; with Colback looking impressive during a cameo at Barnsley too.

Birtles expects the Forest duo to continue flourishing as the season progresses.

He told Nottinghamshire Live: “There seems to be a freedom with Yates and Colback when they played. Before you wouldn’t have said that if those two were playing.

“We had a go at that system of using two defensive midfielders who were defending deep and trying to defend a 1-0 lead.

“Now, it looks as though they’ve been lifted. The shackles have come off both of them.

“You are seeing Colback and Yates in the same side now and you’re not saying, ‘oh my word, why are they playing together?’. That’s because they’re allowed to express themselves a bit more.”

Cooper conundrum: Forest now have midfield options

Colback’s re-emergence can only bode well and it makes for some interesting decisions for Cooper to have to make.

The Reds now has Yates, Colback, Garner and will soon have Braian Ojeda to call upon in the midfield engine room.

Port Vale v Nottingham Forest - Pre-Season Friendly Match
(Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Then there is Cafu. He has found himself way down the pecking order so far during 2021/22.

The shackles have come off and perhaps now the players are buying into what Cooper wants the players to do on a matchday.

It’s nice to see such a young group of talented players being given the license to express themselves and long may it continue.

Have something to tell us about this article?