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Arsher Ali’s Nottingham Forest Blog: We will see the very best of McGugan this season.

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It would have been easy to write my first blog by throwing superlatives at all the new signings we have made thanks to the timely intervention of the wealthy Al-Hasawi family. Obviously, that would all be deserved.

Simon Gillett, Simon Cox and Danny Collins, to name but three, are proving to be astute signings at this level.  Or I could have waxed lyrical about the excitement I felt regarding the predatory qualities of one Billy Sharp.

Instead, I want to talk about someone who’s been here for a while. Someone who is sometimes treated harshly. Someone who did not have an “Arsene Wenger” to be patient with him as a fledgling.

To discipline and educate him, put a supportive arm around him or “bring him down a peg or two”. Someone who is a prodigious talent any team in the Championship would love to have in their team. And that man is Lewis Shay McGugan.

I’m sticking my neck out - this is not another purple patch for McGugan - this is the season we will see the best of him. He will be consistent. He will be our ace in the hole. He will get us important goals. Come the end of the season, he will figure in supporters minds when they decide their “Player of the Year.”

Why? Two reasons. The first being the fierce and genuine competition for places in midfield that will keep him on his toes. The second, and more important reason is Sean O’Driscoll.

From the little there is to know about him and his thoughts about the game (the excellent interview on goalfood.com being the most insightful), I think he will help McGugan’s game in a very significant area - his decision making.

We are seeing the benefits of having a manager with intelligence, oversight, logic and realism not only in the kind of football he is encouraging, but in the improved mindset and thought processes throughout the team.

For me, it seems right to equate this with the remarkable signs of improvement McGugan has shown. It seems he is benefiting from this environment engendered by O’Driscoll immensely.

In the past, he has always tried to play his part in the midfield, even when it seemed his “part” wasn’t clearly defined to him.

His only visible problem, in my eyes, was his decision making. Deciding not to track back on occasions when it would’ve been useful.

Deciding to go in for a tackle when he shouldn’t have or not believing in himself enough to win the ball, or “gilding the lilly” with an extra flick or turn at inopportune times.

This season, no one could accuse him of anything other than making honest mistakes. He has made a great start. He has harried, hassled and taken up good positions out of possession.

With the ball, he has strived to make the right choice and his pass completion rate would surely be up there with the best of them. And he has continued his knack of conjuring goals out of nothing.

Like him or not - he is a modern day “Number 10” - think Riquelme and Ronaldinho more than Bergkamp and Cruyff. I say this in regards to his patchy consistency rather than talent, which isn’t in dispute.

McGugan is one of the most exciting players I have seen in a Forest shirt in my short lifetime and I mean that - he has that intangible, magical and improvisational quality that elevates football to an unpredictable, beautiful art form rather than twenty-two lumbering drones scaring each other into a nil-nil on Saturday afternoons of wildly varying weather.

He can hit a free kick as well as Christiano Ronaldo. He can bend a ball better than Beckham. And he could float a pass onto an egg cup from 60 yards.

He, much like Andy Reid, is looking in the best shape of his career.

A physical transformation even Christian Bale would be proud of! He must be applauded for all the hard work he has put in. Some of the City Ground faithful are still quick to jump on him for an errant pass or corner - these are old habits you must shake yourself out of.

Let’s support him as much as we can because, at the very least it’s to our mutual benefit. He should be playing in the Premier League and hopefully, in the next few years, we will be too.

 

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