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Is the next week sink or swim for McClaren?

Thursday 15th September 2011
I believe, even at this early stage in the season, Nottingham Forest and manager Steve McClaren are facing a pivotal week or so.


Despite a promising attacking performance, Forest were a victim of defence errors and refereeing controversy as they lost 3-2 away at high flying Southampton. That result has extended Forest's winless run to 3 league games, losing two and conceding 9 goals along the way.


Yes, Leicester, West Ham and Southampton (who set a new club record with a 12th straight home win in a row on Saturday), are all challenging for promotion, but you have to win games against the teams around you. Last season, we took just 19 points from a possible 54 against teams in the top 10. Of those 18 games, we were only able to win 5 and arguably, that record was the difference between pushing on for a top 2 finish, rather than scrambling into the play-offs. It's crucial you win against your promotion rivals. While I accept we have only played 6 games, and there are still 40 to go, we are already 10 points off the top 2 pacesetters. I know the season doesn't finish in September, but it's like a cricketer who has faced 5 or 6 dot balls. The pressure to really get off the mark is only going to increase and become a greater burden.


This run has already put McClaren in a tense position, and there is no sign of any respite, with the small matter of Derby County visiting The City Ground this weekend. As well as that, the constant talk of utilising the loan window rumbles on.


Rather worryingly, when asked if he would be bringing in any new loan signings ahead of the Derby game, McClaren said: "I would like to but the way it is going at the present moment, I don't expect to." Hardly encouraging words. It seems, like many associated with the club, McClaren's frustration with transfers has continued, even now that the summer transfer window has slammed shut. Even Andy Reid has spoken out about lack of transfer activity. He said: "A lot of players left in the summer and we have not brought enough in to fill those places. We do not have a squad big enough to compete for promotion."


At this moment in time, Andy Reid is spot on. We don't. We haven't brought in a winger, and even Andy Reid, whose place may have been under threat had a winger arrived, is calling for competition for places. Despite going after Routledge and Verhoek, Nigel Doughty still said over his Twitter account that we have a substantial amount of “nPower Championship pros”. But not only is it about quality rather than quantity, it's about having balance.


But nonetheless, it's also on the pitch where progress can be made. Derby County return to The City Ground where they were thumped 5-2 and while no one is expecting anything that emphatic this time around, it's vital that McClaren's boys come away with something.

If Forest's back 5 can hold firm (something that hasn't been frequent this season so far), I believe we have the players and the ability to bounce back and get a win. Our defenders conceded 3 in the last outing and all three came from crosses. While our forwards have looked good, you can't leave them needing to score three goals just to save a point, we saw with Blackpool that while it is a bold tactic, it is rarely a lucrative one. On 10 occasions in the Premiership, Blackpool scored 2 or more goals, but failed to win.


I know our philosophy isn't “outscore the opposition”, regardless of how many we concede. But our success has largely been based on a solid back 5 in recent seasons and a lack of goals have cost us, but so far this season, the tables have turned.


You do get a feeling that, while everyone is very much backing the team, many remain unconvinced by McClaren. Could the huge disappointment of a Derby day loss blind people into wanting McClaren gone? It's certainly a crucial fixture. I think we are definitely capable of beating Derby, and what better opponents for us to kick start our season against? A Derby day win would increase morale of everyone more than a win in almost any other fixture. Whatever the outcome of the game, the consequences and feeling depending on the result, are polar opposites.


It appears as though some are despondent enough and so fed up with the board, manager and results that some tickets remain unsold. Thats a great shame, because however you feel about McClaren, Doughty or Arthur, we are all Forest fans at the end of the day. Its important that everyone gets behind the lads, and to use that old footballing cliche, be the 12th man.

For McClaren, defeat will leave him travelling up an even stronger creek with an even smaller paddle. Should Forest win, while it may not give him the momentum of swimming just yet, it may well keep him afloat for a few more weeks at least.
Written by James Bolton

Follow me on Twitter - @Bolton0301
James Bolton

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