Relegation Week: Can Nottingham Forest avoid the chop?
A recent upturn in fortunes has seen Nottingham Forest rise up the Championship table at just the right time. Coinciding with Portsmouth’s ten-point deduction, Forest have taken ten points from their last six games to give themselves the upper hand in their fight against the drop. So can Pat Riddell see his team getting over the line? Joe Harrison finds out.
With the appointment of Steve McClaren in the summer, many people made Forest one of their favourites for promotion — were you confident and could you have envisaged a fight against relegation at that stage?
Talk of being favourites for promotion made me uncomfortable. I certainly thought we were capable of another play-off campaign but a new manager with new players and a new style pointed towards a period of transition. As it was, the new players were slow to arrive and we never spent the money that bids for Wesley Verhoek, Wayne Routledge and Nicky Maynard suggested we would. As for a relegation battle, it never crossed my mind after two top six finishes.
Under Billy Davies, Forest’s home and defensive records were consistently amongst the best in the Championship — why has the opposite become the case this season?
If there was a simple answer it would have been rectified by now. Within 12 months we lost both Kelvin Wilson and Wes Morgan; Lee Camp had his head turned by bids from Swansea; Luke Chambers became captain which seemed to be too much responsibility for him; a lack of a permanent left-back continues to dog us; protection from an established central midfield duo. Davies also had his players extremely well drilled – it was obvious that everyone knew exactly what was expected of them and the departure of defensive coach Chris Fairclough is telling.
McClaren’s departure saw him replaced by Steve Cotterill, certainly a contrast in styles but not one that has seen a great change in results. Is there any confidence that Cotterill is the man to take Forest forward, even if they do survive?
I don’t think any Forest fan has any confidence in Steve Cotterill continuing as manager. The tactics, the formations, the substitutions, the line-ups, the results… but, having said that, since he was able to bring in Sean O’Driscoll in January as well as a number of loan players to redress the squad’s imbalance, things have improved. On the one hand, you could say it’s unfair to judge a manager who’s had his hands tied by the circumstances at the club. On the other hand, you could point to the tactics, the formations, the substitutions, the line-ups, the results…
Despite the disappointing season, Forest have shown signs of improvement recently — has there been a noticeable change and if so, what (or who) seems to be the key to it?
The additions of Adlene Guedioura, George Elokobi, Danny Higginbotham and Scott Wootton on loan have made a difference. Guedioura is the drive and determination we’ve been lacking in midfield all season, Higginbotham offers the leadership and organisation in defence we’ve missed, while Elokobi and Wootton add depth and experience to our thin options at the back. O’Driscoll’s appointment as assistant manager/first-team coach appears to having an effect on the pitch, when we actually keep the ball on the floor.
Finally, the obvious question — do you think Forest will stay up?
I do. But only because I have to.