Sunday, 19 November 2017

Frustration as Forest suffer St Andrew's setback

In retrospect, one of the very first moments of Saturday's match at St Andrew's was highly significant. With barely a minute on the clock, the Blues' robust and hard working midfielder Maikel Kieftenbeld committed a foul on Tendayi Darikwa. Whether it was intended to lay down a marker or not, it did. Birmingham were physical, hard working and disciplined, we huffed and puffed but found all three traits tough to overcome.

This fledgling Forest side has a habit of starting sluggishly. We'd even had to overcome a ropey opening before steamrollering QPR last time out. On Saturday we were unable to settle before a Che Adams strike from a tight angle handed the advantage to the home side. It was an advantage we were never able to wrestle back - at least not in terms of the only metric that really matters.

Still, while Kieftenbeld's tough tackle might have set the tone for the home side, you can't help feeling that we contributed massively to our own downfall. A seemingly needlessly conceded corner from Mancienne and some sloppy all round play belied an early malaise that proved our downfall. Ben Osborn looked to have been fouled in the build up to the goal, but not before he'd already made a big error in giving the ball away. From his mistake, it was all-too easy to carve us open and for Adams to be presented with the chance he took with aplomb.

The shot-shy hosts had the worst goalscoring record in the league - and this was just the ninth goal of the campaign for them. It would have been interesting to see how Birmingham would've reacted had they not netted early on - you sense the tension on and off the field might have really worked in our favour. Yet, instead, we gifted them a goal and gave them something to hold onto and build from. At Hillsborough and Villa Park we'd also passed up the chance to twist the knife into a fragile host - it's a ruthlessness that we have to learn in this dog eat dog league.

We shouldn't denigrate the hosts for being physically strong. They played a (peaky) blinder here, getting tackles and interceptions in, being disciplined and breaking forward with purpose and threat. They might not have troubled Jordan Smith too much, but our defence could never rest on its laurels, particularly in the first half.

The likes of Kieran Dowell and Barrie McKay can learn much from tests such as this. Dowell is a gem of a player - as I've written before - but has to be stronger. He's a big lad and, in time, will learn to use his frame to his advantage. Only really Eric Lichaj in the Forest side seems to be able to use his body to shield the ball and keep an opponent at bay on a consistent basis. Eric's no giant and I'm sure he had to learn the hard way too.

Being physically strong as a team doesn't have to mean playing rough football - it's what allows you to impose yourself and dictate the way you want to play. In that sense, it's every bit as important to the success of Warburton's style as the silky passing and technique that his players have demonstrated at times.

All of these traits - being tougher physically, not letting an opponent off the hook and being alert from the opening whistle - need to be learned to give us a harder edge. If we'd had that edge and eradicated some sloppy play we'd have surely walked away with at least a 0-0 from Saturday's game. Indeed, we have to start coming away with a point from games that we can't manage to win.

Still, there's a danger that we let the result completely cloud our thinking. Ben Brereton's performance, for example, would've been viewed differently had the game been 0-0. What might've been labelled as a 'decent shift' became an 'ineffectual' performance through the prism of defeat. This was certainly a physical test for him. He might not always have been successful but it has to be hoped that days such as these will contribute to a learning curve for a player born in April 1999.

Brereton's deflected drive (from a delightful Dowell through ball), Dowell's long-range effort, Jason Cummings' late strike and a Zach Clough snapshot were all half chances and evidence that we were never out of the game. Yet, perhaps because we were behind, the play was often a little too rushed and we never got close to the passing groove of the Rangers romp two weeks before. While it's too much to ask for us to hit those heights every week, the style of play still offers a source of optimism and we weren't dreadful on Saturday - certainly not in comparison with some of the displays in recent years.

Yet, while it's clear to see progress in the cold light of day, that's not to say it's not intensely frustrating in the heat of the battle. When you know the players can do better - and have shown they are capable of much better - it's hard not to be left shaking your head at times. Many of the 2,800 travelling contingent were far from happy at the dogmatic insistence that every corner had to be taken short, for example. While I'm sure it made sense as a tactic - Birmingham would've had the beating of us in the air - it didn't really work and became predictable and easy to crowd out and defend. Could a clever run, a decoy or an accurate cross overcome a height advantage? Perhaps that's one to go back to the drawing board with.

