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Cardiff & Forest - genuine promotion candidates?

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Paul Fletcher | 02:16 UK time, Monday, 2 November 2009

Cardiff City are second in the Championship with only one point separating the Bluebirds and table-topping West Brom - and manager Dave Jones reckons there is a lot more to come from his team.

Nottingham Forest are currently ninth, but just four points behind the Baggies. Even so, Forest boss Billy is passionately, vehemently, absolutely and totally insistent that his team will not figure in the promotion reckoning this season.

After watching their entertaining and. at times, feisty 1-1 draw at the impressive Cardiff City Stadium on a wet and wintry Sunday evening, I reckon that both teams must be regarded as promotion candidates.

Let's start with Cardiff.

The Bluebirds are the division's highest scorers with 31 goals from their 15 games and watching their attacking threat on Sunday it was easy to see why.

Target man Jay Bothroyd can hold-up the ball if Cardiff choose to go direct but also showed a deft touch and decent pace, at one point winning a straight sprint against Kelvin Wilson and drawing a desperate foul from the Forest defender. He also showed excellent composure for his goal, slotting the ball beyond Lee Camp. The one concern here is that if Bothroyd picks up an injury, I'm not sure they have an adequate replacement for him.

Jay Bothroyd and Kelvin WilsonJay Bothroyd's shot is blocked by Forest defender Kelvin Wilson

Strike partner Michael Chopra is the Championship's leading scorer with 11 goals, but there is more to his game than finishing. He was not scared to drop deep to link play and his movement across the Forest backline unsettled the opposition. Furthermore, with full-time approaching and his team clinging on to a 1-0 lead, he dispossessed a Forest player 25 yards from his own goal. It was a moment that stood out for me because it spoke volumes about his work rate and desire.

Cardiff winger Peter Whittingham had scored in six consecutive games prior to Sunday and both he and Chopra forced several excellent saves from Lee Camp. Cardiff's willingness to shoot was symptomatic of the confidence running through the side. Particularly eye-catching was their goal - a six-pass move that started in the left-back area and ended with the ball in the Forest net. The passing and movement was executed with great skill and speed.

The distribution of central midfielder Stephen McPhail, who unfortunately picked up an injury against Forest, has been impressive this season. His presence has led to a slightly deeper role for the highly-rated Joe Ledley. I thought Ledley had a decent game on Sunday and the midfielder saw a shot cleared off the line.

I wonder whether central defensive duo of skipper Mark Hudson and Anthony Gerrard, cousin of Liverpool's Steven, might lack pace - and Forest striker David McGoldrick certainly troubled them in this department.

But right-back Adam Matthews, 17, has really stood out this season. On Sunday Forest winger Paul Anderson caused him real problems in the opening half but the young defender had the better of their engaging contest after the break.

The presence of Ross McCormack and Gavin Rae on the bench on Sunday also suggests Cardiff have a strength in depth they have previously lacked.

"We have got a long way to go in terms of being stronger as a unit," was manager Jones's assessment as he reflected on his team's start to the season.

"We have got a lot of younger players - particularly in defence. They don't let anybody down in terms of commitment but sometimes there is a lack of knowledge.

"But I am reasonably pleased with the attacking division and our defending."

There is a settled feel to the Cardiff side; a continuity from one season to the next. It was a point Forest boss Davies made when he observed that several Cardiff players remained from his last visit, with Derby County in October 2006.

In stark contrast, Davies spent in the region of £5m in the summer rebuilding his squad, a reflection of the difficulty he had in keeping Forest in the Championship last season after taking over as manager on New Year's Eve 2008.

Davies was frustrated with the attitude of some of his talented younger players last season. You only have to look at Forest boss, blazer and V-neck jumper worn smartly over his shirt and club tie, to understand that he does not tolerate tardiness. He lives in an ordered world of professionalism and high standards - and expects the same from his players.

In March Davies publicly criticised midfielder Lewis McGugan over his lack of fitness but the 21-year-old scored a stunning injury-time equaliser at Cardiff and there are signs that the younger players at Forest are benefitting from the arrival of more experienced professionals.

None fall into this category more than skipper Paul McKenna, who arrived from Preston after 12 years at his home-town club. He is the fulcrum of the side, knitting the play together from central midfield. Davies told me that McKenna's value is was in excess of his ability as a player because his good habits are an example to others.

