Nottingham Forest - The 'Never Been Successful' Save


Sep 9, 2017
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This is my story...

This is my first attempt at writing a story, following inspiration taken from reading a number of others on this website.

Hopefully you will follow (and enjoy reading) all my trials and tribulations as manager of Nottingham Forest football club.

So why have I called my story the 'Never Been Successful' Save...

Well I've tried to play as Nottingham Forest on FM16, FM15 and FM14 and without success on any fact I'm pretty sure I was fired within 1 or 2 seasons on each. However, I've never been known for a lack of determination and I'm going to have another go on this year's game! I'm not a Forest fan, but I think they are a Premiership club in waiting - big City club, fantastic stadium (Prem standard), good fanbase, excellent history, good training setup so in principle I think they have everything they need to get the club back to the top of English football. And I want to be the man to get them there!

I'll be writing the story from my perspective. No drawn up news stories or third party accounts at all. This will be all from me, my updates as manager, what I think, what I'm doing and why!

I welcome all comments and feedback.

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Meeting The Chairman

First Meet With The Chairman


First day on the job, and the first thing on the agenda is to sit down with Chairman Fawaz Al-Hasawi to discuss the plans for the season.

Fawaz is known to be a bit of a character and I knew this when I took on the job. I reiterate to him that I expect to have full control over the day to day running of the club. The team will be picked by me with no outside interference and I will be taking full control of transfers in and out of the club with nobody dictating to me who we should and shouldn't sign. To my surprise, Fawaz admits he has become far too involved with his manager's in the past and this is something he will not be doing with me. He wants some stability for the fans, with a long term manager who can take this club back to the Premiership in the first instance. I have to admit it was music to my ears as it was my main concern taking over as manager of Forest.

Over a skinny Latte, we talked about things that had been said in the media over the past couple of seasons with Fawaz stating that he wants to take the club back to the Champions League. I agreed that as a long term goal this is fine and something I'd aspire to do, but in the short term it just wasn't realistic. He agreed, and I was glad we were on the same page and he wouldn't have any stupid expectations of me too early on in my Forest career.

On players and staff, I told him I'd need a short period of time to get to know everyone, but I made it clear I don't suffer fools easily and I'd be cutting any dead wood from the club, staff and players. Fawaz agreed and said he already had some ideas on that front, but as agreed he'd be leaving it totally up to me to make my own mind up.

As far as transfers go, Fawaz informed me that he'd be making £2.7 million available for transfers. I asked for a little more initially, but he said that with £60k still left in the wage budget I'd be able to adjust things as required if I felt the transfer budget was too small. Fair enough I thought and nearly £3 million budget isn't to be sniffed at in the Championship.

He confirmed he'd come back to me with some expectations for the season in a couple of weeks once I'd settled in, but promised it wouldn't be anything too extreme.

We wrapped things up with a firm handshake and I walked away feeling it had gone pretty well.
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Staff Evaluation

Staff Evaluation

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Before I could even take a look at my squad, I need to meet my staff and see what was available to me. To my surprise I didn't have anyone on the backroom payroll that I felt needed to go. This was a good start!

However, I did have a few gaps that needed filling. It was clear that I would be needing an Assistant Manager and a Head of Youth Development sharpish. Then a fitness coach and maybe a technical focussed coach.

The scouting team would require a Chief Scout and a couple more additions to the scouting team would allow us to get out there and earmark the best players to bring into the club from across Europe. I wouldn't be looking to far beyond Europe for now.

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The Board Expects

The Board Expects...

The chairman called me into his office today when I arrived at the stadium to give me the expectations for the upcoming season. It is as below...

Championship: Top Half Finish
FA Cup: Reach 4th Round
League Cup: Reach 3rd Round

I told Fawaz I felt the expectations were realistic. I obviously stated that I'd be aiming as high as possible in the league and I genuinely felt that a top half finish should be the absolute minimum we are aiming for this year.

I will be hoping to go as far as possible in the FA Cup and using the League Cup for some squad rotation and whatever happens, happens. That competition wouldn't be my main focus this year!

Squad Evaluation

Squad Evaluation

First day of training today and I was able to take a good long hard look at my squad. Obviously, some opinions may change over the course of the next few weeks as I get to know my players better, but my initial thoughts are as follows:

I will be looking to play to my strengths with what I've got at my disposal and after evaluating the team, it's looking likely that I'll start with an asymmetric setup with 4 at the back, a defensive midfielder, right winger, centre mid, left inside forward, attacking centre mid and a lone striker.


Vladimir Stojkovic, Stephen Henderson

I don't have a stand out fantastic goalkeeper. Both my first team keepers are decent but not great. Probably get me through this season but unlikely either of these guys will be a long term option for me.

