Nottingham Forest manager Martin O’Neill has midfielder Jack Colback back available for selection tonight.
The Reds face a tough game against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns. Having the Newcastle United loanee available again will certainly boost O’Neill’s options.
The 29-year-old picked up his tenth booking of the season in the win over Wigan a couple of weeks ago, which has seen him suspended for the last two games. He was named in the starting line-up for Martin O’Neill’s first two games in charge.
Although he has arguably been the standout player this season, he may not stroll back into the team. Ben Watson has been given a new lease of life under O’Neill, whilst Ryan Yates impressed in his first Championship start of the season against Brentford.
In this case, O’Neill will be pleased to have this sort of selection headache. Watson and Yates were both peripheral figures under Aitor Karanka. If they can continue to perform as they did against the Bees, then they can continue to make an impact for the Reds.
Will Colback be straight back in?
If it were any other player, they’d probably struggle to force their way back into the team after missing two games. However, in Colback’s case, it’s difficult to see him not coming straight back in.
Colback will be relishing the opportunity to play against the Baggies. Darren Moore has an abundance of attacking talent at his disposal. The likes of Jay Rodriguez and Dwight Gayle will pose a significant threat to the Reds.
O’Neill might believe that this sort of game is ideal for Colback. The combative midfielder can help protect the back four, which could be vital in this encounter. The Reds are likely to come under pressure at various points throughout the match, and Colback can help alleviate that.
Admittedly, if either Watson or Yates are demoted to the bench, they can count themselves unlucky. They both put in very impressive performances against Brentford. Due to his inexperience, you’d think that Yates would be the more likely to be named on the bench for this game.
O’Neill would perhaps be wise to not push Yates too hard at this stage. After all, the Northern Irishman admitted in his post-match press conference that the 21-year-old midfielder now needs to work hard to maintain that sort of performance level.
He said: “He took his chance today. It is only one game and there is a lot to do. But that will encourage him.
“I said to him last week, when I left him out of the squad completely, that he would definitely play between now and the end of the season. I don’t think he was necessarily expecting that to be today.”
A number of potential options
Of course, O’Neill has plenty of other options in Colback’s position. As well as Watson and Yates, Claudio Yacob and Adlène Guedioura will all also be pushing for a place in the starting line-up. This is before you consider that Liam Bridcutt can’t even get himself in the matchday squad at the moment.
It may also be Ben Osborn’s best chance of getting into the team. Jack Robinson and Joe Lolley are likely to be deployed on the left-hand side, meaning that Osborn will have to find another way of getting into the side.
If you had suggested a couple of weeks ago that Colback being named in the starting line-up would be anything other than a certainty, you’d have been seen as mad. This is surely a good sign of the Reds’ current wealth of midfield options.
Realistically, Colback will most likely make an immediate return to the side. O’Neill will be hoping the ‘Ginger Pirlo’ can help the Reds secure back-to-back victories. If they are able to achieve that, then the play-offs may start to seem a real possibility.