The conclusion of the Championship season marked the end of an awful season for Nottingham Forest.
The team struggled to adapt on the pitch to, new manager, Steve McClaren’s philosophies and a lack of results alienated the fans. This came to a head following the 3-1 home loss to Birmingham, which ended with both the manager and long-time chairman Nigel Doughty stepping down from their posts.
Steve Cotterill took over the reigns as manager but despite a good start of four wins out of his first six fixtures, Cotterill’s side followed this with a sequence of seven games without finding the net. It wasn’t until the end of February that the club were able to turn around the form which saw them languishing in the relegation zone and they were able to climb, albeit only slightly, to the lofty position of 19th at the end of the season.
However, it wasn’t just on the field which saw the club endure a torrid year, as touched on earlier, Nigel Doughty’s resignation and subsequent death in February has had an enormous impact on the club, with finances looking tight for the first time in a decade. Over the last number of seasons Forest have been losing over £13m a year, which without Doughty’s backing is not sustainable.
The club has revealed that the money received in January from Leicester and Chelsea for Wes Morgan and Patrick Bamford has already been spent on bringing loan players to the club and the costs of running a football club. Forest will no longer be able to compete as one of the biggest spenders in the division on transfer fees or the wages that players demand; no longer will the club be linked with the likes of Max Gradel or Nicky Maynard, whilst big money signings, such as Ishmael Miller will also become a thing of the past.
Of the match-day squad which beat Portsmouth 2-0 on the final day of the season, nine of the sixteen are either out of contract during the summer or were at the club on loan. The club’s policy of allowing contracts to expire, risking losing players on free transfers is nothing new, with Kris Commons, Kelvin Wilson, Nathan Tyson and Robbie Earnshaw all leaving for nothing over the past few years.
This year it is the contracts of club captain Luke Chambers, stand out players Joel Lynch and Garath McCleary and squad members Paul Anderson, Paul Smith and George Boateng which have been allowed to run down. This will have to stop given the cost it takes for the club to replace them; they don’t want to find themselves in a similar position next summer when Lee Camp, Chris Cohen and Dexter Blackstock are all out of contract.
Whilst the club risk losing a number of players for nothing over the coming months, without new investment it is also unlikely that they will be able to continue paying the wages of high earners Ishmael Miller, Matt Derbyshire, Jonathan Greening and Andy Reid.
However, whether the club will be able to persuade other clubs to take these players off their hands is another matter, with only Andy Reid performing to an acceptable level over the past 12 months. The squad is also unbalanced with the club employing a huge number of strikers whilst, at times, Cotterill struggled to name a back four this season; Guy Moussi often found himself out of position at the heart of the defence.
All this information paints a rather bleak picture of what the summer and next season will bring for Forest. Nevertheless the club will continue to battle on and it isn’t inconceivable that new owners will buy Forest in the coming months; one thing that the club does have which their rivals do not is a name known throughout world football, one which makes them an attractive proposition to potential buyers.
The eventual introduction of Financial Fair Play could also be of a great advantage to Forest if managed correctly over the upcoming seasons. Forest had the seventh highest average attendance in the division last year, a year in which the club finished 19th. Financial Fair Play should allow Forest to remain competitive in the Championship as long as the club are sensible in altering their wage bill over the summer and adding realistic talent to an already decent squad, it is easy to forget that the majority of the players at the club are the same players which reached the play-offs two years in a row under Billy Davies.
The future is difficult to predict for Forest. Whilst the club is likely to lose a number of players this summer hopefully they will retain a solid core of the current squad, removing the players on larger contracts and redistributing that money on more suitable targets. If Cotterill is able to move on those players which haven’t performed at the club and is given the opportunity to bring in a few on smaller money it isn’t impossible for the side to enjoy a successful season following an exhausting summer for the manager.