In the first of a series, Seat Pitch talks to the fans about their hopes and fears for the season ahead. First up is Jon Watson, better known to many as @Forest_Grump.
1. Were you pleased with the appointment of Steve McClaren?
My initial reaction to McClaren’s appointment was a little knee-jerk as it’s difficult to forget his stint as England manager. However, after calming down from the fact that replacing Davies took so long and wasted so much pre-season time, I read about McClaren’s club credentials and spoke to a few Middlesbrough fans. The ‘Boro fans had nothing but praise after he oversaw the most successful period in their club’s history.
But his achievements in Holland really made me sit up and take notice. Second place in the league in his first season with FC Twente followed by winning the championship in his second season with a relatively unfashionable club is no mean feat. Hopefully, if backed by the club, he will see us over the final hurdle into the top flight.
2. How do you think the squad could be improved?
If the 4-2-3-1 formation is to be used, or even 4-3-3, a natural left-back is a must. Talk of Chris Cohen, Joel Lynch or Chris Gunter ‘filling in’ there for the season fills me with dread and suggests the club has learned little from Billy Davies’ constant moaning. If we only sign one more player before the transfer window closes it has to be a permanent left-back.
With regards to attacking players I feel we need at least one winger — such as Wayne Routledge or Wesley Verhoek — to make the formation work. Andy Reid, Paul Anderson, Robbie Findley and Gareth McCleary are natural wingers but I’d love to see a winger who can cut inside and get a shot in or torment defenders into making mistakes.
As well as wingers I think an out-and-out ‘old school’ centre-forward is imperative. The name Nicky Maynard has been touted all summer but the longer it goes on, the less likely I see him leaving Bristol City at all. Ironically, Kris Boyd, who we had on loan last season, would be the ideal type of player to stay up front, control the ball where needed and provide the finishing skills we often lack.
3. Who will be our most important player this season? And which youth player do you think will make a breakthrough?
I think the signing of Jonathan Greening is very important. He has vast experience of the Championship and the Premier League. He captained West Brom to promotion and is a very accurate passer. He will sit deep in midfield, use his calmness and experience to dictate play and, most of all, keep the ball and pass it accurately to a teammate. Greening’s distribution of the ball and keeping moves flowing will be a great asset.
I’m not sure I can count Joe Garner as a youth player but it almost feels as if he is, due to his lack of game time at Forest. He has temperament issues and isn’t the finished article but I do believe he is the most natural finisher at the club and with McClaren’s — and hopefully Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s — guidance he can start finding the net for us like he did on loan at Scunthorpe and at his previous club Carlisle United.
4. Who do you think will be the main rivals for promotion? And which team do you expect to be the surprise package this season?
Obvious rivals are the big spending Leicester and West Ham. Leicester seem happy to pay ridiculous transfer fees and wages for any half decent Championship players and are clearly backing Sven to get them promoted. If he doesn’t manage it, I don’t think I’d like to be Leicester’s accountant next year. West Ham have the Premiership parachute payments to utilise and have spent big money on the wages of Kevin Nolan, Matt Taylor and Sam Allardyce. I’d be very surprised if they don’t finish in the top six. They will be the ones to beat.
Blackpool also seem to be spending wisely, keeping a good number of players and adding experience. Only time will tell how much of a team they are without Charlie Adam though. Surprise package is often anyone’s guess but I feel Brighton have a good manager and seem to be on the up at the moment. They’d be my tip for an outside bet.
5. What would you most like to happen this season?
I’d like to see Forest push on from last year and sustain some long-term form. Two top six finishes is admirable but very rarely last year did I see an opponent who I thought were better than us as a team. I’d also like to see us trying to win games away from home because those away points are probably even more important than winning at home. Going out and attacking teams and trying to control games away from the City Ground would be a very welcome change.
6. What won’t happen this season?
The manager won’t moan before, during and after every game for starters. I’d also say that Forest won’t sign the eight players that McClaren said he wanted the week he arrived. However, if he can add three or four more to Reid, Greening and Boateng we should still be strong enough to at least reach the play-offs again.
7. Finally, where do you expect us to finish in the league?
As it stands at the moment I think we lack depth in the squad and we were sometimes found wanting last season. With that in mind I’d say eighth is realistic. However, if we can add a little more quality and find goals from within the squad or a new player then I see no reason why we can’t finish in the top three. Not getting players in before the season begins and a slow start could see us playing catch up all season. Whatever happens, I hope to see some good attacking play and maybe a little bit of Dutch/Yorkshire flair introduced by the new manager.
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