Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Ward, Mills and Tesche provide welcome news in summer silly season

Sadly we've reached 'that time' in the closed season. You'll all know the time I'm referring to. It's the period when Twitter is awash with fake designs for new home shirts, countless people thinking it's funny and original to set up accounts passing on made up transfer 'news' and there's no actual football to drown out the clowns. Darren Pratley has even been linked to the club - just to drag up unhappy memories of the farcical 2010 summer transfer window. It's a good job I like cricket really.

The low point in the closed season cycle came last week when the official Forest website ran a story headlined 'Capital One Cup Draw Date Set'. Not that I blame them, there's not a lot to report just yet. But that's not to say nothing is going on.

*Firstly, Dougie has come good on his word and snapped up two actual signings. Yes, I know they haven't been announced formally yet - much to the daily chagrin of Paul Taylor of the Post on Twitter - but all signs point to Jamie Ward and Matt Mills joining the ranks when their contracts are up with D**by and Bolton respectively. I know there's been a little bit of controversy about Ward but I'm happy with his arrival, providing he's fit. He's one of 'those' nasty little pests of a player - ala Paul Dickov - and should add a ruthless, sharper edge to our play. I don't really care where he's coming from - Robbie Earnshaw, Marcus Tudgay and Lee Camp show that ex Sh**p can thrive in the Garibaldi - and he might be what we need to make us more streetwise in the unforgiving world of Championship football. His appears to have precisely the tough mentality that Billy (MK1) and his signings added to Colin Calderwood's 'nice but beatable' side when he saved us from relegation. I just hope the ex Blunt winger/striker is not seen as a replacement for Michail Antonio.

As for Mills, I have more mixed views on his impending arrival. In some respects picking up a 28-year-old with well over 200 games of experience at Championship level within our FFP budget is a big coup for Freedman. My worry is that Mills has drifted around from Doncaster to Reading then Leicester and Bolton - without ever staying put. His display at the City Ground for Bolton this season was an utter shambles - completely devoid of discipline in the face of an admittedly superb attacking display. It's also a little frustrating that, when under financial constraints, we need to shop for a centre half when Jack Hobbs, Kelvin Wilson and Michael Mancienne are on the books.

Sadly though the ongoing fitness concerns of Hobbs and Wilson - and Dougie's desire to use Mancienne in different roles - makes it a necessary purchase. If Dougie can get him to mature and settle he certainly has the talent and pedigree to be part of a defence back line but there's work to be done.

*Tyler Walker's four-year contract, meanwhile, was a positive signal of intent from the club. He showed, in all-too-brief cameos, that he is a very bright prospect towards the end of the season and justified his new four-year deal. It's about time we brought through a striker and who could not want Tyler to succeed as an academy graduate and son of an absolute legend.

*German midfielder Robert Tesche looks as though he might end up heading out of the door. On the fact of it his departure would create a further gap in a position that Dougie already needs to strengthen in if he's to play his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. Yet, it does appear that the former Hamburg man is not fancied by the current boss and his wages are rumoured to be fairly high. Yes, we aren't going to meet the tough constraints of FFP but that doesn't mean we don't need to start moving in the right direction. If we really can get a fee of about £500,000 for Tesche - and clear the best part of £1 million off the wage bill - and replace him with someone within the 600k-a-year FFP regulations then it might prove decent business. I thought the German showed potential in some games but did lack consistency. We can't afford to add too many people to the shopping list but there's no reason to think that we can't find someone better to take his place.

*Speaking of 'gaps to fill' - a goalkeeping berth will be high on the agenda for Freedman in the coming weeks, as will another full back. Talk of a Finnish stopper - Niki Mäenpää - has now died down leaving the field open to replace Karl Darlow. I'm actually relaxed about starting the season with Dorus De Vries as 'number one'. Dougie may well want to swoop if and when a player becomes available that wants to join and is better than the ex Swansea man. Tim Erlandsson's new contract shows we might well be in a position to school our own replacement for the Newcastle-bound Darlow in the not-too-distant future.

*In many ways Dougie appears to be approaching the full back situation with that sort of 'replace if possible' logic in mind. With out-of-contract Dan Harding appearing to be no more, Danny Fox has been backed to play a part in Freedman's plans. Anyone who saw Fox in a Forest shirt last season will have rightly shuddered at the thought. But this is the new world of FFP. We cannot afford to create problems. Freedman should hunt for an upgrade to Fox but he shouldn't jettison someone in a way that simply makes his search more desperate. Is this different to the Tesche situation? Possibly, in the sense that we have a potential buyer - in Birmingham - for the midfielder, that the German's wages are said to be high and that Freedman may well be aware of just how tough full backs have been to find in recent years. I fear the Scot might end up playing the versatile Lichaj at left back and Mancienne at right back were the season to start tomorrow anyway. I just hope someone turns up to ensure Lichaj can be allowed to settle at right back - maybe Jack Kelly or Alex Iacovitti could emerge from the youth ranks? Or perhaps, just maybe, Fox can rediscover the talents he showed at previous clubs.

*While Dougie may have shown intent with Mills and Ward we're yet to see the club's resolve tested with bids for Lansbury or Antonio. I'd be amazed if we didn't see at least one bid for both. As much as the club says it doesn't need to sell I've always felt that the future of both players is in their hands. We've seen before that keeping players who want to leave isn't productive and it's only when an offer is firmly on the table that we'll know how tempted either is to try their hand at Premier League football. There's vague talk of bids from West Brom for Antonio and Villa for Lansbury - these will be big tests in the coming weeks if they do emerge.

*Away from the field there have been a number of mentions of the 150th anniversary. A wonderful video with John McGovern was followed up by news that club historian Don Wright has worked on an 'official history' book to mark the occasion. This promises much substance and should be far more than a 'scratch the surface' rehash of what's come before.

*And finally...big hats off to whoever managed to concoct this City Ground shaped cake. Awesome.

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