Nottingham Forest blog: Retaining key first-team players is a massive boost

The days are rapidly ticking down until Nottingham Forest make the long trip to Brighton and Hove Albion for the Championship curtain-raiser.

By Lee Clarke
Wednesday, 29th July 2015, 8:06 am

I am ready and waiting with a barrel load of fruit pastilles, ample amount of cold beverages and a tank full of petrol ready for the journey - It really can’t come soon enough.

The summer in fairness has been a fairly uneventful one for the Reds in contrast to previous years where players have been signed left, right and centre.

Just three new players have come into the club so far this summer in the shape of Matt Mills, Jamie Ward and goalkeeper Ben Hamer, who penned a season-long loan with the Reds on Saturday.

A handful of fringe players have departed the City Ground but the club continue to wax lyrical that none of the club’s prized assets will be sold in preparation for the trip to the AMEX Stadium, which is refreshing to hear.

One plus ahead of the new season is that up to yet we are yet to see a first-team regular from last season depart the club, which should make the integration of Mills, Ward and Hamer into the squad a much easier transition.

There is nothing worse than starting a season with seven or eight new recruits that don’t really know each other from Adam and take time to settle as a group.

If you list a probable starting line-up for that first game of the season you are talking about a group who have been playing together for a good season, if not longer. Not only that but some pretty strong player’s looks set to be substitutes for the opening weeks of the season.

For the record my team for the first game would read as follows (4-1-2-3-1) Hamer; Lichaj, Mills, Hobbs, Fox; Tesche; Lansbury, Osborn; Ward, Antonio; Blackstock

That would leave Chris Burke, Tyler Walker, Kelvin Wilson, Jamie Paterson, Michael Mancienne and potentially Nicky Maynard on the bench.

Throw into the mix Chris Cohen, Andy Reid, Matt Fryatt and Britt Assombalonga who will all return from injury at some point throughout the season and you are looking at a pretty strong group of players.

What I am getting at here is that Forest supporters have no reason to worry about the season ahead despite being under a transfer embargo.

If we weren’t under an embargo, who could we realistically sign – without spending millions – to come in and improve that starting eleven?

Danny Fox is the only player who I think is playing in a position that is there for the taking. Should the others stay fit then we could see Dougie Freedman stick with a reasonably settled side for the foreseeable.

If I am honest I think Dougie sees that final space in his squad going to a left-back in an ideal world, but who knows Fox might look a completely different player this season – let’s face it he can’t be much worse than he was during last season.

There is every reason to be quietly confident ahead of the 2015/16 season without getting too carried away.

The Reds might just slip under the radar and surprise a few people but let’s keep it at one game at a time and see what happens. Some Forest fans have a horrible habit of either getting too excited or pushing the panic button too quickly – there isn’t much of a happy-medium with many Reds followers.

A season of fortune with injuries is surely due for Nottingham Forest, having lost crucial players in each of the last three seasons.

It isn’t an excuse but Derby lost Chris Martin for two months last season and it arguably cost them promotion.

How will Middlesbrough cope should their new star man Stewart Downing get injured? Would Blackburn still score the same volume of goals if Jordan Rhodes missed two months of the season?

This isn’t sour grapes it is fact that if a team loses their more influential players then they will struggle for it.

The current crop of players at the City Ground have been working together now for three years in some cases and hopefully a knowledge and understanding of each other will be evident in our play this season.

Before I sign off this week I would like to wish boss Dougie Freedman and his staff all the best for this season.

Freedman talks with such honesty and passion that it is clear that he is desperate to succeed at the City Ground and the work he is putting in behind the scenes at the club is admirable.

He has embraced the transfer embargo and instead of moaning and whinging has focused on getting a group of players as ready as they can be for the challenges of the next nine months.

Not a single manager has lasted an entire season under the reign of chairman Fawaz Al-Hasawi as of yet but trust me when I say Dougie, that the majority of the City Ground faithful are right behind you ahead of the forthcoming campaign.

Bring on the season!