Our correspondent Steven Toplis looks at the coming season:
The time of year we’ve all been waiting for is nearly upon us, the beginning of a new football season. With it comes the usual hopes and dreams of a successful campaign, whether it be promotion, a good cup run or survival.
Had things been different, I might have gone into this season fearing the worst for Forest – seeing a club forced to sell in order to buy, letting some of its better players leave without replacing them and having a manager in the dugout who polarised opinion amongst the fans.
As it stands though I am optimistic about the Reds chances this season and cannot wait for kick off against Bristol City. The Al-Hasawi family have said the right things since taking over, spent money wisely, appointed a progressive manager in Sean O’Driscoll and there is a real sense that the club is steadily building towards a more positive future.
Bringing O’Driscoll in is an intelligent appointment and a sign that the owners have done their homework. During his brief spell as First Team Coach last season, O’Driscoll got to know the club and many of the players, making such an impression that several senior members of the Reds side reportedly suggested him to the Al-Hasawi’s during their search for a new manager.
So called ‘iconic’ names were linked with the post such as Glenn Hoddle and Roy Keane, but as we saw with Steve McClaren last season, big-name managers are not always successful and bring unnecessary media attention. O’Driscoll won’t attract headlines and will get on with the job quietly, which is just what Forest need right now.
Forest’s lack of defensive options was well documented and the new boss moved quickly to address the problem, bringing in Danny Collins, Greg Halford and Dan Harding on permanent deals, plus Daniel Ayala and Sam Hutchinson on loan.
Collins, Halford and Harding bring Championship experience to the side, while Ayala and Hutchinson are young, talented players with much to offer. Ayala has impressed during previous loan spells with Hull and Derby in this division and when looking at the line-ups for the pre-season games and Tuesday’s cup win at Fleetwood, it seems he will be first choice alongside Collins in the centre of defence.
Forest’s squad suddenly looks balanced, with plenty of cover in all positions. Simon Cox joined from West Brom earlier to become the seventh senior striker on the books, although it’s likely some will be moved on before the end of the transfer window.
Cox’s goalscoring record at Swindon was impressive and he featured heavily in a West Brom side which won promotion from this division two years ago. Despite struggling to hold down a first team place in the Premier League, I’m hoping Cox will become a regular goalscorer in the Championship, in the same way Billy Sharp did under O’Driscoll at Doncaster.
Forest’s transfer dealings have been impressive this summer. The club have brought in several new faces in a short period of time and while there is money available, O’Driscoll has resisted the temptation to spend heavily, bringing in the right kind of players for sensible prices.
More could be on the way too, with the Reds being linked this week with a move for Blackpool winger Thomas Ince. Following the departures of Paul Anderson and Garath McCleary there is a lack of pace out wide and unless there is a new winger coming in, the manager will more than likely use a narrower formation.
Forest have an abundance of options in the centre of midfield with the likes of McGugan, Cohen, Moussi, Gillett, Greening and Guedioura all vying for the same spots in the team and with Andy Reid being the only wide midfielder in the squad, it would be surprising if Forest do not sign someone who can play on the right hand side of midfield.
O’Driscoll has urged the Reds fans to be patient this season and stick with the team, even if things aren’t always going to plan. This is very much a work in progress and the new boss is still getting used to the players at his disposal having arrived midway through pre-season.
With a new back four in place too it will take time for them to get used to playing alongside each other and establish a relationship with Lee Camp behind them.
O’Driscoll has vowed to get Forest playing the attractive, passing football his sides are renowned for and whilst it might take a bit of time for him to impose his methods upon the Reds players, it’ll be worth the wait.
The Championship is as strong as ever with the likes of Bolton, Blackburn, Cardiff, Birmingham and Wolves expected to challenge for promotion and Forest should be looking to consolidate this season, with a view to pushing on in the following year. As great as it would be to end up in the play-offs or higher, a top half finish would represent a good campaign, so let’s get behind the manager and the team and give them the opportunity to get the club moving in the right direction once more.
Follow Steven on Twitter: @steven_toplis