In the fifth of the series, Seat Pitch talks to the fans about their hopes and fears for the season ahead. Sunny Sandhu shares his thoughts…
1. Were you pleased with the appointment of Steve McClaren?
Initially, I was simply delighted to see the back of William Macintosh Davies, a man who proved Preston and Derby fans right when they warned that he gets teams to the play-offs but he spits bile and poison all along the way. But it was vital that we found a quality replacement; McClaren is an excellent appointment.
When he was at Middlesbrough their average league position was 11.5 and they enjoyed an average crowd of over 30,000. That’s about 10 places and 7,000 people more than they’ve averaged since he left.
At FC Twente he beat the mighty Ajax to the league title, then managed by Martin Jol — yet it’s Jol not McClaren who ended up back in the Premier League. It’s true that McClaren’s time in the Bundesliga was unsuccessful but it should be noted that Wolfsburg did worse after McClaren was fired — illustrating the problems in the club’s talented dressing room.
The last Englishman to win a major European title before Steve McClaren was Sir Bobby Robson. The last champion to take over at Forest was ‘Sir’ Brian Clough. So we’re very fortunate that McClaren chose to come to Forest.
2. How do you think the squad could be improved?
From last season we have only lost a few regulars: Nathan Tyson, Robert Earnshaw, Dele Adebola and Paul McKenna. In theory they’ve been replaced by Andy Reid, Joe Garner, Robbie Findley, Jonathan Greening and George Boateng.
However, the squad was thin last year — there has been no replacement of the left-back loan signings Ryan Bertrand and Paul Konchesky and other squad players have, seemingly, only been replaced by academy graduates.
Forest desperately need to add depth and rotation to the roster. A left-back is a priority, a centre-back to replace Kelvin Wilson is required and at least one new attacking player would be welcome too.
3. Who will be our most important player this season? And which youth player do you think will make a breakthrough?
Luke Chambers will again be vital to any hopes we have of being successful. Forest only have three recognised starters in defence and cannot afford any of them to suffer a serious injury. Chambers will also be needed to provide an aerial threat from our set-pieces as we lack height up front whilst Dexter Blackstock is recovering from his anterior cruciate ligament surgery.
A youth player who I expect to breakthrough is Brendan Maloney. Due to Forest’s problems in defence I fear it is inevitable at some stage Chris Gunter will be forced to play left-back again. Maloney has struggled at times at right-back when asked to fill-in for Gunter and we may discover how good he really is this season.
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?
Both West Ham United and Leicester City have bet the house on promotion this season. They’re stocked with players with Premier League experience and both have good managers. It would be a monumental failure for either club if they now failed to win promotion.
Birmingham City have been given a spread of 66-68 points. That looks an outstanding bet to sell. The club could lose 10 points by going in to administration and I expect them to sell some of their best players before September.
5. What would you most like to happen this season?
Naturally, I would most like Forest to win promotion. From a schadenfreude aspect I’d love to see Leicester and West Ham hit the wall.
I would also like Nigel Doughty to endeavour to build our fanbase by lowering ticket prices over the medium-term. To do this he should raise his aspirations for the club by increasing our stadium capacity to over 40,000.
6. What won’t happen this season?
I can’t see Nigel Clough being given much longer at Derby County. Clough has been given some money to bring in new players and it’s unlikely the fans will be patient should Derby make a stuttering start to the campaign; especially if Leicester and Forest are doing well.
7. Finally, where do you expect us to finish in the league?
I expect the automatic places to be filled by West Ham and Leicester so the best we can do is make the play-offs again.
We’ll start the season slowly and in January Doughty, and the rest of the front-office, will panic and allow McClaren to spend money and bring in reinforcements. That should be enough for us to make the play-offs; sadly, we’ll be too far off the pace to catch West Ham or Leicester.
As for the play offs… as always, they’re a crapshoot.