2009-2010 Season Preview

The 2009-2010 season promises to be an exciting one for Forest fans. Having consolidated their position in the Championship, I had expected them to push for mid-table obscurity this season, and I imagine I wasn’t alone in this. However, it would appear that Billy Davies is not only an ambitious man, but an ambitious man in a hurry. His transfer dealings this summer have sent a message out to all the other Championship sides, and that message is "We’re serious about promotion. Are you?" (sorry, Forest fan in-joke). Whilst Colin Calderwood’s philosophy seemed to be one built on a small, tightly-knit squad, Billy Davies’ seems quite the opposite. Hardly had the season finished before he was talking about building a strikeforce of six, compared to the three senior strikers on Forest’s books this time last year. It would also appear that Davies has identified the weaknesses in Forest’s defence (namely the full-back positions), though the lack of a left-back last season was more down to Julian Bennett’s knee injury than anything else. However, a lack of suitable back-up players was glaringly evident last year as a succession of players filled the full-back spots – Joe Heath, Chris Cohen, Kelvin Wilson and Joel Lynch at left back, and Wilson again at right back, along with Brendan Moloney and eventually Chris Gunter. Gunter’s arrival in a permanent deal, along with the signing of Paul McKenna from Preston – a move which should free up James Perch from midfield – and Bennett’s return from injury should mean that the gaps on each side of the defence are more than adequately filled.

Another weak area in the side was the wings. Though Forest started last season with Paul Anderson, Lee Martin and Garath McCleary on the books, McCleary had just had six months of Football League experience at League One level, but also was only 20 years old. Martin was a disappointment, scoring a spectacular goal against Watford in August and then failing to live up to that for the rest of his six month loan spell. Anderson played reasonably well, finishing the season with a couple of goals, though he did miss a vital part of the season with a broken wrist, sustained in the F.A. Cup Fourth Round tie against Derby. For much of the rest of the time, Chris Cohen did a good job of filling in on either flank, and there were also occasions when Nathan Tyson played on the left-hand-side of a three man attack.

Once again, Forest will start their season against Reading, though this time the match will be played at the Madjeski Stadium rather than the City Ground. The first month of the season should give a good indication of where the club is, as Forest follow up their trip to Reading with home games against relegated West Bromwich Albion and Watford, who, whilst impressive towards the end of last season under Brendan Rodgers have lost him to Reading as well as star striker Tommy Smith. After that, they are away at Queens Park Rangers before finishing the month off with a tasty home match against local rivals Derby.

SIGNINGS

David McGoldrick (striker) – undisclosed (£1,000,000+) from Southampton

Despite playing in a struggling side, David McGoldrick still managed to score twelve league goals and two more in the cup last season. He also appeared in every single league match for Southampton, and did enough for Billy Davies to pay over a million pounds for him. He has also occasionally played on the wings, and should provide a range of options for Forest’s attack. From what I saw of him in the final game of last season, he likes to drift and come deep to receive the ball, and so could be the new Jack Lester.

Dele Adebola (striker) – free from Bristol City

Deadly Dele

Dele Adebola (right, with Paul Anderson, modelling the new home shirt) should provide Forest with a much-needed physical presence up front. In a previous post, I was rather dismissive about the prospect of seeing Adebola in a Forest shirt, but on further thought I have come to the conclusion that he could be just what Forest need to turn some of the defeats into draws and draws into wins. Hopefully, he will be able to hold the ball up and allow the rest of the team time to move forward – something that was rarely seen last season, as none of Tyson, Earnshaw or Garner are particularly physically imposing. He scored 10 goals last season for Championship rivals Bristol City, and a similar return, along with several assists would go down nicely this year.

Paul Anderson (winger) – £250,000 from Liverpool

Anderson is another of Forest’s loan signings from last season who has chosen to join the club permanently. After two years out on loan, parent club Liverpool decided to cash in on him, and both Forest and previous club Swansea City had offers accepted, only for Anderson to chose the Reds. He is able to play on either wing, but is totally right-footed.

