View from the opposition: Nottingham Forest have found stability after sacking Philippe Montanier
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Nottingham Post reporter and Forest fan Barry Cooper shares his views ahead of today's Carrow Road clash.
Do you expect Gary Brazil to remain in charge for the rest of the season?
I most certainly do. Both Gary and his assistant Jack Lester have done a fine job since taking over from Philippe Montanier last month.
Forest need stability, a word we hear mentioned more than most others at the City Ground and the two of them can bring that. The club is in desperate need of a proper structure from top to bottom, and the much maligned owner Fawaz Al Hasawi would be wise to invest his time putting that in place between now and the end of the season.
If he does that, then he has a greater chance of attracting a high quality manager in the summer rather than a poor one now.
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What has he changed since taking Montanier was sacked?
Brazil and Lester have made Forest much tougher to beat and they're not conceding goals on the scale they were previously.
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The Reds are also playing players in their rightful positions, it may sound daft, but a left-back playing at left-back and so on. Having Daniel Pinillos back in defence has given the side much needed balance, and enabled the consistent Eric Lichaj to move back to his preferred right-back position.
They're much more organised, the players know their jobs and it seems less complicated than before.
Were fans disappointed with the club's January transfer business?
Not at all. I think the majority were pleasantly surprised. Given the fact the takeover by American businessman John Jay Moores collapsed, many thought that Henri Lansbury wouldn't have been the only departure. Much speculation surrounding young players like Ben Osborn and Ben Brereton, as well as Matty Cash failed to turn into anything serious.
While the last couple of days in January proved to be exceptional, with Forest signing five players including Zach Clough and Ross McCormack, along with Aaron Tshibola, Gboly Ariyibi and Joao Teixeira.
Are you still concerned about relegation?
I was a month or so ago, not so much now. Having watched Forest produce one of their worst displays in recent years at Wigan in the FA Cup in early January, I was hugely concerned. But fast forward a few weeks and it's a completely different kettle of fish.
They've put 10 points between them and the bottom three and are upwardly mobile. You feel Forest will continue to pick up points given the quality they've added and confidence they've now got from recent results and performances.
Which players have impressed this season?
Despite it being a tough season for large parts so far, the emergence of young players like Ben Brereton, Joe Worrall and Matty Cash has been a pleasure to see, while Ben Osborn has improved greatly. Seasoned campaigners like David Vaughan and Eric Lichaj have been an important part of things, and despite everything, there is a core to this squad which could give Forest the foundations for a positive season next term.
What happens in the summer, though, with a new manager, recruitment and structure will probably set the tone for the next couple of years.
And which have disappointed?
I think the majority of those who arrived in the summer haven't impressed too often. Pajtim Kasami came with a big reputation but hasn't looked anything like living up to that. Nicklas Bendtner has hardly pulled up any trees, and in truth, the only one of the new arrivals that has really impressed is Stephen Henderson, the former Charlton goalkeeper.
Have you been surprised to see Norwich's upturn in form under Alex Neil?
A Not really, given the squad he has at his disposal. It's hard to say the Championship is a level playing field in terms of the finances belonging to those clubs who get relegated. With their wage bill, City should be pushing for the top two, let alone the play-off places.
And lastly, what is your prediction for the match?
I think Norwich will probably prove to be a tad too strong for Forest, though the game in September was close. This Forest side is tougher than the one the Canaries met then, but at Carrow Road, I'd be very surprised if Norwich didn't come out on top.