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Forest and McClaren need to get moving, and fast!

Friday 8th July 2011
It is almost a month since Steve McClaren took over at the City Ground and in that time, there hasn't been much in the terms of genuine progress. Now, I'm not a downbeat, pessimistic fan. When we hit the poor form, I still believed we would sneak into the play-offs. However, this week, I have begun to get increasingly concerned about the activity, or lack of it, at Forest.

Unlike Billy Davies, who had a 5 man backroom staff already in place when he arrived, McClaren had no first team coach and no assistant manager. We have now finally appointed a first team coach, in the shape of ex-Leicester City manager Rob Kelly, but the assistant manager's role remains unfilled. Forest made an approach to bring former Reds manager and current Hibernian boss Colin Calderwood back. Since his sacking on Boxing Day 2009, Calderwood has worked under Chris Hughton at Newcastle United and guided them back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. However, the has plot thickened as Chris Hughton has been appointed as Birmingham City manager and he, like McClaren, wants Calderwood to be his number 2. A fortnight after the enquiry made by Forest, the Hibs chairman has issued a firm hands off warning, while Calderwood has remained reserved on the subject of his future at the SPL side. McClaren has stated himself that Calderwood wishes to return, but nothing seems close to materialising. While Calderwood may not be the fans' first choice, he is McClaren's, but the process of bringing him in is taking an awfully long time.
In terms of players, I'm afraid things aren't much better. We have managed to capture former Red Andy Reid on a free transfer following his release from Blackpool. Personally, I think this is a great signing. He has a brilliant left foot, excellent crossing ability and is also a dead ball threat. Obviously, there are doubts over his fitness levels, but he went some way to silencing critics when he appeared to be rather trim in the pre-season photographs, as well as finishing in 4th place in the dreaded bleep tests. Other than the arrival of Reid and the various rumours circulating in the press, not much is happening in the way of incoming transfers. Although, over the last 24hours, rumours Wayne Routledge is coming to Forest have gathered momentum.

Looking at outgoing transfers, it's a different story all together. Forest have seen so many faces leave, we can barely patch together an 11 v 11 game in training. We have seen Paul McKenna, Dele Adebola and Nathan Tyson all leave on free transfers to Hull City and Derby County respectfully. Youngsters Mark Byrne (Barnet) and Nialle Rodney (who has had trials at Bradford and Notts County over recent weeks) also depart. One player who I am happy to see leave is Julian Bennett, not because he is a poor player, but because after nearly two years on the treatment table for a serious knee injury, he is going to link up with ex-Reds manager Gary Megson at Sheffield Wednesday. ‘King Julian' as he was often known to the fans was a real City Ground favourite, who was playing at his home town club. Unfortunately that injury has plagued his career, but I'm sure Forest fans will follow the rest of his footballing journey with interest. I was delighted that Julian got a last farewell, coming on a substitute in the 5-1 home win against Scunthorpe. At one point, he nostalgically charged down the left wing with the ball at his feet and we were reminded of his prime, and that burst was met with a louder cheer than any of Forest's goals, which is testament to him and shows how highly regarded he is amongst Forest fans.
Possibly the most high profile departure is that of Robert Earnshaw, who has returned to Cardiff City. After a second play-off defeat and his positive comments regarding Malky Mackay's appointment, it seemed likely he would be out the door. On his twitter page, he thanked fans, spoke of happy memories he would always cherish and said his only regret was that we didn't get promoted. With 34 goals in his first two seasons, he was a talismanic figure, but suffered under the Billy Davies rotation policy last season, scoring only 9 times. Despite McClaren's best efforts to persuade him to stay (Earnshaw said himself he was very impressed with McClaren's vision), he felt Cardiff made him feel wanted, which I can completely understand, as Forest aren't renowned for being quick out the blocks when it comes to players' contracts. I am not surprised in the slightest he has left, I myself would have kept him on a 2 year deal as his finishing is evidently still of a high standard. However, to achieve those finishes, it takes him 5 or 6 chances to score a goal, where previously it would take only 2 or 3. My main disappointment is the fact we've lost him on a free transfer, where we possibly could be getting around £1million for him. Despite his departure, I again wish him well, as his goals have not only kept us in the division, but fired us to two play off campaigns, as well as scoring 3 memorable goals in the double over Derby County.
"I still remember the day I signed. I had a really good feeling about the club that day and it was the same the day I left." - Robert Earnshaw

Like Earnshaw, there was a lot of talk surrounding Guy Moussi's contract. McClaren has flown to France to talk to the player face to face, and we are led to believe that talks between the club and the players' representatives are on-going, and the club are ‘working very hard' to keep him. The Frenchman has been linked with moves to Everton and Wigan, as well as rivals Derby, who have a history of grabbing our players on free transfers.

Regarding our other squad members, there were reports in the Daily Mirror, that Newcastle United were plotting a £1.5 million bid for Lewis McGugan. If this is the case, the valuation is laughable, as McGugan is only 22 and has had the best season of his career, scoring 13 goals, many of which are of an incredibly high standard, and contributing 15 assists. If Newcastle are serious about taking McGugan north, I think they should be looking closer to the £5 million mark, however, with Newcastle having 7 or 8 strong midfielders on their books already, it may just be paper talk.

More player departures may follow if the right bids come in, but hopefully not. With the likes of Leicester buying their Championship dream team and throwing cash left, right and centre to gain promotion, we are in serious danger of being left behind. McClaren wants, in his own words, ‘8 quality players.' This will not come cheap by any means for Nigel Doughty. 8 additions would leave us with a squad of around 24 first team players, including academy players that will be moulded into the senior squad.

While there is uncertainty over what players will come in, what is certain is that with the new season just 4 weeks away, and Forest's pre-season trip to Portugal also looming, we need men in shirts, and we need them fast. This is in addition to resolving the assistant manager situation, which at the moment just seems to be, metaphorically, like a revolving door. McClaren is voicing his concerns, and at the moment, I am beginning to share them. To me, the likelihood of 8 ‘quality' players joining seems a long way off at the moment, especially looking at the fact we lost out to League 1 runners up Southampton in the race for Jack Cork. What would help lift the fans and the players currently in the squad, would be a couple of fresh faces over the next week or so, to restore some faith.
Written by James Bolton.

Follow me on Twitter - @Bolton0301
James Bolton

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