Forest certainly aren't lacking artillery. Robert Earnshaw, Dexter Blackstock and Nathan Tyson are currently injured but Davies could still call upon McGoldrick, Dele Adebola and Radoslaw Majewski on Sunday. It is a pool of attacking players that I imagine any Championship manager would be happy to have at his disposal.

Michael Chopra and Guy MoussiWes Morgan holds off the challenge of Cardiff striker Michael Chopra

The visiting team's defence was caught out far too easily at times against Cardiff - particularly distressing was an optimistic header up-field from Gerrard that eluded the Forest backline and gave Bothroyd a run at goal. Davies insists he is working hard with his all of his squad on the training ground and five consecutive victories and two draws from Forest's last seven games suggests his methods are working.

"There is a lot of work and progression needed," reckons Davies, who insists he can see the faults and flaws in his squad every day on the training ground.

"In my humble opinion we are not ready for promotion this season. If we can finish in a mid-table position, it would be a first-class position considering where we have come from."

Davies was sacked months after he took Derby back to the top flight in 2007. It is an experience that clearly hurt. You now frequently read of the manager talking in terms of three-year plans and building an infrastructure that will give Forest a chance of surviving in the Premier League.

But he is an extremely competitive man and has a proven track record at this level having reached the play-off final with Preston before going one better at Derby. The crucial element was that he did it quickly - in his first season at each club.

Despite his protestations I certainly wouldn't discount Forest - not that the Championship is short of promotion contenders.

Almost a third of the season has gone (at frightening speed if you ask me) and just seven points separate the top 12 teams.

Some people think the Championship is the most exciting league in England and the congestion at the top end of the table suggests they might have a point.

But besides Cardiff and Forest, who do you think will figure in the promotion reckoning next April?

You can follow me throughout the season at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    As a Forest fan i agree in principal with Davis that we're not ready, but the facts are we're 4 points off top spot. We had major injury concerns yesterday and still managed to play some really good football against a team that could of gone top. If he's not carefull he may be made to eat his own words. I see a possible play off push but no promotion this year for either Forest or Cardiff. (P.S its Wes Morgan not Guy Moussi in the photo.)

  • Comment number 2.

    Fletch, you are a Forest fan I believe...? Even my wife glanced at the article and spotted a mistake - Big Wes is holding off Chopra.

    An excellent game and a superb advert for the championship. I think Cardiff will definately be up there at the end of the season and IF Billy is allowed to bring in 2 or 3 in January I'd hope Forest could be too. We need a natural left winger and left back and probably a centre back too.

  • Comment number 3.

    Third!!

  • Comment number 4.

    At 09:12am on 02 Nov 2009, XavierBreath wrote:
    Third!!

    ---------------------------

    How very mature

  • Comment number 5.

    Whilst I agree with most of what you say about Forest, we're missing far too many players in key positions to make a proper tilt at anything this season. I'd rather take a top 10 finish, then go for the big prize next year. Billy Davies has remarked on a couple of occasions this season that we're at least 2 seasons off being where we want to be, we need a left back (although Chris Cohen has coped admirably there), another centre half (to provide back up for Chambers, Wilson and Morgan), and another winger so that we can use Garner and Tyson in their proper positions.

    We are a work in progress, and whilst the initial look at what is being created is nice, we need to see what the finished article looks like, whether that be at the end of this season or the next.

    Its out of West Brom, Newcastle, Cardiff and Middlesbrough for promotion this season.

  • Comment number 6.

    McDonny - thanks for your optimism re Middlesbrough - best I think we can hope for is play offs. Unless GS2 can get a grip of the defending and a new keeper who will instill confidence in the side (and a goalscorer).

  • Comment number 7.

    To be quite honest, I can't see much past West Brom and Newcastle for promotion this year. West Brom seem to have a squad made for Championship football, while Newcastle seem to have gelled well under Chris Hughton. Middlesbrough and Cardiff will both be in the top 6, but I think Forest will be seriously over-achieving if they make the play-offs.

  • Comment number 8.

    What's with all the negativity Forest fans? We've got some great attacking players yes we need to improve at the back but did you see teams such as Burnley or Stoke complaining about going up? Players might leave or get injured and this is our best chance of going up in ages so instead of being negative lets get behind the boys and aim for an automatic promotion spot!

