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Home » Season Previews » Sky Bet Championship 2014/15 Season Preview – Part Three

Sky Bet Championship 2014/15 Season Preview – Part Three

Click for Part One and Part Two 

Ipswich Town

For almost the entirety of last season, Ipswich were lurking in the outskirts of the play-offs, never quite able to push themselves into the top six. The problem for the Tractor Boys was inconsistency; an unbeaten six game December was followed by just one win in six January clashes. regergergergerger

Nonetheless, to the outsider it seemed like a very good season for Ipswich. Having been already deemed relegated 13 games into the 2012/13 season, and having a budget considerably less than most other promotion chasing sides, to put up a serious fight for the top six was to be commended.

To those at Portman Road, it was a case of frustration. With the Championship arguably stronger than ever this season, Ipswich’s chance of promotion may have past them by. To compete this season like they did the last would be some achievement.

The Manager – Mick McCarthy

Roy Keane’s best mate might well be the managerial equivalent of Marmite, but the wise-cracking Yorkshireman is such a fantastic personality that it seems mad not to see the funny side of Mick.

He’s also an excellent manager, the transformation he’s overseen at Ipswich in just over 18 months the latest example of that. When McCarthy arrived in November 2012, the Tractor boys were bottom of the Championship. Safety was secured with relative ease, and Ipswich, at times, were fantastic last season; an organised bunch who largely got the job done.

It’s arguable that Ipswich’s side is average. With McCarthy in charge, an average side becomes an efficient one.

Transfer Business 

Mixed, if only because there’s no way of dressing up the fact that losing Aaron Cresswell is a huge blow. The full-back was arguably the best player in his position last season, both a creative influence going forward and excellent defensively.

However, the ins have been promising. Jonathan Parr, a solid performer for Crystal Palace over the past three seasons, appears to be an adequate replacement for Cresswell, while Cameron Stewart, as Charlton fans can vouch for, can be a real threat on either flank.

In addition to that pair of solid Championship signings, Kevin Bru, a French-born Mauritian midfielder, and Balint Bajner, a 6’5 Hungarian forward, arrive from Levski Sofia and Dortmund. Despite being 25 and 23 respectively, both can be placed in the journeyman category, but there’s enough positives to be pulled from their records to believe they could be decent signings for McCarthy’s side.

Youngsters Alex Hanshall and Darren McQueen, snapped up from Manchester City and Tottenham respectively, will provide cover, as will ‘keeper Bartosz Bialkowski, a fans’ favourite at former club Notts County.

The Squad

A solid unit with each part as important as the rest. In other words, a Mick McCarthy side.

Nowhere is that more true than in the defence. A back four of captain Luke Chambers, Christophe Berra, who proved to be one of the signings of the season last time out, Tommy Smith and Parr protecting ‘keeper Dean Gerken looks as good as any other in the division.

At the other end of the pitch, the return to fitness of David McGoldrick is just as important. The forward scored 14 goals last season before injury curtailed his campaign; the Tractor Boys might well have snuck into the play-offs had the 26-year-old not been absent for the run-in.

Nonetheless, a squad of just 23 (effectively 22 what with Frank Nouble being one of them) could do with a few more bodies. There’s a lack of cover should any of the back suffer injury or suspension, while another centre midfielder wouldn’t go amiss.

Fans View: Cameron Laws 

1) You kept up with the play-off chasers last season, but rarely seriously threatened to break into the top 6 – with the Championship improving in quality year on year, do you think you might have blown your best chance of promotion or will you be up there this season?

We’ll be up there again this season. There has been slight improvements amongst the squad but no big changes so the players are used to playing with each other. Also we have one of the best managers who has a great track record in this league.

“We’ll be up there again this season”

2) How big of a blow is losing Aaron Cresswell?

Obviously losing Cresswell is a bitter blow as he was arguably the best left back in the league, but we have youngster Tyrone Mings who is perfectly capable along with new signing Jonathan Parr from Crystal Palace.

3) Mick McCarthy is a manager that I’m very fond of. What’s it like having the energetic boss in charge of your club?