Still, it's early days for this side. Like the beginning of the Paul Hart team, when David Prutton, Gareth Williams, Andy Reid et al found their feet, there will be frustrating afternoons to come. Hart's young guns came out stronger the other side, there's no reason to suggest that this bunch won't too.

The Championship schedule is unforgiving. Saturday should be a reminder, if needed, that there's much more for us to learn.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The game that no-one watched: The last time I saw Forest at Birmingham City

I'm looking forward to joining the 2,800 travelling Trickies at St Andrews on Saturday but, as the fixture approaches, I can't help but think back to the time I visited the ground and a game that was momentous for a couple of bad reasons.

Photo by Florian Müller on Unsplash
While most sane people enjoyed a leisurely start to 2002, perhaps sleeping off New Year's Eve excess, I spent January 1 taking in the midday kick off between us and Birmingham.

The game had been shifted to noon in order to cater for the viewers of ITV Digital, which then had the rights to show second tier games.

When we arrived, it seemed touch and go as to whether we'd actually see any football thanks to the freezing weather. Yet, perhaps with a view to putting on a show for the visiting cameras, the hosts encouraged home fans to come onto the pitch and do their bit to clear off the frost and snow. We could merely watch - heaven forbid the away fans should get on the pitch and potentially clash with the Brummies! - and hope that the army of amateur groundsmen could save us from having ventured down the A42 for nothing.

Yet, if the grand effort was for the benefit of the TV cameras they needn't have bothered. That's because, while the 20,000 crowd might have appreciated the spade work, the official viewing figure for the fixture was zero. Now, apparently, a zero rating is given to any programme with fewer than a thousand viewers but, let's face it, that doesn't sound too impressive either does it? Basically, and probably sensibly given the timing, no-one was watching beyond Bordesley.

Was this the final nail in the coffin for ITV Digital? Who knows. It was certainly not an endorsement of its unpopular scheduling arrangements. Indeed, I recall that many anti-ITV chants were sung in that period in protest of games moved to daft kick off times. Oddly, there are now more games than ever moved for TV in the second tier and yet there's much less protest. Maybe we're more accepting now or maybe Sky's coverage is just better. One thing is certain: by May 2002 ITV Digital stopped broadcasting.

What did people miss? Not much in truth. I don't remember too much about the action - save for the fact that Stern John cancelled out an early Birmingham opener and that Jim Brennan missed an absolute sitter that could have secured all three points.

Yet the equaliser that day was to be the second reason why this fixture proved to be significant. The goal was the 14th of the season for the Trinidadian striker and also his last in Forest colours. John was finally finding his feet in English football yet apparently had a clause in his contract that would have triggered a further payment to former club Columbus Crew. Given our perilous financial predicament, we then couldn't afford for our top scorer to net another goal and, soon after, flogged the £1.5 million man for a bargain £100,000 to promotion-chasing Birmingham.

That's a tale that serves as a timely reminder of the mess we were in in the immediate post-Premier League days. Indeed, it was shortly after the 2002 Birmingham away game that we sold Jermaine Jenas to Newcastle too. While the folly of the Fawaz era left much to be fixed, it isn't the only time we've been in trouble. Indeed, as the excellent Steve Wright said on Matchtalk this week, we've never really been known as a well-run club. Nigel Doughty tried to mop up the mess of the 2002 era - and we owe it to him too to go one step further than he managed.

So, all in all, with fans mucking in to clear the pitch, no TV viewers and the sorry end for our top scorer, that game nearly 16 years ago left an impression. I'm hoping that Saturday is memorable for better reasons.

Oh, and while we're here, here's the starting XI for that 2002 game:

Ward, Vaughan, Brennan, Hjelde, Scimeca, Williams, Prutton, Summerbee, Jenas, John, Lester. Subs: Johnson, Roche, Bopp, Thompson, Gray.

Feels a long time ago doesn't it?

