When Claudio Yacob took the captain’s armband for Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge of Nottingham Forest, a leading role would have been expected.

Instead, the Argentine was hauled off after 69 minutes against Bristol City.

He then saw just another 22 over the course of three months.

Between January 19 and the same date in April, Yacob figured in just two games.

Both off the bench late on.

From skipper to minor support role in a litter over an hour under a new boss.

That is some spectacular fall from grace.

And what had Yacob done to deserve it?

Very little would be the general consensus.

After all, the 31-year-old had been a mainstay in the side towards the end of Aitor Karanka’s reign.

Enough had been shown after being snapped up as a free agent to suggest that the South American had an important part to play.

Combative

(Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

O’Neill initially bought into that way of thinking.

But quickly changed his mind.

The Reds boss would talk up a combative operator when asked about him, but would then overlook him whenever a team sheet dropped.

Part of the problem is that Forest are hardly short on defensive midfielders.

If anything, they have far too many.

O’Neill has faced plenty of uncomfortable questions for favouring three at a time in his go-to tactical approach.

Even then Yacob was not getting a look in.

That is until a trip to Sheffield United on Good Friday.

Another forgettable day all round, with there few straws to clutch to.

Yacob was one.

Like Sam Byram before him, an enforced spell on the sidelines delivered no rustiness for a man who knows what his game is all about.

Yacob is not going to change for anyone, and nor should he.

The boundless enthusiasm he brings to proceedings rubs off on those around him.

Forest have faced accusations of lacking the stomach for a fight over recent weeks.

Strengths

 

That is not a department Yacob has ever struggled in.

Which makes you wonder what could have been achieved had he figured more prominently under O’Neill.

Reds legend Kenny Burns has said of Yacob in the Nottingham Post: “There’s nothing fancy with him, he just wins the ball and gives it to somebody with more creative flair.

“He knows his limitations and plays to his strengths.

“The Argentinian has certainly been a big miss for Forest over the last couple of months and I’d hope he gets an extended run in the team between now and the end of the season.”

Jack Colback’s untimely suspension should force O’Neill’s hand from this point.

Given that a lack of creativity is considered to have been the main fault with Forest of late, Yacob may have made no difference across recent outings.

He does, however, boast that bite which the Reds have struggled for.

When others need to be dragged along, would you have rather seen Yacob leading that charge over the likes of Ben Watson and Ryan Yates?

There is little point in becoming bogged down in what could have been.

Hopefully, though, Yacob has put himself firmly back in the frame for the “extended run” mentioned by Burns and potentially even a reunion with the armband unceremoniously ripped from his arm in January.