  • Comment number 9.

    The championship is very tight. Swansea had a shocking start to the season, and even though we're on a 9 match unbeaten run, we aren't winning all those games. We're in 11th, yet are only 6 points behind West Brom. The division is wide open, but I think West Brom and Newcastle will be the automatic promotion teams at the end.

  • Comment number 10.

    I don't think our defence was caught out too easily at all yesterday. You make it sound as though Cardiff walked all over our back four every single time they attacked.

    Aside from the goal and when Wilson brought down Bothroyd, they were very solid.

    Chris Cohen, at left-back, was superb again despite being a central midfielder.

    If anything, I think their defence looked a lot shakier.

    Our main problem is that David McGoldrick isn't a lone-striker and so struggled a little bit at times yesterday.

    I think this piece is a little Cardiff City-biased, but that could just be me being a Forest fan. I also thought the entire BBC coverage on Sunday was very biased towards them as well, which was unfortunate.

    One comment that springs to mind was "Cardiff are the footballing side and Forest the power team" which is a load of rubbish to be honest.

    What would it take for the BBC to get someone in on their commentary team who is an actual Championship expert rather than Martin Keown?

  • Comment number 11.

    ForestForever - your defence was caught out too easily at times, which is what I said. I didn't say you were caught out constantly throughout the match, just that a couple of times it was far too easy for Cardiff to create openings. I also questioned the Cardiff defence, which appears to lack pace in the centre.

    I didn't hear the BBC commentary but I would say that any team with McKenna in midfield would favour a passing brand of football. You only have to look at personnel at the club to realise they have the capability to play an attractive brand of football.

    Does anyone think that some of the slightly less fashionable clubs like Blackpool can last the distance?

    And what about the likes of Leicester and Bristol City - up there at the moment but have the got what it takes?

  • Comment number 12.

    I honestly believe that Billy Davies would prefer to finish solidly, but not get promoted, on the basis of how things went the last time a "surprise package" team went up under his stewardship.

    Derby County were awful when they went up with what was a woefully poor squad, and Billy Davies found himself going from one of the hottest properties in the managerial game (an equivalent to an Owen Coyle at the moment) to a manager that was out of a job and unable to get a new one. The same has happened, to a lesser extent, with managers like Aidy Boothroyd - going up too soon can be a double-edged sword.

    I'm not sure that Davies would want that to happen again, but it'd be a possibility if Forest went up as their squad would need a lot of strengthening in the top flight.

    Although not trying to get promoted is far from sensible, the best thing for Forest would be to finish strongly this season (around 8th place) and then go all out for promotion next season. That would do them better in the long-run.

  • Comment number 13.

    Obviously I'd love to see Forest up and challenging a at the end of the season, but I'm pretty sure that with the way the team is at the moment, we'd come straight back down.

    I think Billy's right. After consolidating our promotion by staying up last year, we need to secure a place between 7th and 14th this year and then have a real tilt at promotion next year. I think a bit of streamlining and then strengthing our squad could work wonders for us after a 10 years in the doldrums.

    Playoffs/autos next year maybe?

  • Comment number 14.

    As a Bluebird it is great to see us up there but I can't help that nagging feeling that we were doing well last year up until the end...

    The great thing about the Championship is that it is always tight. Forest may find themselves in the playoffs, I suspect Cardiff will end up there also. To fall short of a play off spot again would be a huge blow.

  • Comment number 15.

    Anyone making comments like "I hope my team doesn't go up this season" are clearly deluded and know sweet fa about football. Were Hull, Stoke, Burnley etc etc 'ready' to go up? If theres a chance to be promoted, you grab it with both hands.

    Im a Leeds fan and after our play off defeat in 2006 to Watford i heard so many clowns say "Its a good thing, next year we will go up". Next year we went down. Ultimately you have to roll with the punches in football. You adapt to what division you are in. If you were promoted, its because you were in the best 3/4 of your division and earned it on merit. Thus you ARE ready to play in a higher league. The summer after 2006 we had to sell our 2 best players (Killgallon and Hulse) and if we had gone up we would have kept these and added 4 or 5 better playres. Would we have survived in the Premier League? Who knows. But the worst thing that could have happened would have been relegated back to the Championship with a parachute payment - in contrast we were relegated to League 1 and deducted 10 points, which kept us in League 1, where we still are another year on. Yeah, it was brilliant losing 3-0 to Watford.....


