McGugan takes centre stage with Forest on fire
Nottingham Forest midfielder Lewis McGugan has scored nine goals this season, including many worthy of winning Goal of the Season award at his club. So where has this rich vein of form come from? Richard Keane suggests it was by no means an overnight transformation and that this promising player is capable of even more.
Back in March 2009, Forest suffered a humiliating 5-0 defeat at Burnley. McGugan was on the substitute’s bench because of what Reds manager Billy Davies described as his “off-the-field indiscipline”.
These were typically turbulent times on the banks of the Trent. Davies had demanded that several players, McGugan among them, improve their eating habits, preparation for games and general lifestyle. Many managers would have transfer-listed the offenders but, thankfully for Forest fans, McGugan realised the error of his ways and got down to some serious graft to regain his manager’s trust.
McGugan is one of a line of players, following the likes of Andy Reid, Jermaine Jenas and Michael Dawson, to come through Forest’s successful youth academy. He got his first taste of senior action against Gillingham in the Football League Trophy in 2006. It was against the same opposition in a League One game that he got his first career goal, subsequently voted by Forest fans as the best goal of the 2006/07 season. His second career goal was to come nearly a year later against
Huddersfield, within five minutes of coming on as a substitute.
McGugan missed the start of the 2007/08 season through injury but personal issues forced Neil Lennon out of the team and so McGugan was drafted back in. He then retained his place following Lennon’s return and his first goal of that season was, unsurprisingly, another strike from 20 yards against Northampton Town.
This reputation for scoring long-range goals was starting to take hold. McGugan would end the season with a tally of seven goals in all competitions, one of which would earn him the Supporters Goal of the Season award for the second year running. His last goal of the season was a free-kick in Forest’s 3-1 win over Yeovil which signalled the club’s return to the Championship. A new contract tied him to the club until 2011.
Having ended the previous season on such a high, McGugan was expected to be a key player in Forest’s first season back in the second tier. However, a serious thigh injury forced the midfielder out of action for a number of months. His first goal of the 2008/09 season was a trademark free-kick against QPR and he would bag another four goals that campaign. It is hard to understand, after being voted the 16th best player outside of the Premier League in January 2009, that Billy Davies was to question McGugan’s commitment both to the game and the club only two months later.
Not much can be said about McGugan’s impact last season. He was unable to make one after suffering a fractured cheekbone early in the campaign, making just eight starts. He would only score three goals but signed a new contract further underlining the commitment of both parties to keeping him at Forest.
What a difference a summer can make. McGugan has reportedly lost weight thanks to a strict cycling regime, is already to close to notching double figures and, in doing so, has caught the eye of a number of Premier League clubs. However, he started this season how he spent most of the last, on the bench. McGugan’s first start of this season came when Forest travelled to Preston in September, where he scored both goals in a 2-1 victory. Just over a week later he grabbed another brace, this time at home to Swansea.
After only nine games he had already surpassed last season’s tally. And by the end of October, McGugan had made it six goals in seven games – his 30-yard thunderbolt free-kick against Ipswich without doubt the pick of the bunch. This impressive form saw him voted PFA Championship Fans’ Player of the Month for October. With plaudits ringing in his ears, McGugan added another two goals to his total in November – a spectacular long range effort against Watford and the first goal in a 2-0 victory away to second-place Cardiff.
So what does the future hold for Lewis McGugan? An England call-up? Very unlikely… Despite Jay Bothroyd blazing the trail for Football League players, England are struggling to pick a midfield combination from the players they have so adding one more to the mix would further complicate matters.
Forest fans will just be hoping for more of the same as the club continues to push for promotion to the Premier League, which will perhaps be a fitting stage on which McGugan can showcase his talent in the near future.