Monday, 30 October 2017

Diamond Dowell: A vision of the past and (hopefully) the future of Forest

Take a bow Kieran Dowell. The Everton loanee took centre stage at Hull on Saturday night and delivered a high quality hat trick that brought home all three points. Dowell's performance in this game, and the season as a whole, offers us some key lessons in the way the team is developing.

You only need watch Dowell for five minutes to see that he is a player of some pedigree and style. Yet, while that is often the case with young Premier League loanees, Saturday's sensational showing provided that there can be substance to his game as well as style.

In football, the term 'luxury player' is one of those mis-used clichés. Too often it's only really used to mean 'inconsistent' or 'ineffective'. It's why I'm a little annoyed with myself for starting to fear that fielding Dowell in a red shirt might be a luxury we could ill afford. In the soul searching that inevitably follows a Derby defeat, I'd begun to ponder whether we needed grit and hard work in that number 10 role to make ourselves tougher to beat. Yet, it's never a luxury to have a player who can pass, create and score.

Don't get me wrong, not every game will be Dowell's. Warburton is trying to build a squad of players to suit the varied circumstances which emerge in a Championship season - and the likes of Clough, Carayol, Cash might well all find a stage to showcase their talents. It's healthy too that we aren't pinning all of our hopes on one talisman. But, this fixture showed why it is worth having some patience with the likes of Dowell - when it's his day, we're in for a treat - and we might even be witnessing the start of a very special career. Many Everton fans told us we were in for a treat with Dowell - and some wished they'd kept him. They'll no doubt be keen to have him back.

The comparison made by Bandy & Shinty with Ian Woan is a good one. There will be times when people feel Kieran isn't working hard enough, is being lazy or is drifting out of games. Those are easy criticisms to make of wingers and/or playmakers who are in the side to bide their time and produce the one or two moments in the game that are decisive. It's probably not the likes of Woan, Andy Reid or Dowell who are lazy - it's us for jumping to that often-wrong conclusion.

In many ways Dowell symbolises the team at the moment. There's much promise, flashes of brilliance, some rookie errors and signs that improvement is being made. If he and the team can grow together then that can deliver the progress we're all hoping for. The good stuff is enough to buy a little patience during the off days and anyone who thinks otherwise is daft.

I think we underestimate how tough it must be to just slot into positions such as his - and that filled by Liam Bridcutt. The team as a whole is having to learn to play a new style. Bridcutt was suddenly thrust into a role in which he's receiving - and having to make - a lot of passes with no time to get used to his team mates. Similarly, Dowell is playing a role that requires vision, accuracy, a cool head and a bit of strength and will only really work if the rest of the team functions around him. Sometimes it's said of mercurial players that they only perform if the rest of the team is performing. That might be true, but maybe it's also the case that they can only perform if the rest of the team does its job. Dowell - or any creative player - is every bit as reliant on service as an old fashioned number nine is on crosses onto his forehead.

I have to admit I was guilty of looking at Kieran Dowell very early on and thinking 'there's a proper Forest player'. Yes, I know, that's the sort of arrogance and delusion for which Forest fans are ridiculed by our rivals. In truth, he represents what a 'proper Forest player' used to look like - the sort of classy, composed, stylish-but-unshowy passer we probably took for granted 'back in the day'. These days, our club is no longer really defined by that style. What even was a typical Forest player of the last 10-15 years? We've lurched, largely unsuccessfully, from one to another too many times to be summed up by any style.

Perhaps, then, it's more accurate to say that Kieran Dowell epitomises what we want a 'Forest player' to be. Just as the 'Warburton Way' promises a passing style that we'd love to be renowned for. There's a long way to go yet, of course, but these feel like admirable goals. Just, indeed, like Dowell's three at Hull.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Forest Five Asides: Matching Montanier, Twitter, new style, defender shopping, old boys

I try not to get too carried away by league tables until ten games have been played. Until you've played a decent range of teams both at home and away it's impossible to judge what constitutes a 'good start' but now, having reached that landmark, it's worth seeing where we're at.