Right Full Back

Eric Lichaj

Well Eric is my only option at right back. He's decent and will do the job I want him to do. Good tackling, but I certainly won't be expecting much going forward with his poor crossing stats. A backup right back is an essential signing before the season starts.

Left Wing Back

Armand Traore, Dani Pinillos, Chris Cohen

With three players able to cover this role, I feel we have enough players here. Traore is very attacking and won't offer much defensively. Cohen will be preferred in a midfield role. And Pinillos looks like a decent all round full back at this level so will probably be first choice.

Centre Backs

Michael Mancienne, Jack Hobbs, Matt Mills, Damien Perquis

I've got four decent centre backs to be fair and their all big 6ft plus lumps. Mancienne offers decent pace at the back to cover those balls that get lumped over the top. Hobbs, Perquis and Mills offer high determination stats for winning the ball back. All should be competent enough in the air for winning the headers and defending set pieces. I may look to add another centre back before the season starts should the opportunity arise.

Defensive Midfielder (Ball Winning Midfielder)

David Vaughan, Chris Cohen, Patjim Kasami

Chris Cohen and David Vaughan should give each other some good competition for this role throughout the season. Both good players at this level and suit the role well. Kasami offers a backup option but will be preferred in the box to box midfielder role alongside.

Centre Midfielder (Box to Box Midfielder)

Patjim Kasami, Ben Osborn, Aaron Tshibola, David Vaughan, Chris Cohen

Loads of cover for this role and all five players set a decent standard too. Vaughan and Cohen will be preferred in the defensive role but Osborn and Kasami will be excellent for this position with Tshibola as a decent backup player too.

Right Winger

Jamie Ward

A position that is going to need serious reinforcements before the season begins. Only real option is Jamie Ward and although a good player, I can't rely on him as my only out and out right winger all season.

Left Inside Forward

Mustapha Carayol, Ross McCormack

Carayol offers some fantastic pace to the front line and can cut in and beat his man all day long from the left side. McCormack may be preferred as a striker so I might need another player for this position.

Attacking Centre Midfielder

Ross McCormack, Joao Teixeira, Zach Clough, Patjim Kasami

Although it initially looks like I have a lot of players who can play this role, most of them are going to be preferred to other positions in the team other than Teixeira. But he is young and can't be relied on as the only main option in this role all season. May be dipping our toe in the transfer market for another player for this role.


Britt Assombalonga, Zach Clough, Ross McCormack, Nicholas Bendtner, Apostolos Vellios

Again, the list of names can be deceiving. Assombalonga is injured for 3 months and Clough is injured for 4 months. Bendtner and Vellios I initially don't think are good enough but they may see themselves getting a chance to prove me wrong due to the injuries.

New Arrivals

New Arrivals (Staff)

Derek Fazackerley (Assistant Manager)
Signed from Oxford United

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Travis Binnion (Head of Youth Development)

Signed from Sheffield United

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Tommy Miller (Chief Scout)
Signed from Free Agent

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Derek Langley (Scout)

Signed from Free Agent

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Paul Scholes (Coach)
Signed from Free Transfer

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Dean Riddle (Fitness Coach)
Signed from Sheffield United

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With the staff I have brought in, I was not only looking for key statistics but also people who encourage football the way I like to play it. No good bringing in coaches who like to play a direct passing game, when I prefer my players to play a mixed/short style of play, getting the ball down and moving it around.

New Arrivals (Players)

So I've started wheeling and dealing in the transfer market nice and early. I'm hoping I can get these players in and gelling with the rest of the team through training and pre season friendlies before the Championship kicks off.

Bradley Dack
Signed from Gillingham (League One)
Transfer Fee: £4.3 million (£800k up front, £3.5 million over 30 months)
Add Ons: None
Wages: £14k per week
Squad Status: Rotation

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Bradley Dack provides essential cover for the Attacking Central Midfield role where I currently only really had Joao Teixeira. Dacky was League One player of the season last year and is ready for the step up to Championship football. He has excellent passing stats and the ability to pick out a pass to our front men. I think he can grab a lot of assists for us this year with the way I'm going to try to get the team playing.

Sammy Ameobi
Signed from Newcastle (Championship)
Transfer Fee: £950k (£600k up front, £350k over 24 months)
Add Ons: £120k after scoring 20 goals
Wages: £16k per week
Squad Status: Rotation

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Sammy Ameobi is another player I like. And he provides cover in the left inside forward position where I only really had Mustapha Carayol, so for me he is an essential signing. Ameobi has good pace and dribbling skills, cutting in from the left wing I think he can terrorise full backs all year long for us and provides healthy competition to Carayol for his place in the team.

