Striker Michael Frey and goalkeeper Ben Hamer now join a long list of ‘nearly men’ at Nottingham Forest after failing to complete transfers to the club. Andrew Brookes puts his thinking cap on and comes up with a first XI of players who missed out on becoming regulars at the City Ground
In recent weeks we’ve seen both Ben Hamer and Michael Frey get incredibly close to signing at the City Ground. In Hamer’s case, of course, he did sign and then complications with his year-long loan meant he was whisked away from us before he had even played a minute.
This pair’s ‘will they/won’t they’ transfers brought to mind the other nearly men in our recent past. So here’s an XI drawn from the players who could have been permanent fixtures on Trentside.
1. Ben Hamer: Embarrassingly, the Leicester City stopper was forced to return to his parent club after complications with the terms of his season-long loan just days after it was formally announced. Now with Bristol City, fans of hipster beards were cruelly robbed of seeing his facial fuzz at Forest.
2. Nicky Shorey: Never has a nine-game spell enjoyed such reverence on the banks of the Trent. Billy Davies famously said he could have taken Forest to the Premier League in 2010 if he’d been allowed funds to snap up the on-loan Villa man who now plies his trade in India with Pune City. That might be a little simplistic – but it’s certainly true that we never plugged that dreaded left-back spot with such class and aplomb again that season (maybe even since?!) after his loan ended. In this line-up I’ve mischievously stuck him out of position at right-back since, you know, that’s the kind of thing we’d have done…
3. Gareth Bale: The Welsh wing-wizard and Real Madrid galactico almost certainly doesn’t regret his non-move to the City Ground in the same way that we do. Legend has it that Harry Redknapp would have let him don the Garibaldi were it not for an injury to Benoit Assou-Ekotto. He’s not done badly since to be fair.
4. George Friend: Another target to take on that troublesome left-back spot, George can also play centre-half so I’ll slot him in there (I’m sure he won’t mind). Sean O’Driscoll – hastily trying to piece together a defence from almost nothing in the summer of 2012 – wanted to bring his former Rover to Trentside. Sadly SO’D missed out and our loss has been Middlesbrough’s gain.
5. Shaun Barker: That lot down the A52 pipped us to the post to snap up Shaun from Blackpool in 2009. It has been sad to see the injury misfortune that has befallen the Trowell-born Forest fan since a collision in the East Midlands derby in March 2012.
6. George Boyd: January 2013 must surely go down as one of the more bizarre transfer sagas at the City Ground. After a customary ‘derisory’ offer, we finally stumped up the cash to snap up long-term target George Boyd from Peterborough, a welcome boost for new boss Alex McLeish. Then, after an ‘inconclusive eye test’, we pulled the plug and days later the short-lived McLeish reign was over, paving the way for Billy: The Return. Boyd, now at Burnley, doesn’t seem to have had problems seeing the ball in 500-plus senior appearances and proved a few people – me included – wrong by starring last season in the Premier League.
7. Darren Pratley and 8. Peter Whittingham: At the heart of the midfield (and inextricably linked) are Pratley and Whittingham. This pair was identified by Billy Davies as being key targets to build for a promotion push in 2010/11. Having done his bit by ‘recommending and advising’ it was over to the Transfer Acquisitions Panel to do their thing. Chief executive Mark Arthur, always serious about promotion himself of course, then blundered into a bizarre interview in which he claimed both players wanted to join us and was later forced to apologise. Nice job Mark. Darren now captains Bolton while Whittingham’s wand of a left foot is a more-than-handy weapon for Cardiff City.
9. Wesley Verhoek: Forget Billy Davies’ play-off grit, new boss Schteve McClaren was ready to up the ante and show us the continental style he’d learned since Brollygate. The new gaffer’s dodgy Dutch accent paid dividends in getting ADO Den Haag’s Wesley Verhoek over to sign on the dotted line for a couple of million pounds in August 2011. Did the unsavoury scenes of the riot – which spread to Nottingham as Verhoek mulled over the deal – put him off or was it just the thought of pulling on those God-awful socks? He’s been with McClaren’s old men FC Twente, Feyenoord and Go Ahead Eagles since, while McClaren ended up signing Ishmael Miller, Jonathan Greening and Matt Derbyshire instead… some continental revolution.
10. Nicky Maynard: Maynard’s case is a strange one. He seems to be someone we’ve been aware of for ages and would love to have snapped up from Bristol City and West Ham at various junctures. Now a free agent after his release from Cardiff City, we took him on trial this summer before deciding against finally adding him to the ranks.
11. Michael Frey: Finally there’s Swiss striker Michael Frey. The man we kept secret for ages; flew over; wooed; worked out a FFP-worthy deal to sign; fought off competition for and then, with the Lille man seemingly packed and on his way, made a prompt U-turn.
Subs: Wayne Routledge (another McClaren target missed), Matt Jarvis (courted for ages in 2006/07 and has shown us several times what we’ve missed) and Dimi Konstantopolous (who ruptured his Achilles tendon in his first training session on loan from Coventry and never played).
Following Forest is never short of sagas; who knows if the rest of the window might now add yet more names to the list?
I’ve only included recent names and players who are still playing, feel free to suggest your own nearly men.