Memories of Montanier

A total of 12 points from ten games means we've achieved exactly the same tally as this time last season (although the points came from three wins and three draws a year ago). The comparative calm off the field - and lack of a Burke-shaped deadline disaster - does still give hope that things might not turn as sour as they did under Phillippe Montanier. The Frenchman's reign was just another in a long list of false starts, but it's not just the points total that feels familiar. An inability to keep things tight at the back and a struggle to find a settled starting lineup do, to some extent at least, continue.


None of that means I'm 'calling for Mark Warburton's head'. In fact, I can't help feeling that barely anyone really is. It seems these days that a few angry people on Twitter probably get a little too much attention and I've seen many more posts denouncing the 'Warburton Out' cries than I have genuine calls for his removal. Surely only a tiny minority would actually want to see the manager sacked at this stage? The vast majority of fans had modest ambitions for the season and, despite a run of five defeats in the last six games, there's no need to panic and presume that these can't be achieved. Indeed, anyone prone to panicking ought to have 'we stayed up on goal difference on the last day of the season and then sold our top striker' printed out and stuck on every wall of their house as a timely reminder. There's a long way to go.

Yet it's easy to see how one or two tweets can become a 'story' which, in turn, creates a skewed impression. Especially in a click-bait era in which cheap 'Twitter reacts' stories are churned out on an all-too-regular basis. Twitter can sometimes end up in a race to the bottom, with the most outrageous views getting shares and attention, and no-one is ever willing to admit a rash comment made in the heat of the moment was misplaced.

The Guardian's Football Weekly podcast remarked on Monday about the fact that Forest fans had been venting their frustrations on Twitter, which made me wince a little. It'd be a shame if we became known as 'one of those' fanbases that overreacts at every twist and turn. I mean, we're not Liverpool, right?

That's not to say that I'm calling for us all to be nodding dogs who slavishly go along with the 'regime'. Forest are making plenty of mistakes at the moment, and it's clearly fair to be worried about this. I think Seat Pitch summed up the balance to be struck in a piece this week, arguing:
"It doesn’t mean anyone is beyond criticism. It doesn’t mean we meekly stand by and watch a side give away soft goals week in, week out.But it does mean we’re in a process of renewal. It does mean that we trust the owner and the manager to have a plan and to stick to it. It does mean that there will be ups and downs."

Building from the ball, not the back

It's fair to say that the Warburton Way isn't going to be easy to adopt. He wants to develop a system that, by its very nature, will take longer to bed in. He certainly doesn't seem to have adopted the mantra of 'build from the back', in which received wisdom suggests you focus first on setting up a solid defence before anything else (although, conversely, 'build from the back' is what his sides do quite a lot!).

He prefers, it seems, to try to build a style that dominates possession - 'building from the ball' if you will. We shouldn't be afraid of new ideas and plenty of better teams than us try to starve the opposition of the ball. You can't, after all, concede if you're in charge of possession.

The challenge now is to avoid giving the ball away cheaply, learn how to cope with teams who put us under pressure by pressing high up the pitch and to become more dangerous on the ball in the final third. It's a different way, but that doesn't necessarily make it the wrong way. We've shown tantalising flashes of getting it right so far, if we can click then we might well be able to produce some exciting football.

Defender shopping

Still, a defensive recruit seemed an absolute must after last season's troubles and I can't help wondering if he regrets not prioritising this position now. Let's hope Frank McParland is scouring the leagues as we speak and can unearth another gem. His track record so far suggests that he's up to the task.

The current mob might've been tighter defensively under Dougie Freedman but we're not going to be playing 'Freedman football' under Warburton and it seems wishful thinking to me to think that they're good enough in the long run (although I hope I'm wrong, obviously).

Old Boys

If you needed a reminder about how long we've been out of the top flight then it was perhaps sobering to consider the case of Ryan Sessegnon on Tuesday night. The Fulham man wasn't even conceived, let alone born, when Forest last played a Premier League game.

I once used to fashion fantasy football teams from ex Forest players in the top flight in a vain attempt to cling on to our connection to the big time. I found out recently that I'm not alone - other fans of ex top flight teams have, apparently, been known to adopt a similar tactic.

But, could you even muster a Premier League XI from ex Reds now?