Very exciting but can also be very frustrating. Pretty much every player we have signed under him has been a free transfer, which is incredible when you look at some of the quality of players, so he knows how to do dealings. Some of his tactical choices in games are a bit frustrating, a game you may remember at The Valley last season is that we dominated the first 5 minutes, scored then did nothing. Luckily we walked away 1-0 winners, but most games we weren’t so lucky, dropping over 30 points from winning positions. We all love Mick but hopefully he has learnt not to rely on 1-0 and push on for another goal.

4) Who will be your key player this season?

Hopefully David McGoldrick. He had scored 16 goals up to February before injury. He is currently recovering but hopefully he hasn’t lost his finishing touch when he returns.

5) If you could sign one more player, within reason, who would it be?

We’re pretty much sorted with our squad now. However, another option upfront is needed for the squad to be complete. We’ve had a few trialists such as Leroy Lita, but my personal choice would be Hungarian Balint Bajner from Borussia Dortmund. He’s 6 ft 5, so a “Mick signing” if you like, obviously great in the air but also when I saw him against Colchester, great pace and played 1 or 2 good crosses as well. Looks like a good option to have and for me he would be my first choice.

Summary: A decent enough side who will fancy their chances of breaking into the top six. Will, at the very least, be in a large chasing pack this season but the increased quality of the division means they might well fall short. 12th


Leeds United

Wealthy individuals own football clubs for one of three reasons – to make money, to seek enjoyment from footballing success or as a play thing from which they can take the pleasure of control from. The best owners mix the first two well, the worst owners are motivated by any amount of the final factor. gergergergergerg

Massimo Cellino, like any owner, doesn’t want to lose money, nor does he want his side to fail, but he certainly appears to enjoy creating a sense of an importance and power for himself.

The controversial owner went through 36 managers in 22 years at Calgliari, he sacked Brian McDermott before he was even in a position to do so, and then sacked him again when he was in a position to do so. Oh, and then he replaced him with a pretty poor non-league manager.

He even retired the number 17 shirt to honour the great Michael Brown, or something like that.

Manager – David Hockaday 

The cynic would say Hockaday is Leeds manager purely to play the role of ‘yes’ man; a relatively powerless figure who Cellino can effectively control the team through.

Those less critical would suggest that Hockaday, regardless of his record at non-league Forest Green Rovers, is a promising young coach, appointed purely on the basis of that alone.

Either way, it’s an incredibly difficult one to justify; many a quality manager would have seen it an honour to take charge at Leeds.

Transfer Business

It’s all well and good getting £11m for a player worth half of that and laughing all the way to the bank, but it’s only worth laughing about if that player can be replaced. As of yet, Ross McCormack is yet to be replaced; less than prolific Senegalese forward Souleymane Doukara the only striker to arrive at Elland Road.

Away from McCormack’s move to Fulham, few tears will be shed over the players who have left as part of what appears to be a clear out at Leeds. Danny Pugh, El-Hadji Diouf and Luke Varney won’t be missed.

The ins, as you might expect, have largely arrived from Italy. Former Italian U21 ‘keeper Marco Silvestri and midfielder Tommaso Bianchi have respectable records, but the signing of Gaetano Berardi, a Swiss full-back with one cap for his country, looks the most promising of the recruits from Italian leagues.

Nonetheless, with 15 players in total departing, Leeds’ squad still lacks both numbers and quality.

The Squad 

Oh boy. It’s unfair to say Ross McCormack carried Leeds last season, but Ross McCormack’s goals certainly did. Having a clinical striker made all the difference last season in what was a weak squad.

It puts heaps of pressure on Matt Smith, scorer of 12 goals last season, to keep Leeds out of trouble, but you have to question if that alone will be enough. You also have to question where the chances to score goals will come from; there’s a complete lack of wingers.

Thankfully, the central midfield options are adequate, but pressure will be on young players Chris Dawson and Alex Mowatt to perform, while a solid enough back four looks to be Leeds strongest area, even if more numbers are needed.

In other words, Leeds could do with a few additions.

Fans View: Josh Fisk

1) Massimo Cellino – a bloke with more than just a couple of screws loose intent on brining Leeds to the ground or a misunderstood genius who will make you great again?

