Ahead of Saturday’s game at Ashton Gate, Paul Binning from The Exiled Robin tells us what to expect from the home side…
What has changed since last season?
Oh where to start… Steve Lansdown, our chairman who has personally bankrolled much of our £30m loss over the past three years, stepped down from the board in the summer, although remains the majority shareholder. The new stadium we have planned, but which has hit major roadblocks, is his dream – it’s very much a Field of Dreams moment for him (‘build it and they will come’) — and if this falls down due to minor local opposition, Lansdown could well walk away leaving us in dire straits. I hope he’s too much of a fan to do that but the risk remains.
On the pitch our disastrous start to the season led to the sacking of Keith Millen following a particularly inept performance at Blackpool where we lost 5-0 and it was hard to find a single fan who claimed Millen should still be given more time. It was the right move at the right time, although some will be forever adamant the board left it too late, and Derek McInnes was recruited from St. Johnstone.
Ironically, on the pitch little has changed with regard to personnel. Neil Kilkenny was our major signing on a free transfer from Leeds, whilst Ryan McGivern and Stephen Pearson – who’s bound to be popular with Forest fans – are on loan from Manchester City and Derby County respectively. Aside from that it’s pretty much the same players on view last season.
How has the season been so far?
The start made by Millen looked to have us doomed but the initial recovery under McInnes was miraculous. A team that looked so devoid of ideas and confidence for 10 games suddenly looked unbeatable. Kalifa Cisse was brought back from the cold to protect the back four, Liam Fontaine has been handed the captaincy and has responded with a series of masterful displays of leadership. On the opposite end, wide man Jamal Campbell-Ryce and centre-half Damion Stewart haven’t been seen since the Scotman arrived, and to be honest haven’t really been missed.
What can we expect tactically?
Following two defeats I’d expect McInnes to look to tweak things and the established 4-5-1 he’s had in situ since he arrived could make way for a 4-4-2, with Brett Pitman returning to partner star striker Nicky Maynard – if he feels it will be strong enough. McInnes appears to have a very strong view that in the position we’re in defence is paramount and has already mentioned games being too open for two of our three losses during his reign.
The long ball, direct style of Millen has thankfully been scrapped and instead of having Maynard chasing balls down the channels, City now look to play the ball neatly through midfield catalyst Kilkenny, or via the ever-dangerous right winger Albert Adomah. Marvin Elliott and Cisse sit in front of the back four meaning it will be tight through the middle.
Who are the key players to watch out for?
Maynard is obviously a threat – apart from his goals he has outstanding touch, control and pace, whilst Albert Adomah has been the spark behind the revival. John Salako, reporting on our win against Southampton described him as “unplayable”, and his form is rumoured to be attracting attention from the likes of Fulham, West Brom, Blackburn, Wigan and Everton. Aside from that, much of the passing football has to go through Kilkenny as neither Elliott or Cisse are strong enough at that aspect of the game, and I fancy Pearson might just be up for a big game.
What should Forest fans do in Bristol for the day?
It’s all about the cider! I recommend parking at Bedminster Cricket Club (off the M5, junction 19) and enjoying a few pints of Thatchers Gold in the club or, if you’re feeling really brave, a can of Natch — proper West Country cider. It’s also usually one of the best places to park and get away afterwards, and you avoid going through the centre of town on the penultimate Saturday before Christmas. Alternatively, if you are threatened with being dragged off to go shopping then why not stop off at Cribbs Causeway (M5, J17) in the morning before the match – hell on earth in my view but if you like shopping then you’ll love Cribbs.
What’s going to happen on Saturday?
Bearing in mind recent results and modest rivalry between the two clubs, I can’t see much beyond a draw and I’ll be having my hard-earned pound on a 1-1 draw. Saying that, if we get it right and play to our best as we did against Southampton, Millwall, and Burnley recently then we could win comfortably, but it hasn’t been as bright for the last three matches.
Follow Paul on Twitter: @TheExiledRobin