Oleg Gusev
Signed from Free Transfer
Transfer Fee: £0
Add Ons: None
Wages: £10k per week
Squad Status: Rotation

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Gusev is an experienced player, joining us at the age of 33 having played the last 13 seasons at Dynamo Kyiv in Ukraine. He offers experience at the top level with plenty of Champions League experience and plenty of winners medals under his belt in the Ukranian Premier League. He also kills two birds with one stone for me, as he is just as adept at playing right full back as he is playing on the wing. Covering two roles, bringing loads of experience, and still offering some decent stats, Gusev is a cracking signing on a free transfer for us!
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Title Odds

Title Odds


So I'm sitting there this morning enjoying my bacon sandwich, I pick up the paper and there it is, the pundits predictions. I see that we are predicted a 15th place finish this year, with huge odds of 350-1 with Ladbrokes to win the Championship title. The same bookies offering 39-1 on us to go down.

Newcastle have been made favourites to win the league at 3-1, followed by Norwich (9-2), Aston Villa (11-2) and Brighton (33-1).

Leading the way to be relegated are Rotherham, Burton, Barnsley and Wigan.
Pre Season 2016/17

2016/17 Pre Season Friendlies

So pre season is over and I have to say I'm pretty pleased with it. For the most part, yes we played teams we were expected to beat. But to come through with an undefeated record and 15 goals scored in 6 games, I'm pretty chuffed. 5 wins and a draw is good preparation for a new season as far as I'm concerned and its put my mind at rest that my team are ready to kick start the season fully tuned up.

I used the games to experiment with my starting line up. Although my formation was ultimately the same for all 6 games, I changed players positions and tweaked the individual and team instructions to try different things and I feel I've learned a little about the best way for my team to play, and some good and bad roles for individual players.

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The Formation

Pre season is over and here we are, the opening day of the Championship season. We've been given a pretty tough opening fixture away at relegated Aston Villa, one of the favourites to bounce straight back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. To be fair, I'd happily take a draw from this game and this is the formation and starting lineup I've gone with following a relatively good pre season campaign.

Formation Theory

And here's my theory behind the formation...

  • Goalkeeper is pretty standard, no special instruction - he's simply there to stop shots as far as I'm concerned.

  • Right back - he's defensive. I don't want him pushing forward too much. There is no need as down the right I have a winger who gets forward from deep. I just need my right back tackling, winning the ball back, covering the centre back (stopper) who steps out of defence to win the ball from onrushing attackers. Then he simply distributes the ball to midfield, no silly runs where he could lose the ball and leave us open.

  • Centre backs - One stopper to push out from the back line as mentioned above. I don't like playing a cover defender as I think it leaves too much of a gap between the two and lots of space. So the left sided CB will sit alongside nicely and cover should the stopper fail to win the ball.

  • Left back - No winger on the left side so I play an attacking wing back. He can get forward as much as he likes. I want him running up and down that wing all day long. This is my crossing threat from the left side, and he has the cover of the DM sitting on his side of the pitch so gives more freedom to get forward as often as possible without leaving us open.

  • Defensive Midfielder - His main purpose is to cover the onrushing wing back as mentioned above. He will cut out through balls from their midfielders and recycle possession when we win it back. He'll have options to pass left and set up a counter with our LB. Or keep it in the middle with his CM partner who is a box to box so will get back alongside him quite a lot when we don't have the ball too.

  • Centre Midfielder - Plays as a box to box midfielder. I want this guy to be the workhorse in the centre of the pitch. He is to get back to help defend when we don't have it and I want him striving to get forward to support attacks when we are not in possession. When he gets the ball he has loads of options, pass right down the wing, pass forward to our attacking midfielder, or pass left to his centre midfield partner.

  • Right Winger - With a defensive full back covering him, this guy can get forward as often as he likes. I want him getting in crosses from the right and getting forward into the box.

  • Attacking Midfielder - The main man in the centre of the park to link all the attacking play.

  • Inside Forward Left - Basically I want him acting as a second striker. Getting in that box, cutting in from the wing in possession. He will play relatively narrow as he doesn't need to be out wide crossing the ball as that's what we have our left wing back getting forward for. I expect goals from this position as I think defenders will struggle to pick up his runs. And when they do, I think it will create space for our lone striker.

  • Striker - I have this setup as a poacher. For the simple reason that I don't need him hitting the flanks - we have those covered with the right winger and the LB getting forward. This guy needs to stay on the shoulder of the last man, ready to get on the end of the crosses, and run through on goal from the through balls that should come from our attacking midfielder and box to box midfielder.

