League One Season Preview
So here we are again folks. More than two months after the Yeovil debacle the new football season is nearly upon us and once again we will have glamorous locations such as Hartlepool, Swindon and Carlisle on the fixture list instead of the slightly more appealing venues found in the Championship. I guess if someone had told me 12 months ago that we would be playing Leeds United this season, I would have figured on it being a Championship fixture. However, bizarrely enough this will be a league one fixture for the first time in the proud history of both clubs. Add to this the misery of re-visiting Yeovil and the return of the kryptonite that is Walsall 'nil points` Football Club and it would be very easy to become depressed.
However, there is some new cause for optimism this season. The summer has been very fruitful for the reds in the transfer market with a number of quality additions to the squad and a number of last years crop, well...cropped. Out have gone Lester, Curtis, Pedersen, Gary Holt, Thompson and Weir-Daley, and in have come midfielders Neil Lennon, Chris Cohen (at last) and Arron Davies alongside defenders Kelvin Wilson and Matt Lockwood. Not only has this given the squad more quality in defence and midfield, but it has also weakened some of our league 1 rivals in the process. The arrival of Neil Lennon surprised us all a little and I have no doubt that this is an excellent move by Calderwood. Leadership and passion are two words that spring to mind when Mr Lennon`s name is mentioned and you would imagine that his quality and experience will surely have a galvanising effect on those around him.
The width we have all been craving has finally arrived with Cohen, Davies and Lockwood being capable of playing as wide men or wing backs. All three can provide a potent attacking threat and we all know about the damage that Arron Davies in particular can do with the ball at his feet. However, for me it is Chris Cohen, who is predominantly a central midfielder that I think most of our supporters should be looking forward to watching the most. I do not normally like to use words like cultured when describing footballers but they do seem very appropriate in this case. The amount of money paid combined with the length of time spent chasing the former West Ham academy starlet suggests that we might have a damn good player on our hands. The midfield has been our Achilles heel in recent seasons with a lack of width and invention but now it would seem that Colin has worked to address these shortcomings. Of course I have not even mentioned the returning Sammy Clingan and young Lewis McGugan which tells its own story.
Of course the biggest signing the reds have made this summer may well be Kris Commons, albeit on a one year deal. Many of us, including myself, considered it to be a forgone conclusion that Kris would leave and even though the one year deal suits him more than us, we are better with him than without him. The only fly or should I say flies in the ointment are the injuries, with the loss of Nathan Tyson and Arron Davies for the start of the season being the biggest concerns. There are also question marks over the fitness of Junior Agogo and Grant Holt with the former, like Tyson, playing no part in pre-season whatsoever. Hopefully the injuries will clear up soon enough but it remains to be seen just what impact they will have over the first few weeks of the season, particularly in the striking department, although I remain sure the Colin is trying to address this issue. On the plus side the emergence of academy players like Brendon Moloney and Emile Sinclair during the close season has provided a much needed boost to the squad numbers.
So what about our rivals? Of the teams coming down Luton look to be in the best shape with some solid signings, where as Southend have lost their no 1 striker Freddie Eastwood which you would have to say massively diminishes their threat. Leeds may have been favourites for promotion initially, but I can only foresee a season of struggle for the Yorkshire giants. They will carry the same baggage as every other 'big` team that has entered the third tier of English football providing a huge scalp for the blood thirsty masses of league 1. If you add to that a massive 15 point deduction and the loss of several key players such as David Healy and Robbie Blake, there is an awful lot of work to be done at Elland Road just to remain in the division. In my opinion the biggest threats to the reds this season are likely to come from Doncaster Rovers, Swansea City and Milwall. Doncaster, have made some very good signings in Sullivan, Hayter and Wellens to add to what was already a very decent squad. The Swans have invested heavily in the likes of De Vries, Duffy and Scotland suggesting that they will also be there or thereabouts although the loss of a certain Mr Trundle to our old foes Bristol City may well have an impact. Milwall finished last season strongly and with signings such as Ryan Smith from Derby (remember him?) they will surely provide stronger opposition this season.
After good seasons last year, Yeovil, Oldham and Carlisle have been weakened considerably by the loss of a number of key players although they are all still in with a shout of grabbing a play-off place. We should never write off the Glovers in particular after last season and they have made one or two decent additions to their squad. The promoted sides traditionally do well in league one and I fully expect at least one of Swindon, Hartlepool, Walsall and Bristol Rovers to be challenging near the top. As for the strugglers, I see another season of hard work for the likes of Cheltenham, Orient and Bournemouth with the likes of Northampton, Gillingham and Huddersfield huffing and puffing in mid table.
So, will this be the season that Nottingham Forest return from the football wilderness that is league one? I honestly believe that this is the strongest squad that we have had since being relegated from the Championship and such is the strength in depth, there can be no excuses for failure to gain promotion. Considering the fact that we are in the third tier of English football, the club have invested heavily this summer and the time has come for the players to reward both the faith shown in them by the management and the patience of the Forest faithful. Colin Calderwood will be only too aware that this is now his team and the pressure on the manager will be immense as there is nowhere to hide if things do not go well. However, the team will need time to gel and we must show some patience if the team do not get of to a flyer. If last season proved one thing, it was that with 46 games to play, it is very much a marathon and not a sprint - to coin a very old cliché. Of course if we do win the first 5 games on the bounce, I for one will not be complaining.
Bring it on!