The Championship is indeed a topsy-turvy division, especially for Forest, after just one win in four they find themselves flirting with the relegation candidates.
A month ago, it was nonstop victories and it appeared that the only way was up, but normal service has been resumed.
Whilst I don’t believe that the club will be relegated come May 2017, I am certain that if things don’t change soon, we’ll be too close for comfort.
In a piece I wrote following the shocking display against Wolverhampton Wanderers, I put the demise down to a number of contributing factors. And the upcoming fixtures will certainly not help the Forest cause over the festive period; High flying Newcastle and Huddersfield Town away from home before the visit of revengeful Barnsley.
There is obviously a long list of injuries and a takeover that seems to have dragged on forever.
Possibly the biggest factor of all could be the location of Britt Assombalonga’s passport come January 14th, the beginning of the African Nations Cup. Forest’s joint top scorer is yet to make his debut for DR Congo but is widely tipped to be selected for the country of his birth at the tournament.
There lies an enormous debate; having barely kicked a ball for his club, should we be happy to wave him off to play for his country? Let’s face it, if Congo end up taking him he must be declared fit to play for anybody.
There’s another little something that doesn’t seem right; despite Assombalonga signing a new four-year contract recently, he has once again been side-lined with minor injuries and rumours are beginning to gather pace.
Aside from the African Cup debate there is a much more worrying scenario for Nottingham Forest supporters.
There is a lot of talk, hopefully just rumours, about Britt being sold in January. Obviously there have been no recent offers for the talisman but when you break it down there’s a bit of substance to it all. His stint on the side-lines would benefit a prospective buyer, had they pre-arranged a contract with Mr Al-Hasawi.
Technically he’s as good as fully fit so it would be a risk to interested parties to return him to action. The new contract obviously increases the monetary revenues for Forest, although after what happened to Oliver Burke can we believe that? Given the absolute mess that the club is in right now, would you blame him if he decided to go?
At this point I must say that this is complete rumour and speculation, and the player himself has publicly set his sights on returning on Boxing day against Huddersfield.
There’s no denying it; a player of such ability could well be the difference between being relegated and staying up, that’s why it’s imperative that we keep him.
If he does indeed return next week, it will as I said earlier increase his chances of making the African Nations Cup though, so it’s a vicious circle!
Forest have some massive games coming up in the next two months and it could well end up being the most important portion of the campaign come season’s end. We face no fewer than six top ten sides in the next ten games; at the end of which will show how close to relegation fodder we are or not.
I took a peek at our final league position the last time we were relegated to League One, the goals for and against columns stood out like a sore thumb.
In 2005 Forest finished 23rd in the Championship and a good six points from safety, ironically Rotherham were bottom. In that woeful season, we scored just 42 and conceded 66 goals.
It’s not yet Christmas and here are our current goal scoring statistics; scored 35 and conceded 39. Obviously, we’re scoring goals at a rate not usually associated with relegation threatened sides but at the same time we’re leaking them at the opposite end.
Assombalonga is key to our survival and I’d be devastated to see him leave the club, despite all his niggling injuries and setbacks.
If he does indeed return to action next week, he’ll only be eligible for the next three Championship matches if called upon by his country. It’s a huge call by the man himself if he’s included in the DR Congo squad; a country he is yet to play a single minute of football for. There will be a lot of disgruntled Forest fans if Assombalonga is suddenly fully fit and on the plane to Gabon, where he could possibly play a total of six games in three weeks.
Whatever the 24-year-old decides to do in the next few weeks could impact his club massively but I said a while back that we do have other options if needed. I spoke about the opportunity to throw in young Ben Brereton if Britt goes to Africa, which I am still very much in favour of. The next month or so is going to be massive for Forest, both on and off the field; and if things stay the way they are we will be fighting relegation.