This is the best I could manage: Darlow, Kane, Bertrand, Lascelles, Morgan, Chalobah, Ramsey, Ince, Antonio, Burke, Akpom. It's a stretch given the number of loanees, that Todd Kane is a Chelsea player in name alone and Chuba Akpom is a footballer in name alone, but there you go. Did I miss anyone?

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Daryl Murphy and the men who love to play against Forest

Daryl Murphy's arrival at the City Ground does at least one thing. He won't - barring a 'Bendtner at Derby' moment - be scoring against us this season.

The former Newcastle and Ipswich man has five goals in ten games against Forest (including both goals in 2014's 2-2 draw below) - his joint best record against any opposition (although his five against Rotherham came in just five games, so it's a shame they've disappeared down the trap door).

Since I love a good stat that got me thinking about who else always seems to do well against us, the pesky players who save their best for the times when they're up against the Tricky Trees.

Thanks to the superb resources of the Transfermarkt website I was able to satisfy my curiosity. So, here are the men who have their career best goalscoring ratio against Forest:

Rudy Gestede: He's netted seven goals in seven games against Forest, tormenting us with his strength and aerial ability for Cardiff, Blackburn and Aston Villa. He's back in the division with Middlesbrough now, although the arrival of a new £30 million strike force in the North East might at least spare us from seeing him on August 19th if he's still there. His next best tally is four, against Birmingham, so we're far and away his favourite side to play against.

Matej Vydra: The Czech striker might have drifted around clubs since his arrival in England, but his failure to settle down hasn't dampened his enthusiasm for playing against Forest. He has eight goals in seven games, including Derby's first goal in the 2-2 at the City Ground in March, and two assists.

Darren Huckerby: Huckerby's loan spell at the City Ground was a joy to watch, even if it was a huge shame that we never made his move permanent. It was also a welcome change from seeing him put Forest to the sword. He has seven goals in five games against us, his best record against any side. Included in that tally were two hat tricks - one for Coventry in 1999 and one for Manchester City in 2002.

Matt Le Tissier: While Mark Crossley might have been the only man to save a Matt Le Tissier spot kick, the skilful Saints man more than made up for that with eight goals in nine games against us. He scored eight against Aston Villa too, but took 15 games to chalk them up.

Sam Vokes: Burnley are one of those sides who always seem to have the better of us in recent times. It's perhaps no surprise, then, to learn that Vokes' most prolific finishing has been against Forest, with eight goals in 14 games.

Jonny Howson: The Leeds, Norwich and now Middlesbrough midfield man loves a goal against Forest. His tally of six goals (in nine games) is double his best against anyone else.

DJ Campbell: Just hearing his name is enough to give me shudders after 'that' play-off performance for Blackpool at the City Ground. He has six goals in seven games against Forest in total, with three assists.

Stephen Dobbie: Speaking of play-off goalscorers (must we?), Stephen Dobbie also makes this list. While he has a better tally against some teams north of the border, Forest is his favourite English club to play against - with four goals in ten games and three assists. He's also never lost any of those ten games he's played against us. He can stay in Scotland.

Tommy Smith: The tricky Tommy Smith is yet another of those players whose name you hate to see in an opposition line-up. A consistent performer over many years, he has five goals in 12 games against Forest, with four assists. He has also put five past Reading and Coventry, but those have come in 14 and 21 games respectively.

Jason Wilcox: Wilcox was more known for setting goals up than putting them away, but the talented winger plundered five in his eight games against Forest. Two came in Blackburn's 5-1 win at the City Ground in 1996.

While those are the men who have their best goalscoring record against Forest (for recent times at least), there are others who also relished the chance to play against us but just so happen to have a slightly better record against someone else.

Last season's loanee Ross McCormack, for example, has eight goals in 14 games against Forest. That's his joint best tally - but his eight goals against Charlton came in just nine games.

Alan Shearer's career best record came against Leeds - with 20 goals in 20 games - but he plundered ten in nine games against Forest. Of the teams Shearer played five or more games against, Forest is the only one he didn't lose to.

