Aitor Karanka’s shock resignation as Nottingham Forest boss could hand Jamie Ward a lifeline at the City Ground.
Doubts had been raised over Karanka’s future as the New Year approached when reports emerged stating Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis was considering making changes over the club’s failure to land a top-six spot.
It was believed that the 45-year-old was tasked with moving into the promotion places after significant money was spent in the summer, including the club record capture of Joao Carvalho for £13.2million.
Results have failed to turn around since, and despite smashing four past promotion contending Leeds United on New Year’s Day, Forest continue to reside outside the top six.
Rather than being dismissed from his duties, Karanka has made the shock move to request Marinakis releases him from his contract at the City Ground, with Simon Ireland promoted to caretaker manager until a full-time appointment is made.
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It’s a footballing cliché to say that no player hopes a manager gets sacked, but Ward will be silently delighted to see the back of Karanka.
The 32-year-old has been at Forest since 2015 but has only made 57 appearances in that time after consistently being sent out on loan – firstly to Burton Albion for the 2016/17 season, before spells with Cardiff and Charlton in 2018.
The Northern Ireland international has, however, returned to Nottingham upon his Charlton deal expiring and will be hoping to stake a claim under whoever is appointed next.
With a clean slate under a new boss, Ward may be entitled to stake a starting spot in red straight away thanks to his ability to produce goals and assists.
Part of Karanka’s downfall was a lack of end-product towards the end of his reign, with Forest only twice scoring more than two goals since beating Ipswich on December 1, with only one of those occasions enough to secure all three points.
Top scorer Lewis Grabban has also failed to find the net since his brace at home to the Tractor Boys, and assists-leader Joe Lolley has only aided Matthew Cash’s strike at Carrow Road during the same period.