Lee Camp (goalkeeper) – undisclosed (£100,000 rising to £300,000) from Queens Park Rangers

Lee Camp’s loan spell at the back end of 2008 was pretty successful, and he endeared himself to the fans with two last minute penalty saves, first against Bristol City at Ashton Gate, and then more importantly away at Derby, salvaging a point and some local pride to boot. Following the sacking of Colin Calderwood, he returned to QPR, and it seemed that despite his popularity that might well be the last anyone saw of him in a Forest shirt. Rumours abounded that he and Billy Davies didn’t get on following a spell together at Derby County a few years previously. These rumours were lent weight by a rather cryptic comment from Camp on his departure, where he hinted that there had been no attempt made by Davies to renew his loan deal, saying something along the lines of "Colin Calderwood was the manager who wanted me, and he’s gone now". However, these rumours proved groundless, and Davies secured his man in early July and quickly handed him the no. 1 shirt, thereby implying he was first choice. It could well be that his loan wasn’t renewed due to a clause which meant that Forest would have to pay something in the region of £800,000 to sign him permanently. By allowing his loan to expire, this clause was rendered invalid, and Forest are rumoured to have paid an intial fee of only £100,000 for his services, though this could rise to £300,000 subject to certain conditions.

Paul McKenna (midfielder) – £750,000 from Preston North End

McKenna had been a fixture in Preston’s midfield for most of the last twelve years, and was their fourth on their club’s all-time appearances list. However, he felt it was time for a fresh start, and following a rather undignified pursuit, Forest got their man on a three-year contract.


Chris Gunter (full back)
– £1,750,000 from Tottenham Hotspur

Following his successful loan spell at the end of last season, it was
openly accepted that Forest would be looking to bring Chris Gunter back
for this season. Billy Davies enquired shortly after the season’s end,
and was told that Tottenham were unwilling to let him leave unless it
was on loan again. Several other clubs, including Sheffield United and
Ipswich Town, were rumoured to be interested, but Forest worked quietly
in the background, persuaded Harry Redknapp to change his mind and
sealed (for me) the best deal of the lot, paying only £1.75m for
Gunter.

Joel Lynch (defender) – £200,000 from Brighton & Hove Albion

Lynch is yet another loanee from last season who has made the permanent switch to the City Ground. Capable of playing at left-back and centre-back, he should provide cover for Julian Bennett and also considerable physical presence in the defence. On occasions last season he looked like the perfect defender – big, strong, aggressive and with a lot of pace – however, he also succumbed to injury at several points, and perhaps couldn’t be relied upon to complete a sustained run of matches. There are also question marks over his attitude, given that prior to joining Forest on loan last autumn, he pulled out of a Brighton match claiming to be in the wrong frame of mind (the general consensus of opinion was that he had decided he was too good for them and was essentially demanding a move elsewhere immediately).

Dexter Blackstock (striker) – undisclosed (£1,600,000) from Queens Park Rangers

Another former loanee, Blackstock played six times, scoring twice at the end of last season, including a dramatic winner against Bristol City. Billy Davies was known to be keen to sign him permanently, and with QPR’s board seemingly only too happy to see the back of him, despite the fact that he was their top scorer when he joined Forest on loan, it was only a matter of time before the negotiations came to a positive conclusion. The fee was rumoured to be £1.6m, and this figured was being bandied about for several weeks before the signing was actually announced, but the clubs decided against disclosing the actual amount.

Radoslaw Majewski (midfielder) – loan from Polonia Warsaw

Majewski made an immediate impact after signing for Forest on loan. His arrival was announced late in the afternoon on Forest’s official website, and he was included in the squad for one of two simultaneous friendlies played that night. Not content with merely starting a match within hours of meeting the other players, he took only 2 minutes to score his first goal. Billy Davies described him as one of the brightest prospects in Poland, and having made five appearances for the national team by the age of 21, it is hard to disagree. His loan spell lasts all season, and there is a strong rumour that Forest have already agreed a fee for his permanent signature should his loan spell prove successful.