    People love making excuses for Billy Davies' Derby side. In terms of quality i doubt there is a great deal of difference between that Derby side and the Hull side that stayed up last year. Billy Davies is an EXCELLENT championshp manager - thats as far as it appears to go. Some managers arent cut out to manage at a higher level. Simple as that. No team should go down in such miserable fashion. Davies has had a LOT of money to spend at Derby and Forest. I remember in the transfer window at Derby he signed average Championship players and didnt strengthen for the Premier League. From what i recall Derby were top at Xmas and only just scraped promotion? May be wrong on that as i dont follow Derby, but thats what i seem to recall. Basically he had weakened his squad. No players he signed when they went up were any good either, so it was his mis management which doomed Derby that year.

    And for all the Phil Brown haters, please tell me who thought Hull would stay up last year? Hull fans/chairman are utter fools. Talk about ungrateful.

  • Comment number 16.

    As a Derby fan I was rooting for Forest yesterday believe it or not. A very deserved equaliser,looks a best Forest side for awhile, I think Billy has got some organisation into this Forest side and some talented players. I think a play off push might be within Forests reach but as a Derby fan who knows what its like to play in the Premiership with only 1 additional signing Earnshaw who never played and is not really a proving Premiership player you dont really want to go up in all Honesty and suffer that humilation. A CORRECTION the Hull side that stayed up last year were a lot better than the Rams team that went down with 11 points. They gave up very early on like the 3 rd game of the season and sacking Billy was a traversty, Just hope Nigel is given chance otherwise he will end up at the city ground and then get the boot there and the ghosts of Brian and Peter will send both clubs to regular fixtures at Port Vale forever. Now thats a Halloween thought.

  • Comment number 17.

    Exactly the point I was going to make Deats80. I understand the logic behind the "promotion a season too early" comments but you take what you can get. Teams don't improve or get worse in slow gradual motions, the first season we went down was out of the blue and we were "too good to go down". We hadn't finished lower than 9th for 10 years before that. In his first two Premiership seasons Frank Clark had us finish 3rd then 9th, then.....rock bottom. The last time we got into the Championship play-offs with a Paul Hart team packed with quality youth we followed that up with a below average 14th, Hart got sacked then we were relegated to League 1.

    Teams get promoted from nowhere, Davies' Derby, Dowie's Palace and others. The key thing is what you do when you get there. Nobody can afford to rest on their laurels, it's a tough league to get out of.

  • Comment number 18.

    1st of all, Davies wasn't sakced by the Derby board, he agreed to leave by mutual consent. This obviously mean that neither the board of Davies were to keen to stick with each other. So i don't see why it would hurt him.

    However, one thing Davies has done since this is stick to his guns when it comes to tactics. The squad at forest doesn't have amazing quailty, certainly no more then i saw in the Derby or Preston teams he took to the play-offs. But he does get them working together as a unit which i think in this league is more important then quality. Every fixture in this league is tough and any team can beat anyone as Scunthorpe proved to Newcaslte and Plymouth to Middlesborough. These teams are physical and in your face and quality players can easily be stifled. These teams are just that; teams. They work together and can easily defy the odds to produce upsets. Forest are a prime example of this, and whilst it pains me to say this, he's done a fab job since he took over last year; steering them well away from relegation last year and pushing on this year.

    I still thank Davies for bringing Premiership football back to Pride Park and getting more points on the board then Jewell. Davies is a quality manager and deserves success wherever.

  • Comment number 19.

    Paul, thanks for taking the time to reply personally. I think I may have misread the blog first time around slightly.

    I think for their goal, Bothroyd got through too easily and Wilson's foul on him was due to his own sloppiness as well, so I guess I actually agree with you.

    The two of them are forming an excellent partnership now though, which is something I never thought would happen. I fully expected Wilson to be on his way out after his silly red card against Sheffield United at the end of last season but he has proved me wrong, upped his game and seemingly regained his confidence.

    Davies has made excellent signings for us and I don't think he gets enough credit for it because people are too quick to jump on the fact that he has spent money. Paul Anderson - for £250,000 - was an absolute steal.

