Well we did it. Forest are back in the Championship after a long and tortuous exile in the murky depths of League One. The celebrations have been long and joyous but now that the relief and excitement have passed it seems as though some among the Tricky Tree faithful are expecting big things next season too.
This is perhaps understandable - fuelled partly by memories of an age when Psycho would rampage down the left flank, Nigel would scheme and craft and Old Big 'Ead would have a well drilled team playing fabulous flowing football in the Garibaldi. Memories of these days (still extremely fond for this blogger) and of course of times even before that when Forest achieved 'that which we should not mention for fear of being branded as living in the past' lead many fans to the belief, if not the hope, that we can be a player on the biggest of stages once again.
The optimism for some has also been born out of the promsing activity in the transfer market. Robert Earnshaw's arrival for 2.65m brings a much-needed out and out goalscorer to the team. Earnshaw may have wandered from club to club a little since his Cardiff days but few can match his pedigree at this level. The size of the fee also shows that we now have some financial clout to compete in the transfer market and gone are the days when poor Paul Hart was forced to put the entire squad up for sale.
Earnshaw will be joined in the striking ranks by Andy 'call me Andrew' Cole. The 'Nottingham lad done good' who returns home for a career swansong. His arrival is perhaps 10 years too late to get too excited about but still given last year's exploits of messrs Windass and Phillips he could still have a big impact and provide some know-how and nous that was lacking at times last year, partcularly away from home.
Salivating at the thought of Earnshaw, Cole and Tyson being unleashed has got many rushing to the bookies for a bet on a successful season.
Our 'great leader Nigel' has also fanned the flames of the optimism surrounding the club. He has spoken about money being available for wages and fees of top players and has said that he won't be happy until we reach the Premier League. With noises like this from the top of the club surely we should be optimistic!!
Others too have looked to last season. Could we not match the exploits of unfancied Hull City or at least compete with the likes of Bristol City who were an instant success in their first year??
So history+ signings + boardroom buoyancy + the trend of last year = guaranteed success right??
I have a feeling it just won't be that easy. Our history might mean something in terms of attracting players and our ability to pull in fans for gate receipts et al but we are not necessarily the big fish in the small pond anymore. Now we must compete with Birmingham, Reading, the Sheffield clubs, Wolves, Coventry, QPR, Crystal Palace, Southampton, Watford, the East Anglian clubs and our sheep bothering neighbours who all through recent success or tradition should expect to do well at this level. In other words the size of our club (debated ad nauseam) is irrelevant.
The signings so far are indeed impressive but to some extent merely replace, in terms of numbers, what was lost when Commons (cough, spit, boo, hiss) Agogo, Holt, Clingan and the loan boys left for pastures new. The players we've got may be better but the squad does still look a tad short in some areas.
The right back situation also concerns me. Our Stranraer supremo CC may rate Chambers in that role but he has shown signs of discomfort if a rampaging winger runs at him and there is some doubt at his ability to fill that role at Championship level. To an extent his goal scoring exploits helped hide the odd deficiency in his technique last year and I fear he could come unstuck against the big guns.
The boardroom statements have been postive and have been born out with the activity thus far. However the bold promise that we won't rest until we get to the Premier League made me wince a little and evoked awkward memories of the 'We're Serious...' campaign. It's good to be positive but one step at a time....
Last year's trend in the division may also be misleading and merely showed to me how difficult this division has become. Teams the standard of Norwich, the Sheffield sides, and Coventry laboured in the lower reaches. These teams only really lacked the consistency of the play off contenders and there will be very few gimmes in the way that Millwall or Tranmere at home were. Hull and Bristol are good examples of sides coming up and doing well but for every one of them there's been a Southend and Scunthorpe that have had the wind taken out of their sales by the tough test offered by the Championship. Parachute payments and TV deals have helped fuel a fiercely competitive league.
So where does that leave us? Storming to the play offs or plummeting back from where we came?? Well I hope, and I would be delighted if this were true, that it leaves us somewhere in between.
After the agonising years missing out on the play offs at Sheff Utd, struggling against and eventually succumbing to relegation from the Champ, floundering in an attempt to come back and finally, dramatically and wonderfully getting back up I'd be happy for a rest from all that thank you! My nerves can't take any more.
Oh for a season of good attacking football, competitive results (esp against the Sheep) and mid table obscurity!
Promotion should, in the cold light of day, be beyond us. Relegation, thanks to some good signings, should be avoidable. Let's take time to build, grow and improve and revel in obscurity for a change!