OUTGOING

Ian Breckin (centre back) – free to Chesterfield

Shane Redmond (goalkeeper) – six-month loan to Burton Albion

James Reid – (left back/winger) – six-month loan to Rushden & Diamonds

Joe Heath (left back) – six-month loan to Lincoln City

Brendan Moloney – six-month loan to Notts County

Mark Byrne (midfielder) – six-month loan to Rushden & Diamonds

Matt Thornhill (midfielder) – six-month loan to Brighton & Hove Albion

Tom Sharpe (centre back) – released

Adam Newbold (striker) – released

Hamza Bencherif (centre back/midfielder) – released

Richard Tait (right back) – released

Emile Sinclair (striker) – released

Liam Hook (midfielder) – released

Ryan Whitehurst (striker) – released

Paddy Gamble (goalkeeper) – released

KEY PLAYERS

Lee Camp

With the amount of money spent this summer, promotion is clearly the aim. In order for Forest to give themselves the best possible chance of securing promotion, they need to be tighter at the back than they were last season. I was a big fan of Paul Smith, but there were several occasions last season when he did himself (and more importantly, Forest) no good at all. As a result, he found himself replaced by loan signings, and this summer one of those became a permanent rival for the position. I still think that Paul Smith is a superior shot-stopper to Lee Camp, I feel that Camp is a better all-round keeper who commands his area and isn’t afraid to come and collect the ball in the air. As a result, I think he could have a massive influence on the success of Forest’s defence and therefore the season.

Paul McKenna

During fourteen years at Preston, Paul McKenna proved himself vital to one of the Championship’s best sides. However, he felt the need for a fresh start and agreed to come to Forest for his second spell under Billy Davies. His leadership and experience will prove vital this season, as Forest often lined up with a midfield containing no-one over the age of 23, most of whom had never played at Championship level before.

Dele Adebola

Adebola

has looked impressive in the few highlights I have seen of the pre-season friendlies. Not only is he twice the size of anyone else, he seems comfortable on the ball and even though he’s at an age where most players’ legs begin to go, he still has a fair turn of pace. This variety in his play could well be the difference in games where Forest need to grind out results.

ONE TO WATCH

This season promises to be a very exciting one, particularly as the amount of money spent indicates that the club are intending to mount a serious promotion challenge. As a result, it is very difficult to pick a player to watch. Paul McKenna will be vital, particularly as Guy Moussi’s previous season was rather up and down, and punctuated with a serious ankle injury. However, after reading an interesting theory which suggested that the nation with the best full-backs tends to win the World Cup, I am going to tip Chris Gunter as my ‘One To Watch’ this season. I also think that this could be the season Garath McCleary becomes a vital part of Forest’s attack.

THE SQUAD

1. Lee Camp (GK)

2. James Perch (D RC, DM)

3.

4. Luke Chambers (D RC)

5. Wes Morgan (D C)

6. Kelvin Wilson (D RLC)

7. Paul Anderson (AM RL)

8. Lewis McGugan (M C)

9. Dele Adebola (ST)

10. Rob Earnshaw (ST)

11. Nathan Tyson (AM L, ST)

12. Garath McCleary (AM RL, ST)

13.

14. Joe Garner (ST)

15. Chris Cohen (D L, M LC)

16. Chris Gunter (D RL)

17. David McGoldrick (ST)

18. Paul McKenna (M C)

19. Guy Moussi (DM)

20. Arron Davies (AM RL)

21. Paul Smith (GK)

22.

23. Dexter Blackstock (ST)

24.

25.

26.

27.

28. Radoslaw Majewski (M C)

29. Julian Bennett (D LC)

30.

31.

32.

33. Joel Lynch (D LC)

34.

35. Aaron Mitchell (D C)

36.

37.

38.

39. Jordan Fairclough (D C)

TACTICS

It has been mentioned in several places over the last week or so that Billy Davies has asked for the pitch at the City Ground to be made narrower by the fairly significant margin of eight yards. This, combined with the fact that despite turning Paul Anderson’s loan move into a permanent one he is one of only two wingers in the first team squad, would imply that Forest will be playing predominantly through the middle this season. In a couple of pre-season friendlies, Davies has played Chris Cohen on the left of midfield, and Joe Garner on the right. I imagine that the emphasis will be on denying the opposition space when without the ball, and transferring it up the field quickly when Forest do have the ball. The signing of several strikers this summer, all of whom are more than capable of competing in the air would suggest that the football is likely to be less than pretty. Whether or not it is also effective is another matter.

