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Beat Leeds, lose to Charlton, but Forest well in the hunt - Interview
Friday, 21st Feb 2020 10:47 by Clive Whittingham

Nottingham Forest tend to follow an exceptional result with an atrocious one at the moment but as Jack McCormick tells us, they're well in the chasing pack hunting down an accident prone top two.

How has the season gone so far?

Brilliantly. I don’t think anyone could have predicted we’d be in the automatic promotion running at this point, having sacked Martin O’Neill and hired a relative unknown in Sabri Lamouchi, but things have gone swimmingly and we’re in a good place for a proper crack at the top two over the next couple of months.

Win at Brentford, lose at Birmingham, beat Leeds, lose to Charlton, how and why?

The Championship. This year seems more unpredictable than ever, but we’re only as inconsistent as everyone else. It feels like nobody really wants to go up this season.

We’re definitely guilty of playing well against the top sides (we’ve only lost to one of the top seven so far this season, that being West Brom at home on opening day) but failing to turn up for perceived ‘easier’ matches. But it’s also down to our style of play.

If we’re up against a team that shows ambition and wants to play good football or go for the win, we’re really good at soaking up pressure and hitting them on the break. If we face a team that also wants to sit back and counter, it usually ends up being a bit of a stalemate and we struggle to break them down. It’s why we won so comfortably at Loftus Road — Warburton wanted all the possession but you struggled to make too many chances, while our defensive resolve and counter attacks were enough to score four goals (and get one of your men sent off).

I mentioned this last time: we’ll let you have almost all of the ball but you won’t do much with it and we’ll score at least one of the few chances we get. We’re clinical and disciplined, and we’re happy to keep up the 30-40% possession stat we’ve seen in most games this season because it tends to yield results. Some people call it ‘shithousing’ but it’s a lot cleverer than that and the players are running themselves into the ground to execute Sabri’s game plan every week.

Of course, if Warbs decides to completely change his philosophy — and, let’s face it, we know he won’t — by giving us more of the ball, we will inevitably struggle to know what to do with it.

Forest league results so far…
Forest 1-2 West Brom Cash 8 – Edwards 15, Phillips 26
Leeds 1-1 Forest Hernandez 59 – Grabban 77
Forest 3-0 Birmingham Lolley 15, Grabban 22, Dawson 65
Charlton 1-1 Forest Taylor 18 – Adomah 78
Fulham 1-2 Forest Mitrovic 83 – Grabban 4, 61
Forest 1-1 Preston Adomah 79 – Bodin 40
Swansea 0-1 Forest Semedo 85
Forest 1-0 Barnsley Watson 56
Stoke 2-3 Forest Gregory 10, McClean 84 – Lolley 36, Ameobi 47, Grabban 61
Blackburn 1-1 Forest Armstrong 63 – Lolley 65
Forest 1-0 Brentford Watson 56
Wigan 1-0 Forest Lowe 35
Forest 1-2 Hull Cash 52 – Magennis 38, Bowen 48
Luton 1-2 Forest McManaman 87 – Grabban 39, Ameobi 59
Forest 1-0 Derby Grabban 56
Bristol City 0-0 Forest
QPR 0-4 Forest (Figueiredo 14, Grabban 81, Carvalho 88, Semedo 90)
Forest 0-1 Cardiff (Mendez-Laing 14)
Millwall 2-2 Forest (Williams 15, O’Brien 90 – Grabban 63, 88)
Forest 1-1 Boro (Yates 63 – McNair 81)
Forest 0-4 Sheff Wed (Rhodes 9, 13, 37, Fletcher 45)
Huddersfield 2-1 Forest (Schindler 32, Mounie 49 – Worrall 74)
Hull 0-2 Forest (Grabban pen 11, 82)
Forest 1-0 Wigan (Figueiredo 60)
Forest 3-2 Blackburn (Lolley 22, Grabban pen 25, 75 – Downing 39, Worrall og 71)
Reading 1-1 Forest (Watson og 90 - Figueiredo 90)
Forest 3-1 Luton (Lolley 36, 57, Grabban pen 90 – Cornick 23)
Forest 1-1 Reading (Grabban 80 – Baldock 83)
Brentford 0-1 Forest (Lolley 14)
Birmingham 2-1 Forest (Hogan 42, Pedersen 74 – Silva 18)
Forest 2-0 Leeds (Ameobi 41, Walker 90)
Forest 0-1 Charlton (Taylor 24)
West Brom 2-2 Forest (Robinson 37, Figueiredo og 65 – Bartley og 45, Cash 90)

Good and bad points about the manager?