    I'm very excited about a Forest season for the first time since Paul Hart was in charge. Even under Calderwood, I never quite let myself believe that we might actually do well.

    As for other sides in the league, I think Leicester will be there or there abouts come May as they're playing attractive football while also being able to change to other formations and styles as and when it suits. I think that's also the major difference between Forest's current side and that of last season.

    If I was going to predict the top ten come the end of the season, it would be as follows:

    West Brom
    Newcastle
    ----------------
    Cardiff
    Middlesbrough
    QPR
    Leicester
    ----------------
    Preston
    Bristol City
    Forest
    Sheffield United

    I don't think Blackpool will manage to last the course of the season unfortunately. Ian Holloway is doing a fantastic job there, but I think they'll fall short in the end.

  • Comment number 20.

    As a Welshman, I'd love to see both Cardiff and Swansea hit the Prem.
    However, given Cardiff's unpleasant habit of choking at the finish line, if they both were in the frame by March, I'd put my money on the Swans,
    particularly so because of their management. Paolo Souza reminds me an awful lot of Brian Clough in his Derby days. Watch this space...
    As for the others, its really a crapshoot at this stage but my sixth sense tells me that Newcastle and Middlesbro might both struggle when the going gets tough (neither team nor manager has any experience of the Championship)to stay in the top six.





  • Comment number 21.

    I'm worried that Billy's cautious talk will rub off on the players and they will be subconsciously taking their feet of the gas pedal. I mean what is Billy going to do if forest are in an auto playoff place come the last few weeks of the season? Is he so scared of the big-time that he will ask his players to loose so as to avaoid going up!

    I agree with LloydX and Deats80 (never thought i'd agree with a Leeds fan ;) ), but if you go up it's because you were good enough and are ready for bigger things.

    As a Forest fan since I was 7 (some 30+ years ago) I have seen the highs and lows. I still remember listening to the BBC radio commentaries of the Forest v Liverpool european cup matches, and I still more painfully remember the Clough demise (Robert Rosario to save your top-flight status anyone) and the wasted opportunities of the Collymore / Brian Roy / Van Hooidonk era's that ended with successsive relegations down to Div 1.

    Like all Forest fans, I am desperate to see what IS a Premier league club in statue and fanbase get back to the top-flight. But two Euro titles doesn't mean we have a right to that. We have to earn it again, and if it comes this season we MUST take it. Who knows what next season may bring.

    If he has a shocker next season Billy may look back and regret pulling so hard on the reins this term when things were geared up nicely for a charge!

  • Comment number 22.

    Do you not think Billy is being clever and not overhyping our chances just in case we fail?

    If he was giving it large and claiming we were good enough to go up and would definitely be there at the end of the season, yet when it came to it, we finished mid-table, our fans would be all over him for it.

    By telling us that we're not ready yet, then it will be a 'surprise' to finish in the top six if it were to happen and he'd get praised.

    I think saying what he does will spur the team on to prove him wrong and his reverse psychology seems to be working at the moment, so long may it continue.

    King Billy has us moving in the right direction.

  • Comment number 23.

    FF, it's a fine line though surely? He doesn't have to big us up (and nor would I want him too - quick way to self humilation if things go wrong...), but if he keeps saying mid-table, mid-table that's all I want this season then surely the players once they have mid-table security will just take that on board and start to ease up? I would think that's only human nature. If your boss says that's it lads, you've done everything I wanted of you this season then they will respond by coasting for the last x games/weeks of the season maybe?

    He should keep quiet and modest. Not bigging us up, but at the same time not making public a league position that he is happy with this season.

    That's the mistake he is making FF. If Billy is happy with 10th place, then I worry that the players will respond accordingly.

  • Comment number 24.