There’s undoubtedly a few loose screws but he’s not stupid and seems extremely passionate about both Leeds and football in general. Decisions such as appointing Hockaday and closing the restaurant etc. will undoubtedly have been done to shake things up and really separate those who want to be here from those who don’t. Looking at his stay with Cagliari we won’t be run into the ground, but from what I’ve seen, I can’t see us being great either!

2) Ignoring the price tag, how big of a loss is Ross McCormack?

With a twenty eight year old striker moving from a club in the second tier for £11 million, I think it’s impossible to ignore the price tag. His goals were invaluable last season and on his day he is a special player, but he can hinder the team on a bad day. We undoubtedly got an excellent deal but we do need a quality replacement because as we saw last season, the rest of the team were overly reliant on him.

3) Given the element of uncertainty around the club, would maintaining your Championship status be seen as an okay season, or do you expect more?

Given the players signed and the rumoured names still yet to sign, I think the squad will be in better shape than it was last season. No Leeds fan would ever be happy with just staying up, but I’m not expecting much more. Hockaday’s career isn’t deserving of a job such as this and with Cellino practically running the team anyway, I wouldn’t say we’re built on healthy ground. I think we’ll finish mid-low table with a new manager in place by the end of the season.

“No Leeds fan would ever be happy with just staying up, but I’m not expecting much more”

4) Who will be your key player this season?

It’ll probably be an Italian that hasn’t signed yet, potentially Viviani who is rumoured to be signing soon. I’d like to see Luke Murphy really make a step-up from last season and unless a striker is signed, our season could be dependent on how many goals Matt Smith can score.

 5) If you could make one more realistic signing, who would it be?

We still lack in wide areas, Gary Mackay-Steven would be nice, but there’s no point signing just one. A striker is needed and I’d love us to bring someone like Patrick Bamford in, but a centre half is still my main priority. I’d take Harry Maguire!

Summary: Like being forced to sit through a never ending traffic jam in 30 degree heat en route to a holiday, Leeds’ first full season under Cellino promises to be uncomfortable, sweaty and contain grown men full of anger asking when they’ll start moving forward again. But, at the end of it, there’s the prospect of more enjoyable times. Yorkshire grit will be needed to get through what many are seeing as more of a car crash, than a car jam. 20th


Middlesbrough 

Last season was yet another frustrating campaign for Boro fans. A poor start under Tony, ‘we should be beating teams like Charlton’ Mowbray and a dire seven game run without scoring under new boss Aitor Karanka meant Boro’s chances of sneaking into the top six were never anything more than an unrealistic dream. rehergherherherh

However, there were enough positive sings in the performances under Karanka to suggest that he was both an excellent appointment and a full season under his reign would result in relative success for the club. They played some excellent football, and a run of six wins, including against Brighton, Derby and Burnley, in the final eight games has given Boro fans some real reasons to be hopeful.

The Manager – Aitor Karanka

The former Real Madrid defender and assistant manager has brought a style to Boro that is not only easy on the eye, but wins games. A side that looked void of ideas and shot of confidence was kicked into life under the influence of Karanka; only constant failure in front of goal prevented Boro from picking up more points.

His influence has also been key in the transfer market, helping to attract some promising players from his home land.

Transfer Business

Convincing two Premier League clubs to buy two bang average strikers for a combined total of £3m and then using that cash to help improve the squad with some excellent signings constitutes an excellent summer’s work.

Few in the North East will shed a tear over the departures of Lukas Jutkiewicz, to Burnley, and Marvin Emnes, to Swansea, but most are hugely excited by Spanish striker Kike, a £3.5m arrival from Real Murcia. The forward scored 23 goals for the Spanish second division outfit last season and might well be the answer to Boro’s problems in front of goal.

Elsewhere, former Spain U21, and current Equatorial Guinea, winger Emilio Nsue joins from Mallorca, Real Madrid goalkeeper Tomas Mejias joins permanently after a loan spell last season and full-back James Husband arrives from Doncaster. A decent squad now has a bit of spark.

The Squad

Strength in depth in almost every position. Three competent goalkeepers, especially former England U21 stopper Jason Steele, a number of excellent defensive options, not least skipper Jonathan Woodgate and full-back George Friend, and a midfield packed with creativity sourced from the likes of Mustapha Carayol and Albert Adomah.

In fact, despite the signing of Kike, the only area that’s short of numbers is up top. Kei Kamara aside, the Spaniard is lacking a partner.