He’s managed to remarkably quickly build a strong rapport with a fanbase that was left confused and apathetic after his appointment. He’s honest, passionate, and hard-working. And he’s getting results, tactically outwitting the ‘best manager in the world’ and the ‘Barcelona of the Championship’ in the past few weeks alone. You can’t ask for much more than that.

As I’ve mentioned already, we don’t appear to have too much of an idea how to break down the opposition if they let us have the ball. I don’t see that being a problem on Saturday but it is a concern when you think we still have to go to some really poor clubs like Derby yet. And he’s made a couple of mistakes — namely resting five of our most consistent performers for Charlton at home, which really exposed our lack of quality in depth.

Tell us about your January business...

It was OK. Nothing too inspiring — Gaetan Bong from Brighton as backup in defence, Adama Diakahby from Huddersfield to add some much-needed pace on the wings, and Nuno Da Costa from Strasbourg to give Grabban some competition up front. None of them are likely to trouble the starting 11 on a regular basis but do at least give us options.

For me the best business we did was bringing Tyler Walker back from his loan at Lincoln. You might remember he got a couple for us against you lot at the City Ground when we beat you 4-0 under Warburton, and I thought that would be the season he’d make the step up. But he faded as quickly as Warburton’s ideas, and has been shipped out on loan for the past two seasons.

Most people aren’t too excited about him but he was second top scorer in League One, only behind Ivan Toney who Peterborough will no doubt get £10m+ for in the summer. If we’d signed Walker for something like £8m our fans would be tipping him to be the new Sergio Aguero (sorry to bring him up). Of course, he’ll be backup to Lewis Grabban for now, but is a great option off the bench.

Summer Ins: Here we go again then… Carl Jenkinson, 27, RB, Arsenal, £1.98m >>> Brice Samba, 25, GK, Caen, £1.8m >>> Samba Sow, 30, DM, Dinamo Moscow, £650k >>> Chema 27, CB, Levante, £450k >>> >>> Yuri Ribeiro, 22, LB, Benfica, Undisclosed >>> Tiago Silva, 26, AM, Feirense, Undisclosed >>> Sammy Ameobi, 27, AM, Bolton, Free >>> Albert Adomah, 31, RW, Villa, Free >>> Rezart Rama, 18, RB, Olympiacos, Free >>> Arijanet Muric, 20, GK, Man City, Loan >>> Alfa Semedo, 21, DM, Benfica, Loan >>> Rafa Mir 22, CF, Wolves, Loan >>> John Bostock, 27, CM, Toulouse, Loan

Summer Outs: Arvin Appiah, 18, RW, Almeira, £8m >>> Ben Osborn, 24, LB/LM, Sheff Utd, £3.5m >>> Panagiotis Tachtsidis, 28, DM, Lecce, £450k >>> Stephen Henderson, 31, GK, Palace, Free >>> Apostolos Vellios, 27, CF, Athens, Free >>> El Arbi Hillel Soudani, 31, RW, Olympiacos, Undisclosed >>> Karim Ansarifard, 29, CF, Al Sailiya (Qatar), Undisclosed >>> Jorge Grant, 24, LM, Lincoln, Undisclosed >>> Jason Cummings, 24, CF, Shrewsbury, Undisclosed >>> Adlène Guédioura, 33, CM, Al Gharafa (Qatar), Undisclosed >>> Gboly Ariyibi, 24, RW, Panetolikos, Free >>> Daryl Murphy, 36, CF, Bolton, Free >>> Liam Bossin, 22, GK, Released >>> Jamie Ward, 33, AM, Released >>> Juan Fuentes, 29, LB, Released >>> Luke Steele, 34, GK, Millwall, Loan >>> Liam Bridcutt, 30, CM, Bolton, Loan >>> Tyler Walker, 22, CF, Lincoln, Loan

Winter Ins: >>> Nuno Da Costa, 28, CF, Strasbourg, £1.8m >>> Gaeten Bong, 31, LB, Brighton, Undisclosed >>> Adama Diakhaby, 23, LW, Huddersfield, Loan >>> Tyler Walker, 22, CF, Lincoln, Loan cancelled

Winter Outs: >>> Jack Robinson, 26, CB/LB, Sheff Utd, Undisclosed >>> Claudio Yacob, 32, DM, Nacional, Free >>> Chema, 27, CB, Getafe, £1.35m >>> Costel Pantilimon, 32, GK, Nicosia, Loan >>> Albert Adomah, 32, RW, Cardiff, Loan

Jack Robinson got a move, wasn't with you long, how do you assess his time with you?

Solid enough. He was good for spells last season but had struggled to get a look-in this term when first choice Yuri Ribeiro was fit. I was never really convinced by him, and he always seemed like a big mistake or reckless tackle waiting to happen. I was also never sure whether he was supposed to be a left back or central defender, but a move to Sheffield United is a fantastic one for him and he could well flourish playing as one of their weird attacking centre backs.

