Date: 28th January 2014 at 9:43am
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Nottingham Forest fan Will Ward helps us preview Thursday night’s trip to the City Ground

Nottingham Forest fan Will Ward helps us preview Thursday night’s trip to the City Ground…

How has the season panned out compared to your expectations?

Following the pre-season hype and big backing from owner Fawaz Al-Hasawi, I was expecting Forest to be about 8/9 points better off than we are.

The pre-season hype was mainly caused from Jim Price, who is the cousin of Billy Davies, and acts as his agent and an advisor for Fawaz Al-Hasawi and if you believe some, a non-official Chief Executive at the club. Price was talking a lot about the possibilities of a top two finish and expectations rose.

We need to continue our recent run of form and close the gap on Leicester and QPR. Forest are where I thought they would be midway through the season, but not where I thought they should be. There have been a lot of frustrating draws that we’ll be pointing to at the end of the season and saying ‘if only.’

There appears to have been a bit of discontent around the City Ground this season: why so?

A lot of it stems from the media treatment from Billy Davies. Acting foolishly with parts of the media makes him an easy target when results aren’t going our way, which was the case a lot before Christmas.

Before Christmas the football, quite frankly, wasn’t very pretty to watch. But with the nature of the Championship, Forest still stuck around the top six, even though the likes of Leicester and QPR are stretching their lead at the top.

Billy Davies has been talking up the January transfer window for months; talking about the need for a striker. With all the talking, you genuinely thought Forest were going into the window with a plan. But we’ve waited until the last week to act, and we have a weaker squad, following the loss of Jack Hobbs.

With the talking from Billy Davies, came expectation. He’s heaped the pressure on Fawaz Al-Hasawi to dip into his pocket, despite the huge backing he’s already received, in a similar fashion to what he did to former owner Nigel Doughty. He insists on talking about ‘the club’ and ‘the owner’ as a separate entity, shifting the responsibility on to other individuals, in order for others to take the blame if things go wrong.

Eleven draws this season – the most in the division – are Forest struggling to kill off teams?

Certainly. Dropped points against Bolton, Reading (x2), Birmingham, Ipswich, Millwall, Burnley, Blackpool, Yeovil, Bournemouth, Charlton, Doncaster, Middlesbrough, Wigan and Watford. You can definitely tell we have a problem.

When we do take the lead, a lot of the time we choose to retreat into our own half and invite pressure. In his last spell in charge of Forest, you could understand that tactic. Paul McKenna, Guy Moussi and Paul Anderson were regular starters, and the squad was a lot weaker than it is now.

With a better squad, with Jamie Mackie, Henri Lansbury and Andy Reid at our disposal, just to name a few, the fact we look like we fear the lower placed sides is embarrassing at times. We have enough to take the game to the opposition, and get a few more goals, but it’s something we avoid so often.

Before Christmas I felt players such as Henri Lansbury and Andy Reid were being held back a tad by our tactics, especially away from home. You almost felt as if they were playing within themselves, but that has been less of a factor in 2014.

It certainly doesn’t feel like a season where we’ll go and get automatic promotion with the amount of draws, but I suppose things quickly change in this league.

Who is Billy Davies at war with at the moment & is he continuing with Greg Halford up front?

Who isn’t he at war with?!

When he came to the club he talked about the ‘unfinished business’ he had. It seems he was talking about a lot more than just getting the club promoted. It seems he’s taking revenge on anyone who went against him in his last spell at the club. That includes banning BBC Radio Nottingham from pre and post-match interviews, and also banning the reporter from being pitch-side.

He’s also banned the ‘Nottingham Post’ from interviewing the players. He’s banned a few national newspapers I think too. He angrily approached a pitch-side photographer in an away game at Millwall, for having the cheek to take a photo of him. This meant getting one of his staff to stand on the shoulder of the photographer to check the photos, and another member of staff to stand in front of the camera, allegedly. Billy Davies is a thorough man!

Jim Price talks about the media grudges as ‘distractions.’ Yet the distractions are the only things that bring him to Twitter nowadays. The wars continue and they won’t end any time soon. Billy just looks for someone to hate, to try and create a siege mentality with the players. He wants Forest to be the underdogs that march through the table in the second half of the season. Hopefully it happens, as he’s been banging the ‘season starts in January’ drum for some time.