Fans View: Adam Benson 

1) Results might have been somewhat indifferent, but did you see enough from your side under Aitor Karanka last season to think this campaign could be good one for Middlesbrough?

There’s, for once, positivity in and around Middlesbrough. Everyone believes Karanka is the man to take the club forward.

“There’s, for once, positivity in and around Middlesbrough”

2) How do you assess your transfer activity and the state of your squad?

We sold two players who didn’t feature with us in Marvin Emnes and Lukas Jutkiewicz for large fees. Kept our players who want to be here, and have spent the money on a Spanish striker Enrique Kike. Our main signing is Kenneth Omeruo back on loan for the season from Chelsea. He was a class above last term and with him we’re looking very solid at the back.

3) The days of Boro being a Premier League regular are now long gone. Do you think the Championship is Boro’s level?

If you don’t get promoted within the first couple of season with your parachute payments, you make things very difficult for yourselves. I’ve learnt to get used to things in this league, but we’re are a good season away from being back in the big time, a Burnley type season.

4) Who will be your key player this season?

New Manager Aitor Karanka is always looking to build a solid base from the back and with Kenneth Omeruo and young player of the year and England u21 International Ben Gibson I feel he’s got that, and this is the key to success for us.

5) If you could make one more signing, within reason, who would it be?

Although we’re crying out for another striker at the minute I believe Adam Clayton down at Huddersfield would be the perfect signing. He’s everything we need and more, with an asking price of £2-3 million I think this is a deal we can’t let slip.

Summary: A top half finish looks certain, and might well push on further if they can add to their forward options. 11th


Millwall 

When the Lions lost to relegation rivals Birmingham at the back end of March, they looked down and out. A run of just three wins in 22 games had left them at the foot of the table and facing an impossible challenge to survive. A side without confidence, a side who were error prone at the back and lacked cutting edge going forward, needed to find form quickly. regergergergergerg

And, somehow, that’s exactly what they did. Four wins and four draws from the final eight games was enough for Millwall to confirm their Championship status on the final day of the season. At times, they had truly been the worst side in the division, but they’d peaked at just the right time to avoid what looked like a certain relegation.

With that unbeaten run creating positivity around The Den, Millwall supporters are hoping for a slightly less stressful season this time around.

The Manager – Ian Holloway

For much of his spell in charge last season, it looked like Holloway wasn’t going to be saving Millwall. In fact, up until that end of season run, it didn’t look like Holloway had had much of an impact on the side.

However, in that end of season run, Holloway had his side organised, disciplined and even had them moving forward with a greater sense of threat. He’ll need to get Millwall playing like that from the off this season, or the Bristolian will be in yet another relegation battle.

Transfer Business

Holloway has gambled on a number of players who could be excellent additions should they come off, but the chances of them coming off are more unlikely than they are likely.

The biggest gamble has been taken on Lee Gregory; a prolific goalscorer for Halifax, but untried at a higher level. He wouldn’t be the first non-league striker to make the step up, but he wouldn’t be the first not to.

Risks have also been taken on winger Magaye Gueye, a player shunned by Everton, and Ricardo Fuller, an injury prone 34-year-old. Like with Gregory, they might well prove to be decent signings if they can play to their best.

Matthew Briggs, who incredibly only has 30 league appearances to his name despite being around for what feels like forever, has also been snapped up. The left-back hasn’t quite lived up to his early potential, and Holloway will be hoping to get the best out of the former Fulham man.

The signings of Byron Webster, a solid performer for Yeovil at centre back in recent years, and Carlos Edwards, after a successful loan last season, have also joined, with a certain degree of predictability.

The Squad

A squad that would be too good for League One, but one that will struggle in the second tier.

There’s a general lack of quality and depth throughout the side, and it’s hard to see where the goals will come from if Gregory doesn’t step up. Nor is it easy to predict who will create the chances with a lack of wide options.

However, there are strong areas, especially in the centre of midfield where Shaun Williams, Nicky Bailey, Ed Upson and Richard Chaplow make for four excellent options, while the return to fitness of Danny Shittu will help sure up a defence that conceded 74 times last season despite David Forde’s presence in goal.