I've put quite a lot of thought into this formation and how it will work. In time, with training and game time I'm hoping my players will graspe what I am trying to achieve. I think we have the defence covered not to concede too many goals, but we also have multiple attacking threats going forward and are not putting all our eggs in one basket by either concentrating on the flanks or the middle. Our attacks can literally come from all angles going forward and I intend to utilise this to confuse and outwit our opponents.
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villa away

First Game of the Season: Aston Villa 0 - 3 Nottingham Forest

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What an opening day of the season that was for us. A fantastic away win at Villa, scoring 3 goals. The most surprising thing to me was how comfortable we looked all game, never really in trouble and looked dangerous with every attack! My boys did me proud today and got us off to the perfect start. And new signing Bradley Dack banged in a screamer on his debut!

View Dacky's debut goal here...

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august 16 review


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Aston Villa 0 - 3 Nottingham Forest

The perfect way to start the season. A tough away game against one of the best teams in the league and we secured 3 points and played extremely well in the process. Debut goals for Dacky, Carayol and Bendtner.

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EFL Cup 1st Round
Fleetwood Town 2 - 1 Nottingham Forest

Made a few changes for this one and it seems to have backfired. Nowhere near as good a performance as against Villa and a pretty even game against our lower league opponents. Not too fussed as this competition was never going to be our main focus this season.

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Nottingham Forest 1 - 2 Leeds United

My first home game didn't exactly go as planned. We made a decent start taking an 18th minute lead, but conceded 2 goals from set pieces both to Stuart Dallas headers. This is something I'll need to look at as our marking was awful in both situations and he had a free header for both goals.

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Wigan Athletic 0 - 1 Nottingham Forest

Bounced back from the defeat against Leeds with a pretty solid 1-0 away win at Wigan. Although we dominated possession, it was a pretty even game on chances and to be fair a draw would have been a fair result so I'm happy to have nicked all 3 points. Starting to get a little concerned about Ross McCormack's lacklustre performances up front though and this could be something that needs addressing if it keeps up!

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Sheffield Wednesday 4 - 1 Nottingham Forest

We always knew this was going to be a difficult game with Wednesday in my opinion being one of the best teams in the league. I think promotion is only 1 or 2 seasons away for them. Not a lot of chances created at either end, but we just didn't defend very well at all and they showed some clinical finishing in front of goal. I might need to look at our formation for the away games against big teams as taking too many thrashings like this is sure to dent morale in the squad.

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Nottingham Forest 1 - 1 Norwich

I have to admit that I feared the worst going into this game after getting whacked by Sheffield Wednesday so badly in our last game. But I've gotta give it to my boys, they responded really well and gave Norwich a really good game. We were the better team throughout and to be honest are unlucky to come away from this with only a draw.

Manager's Player Of The Month

Mustapha Carayol
Left Inside Forward

Appearances: 5
Goals: 4
Assists: 0
Dribbles: 6
Average Rating: 7.20


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A steady start. Sitting about mid table with 2 wins, a draw and 2 losses. I'll take that as when you think we have played Norwich, Villa and Sheffield Wednesday already - 3 teams I expect to be at least looking at playoff positions at the end of the season, so we definitely weren't handed the easiest of starts.

deadline day 2016


No transfers to note for us on deadline day this year. I'd already spent all of our budget well before the season started. No outgoing transfers either. Leeds did come sniffing around centre back Matt Mills with an enquiry but I made it very clear he was not for sale at any price and they got the hint.

7 Biggest transfers of the Championship window...

Jacob Butterfield to NEWCASTLE from DERBY COUNTY - £5.25 million
Bradley Dack to NOTTINGHAM FOREST from GILLINGHAM - £4.3 million
David Meyler to ASTON VILLA from HULL - £3.9 million
Luca Paganini to FULHAM from FROSINONE - £2.1 million
Salva Ruiz to NORWICH from VALENCIA - £1.7 million
Marcus Maddison to CARDIFF from PETERBOROUGH - £1.5 million
Richard Smallwood to FULHAM from ROTHERHAM - £1.5 million

7 Biggest transfers of the Premiership window...

Emre Can to ARSENAL from LIVERPOOL - £42 million
Corentin Tolisso to MAN CITY from OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS - £36.5 million
Jose Gaya to CHELSEA from VALENCIA - £28.5 million
Marcel Sabitzer to LIVERPOOL from RBL - £18.25 million
Jorrit Hendrix to LIVERPOOL from PSV - £13.5 million
Luan to TOTTENHAM from GRE - £12.25 million
Javier Ontiveros to MAN CITY from MALAGA - £6.75 million