Forest install Transfer Windows 2012 upgrade..

Transfer windows used to be shit, didn’t they?  Particularly deadline day, but what a day we’ve had today!

Normally I switch off on deadline day, hoping we don’t lose one of the few players someone else might want we have left whilst accepting the inevitable lack of incoming activity from the Reds.

To be honest, it wouldn’t have been a disaster had we not signed anybody today, but after the gathering storm of rumours, we did.  And then some.

James Coppinger

Not one, but two.  James Coppinger reportedly hopped off the Doncaster team bus on its’ way to Yeovil at a service station to agree a move on loan to us until January, and after this – with mounting excitement across the Internet – it transpired we’d not finished and have somehow convinced Southampton that loaning us Billy Sharp for a season is a good idea!

I’ve long admired both players – particularly Sharp, ever since he put three past us when Scunthorpe beat us 4-0.  He’s always done well against us, and his goal scoring record is tremendous – he obviously knows Sean O’Driscoll rather well too – as does Coppinger, a right winger – which has been a notable gap in our squad of late!

Billy Sharp

So not only has the entire transfer window experience been a definite upgrade on what we’re used to, the culmination of this – eleven signings in seven weeks – is what I think a rather more balanced and stronger squad than we had as the season commenced.  That’s huge testimony to the Al Hasawi family and Sean O’Driscoll who certainly haven’t rested on their laurels!

Right from when the John Pye sponsorship was announced and the Pye family could barely contain big grins in the old Shipstones building (as a lad who grew up falling in love with footballers in Shipstones sponsored shirts this felt like providence!) I had a glimmer of hope that better times might follow – but well, I’m still somewhat shellshocked and just what a good job the new owners have done.

Let’s take a moment to consider how our squad has changed over the last few weeks…

In Out
Collins Lynch
Harding Cunningham
Ayala Chambers
Hutchinson Gunter
Halford Freeman
Lansbury McCleary
Coppinger Anderson
Sharp McGoldrick
Cox Miller
Guedioura Guedioura
Lascelles Elokobi

Okay, Lascelles is a bit of a cheat, but we can chuck in a bonus Gillett as well, who arguably replaces the role that we’ve never quite managed to sort out since McKenna left, and things like the return of Cohen and Blackstock from injury and well – wow. Then factor in that we’ve done this business without spending ridiculous amounts of money and it’s just incredible.

Both Sharp and Coppinger are eligible to play tomorrow should Sean O’Driscoll deign to do so – coming in on loan strangely doesn’t come with the same noon deadline for signing the day before a game that a permanent signing does.  Given how well the gaffer knows his new charges, I wouldn’t bet against them being involved in some way…

I was already struggling to come up with a starting line-up before today, now we’ve added some more dilemmas – but nice ones!  Of course, as I type there’s still a little over half an hour of the window left – but we’re not about to pull something else out of the bag are we?  That would just be greedy.

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Halford and Harding arrive to bolster our defence..

Harding. A real life left back. One that we own. No, really!

Another couple of days, another couple of signings – this new slick decisive Forest transfer machine is taking a little getting used to for me still!  A raid of two south coast teams has seen the defensive line looking rather more promising than it has been doing with the addition of versatile Greg Halford from Portsmouth, and – and remember to take a deep breath here – a left back in the shape of Dan Harding from Southampton.

The three things that always stuck in my head about Halford was his oscar winning collapse whilst on loan at Sheffield United that preceded Kelvin Wilson get sent off at Bramall Lane, his lambasting of Joel Lynch who’d just been absolutely poleaxed last season – and referring to Forest and its’ fans on Twitter in derogatory fashion in the aftermath of that event.  So not the best initial impressions!

He can play centre-half, right back or in midfield – and is perhaps known best, aside from his fiery temperament, for his long throw.  As with anybody arriving to don the garibaldi, it’s a clean slate and a huge welcome from me – he’s been somewhat nomadic in his career of late, not helped by a big money move to Sunderland not working out and resulting in loans out to multiple clubs, let’s hope that he gets the chance to settle here!