The increase in height in Forest’s attack, and the lack of wingers would also indicate an increased focus on set-pieces for Forest’s goals. While every team tries to take advantage of these situations, it is usually the case that any side seen to be punching above their weight are also scoring a lot of goals from free-kicks, corners and even throw-ins. The most notable examples of this would be Bolton immediately after their promotion to the Premier League, and Stoke last year, again in their first season in the top flight. It could perhaps be inferred from this (albeit vague and anecdotal) evidence that since this season is clearly going to be a promotion attempt, Billy Davies is trying to get his squad into good habits should next season be one focussed on survival in the Premiership.

PREDICTION

Given Forest’s failure to sign a new centre-back, and having also missed out on Daniel Fox, who inexplicably chose Champions League football with Celtic over Championship football with Forest, there is still room for improvement. However, when compared to most of their rivals, this summer has been more succesful than most. With the focus on promotion, have Forest made a significantly greater improvement than the vast majority of the sides left over from last year? How do they compare with the teams relegated from the Premiership? Finally, is there anyone who could be considered a dark horse?

Ipswich have made it clear that they are aiming to go up too, and have a big-name manager in Roy Keane. However, there remain question marks over his ability, and haven’t made any massive signings. Sheffield United, Preston North End and Bristol City should all be in the chase for the play-offs as ever. Cardiff will also be up there, though if Joe Ledley departs, as expected, he will be hard to replace at short notice.

I personally feel that Swansea and Doncaster have reached a ceiling. Swansea have lost their manager, their main striker and one of their key players from last season, and I feel they will fade this time around. Doncaster have admitted that they sold Richie Wellens because the club was running at a loss even after the increase in revenue following their promotion. Clearly, they can’t spend to progress, and could well tread water this season.

Derby will undoubtedly be looking to match Forest’s improvement, despite not spending anywhere near as much money. Nigel Clough has shown himself to be a decent manager, and they could well make a push for the play-offs this year. Leicester could well be dark horses as they have a rich chairman and are also riding high following their immediate promotion back to the Championship. Reading are the club to catch I feel. They have replaced the departing Steve Coppell with Brendan Rodgers, whose Watford team impressed me greatly towards the end of last season. While they have lost Kevin Doyle to Wolves, the £6.5m they received should be able to buy a more than capable replacement.

As for the relegated sides, things aren’t looking so rosy. West Brom lost their manager to Celtic and have replaced him with Roberto Di Matteo who has only managed for one season. Admittedly, he got MK Dons into the League One play-offs following their promotion from League Two, however it has been seen before that that isn’t an unusual feat. Middlesborough have sold Stuart Downing to Aston Villa, and are also in the process of offloading Mido and Tuncay as I write. There haven’t been any significant arrivals at the Riverside to counterbalance these deparetures. Last, but by no means least, are Newcastle. To be honest, I don’t know where to begin with them. The club has been up for sale all summer, and has attracted some interest but the only concrete bid was withdrawn a couple of weeks ago. The lack of buyer has meant that the only transfers have been outgoing, and there is little or no idea of who will be the club’s manager with only days to go before the new season starts. To top it all, an almost full-strength Newcastle team was recently beaten 6-1 by Leyton Orient in a friendly. If they don’t sort themselves out soon, this year could be even worse than last. No club is too big to go down.

This summer has seen an unusually high number of changes at managerial level and yet also seemed very quiet in terms of transfers. This muddies the waters somewhat, but reasonably accurate predictions should still be possible.

I honestly feel that Forest could well make the play-offs this season. Indeed, with the money spent on the team, this should be the bare minimum. If the defence is strengthened before the summer transfer window shuts, and things fall in Forest’s favour, automatic promotion is not out of Forest’s grasp, though I think it is more likely that West Brom and Reading will be the main contenders for the top two places.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s