Nottingham Forest seem to have bucked the trend of under-achievement that has affected the club ever since they were relegated from the Premiership back in 1999. Last season saw promotion from League One and this season the club retained their Championship status despite a torrid campaign, an achievement that Billy Davies, the Forest manager, has described as his “best high” in management.
The feat that Nottingham Forest achieved should not be underestimated as they spent the entirety of October rock bottom of the Championship and did not find themselves out of the relegation zone until the new year. Their poor form and league position meant a change of manager mid season as Colin Calderwood’s two-and-a-half-year tenure at Forest was ended after a 4-2 defeat away at Doncaster in late December and former Derby manger Billy Davies took on the challenge of beating relegation. The major problem at the club was easy to spot: the squad was not good enough for the rigours of Championship football. Calderwood had implemented a policy of maintaining a compact, tightly-knit squad which meant 16 senior players backed up by some talented youth prospects – and it didn’t take many injuries to expose the lack of depth. Davies’ task was made all the more difficult when his list of potential transfer targets was met with Forest failing to sign a single player during the January transfer window.
Forest did manage to turn a corner nevertheless, and when Davies arrived at the club they started to climb the table, with 9 wins, 5 draws and only 7 losses in his 21 games in charge. He was assisted greatly by a number of loan signings, most notably Chris Gunter from Spurs and Dexter Blackstock from QPR. Blackstock arrived with six games of the season remaining, a run of games that Forest were unbeaten in, scoring twice, including a crucial goal to earn a 1-1 draw away at Blackpool which left Forest four points clear of the relegation zone with only one game left to play.
Next season will be even bigger for the club as with their second season in the Championship they aim not merely to survive but to secure a place among the promotion pack. Forest do not have the great amount of money to splurge that is being talked about in some quarters, but they will have to spend in order strengthen almost every area of the squad, and they may have to spend big on at least one player.