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Forest's ‘Boys' Must Become Men

Wednesday 22nd June 2011
The 2010/2011 season can be interpreted as a season of success for Nottingham Forest, but ultimately, it was a season of missed opportunities. In the wake of the play-off defeat to Swansea, us Red's fans were left ruing what good have been. A 15 game unbeaten streak, including a 6 match winning run, lifted Forest to the dizzy heights of second place in the Championship, behind eventual winners Queens Park Rangers. This run included a double over Derby County, a frantic win over Cardiff City and a last gasp victory over Portsmouth, courtesy of a Marcus Tudgay injury time header. However, Forest stumbled across a run of just 1 win in 10 games and eventually the play-off system got the better of Forest for the fourth time, and fans were left contemplating another season in the second tier and imagining the prospect of our big guns leaving the club.

So, what followed? Two weeks of silence from the club and doubt from the fans. Looking at Forest's squad, Chris Cohen, Luke Chambers, Lewis McGugan and Lee Camp are all capable of playing in the Premier League. Over recent weeks, there have been other players linked with moves including Paul Anderson (Wigan) and Nathan Tyson, who claimed he had offers from Premier League teams, but ended up at Derby County.

Should Forest hang onto theses players? It is crucial they all step up to the plate if Forest are to go one better in the next campaign. With a new manager on board, it's always hard to predict whether players want to prove themselves to a new man, or whether they move on to work with the previous manager. But with a manager with the pedigree and respected reputation of Steve McClaren at the helm, I think they will stay.

Therefore, it is time to remove the tag that Billy Davies branded onto the squad to lessen the weight of expectation. The phrase “young and naïve squad” was almost becoming Davies' catchphrase. That can no longer be an excuse. The 18 men in the squad for the second leg of this seasons play off tie had an average age of around 27 years old. Yes, this included loan players, but 11 players made an appearance in at least one leg of the Swansea and Blackpool games.

Young? No. Naïve? They shouldn't be. Not after a previous play-off campaign.

It's now up to the players to prove themselves, not only to the new manager, but to some extent, the fans. They have missed out on two occasions, they need to show they're up for a third fight for promotion. Obviously, there will be comings and goings but the players that remain have to step it up.

Lewis McGugan has done that. He's been the most talented player at the club for years, and this season showed flashes of sheer brilliance scoring 13 goals, including that thumping free kick against Ipswich, which received a nomination for European Goal of the Year, alongside the likes of Messi. It's been reported that McGugan will very much be the heart of creativity next season, and if he can recreate the form he showed in the last campaign, and sustain it, then Forest will have that flair they need.

Chris Cohen has been a steady and consistent player for Forest since signing from Yeovil. He has a good left foot, a great tackling ability and a tireless engine. However, he has more in his locker, and that needs to be demonstrated. While it is likely he will fill the role of McKenna by holding the midfield together, I personally would like to see him express himself a bit more.

It's been hard to fault Luke Chambers this season. Goals, last ditch tackles and undoubted passion. If he and central defensive partner Wes Morgan are as ever present as last season, Forest's defence will be much stronger because of it.

However, it's at full back where we struggle. The issue of left back is well documented, and it's been our achilles heel over the past two seasons. With Ryan Bertrand, Nicky Shorey and Paul Konchesky all filling that position in loan spells, Forest have seen Luke Chambers, James Perch, Chris Gunter, Chris Cohen and Joel Lynch all take up the role. They are all out of their comfort zone and playing out of position, so no wonder there have been frailties. For me, Bertrand would be top of my transfer list, ahead of any other player or position. Whether a deal materialises, we will wait and see. As for right back, Chris Gunter played every minute of the 2009/2010 season and was terrific, but in the last 10 games of this season, he made mistakes, was often caught out of position and regularly got beaten for pace, meaning he had to make a rash tackle. However, on a brighter note, Brendan Moloney is emerging as a talented understudy.

Stiker David McGoldrick has yet to capture the form he showed at Southampton and Joe Garner must emulate his scoring touch he gained on loan at Scunthorpe if he is to challenge for a starting role. As for Radi Majewski, possibly Forest's most skilful player was forced into a fringe role last campaign, making only 28 appearances and scoring just 2 goals. If these players were to perform and seriously push their colleagues for starting places, then we would have increased strength in depth, without making a signing.

It's time for Forest to come of age. Davies has gone, and so too should his excuses of youth, naivety and inexperience. This squad does have the potential to get promoted next season, we all know that and they know it too, they just have to unlock that potential.

Written by James Bolton. Follow me on Twitter - Bolton0301
James Bolton

Total articles: 29

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