    Good post Paul
    Despite several good performances over recent weeks, Forest exceeded my expectations yesterday in maintaining their unbeaten away day run for the season. We played some good stuff before going behind but still had enough to get something out of the game.
    Despite it being a tight league at the moment, I expect Cardiff to go on to win the Championship this season by a margin. They have a lot of goal scorers in their team. They are currently the leading scorers in the league averaging 2 a game and that's without Ross McCormack who scored 23 goals last season. I don't think Newcastle, West Brom or Middlesbrough can match that.
    Billy Davies is right when he says that we have some way to go, but at least we are heading in the right direction - playing attractive football along the way and winning a few friends. I don't think we are in danger of 'accidently' getting involved in the play-offs (or even higher) this time around. It's only November and there are many tough games ahead. As a Forest season ticket holder, I'll be delighted for us to finish in the top half and watch more of the attractive play we have been producing over the last two months.
    The Championship is proving to be more entertaining for it's unpredicatability (compared to the PL). There have been some cracking matches so far this season. QPR v Leicester on Friday was a belter of a game, the Sheffield derby, ourselves versus Newcastle... the list goes on. Let's hope that continues right to the end of the season!

  • Comment number 25.

    Fletch- as a Bristol city fan the simple answer is no- we aren't good enough to go up- although I don't say this as a negative as I think it's a great achievement for us to be in the top half of the championship even challenging for the playoffs.....to think we were 90 mins away from the prem 2 years ago is cracking overachievement and maybe we will challenge again, but we aren't one of the best 2 sides in the division.

    Also I couldn't agree more with those saying that going up is always a goof thing. People who say it isn't best to go up have no idea at all

  • Comment number 26.

    Daran, what you have to remember is what Billy says in the press and what he says privately are not necessarily the same. Knowing the kind of character he is there's absolutely no way in the world he'd allow the players to rest on their laurels once they'd secured a midtable spot, he'll be pushing them to the bitter end there's no doubt about that. Whether we have the depth to cope with a promotion push is another matter. Everyone was talking at the start of the season about the number of strikers we have, yet as soon as a couple are injured we're being forced to play with McGoldrick and Majewski much further forward than they would ideally like to be. We're even shorter on numbers at the back and if we lost Gunts we'd be struggling at right back, with Perch or Anderson having to plug a gap just like Cohen (who, despite battling hard, is so often woefully out of position).
    As for Cardiff, I think they'll comfortably make the play offs but I wonder whether they have the steel to maintain a serious push for automatic promotion. Last season wasn't the first time they've been flying high at the beginning of the season only to come crashing back down into midtable after Christmas and losing a 91st minute goal when you're 1-0 up at home doesn't exactly inspire you with confidence. I agree with Fletch that they've got bundles of firepower but at the back they look a bit sluggish and they let Forest have far too much of the ball on Sunday.
    What's nice, though, is that these two teams along with West Brom and QPR have made it to the top end of the league by actually playing football. I think the standard of the football in the Championship has gone up immeasurably over the last 10 years or so and its fantastic to watch, long may it continue.

  • Comment number 27.

    Langboyred, I don't think we are short up front tbh. Just very unlucky to have our 3 best attacking players out at the moment. I can think of many teams who would be suffering if their top 2 strikers and most attacking midfielder were out. Hell, even Man U may struggle with that! There is always a limit to strikers you can keep on the books. You could have 5 in the squad and not have a single injury all year and 2 of them never get a match. Or the first choice 2 are out and you need all three remaining. And I can remember Forest with some far worse makeshift frontlines since the Frank Clark era onwards than we saw on Sunday.

    But agreed on defensive cover being more of a concern. Three out from the back and we'd be a mess for sure. Perch coming back soon though.

    Hopefully you are right on BD not being complacent. I still think he's made a mistake making the 'not ready to go up' comments public though. Gives the wrong impression IMO.

    We could go up this year, it's not an impossible task. If we do we would have to spend most of the guaranteed income on players and make damn sure they were the right players for the job.

    And i'm happier with BD at the Forest transfer purse strings than I have been with most of the other more recent managerial disasters we've had.

  • Comment number 28.

    I don't think we're short up front I'm just saying look how quickly we've been forced to shuffle the pack and that's in an area where we're well covered in terms of numbers, the squad as a whole lacks a bit of depth in my opinion.

    I agree about being happy with BD holding on to the purse strings, I just hope he is given enough leeway in the market in January to strengthen a few areas because no one wants a repeat of last January's transfer fiasco. Not signing anyone then could have been the difference between us staying uo and dropping back down to League One. Thankfully this year it could well be the difference between a mid table finish and a serious play off push.

  • Comment number 29.

    Very interesting blog and comments, thanks.

