Wednesday, 29 April 2015
Friday, 17 April 2015
Monday, 13 April 2015
A fully costed plan for tough economic times? Trying to deliver progress without much cash to spend? Looking to secure a mandate to carry out the plan? Yep, the main ‘manifesto’ i’m interested in this week is not those being put forward by the political parties but Dougie Freedman’s vision for the future at Forest.
The canny Scotsman does appear to have put deep thought into both the business and footballing side of the immediate future of the club and his signature on a piece of paper is the vital starting point for building to next season.
Freedman’s experience at Crystal Palace and Bolton means he’s not only got knowledge of the Championship but also of working to tackle the deficit. No, hang on, that’s politics again. You get the picture though – it’s hard to think of a manager out there who has such immediate experience of both the financial and footballing circumstances the club now finds itself in. That and the fact he now knows the squad and its strengths and weaknesses. Jettisoning him in favour of someone like Dan Petrescu – with no knowledge of the league – now would be barmy. I'm not suggesting that's likely but it's worth considering that we'd struggle to find anyone anywhere near as well qualified as Dougie.
The appointment of Leon Hunter looks to be an important one when it comes to next season too. It looks, to the outsider at least, as though we’re finally going to take seriously the need to scour the lower leagues for bargains and up-and-coming talent. Given the financial constraints imposed by Financial Fair Play that’s now a necessity but it really is something we should’ve been doing anyway. For too long now we’ve preferred to wait and chase players once they’ve made the move to this level and become expensive.
So, presuming Freedman signs on the dotted line and retains the wise old owl of Lennie Lawrence by his side, Hunter could be just what the pair need to help in their player search. Fawaz needs to trust in the trio and realise that being prudent and not overspendng doesn’t mean you can’t challenge at this level – see Brentford and Bournemouth – but it does mean you need to be savvy and patient – two things we’ve spectacularly failed to be for some time.
I like the sound of Freedman’s manifesto and you’d like to think the work on new players and building our squad for next year will have already started. He says he has told some players they can look for new clubs already and appears to be hinting that he’ll be seeing what a few more players have to offer in the next few games as he weighs up who stays and who goes. A warning for the disappointing Paterson perhaps?
I don't imagine we'll be seeing Collins, Harding or Halford again. Radi has done nothing on loan to suggest he's worth the hassle and while Mackie would possibly be a decent sub, you fear he's probably too expensive to have as a bench warmer.
I’d like to see that hard-headed approach extended further. Now that it’s mathematically impossible to go up (although it has been pretty improbable for a long, long time) it really is time to focus on next season. In fact, not using these last four games wisely would seem to be a total waste.
To that end I see little justification in playing Karl Darlow or Jamaal Lascelles. The Newcastle-bound duo have done their bit for us now but it seems unlikely that they’ll be around next season. Following on from his ten-game loan spell at Mansfield Town I’d give Dimitar Evtimov a game, just to weigh up how close he is to being ready for this level, if at all. He’s surely either destined to be our number two or, if not good enough for the bench, then due to leave for pastures new.
It’s become something of a cliché now but it is also, surely, time to give Tyler Walker a start. These games would be an ideal chance to build his strength and fitness and vital experience if he’s to play a part in the squad in our upcoming anniversary year. That’s either got to be ahead of Akpom – why groom someone else’s kid when we can groom our own? – or alongside him as a partnership.
Oliver Burke csn probably ease the workload on the increasingly weary Antonio while the likes of Jorge Grant and the more senior under 21s might be worth a place on the bench. There's no point chucking them all in at once, that'd be counter productive and wouldn't teach us much. I'd still like to make use of Gary Gardner, for example, because his calm quality in the middle is a useful springboard for others to play off. Plus, it'd be nice - and hopefully possible if Villa stay up - to entice him back next season.
I'd also pick Mancienne and Lichaj, two players who have proven their versatility, in their best positions and put trust in Osborn, whose energy is badly missed when he'snot in the side.
I think it’s also got to be make-or-break territory for David Vaughan now too. You’d think someone of his quality should be able to dominate games at this level but he’s barely been fit enough to last 90 minutes, let alone back-to-back matches. At some point a decision needs to be taken. We’re carrying an awful lot of players who, harsh or not, are injury prone. Reid, Cohen, Hobbs and Fryatt are all quality players but are all long-term concerns. I’m not saying any of those should go, but the club can't carry too many players who can't contribute.
I know there are some who argue that we ‘owe it to the league’ not to weaken the side but sometimes you have to be selfish. We need to use these game to improve our squad and build for next year. Quite frankly, everyone else can get stuffed. This is a ruthless league and no-one else will do us any favours. Plus, it's not as if we'd field a team of kids all at once, that wouldn't give us the best look at them.
We should treat these four matches as a bonus chance to get ahead with our summer plans rather thsn playing them out as a formality. We need to put ourselves first and help Freedman put the finishing touches to his manifesto in time to get started for next year.