As for Halford up top, it all depends on whether young Jamaal Lascelles is fit. If he is, that should see him take Halford’s place at centre-half alongside Danny Collins, giving Halford the chance to be a forward.

It’s an experiment we tried early on in the season, but the novelty soon wore off. It’s worked brilliantly very recently, but I expect the novelty to wear off once again. It’s a great option to have though, and Halford is a great professional.

Are you anticipating the club doing any business between now & the end of the transfer window – either in or out?

Billy Davies has been hoping for additions, and we look close to getting a few. But Forest have weakened since the start of January. Compared to the likes of Burnley, Leicester and Derby, who have all strengthened.

The saga of Jack Hobbs continues to go on. We signed him in the summer on loan for the rest of the season, with a two-year contract agreed afterwards. Hull realised that they can profit because of his good form and recalled him, creating a bidding war. Forest agreed a loan fee with Hull, and the drama seemed to be over…

Then Hull recalled Hobbs following an injury to James Chester. Hobbs has arguably been our best player this season, and will be a huge loss. A run of five games in the the space of 13 days is something that will test our squad.

Forest are closing in on Olympiakos striker Rafik Djebbour. His stats are good, and he linked up brilliantly with our winger Djamel Abdoun when they played together in Greece and internationally for Algeria too.

Hopefully he’s the striker we need and he settles in quickly. Billy Davies took months blooding Abdoun into the side fully, saying he needed to get up to speed with English football. No need to mess about with Djebbour, we need goals, and we need them now.

We had been linked to Danny Graham on loan, but he didn’t want to drop down a league apparently. A lucky escape I reckon, we would’ve been about four or five years too late, as you well know.

We may also get David Vaughan for the rest of the season too. He’s been brilliant in the centre of the park when he’s played. We stupidly sold Adlene Guedioura on the Deadline Day of the summer window, and messed around trying to replace him. We tried Nate Chalobah, who was awful. His attitude was dire, and from minute one, he looked like he didn’t want to be at Forest. One of those players that will go on to have a great career, but he just didn’t belong at Forest.

Finally we got Vaughan, who suited our style a lot more. He’s very injury prone though, so it could be a risk.

We were linked with a big bid for Connor Wickham at the start of the window but any big signing appears to be unlikely now.

Who will be Forest’s key man on Thursday?

Andy Reid, for sure. It could be the perfect time for Watford to play us though. Andy Reid has been an ever-present in the side for the first half of the season, and as we enter into a busy run of fixtures, he looks to be tiring.

When Reid plays well, Forest play well. If anyone watched our game against West Ham, you’ll see he ran the show. He’s been like that for the majority of the time this season. Influential to the way we play.

Jamaal Lascelles is touch and go, but should be fit. Arsenal and Liverpool have shown strong interest in him and has been quality alongside Hobbs this season. Touted to be the next Vincent Kompany, and yet he wasn’t far off a loan move to Oldham a few months ago. He’ll be key in the centre of defence, kept so many top strikers in his back pocket this season.

Any injuries or suspensions?

A key miss will be Henri Lansbury. Along with Reid, he’s ran a lot of games this season. Probably the best box-to-box midfielder in the league. Can do the nice side of the game well, and loves a tackle. Loves a tackle so much, he got himself 10 yellow cards, and is serving the last game of his suspension. One was an FA Cup game though so it was cleverly done.

Kelvin Wilson remains absent. With Lascelles and Hobbs being so instrumental, he hasn’t been missed that much. He’ll be back in a few months, but he’ll find it tough going to get into the side. Chris Cohen is out, but he is capably replaced by Eric Lichaj at left-back.

Score predictions?

I think we’ll sneak a 1-0. With the absence of Hobbs we are weakened in defence, and whether Lascelles performs the same without him remains to be seen. With that, and the tiredness of Reid and also Lansbury absent, I feel we’ll take the lead and concede a lot of possession to Watford. We’ll hold tight but I reckon we’ll just about hold on.

Will Ward writes for Vital Forest from time-to-time and can also be found on Football Fancast.