O'Driscoll in for Cotterill at Forest?
Amid all the hubbub surrounding Reading’s magnificent promotion, I was more than quietly impressed by the performance of Nottingham Forest at the Madejski Stadium last night.
However, if you are trying to tell me that the smooth operators that graced the Mad Stad turf are piloted according to Steve Cotterill’s instructions while a certain Sean O’Driscoll is stationed behind the scenes, then you’ll be telling me that Bruce Rioch laid the groundwork for Arsène Wenger at the Arsenal.
Forest uncannily resembled the Doncaster Rovers of 2006-2011, albeit at less of a cut price – the astonishing entry into the action of Andy Reid, Marcus Tudgay and Jonathan Greening underlining the riches at the management team’s disposal.
Nowhere was the O’Driscoll method more evident than in central midfield. Lewis McGugan can blow hot and cold but was pivotal on the night. Behind him, Adlène Guedioura was a revelation to me – my first opportunity to see the Algerian – a man who appears to combine the holding role with a crisp line in elegant passing and reminding me of the advantages Brian Stock brought to Doncaster.
Paul Anderson’s star has perhaps faded after his initial emergence as one of the Football League’s most auspicious young talents, but his comfort with the ball to feet was reminiscent of James Coppinger at the Keepmoat – this kind of darting, impish winger is a fundamental part of the coach’s credo.
Ditto Radosław Majewski, author of a spectacular hat trick at Crystal Palace and revelling in the classic number 10 position, while Chris Gunter completed a midfield quintet, standing in well for this Spring’s headline maker Garath McCleary despite his origins as a full back.
Behind them, a rejuvenated Luke Chambers has come through a difficult season, easily overcoming the surprise departure of long time partner Wes Morgan, and thriving here alongside Joel Lynch. Young Manchester United right back Scott Wootton and Wolves enforcer George Elokobi also made regular contact with the link-up play – the latter almost scoring with a thunderous overhead.
That leaves two potential problem areas for the Tricky Trees – Lee Camp was just fine on the night as Reading struggled to pierce the back four – but has continued to sulk at his non-move to Swansea last Summer while up front, the club possesses a bevy of forwards, none of whom can find any kind of consistency.
Dexter Blackstock was chosen – a long spell out of the team perhaps presenting him as the best default option at a time when the hard working Tudgay, Ishmael Miller, David McGoldrick, Matt Derbyshire, Marlon Harewood and Robbie Findley have all under performed.
A new face is needed of course – but that embarrassment of options is acute and players in all areas of the squad need to be moved on before the rebuilding can commence – I haven’t even mentioned George Boateng.
Steve McClaren’s tenure at the City Ground seems like a lifetime ago now – but its legacy is still with the club. Cotterill has ultimately done a job in keeping Forest up, but coming only a year after running the Swans close in the play offs, and given the resource base, this successful survival attempt can only be for starters. Would it be as harsh as it might first seem to ask the ex-Cheltenham man to step aside for his lieutenant?