Nottingham Forest have once again been linked with one of their former loanees in James Garner this week, as Steve Cooper is reportedly keen to add further to his ever-growing squad with the man who was instrumental in their promotion last term.
Perhaps in the final few weeks of the transfer window, Cooper could finally get down to business and secure this signing, potentially imitating the coup earlier in the summer which tempted Lewis O’Brien to come to the City Ground from Huddersfield Town.
The 21-year-old again looks likely to have his chances limited at Manchester United, particularly with the incoming Casemiro. A move back to where Garner earned a genuine first-team breakthrough would make perfect sense for both club and player.
Having only spent £10m to secure the deal for O’Brien, CIES Football Observatory value Garner at a slightly higher €15m (£12.7m). This would mark a huge coup in today’s market for a young English talent who made 49 appearances last season for Forest.
During the 21-year-old’s time at the City Ground, a fine return of four goals and ten assists from a deep-lying midfield role already marks him out as more of a threat than the three goals and three assists registered by the former Huddersfield man for the Terriers in 2021/22.
However, the two would certainly prompt a fierce battle for the deeper midfield spot to play beside Orel Mangala or Remo Freuler in Cooper’s starting XI.
Garner’s 7.26 SofaScore rating from last season further outlines his reliability in a role which demands consistency, and despite his fine offensive output he also boasted impressive defensive numbers.
He averaged 1.4 interceptions, 1.8 tackles and 0.9 clearances per game in 2021/22, and in addition to being labelled an “orchestrator” by Football Talent Scout, he can clearly step in as an enforcer too.
To have two bright young English talents both vying for the same position would be a huge endorsement for Cooper’s recruitment policy, and he should certainly act quickly to secure the Garner deal and repeat the shrewd nature of capturing O’Brien, with both players making their mark in the Championship in recent months.