Fans View: David Hunt

1) Without exactly turning you into a force, Ian Holloway did enough to keep you safe. How highly do you rate him and will a full season under him mean you won’t flirt so closely with relegation?

After inheriting a team that was low on self-esteem, unable to keep a clean sheet and didn’t know what winning was, he pretty much did enough to survive knowing full well he had the backing of the board whatever division Millwall were going to be in. The unbeaten run that the team put together at the end of the season just shows that we’re able to mix with the big boys and hold our own.

“we’re able to mix with the big boys and hold our own”

2) Ricardo Fuller was well liked at both Charlton and Blackpool, not to mention equally respected at Stoke and Preston in the past. Do you think he can prove a fan favourite at yet another club or are you dubious about his signing?

When I first read we had signed him, I wasn’t impressed initially, but what he brings to the team will be respect and he is someone that can lead from the front. His goalscoring isn’t prolific but with Gregory being drafted in from Halifax, who scored over 30 goals last year I’m hoping he’ll work well with him and pass on his experience.

3) In a squad lacking in depth, how important will youngsters such as Fred Onyedinma and Sid Nelson be?

Massive. Fred came through late last year and IH has already come out and questioned some of the senior players’ ability this year. I read that he wants to keep the squad young and fit without many being over 30. He isn’t afraid to give anyone a chance and whether that means loaning them out for experience he won’t write them off until he has given them a fair chance.

4) Who will be your key player this season?

Tough one to call. David Forde was excellent towards the end of the season, was voted player of the season and made some vitals throughout. But for me, I feel Williams or Bailey in the centre of the park can be our strength and provide the link up play that we’ve been missing for some time.

5) If you could sign one player, within reason, who would it be?

I’m quietly confident this year with the squad we have but with the rumours that Tim Cahill has been approached to play whilst the MLS has a break would be amazing. For a player of Tim’s quality to come back to Millwall would give the club, fans and the players a huge lift.

Summary: The nature of Millwall’s budget means they’ll always be down the bottom of the table. Will certainly be involved in a relegation battle once again, but might not get so lucky this time. 22nd


Norwich City

This time last season, I wasn’t alone in suggesting that Norwich’s signings were so impressive that it wasn’t out of the question that they could push for a top half finish in the Premier League. In fact, to suggest the Canaries would end a torrid season in the bottom three would have produced a snort of disregarding laughter from myself. erg erw erh erh eh esh

But a promising young manager lost his ‘promising young manager’ tag by being a bit naff, the forwards who promised goal after goal didn’t get into double figures combined and performances worthy of results were few and far between. After several years of progression, Norwich regressed when more progression looked likely.

Relegation isn’t a disaster for the Canaries; the club’s financially stable, boasts a commendable squad and has a number of exciting youngsters on the fringes of the first team squad. But the club’s supporters, after such a disappointing season, will be expecting under performing players to impress in the second tier, a risky managerial appointment to work out and promotion to be achieved at the first attempt.

The Manager – Neil Adams

Football bemoaned Norwich’s decision to sack Chris Hughton, a bloody good chap and all that, and replace him with some bloke called Neil or something with five games left of the Premier League season. It was an outrage, another nail in football’s coffin.

But Norwich supporters had long lost faith in their manager; performances were  lifeless, selection was questionable and results simply weren’t being achieved. The timing might not have been ideal, but it was certainly the correct decision.

Whether giving Neil Adams his first permanent managerial job is right is another question. Adams took charge of those final five games, collecting just a point, albeit against tough opposition, and couldn’t prevent the Canaries slipping down a division; few expected Adams’ time in charge to span any more games than that. Alas, with Neil Lennon among those linked to the job, the former Norwich midfielder was given the job.

There would have been more popular appointments, but Adams, as a Carrow Road legend, will be given plenty of time to prove his worth.

Transfer Business

The predictable relegation losses have been kept to a minimum, with Leroy Fer and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel set to join Robert Snodgrass as the only key departures thus far. All three, even goal shy Van Wolfswinkel, would have made an impression in the division, but it would have been somewhat unrealistic to believe players of such pedigree would be happy to represent Norwich in the Championship.