Player of the season candidates?

There are certainly a few that spring to mind, but if I had to vote now I’d go for Matty Cash. For the past couple of seasons he’s been a promising winger who ran around a lot but didn’t have too much end product. This season, he’s been transformed by Lamouchi into the best right back in the league, with more successful tackles than any other fullback in the country. He’s truly been a revelation, not only in his defensive solidity but when he doubles up on the wing with either Joe Lolley or Sammy Ameobi. There’s a reason he was (genuinely) courted by AC Milan in January.

Other players having brilliant seasons include Brice Samba in goal, Joe Worrall in defence, Ben Watson and Samba Sow in midfield, and Grabban up front. Lolley seems to be hitting his best form at the right time, too.

Weak links?

I know this sounds deluded, but if we play our best 11 I’m not really sure we have any. The only real problems come with a lack of creativity and firepower from the bench, if we’re struggling to break a team down. Otherwise, our weak link might be our inconsistency or our habit of switching off at crucial moments — see Reading’s 97th minute equaliser at the Madjeski after we’d scored to ‘win’ the game in the 96th.

Is it finally your year?

I’m not sure. I think we’ll make the playoffs but might not quite have enough strength in depth to finish in the automatic spots if two of Brentford, Fulham, Leeds and West Brom go on any sort of run between now and May. But, over two legs, I wouldn’t bet against us making the final — and then it’s just a case of which Forest turns up.

Consequences, financial/ffp or otherwise, if it's not?

We might lose the likes of Cash and Lolley if we don’t go up, but that’s about it — and all our best players are tied to long-term contracts so we’d get a fair fee. There is no risk of FFP biting in the near future.

Links >>> Official Website >>> Nottingham Post – Local Press >>> LTLF – Message Board >>> Bandy and Shinty – Fanzine >>> Forza Garibaldi – Blog >>> LFW Reciprocal Interview >>> Matchday with Max – YouTube Channel

The Twitter @jack_mccormick, @loftforwords

Pictures – Action Images

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SimplyNico added 11:30 - Feb 21
A few digs in that lot from Mr McCormick.

It would be real shame if it ended up with NF hubristicly choking at the end of the season and then having to sell off some of their cast of thousands to avoid a FFP bite on the arse.

ngbqpr added 13:16 - Feb 21
Agree with Nico, a few unnecessary cheap shots there.
Having been exiled in Nottingham for 25 years, I must say it reads like a typical Forest fan - a characteristically weird mix of bravado and whingeing. I made the most of last year's win, but suspect I'll have to go into hiding again for a week or two from 5pm tomorrow.
They are strange about Warburton...the general view is "we played some nice football, he wasn't given enough time, but he had no plan B." That latter point clearly follows him around, but I think it's harsh based on what we've seen this season - for a number of games he switched from his favoured 4231 to 352...has on a couple of occasions switched to more like a 4141 mid game...and I think his in game changes are quite often astute. When Forest were doing badly, lots of 'em said they shouldn't have let him go - now they're having their Sabri love-in, they all tell me he's $hit and will run out of steam.
I will grudgingly admit there's some stuff to admire, eg they've sold out tomorrow; plus have far more academy graduates in their squad than most.
I'm sure Warburton will be well aware of how they win more games with 35% possession than they do with 55%, and suspect he may surprise them by adapting our game a bit.

TheChef added 16:39 - Feb 21
"I mentioned this last time: we’ll let you have almost all of the ball but you won’t do much with it and we’ll score at least one of the few chances we get. "

Yeah that was quite prescient, unfortunately.

I totally missed Robinson's move to Sheffield United. Wonder who will end up getting more game time between him and Freeman?

Myke added 20:18 - Feb 21
Have to agree,a few cheap, unnecessary digs at both Warburton and the club. If they were struggling I could understand it, but quite small -minded considering how well they are doing. Perhaps a different interviewee next season Clive? (That's my put down assuming NF will still be in the championship next season)

Patrick added 21:18 - Feb 21
Think one or two people being a bit over sensitive here! He was on the button with how we got beat, and helpfully suggested how to get a result - pick the experienced defence and two holding midfielders, keep the ball, 0-0, simples.

TacticalR added 21:35 - Feb 21
Thanks to Jack.

No need for a different interviewee as Jack told us exactly what Forest were going to do (let us have possession) before we last played them. It might have been better if someone had decided to do something useful with that information.

The whole point of oppo interviews is to get the oppo view. The view of Warburton might be wrong, but we may as well know what it is. In Warburton's defence he was managing when Al-Hasawi was running the club, and no manager did well under Al-Hasawi. Warnock knew enough to give the club a swerve when Al-Hasawi was in charge.

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