Forest started the season on the verge of the great unknown. A new squad, a new manager and new owners left fans daring to dream, and we even saw a few optimists crawl out of the woodwork.
Three months later, the dizzy heights of 10th in the league screams moderate satisfaction, something that the fans are welcoming with open arms. O’Driscoll has made all the right moves, the Al-Hasawi family have invested passion as well as their vast wealth into the team, and the players signed this summer - all 12 of them - have shown enough promise to suggest they could have a prosperous future with Forest.
Just to be a little bit different this week, I’ve made a comprehensive evaluation of our squad and how they have performed this year. These are my opinions, and lucky for all you readers who live of contentious debate, this is the internet... Feel free to argue, but please don’t swear. I’m a family man.
Lee Camp: Recapturing the form that saw the Forest faithful fall in love with him in the first place. Rumours that he is to be replaced by the error-prone Heurelho Gomes are as laughable as the gaffes the Spurs stopper has been responsible for. Camp agreeing a new deal could be the most important move we will make next year.
Danny Collins: He has been superb, more often than not. Leadership runs through his blood, and he has been the driving force behind our gradually improving defence.
Daniel Ayala: The most assured partner for Collins at Centre Back. Imposing in the air, and like most of our defensive personnel, looks a lot better after being given time to settle in.
Dan Harding: Completing our trio of our defensive Dan’s, he has probably been the most unconvincing. Struggles to form an understanding with Andy Reid on the left, and often leaves us exposed.
Greg Halford: His best games in a Forest shirt have been in our last two performances. Overcome the ‘teething problems’ a new squad inherits, and his confidence seems to grow with every game.
Brendan Moloney: He’s always struggled to live up to the potential he promised since his début four years ago. Brendan is perennially in and out of the team, and although his versatility is an asset, his status as a utility player has prevented him cementing a place in the first team.
Elliot Ward: Here for another six weeks, he has time to make a good impression whilst Hutchinson and Ayala are on the sidelines. Fun Fact: Elliot’s middle name is Leslie. We can only hope he was named after a certain legendary Family Fortunes presenter...
Having not seen enough of Sam Hutchinson or Jamaal Lascelles, I won’t pass comment. It is obvious both have a future here, and how the are used later in the season will be crucial.
Adlene Guedioura: Has not shown the composure and maturity which made him a bit of a cult hero last season. His cavalier style has threatened to cost us points, and his lack of discipline has become apparent. However, he has shown glimpses of the powerhouse performances that effectively kept us up last year.
Chris Cohen: Wow. Words will not do him justice. His tireless, lung-busting efforts have been a thing of beauty. Man of the season so far, and his new five-year deal has certainly endeared him to the adoring fans. Chris, if you’re reading... I love you, mate.
Lewis McGugan: He’s already netted a couple of ‘worldies’, but our constantly fluctuating midfield has seen him struggle for limelight. Lewis is a player who thrives off a consistent run of games, and we perhaps won’t see his best form until he is given continuous time on the pitch.
Andy Reid: Spellbinding performances have rekindled memories of his early rise to the first team a decade ago. Some of the crosses he puts in are impossible for defenders to deal with, and his endless energy has proved all questions about his fitness have been utterly trivial.
Simon Gillett: For the first six weeks or so, it seemed Gillett was the best a man can get. Slacked off in recent outings, but O’Driscoll’s shrewd move to bring him in on a free has been successful so far. Tough-tackling, conservative holding man that every team needs.
Henri Lansbury: Threatens to break into the first team, but opportunities have been limited. We’ll see a lot more of him come the fixture pile-up in December and January, but it’s comforting to know we are playing well enough to keep a talent like Henri out of the first XI.
Jermaine Jenas: I’m still in awe that we have managed to acquire one of my favourite footballers. He’s enjoyed the football he has played, and I think he is being underused. His efforts to engineer a slicker passing style across the middle have not gone unnoticed, and should we keep him into 2013, all of us trentside will be a lot happier.
Radoslaw Majewski: Such a shame he’s out for a while, he has looked electric so far this season. I would say he’s the most creative player at the club, and he has flourished in the ‘in-behind’ role, playing off a striker. That is something I greatly anticipate seeing when he is fit again.
As for Guy Moussi and James Coppinger, I do not see much of a future for them here at The City Ground. The same goes for Jonathan Greening, although I thoroughly respect his professionalism since he joined the club... and I am not just saying that because I met him in August, he had a chat with us after hitting a shot against the corner flag warming up for the game against Fleetwood. Champions League winner, he is.
Simon Cox: Been very impressed with him, his strength and hold up play is crucial for a team that looks to pass and move as much as we do. Scored some sumptuous goals already, particularly his kick-up and lob routine against Birmingham. Zlatan who?
Billy Sharp: Not lived up to his surname quite yet, but the goals have finally come for him. Billy has missed some gilt-edged chances to win us games. Chances you’d fancy him to score nine times out of ten. The good news is that he is there to cause trouble (metaphorically), and has been doing so consistently.
Dexter Blackstock: If you need someone to deliver at the eleventh hour, he will usually show up. He has continued to be the model professional for Forest, and although he has not been a regular starter, he still makes vital contributions to the team. He has even asked the management to offer him a new contract, and I sincerely hope we keep him. He has many more important goals yet to score.
Marcus Tudgay and Robbie Findley have fell foul of O’Driscoll’s new regime, but their loss of form last season meant they would always struggle this year. Findley’s tenure here will not be remembered as one of the classics, and if Tudgay does move to pastures new, we must thank him. That double in the 5-2 win against Derby was simply wonderful, and I would hope the fans quick to chastise him would be just as eager to remember his better days.
For those of you with longer attention spans, I hope my long-winded evaluation of the team is somewhat accurate. Of course, football is wonderful in its own subjective nature...
I look forward to hearing how wrong I am!