News, views and gossip from the magnificent 72
Summer time in Nottingham, 2009.
A promised revolution at Meadow Lane – a foreign takeover, Sven-Göran Eriksson, mountains of cash, and later Sol Campbell arrives as the first big name, big money signing of the season.
Many more to follow, so we are told. Roll up, Roll up.
The lads at Sky Sports News couldn't get enough of it.
League Two strugglers Notts County, more famous for being the oldest club in the world than for their on-field achievements, were revelling in their new-found role of media darlings.
Meanwhile their city neighbours skulked in the shadows of the Magpies' media glare.
But this is probably just how Forest's wily Scottish boss Billy Davies would have wanted it.
Fast forward to mid-September and a 0-1 home loss to a first-half strike from Blackpool’s Charlie Adam.
That was the last time Nottingham Forest tasted defeat in the league.
You have to turn the clock back even further – to 10 months yesterday (Thursday) – to find the last time they returned empty-handed from their Championship travels, a 5-0 loss to Premier-bound Burnley.
That’s a marvellous 15 away games unbeaten. It must be pretty good to be part of the travelling Forest faithful these days.
Despite a couple of early home losses this term, this point-grabbing away form has helped Davies’ men stretch their unbeaten league run to a more-than-impressive 17 games.
For the moment at least, they looked to have spoiled Newcastle and West Brom’s private promotion party.
No one's talking about County any more. And Big Sol's done a runner, too.
The uninvited guests now sit in second place in the league, and they look well equipped to stay there or thereabouts too.
Davies has been there and done it before with Derby – as well as taking Preston to two successive play-offs – and the young squad he has assembled on the banks of the Trent is playing with a carefree exuberance reminiscent of David O’Leary’s easy-on-the-eye Leeds starlets of 2001.
To repeat Kewell, Bowyer & Co’s Champions League heroics might be an impossibility in the current climate for the likes of Forest – especially when billionaire-backed, Martin O'Neill-managed Aston Villa are struggling to get there.
But promotion to the Premier League is now a very realistic prospect.
For a club who in 2005 suffered the ignominy of being the only European Cup winners ever to fall into their country’s third tier, this is improvement indeed.
When you consider that only once in a whole decade have they finished higher than mid-table in the Championship, you might also say that it’s been long overdue.
What sets them apart this year, then? A wealth of attacking options,
for a start.
Davies has four proven strikers at his disposal – Rob
Earnshaw, Dexter Blackstock, Dele Adebola and Nathan Tyson – who do a
good job of complementing one another as well.
If things do start to unravel, it shouldn’t be through a lack of goals.
are rock solid at the back too.
Lee Camp, acquired from QPR in the
summer for what now looks like a bargain £100,000, has been the epitome
of steadiness between the sticks.
Throw in the international
full-back duo of Chris Gunter and (Villa loanee) Nicky Shorey, and the
means to the end of that lofty league placing are becoming apparent.
Billy Davies eyes promotion
But it's in midfield where the Reds are really ticking.
The shrewd acquisition of stalwart Paul McKenna – who worked under Davies at Preston previously – has proved to be a key part of the promotion charge.
His calming influence alongside the precocious talents of Chris Cohen, Paul Anderson and Radoslaw Majewski have proved to be the perfect recipe for success.
There might even be some January additions to the ranks, with the likes of Spurs' talented but unsettled Welshman Gareth Bale being touted.
If Davies does get the men he wants then it'd be foolish to write off Forest's title aspirations.
They're five points behind leaders Newcastle, who have a game in hand, so there is still a gap that needs bridging at the top.
But for that not to happen, Forest would have to start losing. They might just have forgotten how.
Elsewhere in the Championship the frankly absurd goings-on at QPR continue as they announced last night that Paul Hart has left the club by mutual consent.
Yeah. 'Mutual consent'. Yawn. Oh, really?
He didn't even get the half-season we predicted a few weeks ago. Five games was enough for the relationship to become untenable.
That's nine different managers in just over two years. Madness.
When will it end? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe when Forest start losing.
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Obviously a good read from my point of view! Two additional comments: first, while Billy Davies often gets credit for his shrewd investments, he's seldom acknowledged as a good developer of players. However, the way Wes Morgan and Kelvin Wilson (two players he inherited) are performing now, he's clearly better at it than some think. They're awesome, as good as any centre-back pairing in the division, and I'd never thought I'd be saying that a year ago.
Second, Guy Moussi's form and fitness will be a key factor in the second part of the season. He came back from long-term injury straight into the first team against West Brom, and in my view was simply the best player on the pitch by a country mile. He didn't get the plaudits Majewski earned, simply because he didn't score, but it's no coincidence the Baggies only started to come back into the game when Moussi was subbed. He really is far, far too good for this division.
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