Nonetheless, the Canaries appear to be keeping a hold of a number of players who will surely excel at this level, and the forward line has been improved with the additions of Lewis Grabban, on the back of a 22-goal season for Bournemouth, and former Burnley man Kyle Lafferty, who scored 11 in 33 for Palermo last season.

The Squad

It’s good. So good, in fact, that there’s enough quality within it to cover for any mistakes Adams might make in his season in charge.

With the likes of Johnny Howson, Bradley Johnson and Alexander Tetty, it’s in midfield where they’re most impressive. Crucially, Wes Hoolahan will also be part of the side with Adams more than happy to welcome him back after Hughton shunned the winger for a period last season. With Nathan Redmond on the other wing, and Gary Hooper up top, the Canaries have a frightfully good forward line.

If you were to have one criticism of it, it would be that there’s a slight shortage of defenders. Nonetheless, the one’s Norwich do possess will form a formidable back four; Steven Whittaker, Russell Martin, Michael Turner and Martin Olsson look a solid unit for this division. England ‘keeper, even if that tag is somewhat generous, will cover where they don’t.

There’s also a number of highly rated youngsters in the squad, progressing into the first team following the Canaries’ success in the Youth Cup two seasons’ ago. The Murphy twins, Jacob and Josh, are among the most likely to have an impact this season.

Fans View: Tim Scales

1)  A number of experienced managers were linked with the Norwich Job before Neil Adams was given the job on a permanent basis. Is he the right man to take Norwich back to the top flight at the first attempt?

I hope so; I wanted Gianfranco Zola (who actually had an interview with us) but I’m sure Adams can do the business – there were signs in his 5 games as caretaker manager in the Premier League, despite us only picking up a point. We’ve got one of the best squads in the division and, whilst it may take time for Adams to learn what’s what in the hotseat, we should be up there challenging. I’m realistically expecting a play-off place but that wouldn’t be a disaster considering it’s Adams’ first season in senior management

“I’m sure Adams can do the business”

2)  As of yet, Robert Snodgrass is the only key player you’ve lost. How vital is it that you keep onto the rest of your players that will no doubt attract interest?

If there’s anyone I especially want to keep hold of, it’s Jonny Howson. He’s an absolute class-act and he runs the show in midfield when given the opportunity. I’m not overly concerned about anyone else leaving but quite a few players have sounded committed to the club, and if Leroy Fer leaves as was rumoured, I expect we’ll make a nice profit on him.

3) Will players from your Youth Cup winning side play an important role this season?

Twins Josh and Jacob Murphy will almost certainly be in and around the first team squad and there are a couple of players (striker Jamar Loza and defender Adel Gafaiti) who have been in the under 21’s side for the last couple of seasons. I don’t expect a ton of youth players making the first team because of the depth of our squad, but there will be a couple who fill in when required.

4) Who will be your key player this season?

I really think that this will be Nathan Redmond’s genuine breakthrough season. He was shackled a bit by Chris Hughton’s defensive tactics in the Premier League and it’s clear he has the pace to change a game and really terrorise defenders, especially at Championship level. Also, if Ricky van Wolfswinkel actually gets the chances this season, he will be key.

5) If you could make one more realistic signing, who would it be?

I really wanted Moses Odubadjo from Leyton Orient, but obviously he’s gone to Brentford. A big, strong centre-back wouldn’t go amiss.

Summary: Should Norwich maintain the squad they currently have, anything but promotion can be seen as a relative failure. Even a largely untried manager should be able to lead this group of players back to the Premier League. 2nd


Nottingham Forest 

I saw some dire performances following Charlton last season; most of the sides we managed to beat were less than impressive. But Nottingham Forest hold the accolade of putting in the worst display I saw. Their 1-0 defeat to Charlton at the City Ground, in front of a relatively small crowd, was just one of several poor results in the final three months of the season that saw them slip from a certain play-off place to 11th.egergeherhse ers her

In fact, only two of the last 16 games were won; 14 of the first 30 resulted in a Forest victory. But, more important that any statistic, was Forest’s 5-0 defeat to bitter rivals Derby.

A side that looked imperious at the start of the season suddenly stopped playing; neither Billy Davies nor Gary Brazil could rekindle the side’s form.

