Nottingham Forest are on the search for their next manager following Aitor Karanka’s shock resignation, and Sunderland should be concerned that the Tricky Trees will make an approach for Jack Ross.
Karanka’s future at the City Ground had been in doubt for some time, with reports emerging on Boxing Day stating that Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis was considering making changes over the club’s failure to land a top-six spot having spent heavily in the summer.
The 45-year-old has since been unable to turn results around, and, despite smashing four past promotion contending Leeds United on New Year’s Day, Forest continue to reside outside the top six – Derby are currently bottom of the Play-Off picture but four points clear.
Rather than continuing in a rut, Karanka made the shock move to request Marinakis released him from his contract at the City Ground, and the Tricky Trees’ search for his replacement should include Ross.
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Since Ross took charge at the Stadium of Light in the summer, the 42-year-old has been able to stop the rot tearing through the Black Cats and causing back-to-back relegations.
The former defender has also been able to turn Sunderland into a promotion contending side straight away, and one that has a lethal offence – Ross’ men have scored 46 times in 25 games, just six fewer than the Black Cats mustered on route to relegation last season.
Part of that success has stemmed from getting the most out of young players like Josh Maja, who had only ever scored one senior goal before Ross’ arrival but has since fired the ball home 14 times in League One, and in turn harboured interest from Premier League sides.
Nottingham Forest, meanwhile, are struggling to break down the opposition and have failed to score in five of their games since beating Ipswich on December 1.
An ageing squad will also need rebuilding in the summer, despite the money spent on improvements this season, with 31-year-old Costel Pantilimon leading the appearance rankings for Forest after featuring in all 26 games and 30-year-old Lewis Grabban not far behind on 24.