    Last Christmas, when Forest went for Billy Davies and let Derby snap up "our Nige" I was depressed for weeks thinking we'd goofed and they'd snapped up the best young manager on the scene. Almost a year on, it seems I was badly mistaken about both.

    I've been very impressed with Billy Davies so far. He immediately installed a real steely professional determination in the side to help us avoid the drop and over the summer his purchases were stunning. The quality of football we're playing at the moment is a joy to watch.

    In terms of the promotion race... Forest have now played the four top sides in the division... Newcastle, West Brom, Middlesbrough and Cardiff - beaten two of the them, drawn one and lost one (marginally). We more than held our own in those games. Ok the Boro game was in the cup but by anyone's reckoning this has to place Forest among the contenders. Davies has been careful (rightly) to keep everyone's feet on the ground but, equally, he's repeatedly said this team is a "work in progress" and that we started the season with a bad injury situation. So, going forward, Forest can really only get better... a lot better.

    Personally, I think we're a bit "top heavy" - having six strikers is hard to justify especially when we're clearly a bit weak at the back (I agreee we need another full back and a really top class central defender who dominates in the air). But I reckon we've got one of the strongest midfields and strike forces going in the division.

    I reckon Forest are due to give someone an absolute thrashing and when that happens, the confidence from it could push them into the top six for the rest of the season. If, when the transfer window reopens in January, we can strengthen the defence as above and get one more wide player, I think Forest will have one of the strongest squads in the championship - capable of getting one of the two automatic promotion slots let alone a play off place.

    Let's cross the premiership bridge when we get there but from what I've seen so far this season, Billy's the man to take us there - quicker than you'd think.

    Algis Kuliukas

  • Comment number 30.

    Does nobody think Billy Davies is simply trying to manage expectation?

    I'm a Forest fan and know as well as anybody that we easily get carried away. A good run like this can see Forest fans demanding automatic promotion and piling pressure on a young team. A team which last season struggled to manage with the expectation placed on them by a manager insisting we could push for a playoff spot. A team which at times struggled under the expectation of being promoted from League 1. By maintaining a stance that he just wants a strong mid-table finish Billy is stopping the fans getting carried away.

  • Comment number 31.

    Good post, but I do think its way to early to be picking out the top 6 teams at this stage, we dont have any Chelseas or Man Utds in this league so having witnessed several years in the Championship it can change quickly and some earlier predictions can often look slightly foolish in the end. Both Cardiff & Forest are doing well, but lets not forget the Championship is a lot more close than the premiership so teams doing well now can often drop pace after christmas and end up struggling for play-off postitions in the end.

    I'm a Wednesday fan so have had my fair share of ups and downs in the championship, when we came down we were classed amongst the top few teams to be pushing for promotion the following season, like all new relegated teams from the top flight, but we suffered the embarrassment of finishing 17th in our 1st season and it got worse from there ending in another relegation a couple of years later.
    I picked out a few obvious choices for the top few teams at the beginning of the season, Newcastle, West Brom and Middlesborough spring to mind, QPR, Reading and (begrudgingly) Sheff Utd I expected to follow, but here we are and although some of these are still up there with the top teams, Sheff United have just lost 5 or 6 games in a row and now lie a place below us (ha ha), and Reading lie 4th from bottom!
    All i'm saying is I wont be shocked if come January there are 3 or 4 different teams in the top 6 as its too close now to be picking out the winners.

  • Comment number 32.

    I for one tipped Forest, and put a few pounds on it for them to get automatic promotion, The problem is, where its such a difficult league alot of teams can be serious contenders, their is NO league like it in the world and this is what makes it so exciting.

    The Cardiff and Forest game, personally was brilliant, although only 1-1, i felt both teams played some good football, attacked well and Forest deserved their point.

  • Comment number 33.

    Any good manager has to manage and balance the expectations of the fans, the team and the other stakeholders in the club. In parallel he has to maintain the motivation and belief of his team. but not to the degree that they believe they are better than are and get complacent. The messages sent to achieve all of these things to the different parties might seem contradictary at times. Billy Davies is doing an excellent job in getting the team playing and performing as a unit, keeping the crowd on side and achieving results as a consequence, so something is working. Keeping everyone focussed on short term objectives, means having to play down the future. Towards the end of the season, the short term objective will still need to be realistic, but if you're in the the top ten with 5 games to go, then you can target a top 6 finish. It's just unrealistic to go public with that aim now! Good luck Billy, you're a clever man. I've been a Forest fan for 42 years and I'm getting excited again!

