Mathematically, Nottingham Forest can still gatecrash the Championship’s top-six but in hindsight, they need a minor miracle.
Talking of miracles and one of Forest’s illustrious European Cup winning side has been speaking to the Nottingham Post about the current squad.
Garry Birtles claims that the current crop just isn’t good enough to win promotion.
He told the Nottingham Post: “When you look at the squad Martin O’Neill inherited, and compare with other squads competing, those teams are finding ways to win they have the right mentality in their ranks.”
“At the moment the squad isn’t good enough. It’s as simple as that.”
Birtles is a club legend, make no bones about that. These comments aren’t entirely accurate though.
Former Reds boss Aitor Karanka led Forest to fifth in the Championship. Four points were claimed from Leeds, three from Sheffield United and three from Middlesbrough. Add to that Forest scored three goals away at Norwich and five away at Aston Villa – both finished draws, but the Reds knew the way to goal.
Envy of the division
Forest’s squad is on par with, or better than, five of the six sides currently in the top six.
Even Villa who have the best squad in the league by a mile, have courted Joe Lolley in the past, so they’d clearly welcome him into their ranks.
Is Birtles trying to say to Forest fans that Bristol City wouldn’t welcome Joao Carvalho, Lolley or Lewis Grabban into their team? Lee Johnson would probably also take Claudio Yacob, Sam Byram and Jack Robinson too. Not forgetting Jack Colback.
Forget Bristol City for a moment. There are arguments to suggest that the aforementioned players would get into Leeds’ team, Norwich’s team and probably West Brom’s team. They’d certainly be welcomed by Chris Wilder at Sheffield United.
The squad has been there for Martin O’Neill to make a genuine fist of reaching the top-six since day one. That is a fact.
Okay, Lewis Grabban’s injury that sidelined him for over a month didn’t help matters. Again that’s factual. Take 17 goals out of any of the top sides and they will struggle.
To just say the squad isn’t good enough is far too simple.
At one point this very squad, aside from a couple of defenders signed in January, was fifth in the division.
Forest had a £20 million revamp in the summer and had a brilliant chance of the play-offs.
To lament the squad is frankly ridiculous. The strongest eleven that was so often utilised by the former boss, was the envy of the division.
Pound for pound and on paper the Reds’ squad is up there with the best.
The optimism has diminished and that is down in no small part to six defeats in 14 games, with no wins coming away from the City Ground since November.
Quite simply, Forest’s strongest eleven hasn’t been utilised by O’Neill. Carvalho, Yacob and Robinson have all be dropped for key games under the current incumbent.
The squad, if used correctly and to its strengths, is among the best in the division. Nobody has a group of players that automatically assumes promotion is a given. At the end of this season, it will be accurate to suggest that Forest have massively underachieved, however.
Birtles is among the most respected people at Forest and he has done great things for the football club. To say the squad isn’t good enough, however, is just wrong.