There could definitely be an element of ‘he’s a bit of a bastard, but he’s our bastard’ about him – and certainly in recent times we’ve found that our defence can be easily intimidated or bullied by attackers.  Hopefully the kind of experience that Collins, and now Halford, bring to our back line will help to quell some of that kind of thing going on!

The second arrival was Dan Harding from Southampton.  He made 25 appearances for the Saints in what was obviously a very successful season in 2011/12, but has fallen behind Fox in the pecking order for his position.  A ‘modern’ fullback, he’s one that will get forward and whip in a decent cross – and well, he’s a left back – we should be happy with that really!

Dan came through the ranks at Brighton and made four appearances for the England under 21s in 2004 before securing a move to Leeds on a free transfer – although due to his age at the time this came with a £450,000 compensation demand, and a potential £400,000 based on appearances and achievements.  He only lasted a year at the Elland Road club before moving to Ipswich, from where he was loaned out to Southend and then Reading.

Roy Keane told him he wasn’t required at the Suffolk club which is how he found his way to Southampton in 2009 – the first signing made by new manager Alan Pardew.  He was named in the team of the year for League One 2010-2011 and obviously featured but started to lose his place more last season – it was, however, only during last season that he was deemed suitable to be offered a three year contract at Southampton – so he was clearly still well thought of.

A big welcome to both new men.  Rumours continue as to who the next new signing might be – there seems to be a lot of noise about Kelvin Wilson being in Nottingham, but with it being close season and him being from Nottingham that’s not really all that surprising.  Having said that, if there were plans to try to lure the former-Reds defender back from Celtic then I certainly wouldn’t be adverse to the idea.

Reservations about Halford’s temperament aside, I’m pleased with the continuing policy Forest seem to have of targeting sensible-profile players who both know their way around this league and in many cases have been either involved or at least around successful sides operating in the Championship.  It’s a promising strategy that appeals to me rather than the ‘let’s get a marquee signing’ direction I was a bit worried we might take.

Guedioura and Collins check in..

Adlene is back in a Forest shirt. Permanently!

There’s as ever been lots of rumours, both outlandish and realistic, and certainly Forest’s two confirmed acquisitions featured amongst the forums and Twitter folk.  The first was the very welcome signing of Adlene Guedioura.  The former Forest loanee joining from Wolves and has signed a three year contract and – looking at his Twitter feed – it looks like he’ll be rocking the number seven shirt next season for the Reds.

Gued had a great impact on loan last season as the Reds were floundering, almost instantly winning Forest fans over with his swashbuckling performances in midfield.  Of course, that goal against Leeds was pretty special too.  Rumours put the transfer fee at just under a million quid – which is a cracking price for me.  In signing the Algerian international the Al-Hawasi family have bought themselves yet more good will from pleased Forest fans.

Those few people still intent on seeing the negative side pointed out the lack of defenders – indeed, even Sean O’Driscoll said in his press conference that it didn’t take a football manager to see our shortage of defensive players.  So it’s good news that we’ve added experienced centre half (who can play left back) Danny Collins from Stoke.  He’s a 31 year old Welsh international, and he scored twice against us last season when on loan from Ipswich.

He too signs a three year deal having apparently had the club talked up to him by Reidy, his Wales team-mate Gunts and last-season-loanee Stoke defender Danny Higginbotham.  It’s nice to think that a key figure in our current squad, a recent departee and a short-term loan player are talking us up in this way.  A huge welcome to both Danny and Adlene to the esteemed position of Forest player!

So a huge welcome to both players – certainly a positive start to recruiting the players we need for the squad.  The other confirmed news are the Kuwaiti trialists – striker Bader Al-Mutawa and goalkeeper Khalid Al-Rashidi are currently training with the Reds.  If you pop over to the LTLF forum you’ll see a few video clips and photos of them in action – although Sean O’Driscoll’s comments in his press conference were decidedly luke-warm about them!