Then there's Gregorz Rasiak. He has seven in seven games against Coventry - but did manage five in four games against Forest. Robbie Fowler scored six in seven appearances against us, Ian Rush scored 10 in 24 and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer netted six in four including that ridiculous four-goal salvo as a sub in the infamous 8-1 home thrashing by Manchester United in 1999.

Dwight Yorke scored five times in nine games, Glenn Murray has five in seven, and Chris Wood five in eight, his second best tally.

Anyway, since the season hasn't even started yet let's at least look on the bright side. With Murphy on board we've at least snared one nemesis. I'll admit that I haven't always been his biggest fan in the past but his capture makes a lot of sense in the context of our current predicament and could turn out to be an astute bit of business to accompany the up and coming attacking talent on the books. The numbers also speak for themselves. His good record against Forest has come at a time when he's been one of the second tier's most consistent scorers. Let's hope he can spend the season finding a few new victims to prey on.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The two words that sum up my ambitions for this season

The week before the season starts is, traditionally, the week to get carried away. This is the calm before the storm, the period where blind faith and boundless optimism take over and when we dare to dream. To misquote Del Boy: "This time next year readers, we'll be playing the billionaires."

Still, while every fan should be allowed to dream, there's a difference between hoping for/wanting success and expecting it. Anyone in that latter camp ought to take in this cracking stat I saw tweeted by @ForestRav:

The fact that our average position post Premier League has been 16th in the second tier should serve both as a timely reminder of the level we've been performing at in recent times but also, as the man says, be a useful benchmark going forward. I genuinely think we've got the makings of an exciting young squad but we can't expect too much too soon - and finishing above 16th would put us above our average and show we're heading in the right direction after five seasons of continual downturn under the Fawaz regime.

Yet, while this might be a useful statistical target to judge ourselves against, there are other important measures that we should gauge the success of the season by. Points and positions clearly matter, but there's more to ponder in 2017/18 too. Last season I made seven targets for the season (safe to say we didn't do too well) this my ambition boils down to two words: stability and entertainment.

It's time for stability

Yes, we've been saying this for some time, but it really is time we had some stability at the City Ground. We need the new off-field managerial structure to establish itself, clean up any mess left behind by the previous regime and start making more of a success of the commercial side of things. The club needs to conduct its business in a professional way and to regain and retain the respect of fellow clubs as well as businesses in the Nottingham area. It also needs to involve the fans in a meaningful and appropriate way.

On the pitch, we need to end the season with the same manager - a feat not managed since 2010/11 and Billy Davies' first regime - and be able to consistently perform at a level that ensures we're clear of the relegation zone as a minimum. We need to try to stem the constant flow of injuries to the playing staff too.

The signs so far have been positive on both fronts but there's still a lot of work to do.

Talented side could provide entertainment

Establishing stable foundations for the club is essential. However, I'm also hoping for an entertaining campaign. I've got a lot of faith in Mark Warburton's ability to fashion a side that plays an attractive brand of football and can give anyone at this level a decent game. I think he's starting to piece together a decent squad that can achieve this too.

Following Forest has rarely been dull but often for the wrong reasons. If Warburton can send out a stylish passing team, we'll be interesting to watch for the right reasons again.

It's fair to say that the wider public expect little of us this season. While the odds vary, the bookies put us way down the list of promotion candidates - and suggest we'll be nearer the bottom of the league than the top. That's hardly surprising since we only stayed up on the last day of the season and have since lost our star striker. Being under the radar is certainly no bad thing.

If we finish above 16th we'll have had an above average season statistically. If we have a season of stability and provide some entertainment then we'll have been successful. Until Friday, we can but hope...

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

It ain't who you sell, it's the way that you sell 'em

Picture the scene. You score lots of goals, but concede even more. You end up finishing just outside the Championship relegation zone on 51 points. You've been through managerial turmoil - including caretaker management - but are now set to start a season with the man who ended the last campaign in charge. Promisingly, the manager is someone who has done well in the second tier before. Now, however, your free scoring star striker has just been sold to a side that has come down from the Premier League and is flexing its financial muscles thanks to its parachute payments.