  • Comment number 34.

    I pretty much agree with everyone who suggests it is too early to make any bold predictions. I saw most of the Blades-Newcastle game last night. The Toon went top after winning but there is no clear stand-out side this season and that has got to be good for the division - it certainly makes it more exciting.

    I chatted with a few Forest fans after Davies got the job and it would be fair to say plenty of them needed to be convinced he was the right appointment. Looking at most of the posts above it would be fair to say he has won a few people over. He is obviously an excellent Championship manager. I guess the question is whether he has learnt from past experiences and can now manage his relationship on a long-term basis with his employers.

  • Comment number 35.

    As a life-long arsenal supporter this may seem a bit weird, but I'm actually quite jealous of all the teams in the championship! The excitement, the fans, the atmosphere! I recently watched qpr vs derby and was amaezed by the speed of the match, not to mention the hunger shown by the players! Anyway, I'm completely off topic. After having seen qpr play (and I don't get to watch much english football after having moved to holland) I would like to see them up in the PL. They were well decent! I also watched newcastle and with players like Nolan, Carrol, Enrique, Ranger etc. I think they'd be a good bet to get promoted. In any event, good luck to everybody
    !

  • Comment number 36.

    P.S. I based my hopes/predictions of Newcastle and qpr getting promoted on two matches, so don't hold it against me. I know not enough! Also, it would be quite nice to see a club like Nottingham (with its pedigree) get promoted.

  • Comment number 37.

    Hi Paul,

    Forest are indeed looking good and if they can keep up the good run of form they are on, inc. last-gasp equalisers, they can do it.

    I can see Forest and Cardiff, (also on a good run) possibly being the sides contesting play-off final.

    I'd maybe keep an eye out for QPR as outsiders for the play-offs come the run-up to end of the season

    Keep up the good work,
    MOP13
    www.manonplatform13.blogspot.com
    www.thedirtytackle.blogspot.com

  • Comment number 38.

    RE 10: Forest Forever - I thought Keown was really biased to Forest! I saw Forest at Palace a couple of weeks ago, and thought this performance much improved. Anderson and McKenna stood out for me, but can't see the Trees going up.

    No mention of Cardiff's Burke, but he's been instrumental to Cardiff's pass and move game. I feel it's rare for a tricky winger to have the composure to pass simply, I'm sure Arsene Wenger would approve. I think Cardiff's weakness is possibly Gerrard, perhaps he will improve, luckily Hudson is good enough to cover.

    For other contenders, Leicester looked so well organised at QPR last Friday, Hobbs and Brown at the back were exemplary.

    West Brom have to make it don't they? Not sure about Newcastle making it across the line this season though, let's hope things aren't quite so predictable!




  • Comment number 39.

    If Forest fans appear to be coming across as being a little bit apprehensive in regards to our promotion aspects,you have to understand our experiences of the past few seasons,where at times we have had to endure absolute dross,such as the 5 goal defeat at Oldham,the 4-0 loss at home to Scunthorpe and of course the play off semi final loss(surrender),to Yeovil,all of this in the 3rd tier of English football.
    At times during this period we were not able to string 3 passes together,so it is with all of this in mind that at this moment in time,many of us are delighted to not only be competing at this level,but also playing quality,attractive football.
    This is why,for the most part, we will keep the faith with our young squad,accept any dips in form and patiently await the good times ahead.

  • Comment number 40.

    All in all, Billy Davies is doing a splendid job by keeping the young guns feet firmly on the ground by not allowing their current form to give them false hope or aspirations of promotion at such an early stage in the season. Progress is there to be seen & given time & some disappointments along the way, I think this squad will mature & challenge for a play off place next season.Billy Davies is the best manager we've had since Brian Clough, I have every faith in his ability.Just be patient.West Brom, & Newcastle for automatic promotion & Leicester through the play off's.

  • Comment number 41.

    forest r goin up! they have such a strong side and billy davies is just the man to get the best out of them. nicky shorey is looking very good and i hope we can sign him next month although gareth bale would be nice. davies' experience in the championship will give us what we need to win the play offs or even sneak into 2nd!

 

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