Wes Mor-gone…

Wes: One of those players you never thought you'd see in another shirt

I’m pretty sure the first time I saw Wes Morgan play for Forest was in a pre-season friendly at the City Ground whilst he was still a youngster.  He put in a thunderous tackle on a similar-unfamiliar Rafael Van Der Vaart which left the Dutch midfielder without his boot on one foot.  I think this was back in 2003, unfortunately the Forest website doesn’t seem to show friendlies on its’ retrospective fixture lists, so I can’t check.

Since that fledgling appearance we saw him undergo the ordeal of being a stand-in leftback under Paul Hart, before eventually cementing his place in the heart of defence to the point where he’s amassed over four hundred appearances for us.  His departure makes Paul Smith our longest-serving player if my calculations are correct – obviously the fact Wes is a local lad and a bit of a cult hero, well, it makes it sad.

Having said that – a fee of up to a million quid for a player who is out of contract in a few months is sensible business.  Alas, it would appear sensible business is the name of the game at the moment for Forest (of course, more sensible business would’ve been attending to his contract earlier, and NOT signing a plethora of more highly-paid primadonnas but hey, ain’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

For Wes I’m actually pleased – he’s stuck with us for a long time and just as, with the advent of McClaren and higher wages, he must have been looking forward to a new contract to reward his loyalty and commitment.  To be overlooked until the era of Doughty walking out and Cotterill’s cost-cutting kicked in must have been a real kick in the teeth.  He deserves the opportunity to go and earn a chunk of cash before his career begins to decline.

Of course, it’s a sad indictment that a mid-table Championship team with perhaps an outside chance of sneaking into the play-offs is deemed a better bet than we are – but at the moment it’s a difficult assertion to deny.  As such, I wish Wes all the best and will certainly give him a decent reception should he ever line up against us.  To be named in the Championship team of the year by your peers is high praise indeed, so he will be missed.

If Forest fail to use this move to fund at least incoming cover for the departure of Morgan then we really are up the proverbial creek without a paddle.  Chambers – hardly a ‘safe pair of hands’ this season is suspended for another game, Cunningham picked up an injury, Lynch is surely only a game or two away from his next injury… hmm, soz Gunts, looks like you’re on your own in defence.  That’s if we don’t sell you, too.

In other news Notts County apparently want to extend the loan of Kieron Freeman.  Hopefully we tell them to get bent!  We could do with him as cover for Cunningham given the lack of numbers we have in defence!

Westley’s dilemma..

Westley. Considering departing the sinking ship.

Westley worked his way up from a youngster in the organisation, his reputation for a great work ethic showed from an early age. Rarely unable to work through illness or injury, he established himself as a key member of the staff over many years. Always modest, and never one of the shining stars – he was the kind of solid and dependable team members that any organisation depends upon.

Through his many years he’s been through performance issues with the business, he’s seen massive changes in personnel. He’s continued his fantastic attitude and workrate whilst surrounded by those less committed than himself, he’s done this whilst under austerity measures of wage restrictions that see him rewarded less well than his contemporaries at other businesses.

This season a change in policy saw a lifting of wage restrictions and an ambitious drive to accelerate the performance of the business. Westley was excited, his current contract was up soon and he was looking forward to the opportunity to be rewarded for his dedication, loyalty and hard work, as new recruits came to the organisation on much higher salaries than had previously been allowed.

Unfortunately this new strategy proved a gross miscalculation.

With performance levels unacceptable a backlash of customer complaints saw the chairman step down, the general manager depart and leave the club in a very different financial climate of cost-cutting. Nobody had spoken to Westley about his circumstances for some time, and other organisations had noticed his dependability and his contractual situation, and registered their interest.

Whilst Westley had a great relationship with the customers of his company, was a valued colleague by his team and felt a fondness for where he worked, he couldn’t help but think about the opportunities that he could have in another organisation. Certainly he could earn more money to provide for his family, he might have a chance of developing his career to higher levels too.

The fact that Westley happens to work for a football team rather than in a factory or office doesn’t really change anything for me – I wouldn’t blame him at all for seeking to move on from an organisation that has not recognised his value or loyalty and the contribution he makes to their performance. Add in the kick-in-the-gut influx of sub-standard players on considerably higher salaries and that just compounds matters.