Forest? No, that was Fulham this time last season. Clearly, it'd be foolish to think that Mark Warburton's men can follow in their footsteps and mount a play-off campaign just because the position of the clubs has parallels. However, Slavisa Jokanovic's Cottagers have shown that astute management, momentum and a combination of smart buys and up and coming prospects can come together and exceed expectations. Their success also goes some way to showing that the sale of Britt Assombalonga need not be a complete catastrophe.

Britt's £15 million transfer to Middlesbrough is hardly cause for celebration. The former Peterborough man's goal record speaks for itself; he's a natural at finding the back of the net. To lose him to a fellow Championship side is disappointing and - as Paul Severn's Seat Pitch article outlines - demonstrates the disparity between clubs that is furthered by Financial Fair Play and the rules surrounding parachute payments. We might be in the same division as Middlesbrough but we're barely in the same league financially. This is also Fawaz's legacy, however. While the rules are poor, a large part of the blame lies with our own for failing to build a club worthy of earning such a windfall. Boro are reaping the rewards of being well run.

But there were two questions to be answered about Assombalonga if he stayed at the City Ground - was he fit and did he fit. The first is perhaps a little unfair. I'm sure he's had a good pre-season and is in decent shape for the coming campaign. However, it's only right to say that there's a nagging doubt over his ability to perform at his peak on a regular and sustained basis post-injury. We might well have had to have a 'plan B' in mind for any games he'd have to miss anyway.

Did he also fit into Warburton's ideal line-up? I'm sure the manager is smart enough not to turn down the use of a proven goal scorer but I'm less sure that Britt would be his ideal main man. You get the impression he'd much rather have a more mobile centre forward, someone who offers more outside the box too. If the sizeable transfer fee can be used to further shape the squad into Warburton's style, then we might see progress. We might even have enough money to enhance other parts of the squad too.

Not only that, but there's also the question of Ben Brereton. I still live in fear that we'll lose him too, especially after his summer exploits in an England shirt, but there's no denying that he's shown an incredible talent in his breakthrough year. At times last season he was already outperforming Britt and you felt that he was eventually shoved further wide to accommodate his more experienced team mate during the relegation run-in (albeit sensible in the circumstances). If he continues to progress at the rate he showed last season, he'll be a better player than Britt by the end of the season and no-one should be put in his way to hold that progress back. Maybe this solves a selection headache?

Yes he's young and we should temper expectations, but if you're good enough you're old enough and boy did he look good enough at times last season. After being robbed of the chance to see Oliver Burke for long, I'd love to have a season of Brereton in a Forest shirt. You'd hope that he'd rather get games under his belt that rot in a vast Premier League squad too.

With the bitter experience Burke, and before him Michail Antonio, it'd be easy to become downhearted at a third summer transfer window in a row in which a star player is sold off. Yet this departure feels different. The club has negotiated the best price it could - given the release clause in his contract - and sold on a player who wanted to go. From what we're led to believe, Mark Warburton knew of this decision and has worked with the new structure at the club to draw up a list of replacements. In comparison to those last two big summer sales - in which we were subjected to Antonio being withdrawn from selection and finally sold on deadline day and Burke flogged behind the manager's back with no plan for a replacement - it's a case of so far so good.

Now, however, comes the first big test of the new managerial structure. Clubs will know we've got a bit of cash to play with and our rivals will be shopping in the same market. We'll soon see how much of that money is re-invested, how good Frank McParland's contacts book is and what sort of player we're able to attract. It isn't about who you sell - it's about what you do to replace them that matters most.

Britt might have his critics - and his faults - but I enjoyed watching him in a Forest shirt. His goals against Derby, his cheeky charm and ruthless streak, his fairytale finish against MK Dons and his swansong against Ipswich will all leave fond memories. You can hardly blame him for going to a club which should challenge for the title and which will certainly increase his pay packet.

We now need to build a club that doesn't have to sell star players, especially to sides in the same division. If we're sitting here next year without a fourth successive big name departure, we'll know that progress is being made. We also need to do something that this club hasn't always been great at doing - and replace a key player in a way that doesn't affect the team. The new regime offers promise that we can achieve this but it won't be easy. Those in charge at the club can at least take inspiration from Fulham's last year.