Preview - Nottingham Forest

Norwich welcome the Tricky Trees to FCR on Saturday. Rich spoke to journalist and Forest fan Lee Clarke about Clough, Clough, Clough, Brazil, Dross, Mr Norwich and Garibaldis.

Rich: Let's kick off with the negatives. A famous old club like Forest shouldn't be down in the Championship for so long, things haven't been right for a while, what's the latest with your owner, Fawaz Al-Hasawi?

Lee: Well funny you should ask, as we received an update on the CEO situation this week and in truth it is pretty much as you were. Sam Gordon - former Norwich City FD - was appointed into the same capacity at the City Ground a fortnight ago, and it turns out she is acting as the CEO right now. We are told she has held a similar position before but that could be Fawaz talking yet more rubbish. 

The controversial owner has said that he is wanting to get some proper structure in place, although a lot of potential candidates want to wait until the summer. So, with Fawaz keen to appoint now, we have a bit of a predicament. In a nutshell, Fawaz wants structure in place but finding people with good credentials to work with him after all the high profile misdemeanours could prove to be an impossible task.

Rich: Coincidentally, our present FD is also currently our interim CEO. You've had a bit of a chequered recent history with managers under Fawaz. Is that the reason Nigel Clough turned down the approach to be your manager last week do you think?

Lee: What I would say is that Nigel has clearly gone up in a lot of fans' estimations following his decision to turn down the offer. For Nigel, working with Nottingham Forest would be a dream come true, and that isn't me deluded to the size of club that we currently are, it is a well-known fact. Under any other circumstances Nigel would swim the length of the Trent to take the Forest job but now just isn't ideal. For starters, he has to finish the job at Burton Albion. For them to stay in the Championship would be an unbelievable achievement and he has a great relationship with Ben Robinson. With everything going on protest-wise at the City Ground, Clough taking the job clearly doesn't sit right with him because he regards himself as a supporter of the club. Clough will want to see a structure in place more than anyone.

Rich: It must be his destiny to be the manager to come in and take you back to the big time, surely that's what will happen. The name Clough is obviously writ large in English football, mainly because of what Nigel's dad achieved with you. Nigel himself had a pretty decent career with you as a player and I see you have signed another Clough. Zach, no relation! He's only played one game but is highly-rated. Can he be the next Clough to become synonymous with Forest?

Lee: He absolutely can. I liked Clough a lot, Zach that is, during his time with Bolton Wanderers, and it was great to see Forest use a bit of panache in the transfer market for a change. I have said for a while that there are lots of players worth taking a chance on in Leagues One and Two, yet we have a horrible habit of finding good in the overpaid, uninterested foreign imports that no other club would dream of taking. Clough is still only 21-years-old and hopefully he can fulfil his potential with Forest.

Rich: Yes, there is something in plucking a player out of the lower leagues and them shining for you. We did that with Grant Holt who dropped down the leagues after he left you. He was a legend for us. Perhaps the only thing more satisfying for a supporter is lads coming through the youth team and establishing themselves. We have a few who are starting to show that potential (the Murphy Twins mainly) but you seem to have a couple of Bens who are making an impression.  Osborn & Brereton. Tell us a little about them.

Lee: Ben Osborn has been on the scene for a few years now, and he is slowly adapting to life as a left-winger having burst onto the scene in the middle of the park. Osborn is a trier. He knows the value of wearing a Forest shirt which is always a good trait. Ben Brereton announced his arrival last weekend with a brilliant winner against Villa. He has torn the development leagues apart, performing well with the u23s at just 17-years-old. He looks the real deal too, big, strong and with a real eye for goal. Bizarrely, I feel the availability of Ross McCormack will ensure Brereton starts on the bench today.

Rich: Interesting one, McCormack. We were linked with him and also Britt Assombalonga in the summer, but we ended up with Nelson Oliveira who you'll also know. McCormack is an odd one, he has a great scoring record but something went wrong at Villa. Get him fit though and you've got a very good front pair there.

Gary Brazil has stepped into the breach for his second spell as your caretaker/interim manager (he must be nuts). It seems from what you’ve said that it will be a front two for you on Saturday. Is that how he normally sets you up, in a classic good old fashioned four-four-two? And how do you play, is it like watching Brazil?

Lee: Erm, no we haven't been, although maybe we will now that we can call upon two out-and-out strikers. It has been more of a 4-2-3-1 in recent weeks with Osborn and Jamie Ward on the flanks and on Saturday Clough operated in the hole behind Britt. It will make for an interesting selection dilemma for Brazil this weekend, although we’re usually bemoaning injuries to key men so it’s a nice headache to have.

Rich: Brazil seems to have made an impact since coming in, winning 3 of his 4 games so far. What has he changed?

Lee: For starters, he has put all of Montanier's foreign dross into the u23s. He has made us much more solid at the back, and the players genuinely want to play for Gary Brazil and, importantly, the football club. His tactics are to keep the ball and use it to our advantage. 72% possession against an Aston Villa team which cost £60 million to assemble is a prime example.

Rich: So, it sounds like you have a few players we should be wary of and are on a bit of a roll with a manager who has rejuvenated your team. What do you know about us? Which players will you have your eye on from Norwich?

Lee: Yes, that's a fair assessment. The reverse fixture was a cracking game I thought. I actually covered the game at the City Ground for the Football League Paper and sat alongside Michael Bailey of EDP24 and we were discussing each other's team. I liked how compact Norwich were that day, playing in lovely little triangles and generally looking like a team just out of the Premier League. The pace of Murphy - Jacob I believe, caused us all sorts of problems and we didn't get the ball from Wes Hoolahan all afternoon. I also admire Russell Martin, he is the kind of leader that I would love to see in a Forest shirt.

Rich: There are a lot of Norwich fans who would gladly let you have Russell Martin, interesting to hear you say that. He is Mr Norwich though, in every sense good and bad. Ah, Mr Bailey, much-loved local correspondent and all-round nice guy, he does some fine work. Until we came back from behind against Wigan on Tuesday night, the game at the City Ground was the last time we'd come from behind to get anything out of a match this season. It's fair to say our early-season form hasn't carried on, though we've done OK recently.

I’m actually a little concerned about Saturday. I think you may surprise us and gain revenge for our win earlier in the season. Looking forward to seeing Assombalonga, Clough and the two Bens in particular. My prediction is a sneaky away win. 2-1 to the Garibaldis. 

So to finish off, what are your hopes for the rest of the season, where do you think you’ll finish in the league and a prediction for Saturday please.

Lee: It’s interesting for me that a lot of Twitter Canaries have been asking for Neil to be sacked in recent weeks. He spoke excellently that day in September and seemed a credit to your club. Football eh? For the rest of this season I would like to see us play to the strengths of Assombalonga, Clough and McCormack, blood the youth and keep up the attractive football. It’s difficult to say for Saturday, offer me a draw now and I’d snap your arm off. I think a draw would be a sign of how far we have come. Saturday goes to the football purists I reckon, 2-2, Oliveira to net at least once for your lads, McCormack getting off the mark for us. As for a final league position, I predict we'll become tough to beat at home and perhaps sneak a top half finish.

Rich was speaking to Lee Clarke. Lee is a freelance sports journalist and writes for Football League World, you can read him on @FLeagueWorld and he tweets in a personal capacity at @Clarkey_No1.