So what better man to restore pride at the City Ground, and fire up their underperforming players, than to hire Psycho himself…

The Manager – Stuart Pearce

It’s easy to mock the appointment of Pearce; a Forest legend given the job purely to get the fans onside. But it’s not as if the club have plucked a random former player out of thin air and given him the job purely on the basis of his playing days at the City Ground.

Minus that moment of madness where he thought it would be a good idea to stick David James up front, Pearce did a decent job at Manchester City on a tight budget (remember those days, kids?), and his six year stint as England U21 may have fizzled out, but there were times of promise, not least reaching the 2009 European U21 Championship final.

In terms of records, a better appointment could have been made, but a combination of all the factors makes Pearce the right man to lead Forest this season.

Transfer Business

Out go a number of players who were arguably holding Forest back; in come a number of players with the capability to take Forest forward.

Matt Derbyshire, Darius Henderson and Jonathan Greening, to name three of the nine departing players, are really not the sort of players a promotion chasing side should be relying on.

Matty Fryatt, Chris Burke and Michael Mancienne, who worked with Pearce during his time with the U21s, wouldn’t look out of place in any side hoping to break into the top six. The additions of Lars Veldwijk, a Dutch striker who scored 30 in 38 games for second division outfit Excelsior last season, and young defender Roger Riera, snapped up from Barcelona, also look promising.

The Squad

Forest had a squad capable of a serious promotion challenge last season that simply unperformed. The quality within the squad remains high, and this time out those same players will be hoping to perform consistently at the high standards they would set themselves.

The midfield is particularly strong, with Henri Lansbury and the ever green Andy Reid among the league’s best when on song. There’s a wealth options at the back, including the highly rated Jamaal Lascelles, while Simon Cox and Jamie Mackie are dependable in attack.

With the new signings included, it’s hard to spot an obvious fault in Forest’s squad. Another centre midfielder in the name of depth wouldn’t go amiss, but the squad caters for almost every area very well.

Fans View: Isaac Johnson 

1) Stuart Pearce – a novelty that will soon die or the man to take you back into the top flight?

I’ll be honest – Stuart Pearce wasn’t my first choice for the job. My preferred choice was Malky Mackay, someone who has been there and done it, and when it turned out we weren’t going to get him I was devastated. I wasn’t too keen on Pearce at first, but the idea of having a manager that every single supporter loves is fantastic! So far he’s gone about his business very efficiently, so I’m feeling positive about this season, and hopefully ‘Psycho’ will only further enhance his reputation with us Forest fans by taking us up.

“the idea of having a manager that every single supporter loves is fantastic”

2) You’ve made some very shrewd signings. If they fire, and your competitive squad that underperformed last season kicks into gear, would you consider yourselves one of the favourites for promotion?

I’d say we’d be one of the favourites, yes. We were certainly strong contenders for the main part of last season, even with a couple of long term injuries that we suffered early doors, so as long as we avoid having a ridiculous amount of injuries to the key players and leaders in our team again, I think we’ll be right up there.

3) It’s fair to say games against Derby are always important, but will the fixtures be even more hotly contested given the mauling you received last season?

Without doubt! The rivalry lately has been even further fuelled as well by our sheer delight at their spectacular Wembley failure against QPR. I think if both sides have their near strongest sides out, our matches could really be something special, especially if both sides are near the top end of the table – we could be in for the most important Forest-Derby fixtures in recent history.

4) Who will be your key player this season?

It’s hard to pick one in particular, but I’ll have to go with Andy Reid. He seems to be getting fitter and better with age, and he will be key to our season. It wasn’t until he got injured that our horrible run of form started, and it was certainly no coincidence. He’s the man that brings it all together – not just with his outstanding passing, set pieces, etc, but with his natural leadership qualities as well.

5) If you could make one more signing, within reason, who would it be?

I think it depends on what system Pearce is looking to deploy. I can see him maybe starting the season with a 4-4-2, and if that was the case I think we’d need another winger. We’ve been linked with Adomah, who would certainly bring pace and flair. Another striker wouldn’t be a bad shout either, and I’d be willing to take a punt on someone like Assombalonga, although he too would cost a fair bit, especially after our George Boyd saga with Peterborough…

Summary: Hugely underachieved last season, and a stronger squad surely won’t do so again. Pearce won’t allow it. 5th


Click HERE for Part Four

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