It is June 6th. The Championship season came to a close just two weeks ago when QPR secured promotion through the playoff final, whilst Forest played their final game of the campaign only five weeks ago. It is the summer, a time when supporters should be recharging their batteries, perhaps watching a little cricket, and enjoying a break from the increasingly pressurised atmosphere of second tier football fandom. But alas, we see no such thing.
Not only does this week see the start of the World Cup in Brazil it also marks the official start of fevered speculation amongst internet Reds fans with Stuart Pearce announcing at the weekend that today could see the first new signings of his managerial reign confirmed. As breakfast bowls across Nottinghamshire were being cleared away this morning there had already been a host of potential transfer targets both hailed and dismissed, the treadmill is back.
Pearce himself is heading off to the World Cup to fulfil his contractual duties with Talksport, his new job at the City Ground due to start on 1 July, but he has been hard at work laying the foundations so that when he officially walks through the door he can hit the ground running. The backroom team is largely in place with his former England coaching colleagues Steve Wigley and Brian Eastick confirmed and they would appear to set the tone of this new era with a focus on development. Indeed everything that Pearce has said to date would seem to be about taking our club back to basics, putting down stable footings on which to earn the top flight status that has eluded wealthy owners for 15 years now.
Today saw another step taken as the new manager revealed what he hopes will be the solution to the team’s perceived primary problem from last season, goals. Although nothing had been officially confirmed at the time of writing the gossip is all about Matty Fryatt, who is out of contract with Hull City, and Lars Veldwijk, who scored 30 goals in 38 appearances for Dutch side Excelsior, in Holland’s second tier, last season.
Fryatt strikes me as the classic example of a player who will not get everyone excited when he signs for your club but would have you worrying should he turn out for the opposition. With Forest fans adept at this type of thinking, writing off a player who signs for us whilst hailing anyone who signs elsewhere as the clear answer to our problems and a poor miss by our club, he is likely to be received with mixed feelings at best. Despite this he has a decent, if not outstanding, goalscoring record and will unsettle most Championship defences.
Despite being 6 feet 5 inches tall Veldwijk does not appear from the video circulating on Twitter to be a target man for long balls from the back. Whilst strong on crosses he seems to prefer passes to his feet so that he can hold off defenders, receive the ball and turn. It is difficult to tell whether a player coming in from abroad and a lower level will step up but at 22 he has made a strong start to his career and he will hopefully be greeted with enthusiasm and positivity from the Forest faithful.
If these two signings are confirmed the club will have 6 strikers on the books with Fryatt, Veldwijk, Cox, Henderson, Blackstock and Djebbour so departures are likely. Blackstock’s career appears to be in the balance as a result of injury and even if he recovers he might reasonably be expected to be loaned out in the first instance. Meanwhile, Djebbour’s uncertain status will probably finally be resolved with a move away from the City Ground, at significant cost to the club.
It should be noted that the 3 promoted teams last season conceded on average 41 league goals compared to Forest’s 64, so scoring wasn’t the only problem. The key defensively, however, is probably to be found mostly in the fitness of the players the club already has available and the ability to select consistently from them, so Pearce is right to focus his transfer activity higher up the pitch.
It is 33 days until the team line up against Ilkeston FC for the first game of pre-season and I am already looking forward to it. There is an excitement about this coming season that I haven’t felt for some time, so much so that I‘ve even dusted off my own boots and dragged my protesting legs back onto the field of play.
For those who haven’t seen it yet here’s the YouTube montage of Veldwijk’s goals: