The popular belief in English football about league tables is that they do not start to take shape until around October-November. After one month and a handful of matches played, Nottingham Forest sit on the top of the Football League. So, what?
Life as a Nottingham Forest fan is never dull. Either on the cusp of success or the brink of ruin and doom. Having started so brightly and kept up a challenge for an automatic promotion spot for around seven months last year, Forest abruptly went into meltdown; not winning for thirteen games and finishing quite a long way short of their objective. There are numerous reasons for the sharp decline in fortunes, but for a lot of us the season could not end fast enough once the playoffs (and even playing well) were off the table.
However, with the appointment of Stuart Pearce, there was a glimmer of hope. A man who is still worshipped by many on Trentside, some sixteen years after departing the club. Also, one that displayed an integrity and a refreshing bluntness, honesty and respect for Nottingham Forest football club. Most importantly though, Pearce is a figurehead for reigniting passion to fans that had indeed ‘lost that loving feeling’. Me, myself, I had an appreciation for Billy Davies and his work at Forest as far as results went and I worried that the owner might simply be paying fan service as some might say he did when Davies was first brought back the previous year.
However, over the course of the summer, Stuart has made many positive changes to the club. Bringing in experienced backroom staff in Steve Wigley, Brian Eastick, John Marshall and Tim Flowers as well as overseeing almost a complete clear out of what could be considered dead wood in the club’s playing staff. It perhaps helped that every single player out of contract wasn’t a valued member of the squad as had been the case in previous years and Forest simply opted to not resign them, rather than having to move them on. The departures of eternal fringe player Radoslaw Majewski as well as then-misfiring striker Simon Cox and ‘striker on the wing’ Jamie Mackie to Reading signified that Pearce was not only honest, but also had a clear plan and objective of who he wanted to coach.
Forest had a very good first eleven in the Championship last year but it became apparent that we were lacking depth and competition for those places. The arrivals of several new faces has not only replaced those that have left but also challenged the existing players to raise their game. Every single position, apart from the goalkeeper has been strengthened from last season and thanks to a divisive decision to sell Karl Darlow and Jamaal Lascelles, Forest have been able to improve significantly while keeping transfer fee costs down. The retention of key asset Henri Lansbury has also proved to be like a new signing with Henri committing his immediate future to the club for three more years.
Which brings us to the season in question. Forest currently sit perched upon the top of the Championship, unbeaten and having won four of their five league matches so far, keeping three clean sheets and scoring 11 goals in the process. However, when you look at Forest’s opposition, it could be quite possible that it is a little deceptive of where Forest currently are in terms of development. They have a lot of new additions and while it’s worked well so far, Forest have faced Blackpool (we all know the situation there) as well as an injury ravaged Reading side and a draw with Bolton who have struggled to start so far. Encouraging signs from the churned out wins away at Sheffield Wednesday and Bournemouth show that Forest now have the grit and determination to win the hard way they lacked last year but having seen several of their matches already this year, I have come to the conclusion that we are still a way off playing what our squad is capable of.
The international break will give the squad, the manager and us as fans time to pause and reflect at starting so brightly but once football resumes, Forest have home games against Derby, Fulham and Brighton as well as trips to Wigan and Millwall to get through in September, not to mention a cup tie away against Spurs. As a club, we can’t afford to get complacent (as last season shows) and under Pearce, it’s doubtful that will happen although if Forest’s results can continue to be of a consistently high level and the level of football they play can increase, we might just have the makings of a rather entertaining season of football. I am perhaps anticipating an inevitable dip in form that happens to every team but it’s encouraging that as the season will tick along, Forest’s football should increase in quality and hopefully the results will continue in the same vein.