I would be absolutely gutted to see Wes Morgan leave Forest, the only club he’s played for professionally and our longest serving player, however, I wouldn’t blame him one little bit – and he’ll always get a good reception from me should he ever return. You’ll never beat Wes Morgan!

Going, Cohen, gone :(

After hitting the deck in the Derby match and eventually hobbling off (once the Rams had equalised), it transpires that Chris Cohen has sustained the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament rupture.  Think Julian Bennett, think Dexter Blackstock – think up to a year out.  It’s absolutely shit news for Chris and for Forest alike.

Naturally I wish him a speedy recovery – I value him above most of our squad (albeit not as a left back as Steve McClaren seems to insist on utilise him).  The tiny shred of silver lining of this whole issue is that it underlines our need to, you know, sign a left back… which leads me to the next bit of team news…

We’ve signed Clint Hill on loan for 93 days from Queens Park Rangers.  Do you know where he played last season?  He played left back.  For QPR – the team that won the league.  That said, I’m still quite partial to the idea of him putting some pressure on the centre halves and deploying Lynch as left back – he’s impressed me when he’s played there this season (he impressed me at centreback yesterday too).

Hopefully the arrival of his child (congratulations!) will perhaps help lift the heavy weight of the captains armband from Luke Chambers.  We shall see – but a huge welcome aboard to Clint, regardless – I must admit I’ve always thought of him as a bit of a thug – but QPR and Palace fans I’ve asked think differently, although I wonder what Ando thinks as I’m sure he once elbowed him in the face!

Certainly our defence has lacked some steel and leadership – which is one of the reasons I kinda hope that Hill will be used to displace one of the centre halves and Lynch gets a run at left back.  Since that seems so unequivocally sensible I am 99.9% sure that this isn’t the path that Steve McClaren will take…

Reds make Derby-sure of latest signing..

It’s an unfortunate surname for a Forest striker to sport, but a few goals will soon see that ignored!  The move to sign Derbyshire from Olympiakos been widely speculated about for a couple of days now, culminating in sightings of him at the ground for the game yesterday.  Of course, the official website is yet to confirm the news, but a three year deal has been confirmed by the player himself on Twitter:

 Speculation from a few places (with the addition of a bit of common sense) suggest that the former-Blackburn man will don the number nine shirt for the Reds – of course, for those fans who want to honour the new player with shirt printing of their own Forest might need to get hold of some iron-on asterisks to take the sting out of having our neighbouring county on their shirts.

I jest, of course – the lad’s name is just an amusing diversion.  What is quite exciting is that we are picking up a striker with both Premier League and Champions League experience, whilst the stat purists will point to a less-than-impressive ratio of goals and games – but they are not allowing for substitute appearances and game time spent on the wing.

Certainly in Derbyshire we don’t have a lone striker or target man in him, from my sketchy knowledge, but he’s got an eye for goal and has been capped fourteen times at under 21 level for England.  I’m sure our signing of him will be causing envious glances from fellow Championship clubs.

After failing at an unexpected final hurdle to sign Verhoek (who has gone to another team in Holland today – tapped up? Much?) it’s welcome news that we have a reinforcement coming in.

So, a big welcome to Nottingham to Matt – I’m certainly looking forward to seeing him strut his stuff in the Garibaldi – and I’ll end with a fantastic idea for a chant that I just spotted on this thread in LTLF:

Derbyshire, Derbyshire,
Matty Derbyshire,
He’s not to blame
For his shit name
Matty Derbyshire!

(To the tune of the old classic ‘Stevie Stone’ song 🙂 )  Let’s make that one happen!  Of course, there’s always that niggling doubt until we see the picture on the Forest website – particularly in the light of the Verhoek nonsense – but surely this time it really is a (touches wood, rubs lucky rabbit’s foot etc etc) done deal?

Edit: Robin Chipperfield has just posted that this indeed isn’t quite a done deal, there’s a few things to iron out which is why there has been no official announcement – so the Matty himself was a little trigger-happy with his Tweet.  If that’s a sign of his eagerness to get stuck in with the Reds, then that’s no bad thing!