As Nottingham Forest prepare for the dawn of a new Npower Championship this Saturday, there is one thing that is tormenting the minds of many reds fans along the River Trent.
That vexation is of course, whether or not the once proclaimed “Wally with a Brolly” will be given the players needed to complete his latest mission, and guide Forest to the destine which has so far been a bridge too far for many managers.
McClaren has not been afraid to change things around at the City Ground since his arrival in June, following the sacking of Billy Davies. And in new assistant manager, Rob Kelly and first team coach, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink he certainly as an array of experience to install into his squad of players. An experience that can only aid when times are tough this season, and believe me they will be.
Andy Reid was McClaren’s first signing, the 29-year-old will be hoping to combine his Premier League experience with that of further signings George Boateng and ex Fulham star Jonathan Greening. The three will be vital in the Championship campaign, but a quick look around the league leaves one thinking that more are still required.
In fact, it is clear that the tricky trees need to add more players to the bulk of the squad if they hope to challenge the likes of newly relegated West Ham and high spending Leicester City. Both have squads which look set to challenge for the top spots next season, and in particular those lucrative automatic spots that Forest hope to acquire.
Recent Forest target Wayne Routledge seems to have slipped the radar and tied up a deal with Premier League Swansea, and with a week to go others may follow if the reds are not quick to act. Another winger that McClaren is keen to sign is dutch star Wesley Verhoek, however he faces fierce competition from Rangers and a host of other Championship clubs.
While Forest seem unable to sign a winger, they are also blinking on signing a much needed striker following the departure of Robert Earnshaw back to home club Cardiff City. Long standing reds target Nicky Maynard is also wanted by Leicester City, the pacy forward as yet to be tied to a new deal at Ashton Gate, but Forest have not looked close to grabbing Maynard from under the foxes noses.
Andy Reid was correct in admitting in a recent interview that Forest must sign 4 or 5 more players if they hope to challenge for the automatic promotion places this season. Early signals are suggesting that Steve McClaren has the ability to guide Forest to where they want to be, he has the belief and the tactics, however many believe he still lacks the players that will allow him to do that.
Forest Chief Executive, Mark Arthur stated when McClaren was brought in that the board are happy with the current squad, and only wish to bring in a few new faces. They may have done that, and they continue to stress to Forest fans that these faces must be the right players and not just numbers, however that vital edge is still lacking. The edge I talk of is one that both QPR and Swansea had last season, and where are they now Mr Arthur?
With less than a week to go until Forest kick off their season against Barnsley at the City Ground, it may be time that Forest fans ask the board the same question the club asked them in their season ticket campaign last season.
PSV Eindhoven proved too much for a well put together Nottingham Forest side at the City Ground on Wednesday, as they finished the game 3-1 winners.
The Eindhoven side started brightly and were not looking to score tap ins, as the skilful Gerginio Wijnaldum showed, curling a precise shot past Lee Camp and into the back of the net with only 9 minutes on the clock.
Forest did not sit back though and drew equal two minutes later after a fantastic pin point cross from Andy Reid found the head of Paul Anderson, the winger headed home from 4-yards out.
The sides remained level at the break, PSV seemed happy to keep possession and bring the game to the reds, who often struggled to win the battle in the final third of the pitch.
However the score did change after 69 minutes following a out of character mistake from Brendan Moloney who let in Dries Mertens to slot past Lee Camp to make it 2-1.
Soon after Wijnaldum was given far too much space and showed the forest players how dangerous he can be with it, scoring another superb goal which left Lee Camp helpless.
Although Forest had their chances, they were unable to overcome a good Eindhoven side on the night but showed great promise for the forthcoming season which begins at home to Barnsley on August 6th.
Final Score: PSV Eindhoven 3 – 1 Nottingham Forest
Steve McClaren’s Nottingham Forest side face their penultimate test before the curtain rises on the new season tonight, as they face Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven in a pre-season friendly at the City Ground.
McClaren knows only too well of the presence of the Dutch side from his days managing FC Twente in Holland, and expects the reds to face their biggest pre-season test so far.
He said: “It’s a different kind of a test because of the way they play the game – one that will be more about focus, concentration and discipline than anything else.”
Forest ran out 2-1 winners in their last friendly away at VfB Stuttgart with Lewis McGugan and Robbie Findley both getting their names on the score sheet. Both could feature tonight, along side new signings Andy Reid, Jonathan Greening and George Boateng.
The match will provide McClaren with a good marker of where his forest side are at in preparation for their first game of the season on August 6th, at home to Barnsley.
Defender Luke Chambers may also feature, the club have recently opened contract talks with the 25-year-old after fierce competition for his signature from a host of Championship clubs.
The initial offer for Verhoek was not substantial enough
Nottingham Forest are believed to have improved their offer for Dutch winger Wesley Verhoek. The ADO Den Haag ace is said to be frustrated at the lack of movement on a new contract and wants out.
The 24-year-old can play on both wings, and as a striker, and forest boss Steve McClaren is well aware of his ability after managing FC Twente in the Eredivisie. The bid is believed to be in the region of £2 million.
Forest are also keen to sign Newcastles’ Wayne Routledge who is wanted by a host of clubs, including Premier League Wigan, Swansea, and QPR. If the reds were to acquire his services it would be something of a coup for McClaren who is looking to add to the signings he has already made.
Diego Forlan scored twice as Uruguay made history tonight, becoming worthy winners of their fifteenth Copa América title in Argentina, beating Paraguay by 3 goals to nil.
Uruguay put the pressure on early in the first half, starting the brightest with 3 corners in the first 4 minutes of the game. They could have had a penalty inside the opening 90 seconds after some fine movement from Luis Suárez led to a corner. From the resulting corner a Diego Luganno header led to what seemed to be a controversial hand ball on the line from Ortigoza, however nothing was given.
Paraguay failed to apply much pressure of their own, and Uruguay took full advantage on 11 minutes when Suárez latched on to a wayward ball to score from inside the 18 yard box. Although the ball took a slight deflection on the way nothing could be taken away from Suárez who took the ball sweetly on his left foot and dragged it on to his right to finish coolly past Justo Villar.
Valdez was unlucky not to equalise for Paraguay on 15 minutes after he managed to control a high cross on the left towards goal but the ball flew up and over, and that proved to be the only worthy Paraguayan chance of the first half.
The battle within midfield was ever present, and when the ball was in the middle of the park both sides struggled to get into the final third. In the frustration each team began receiving numerous flighty yellow cards from ever ready referee Sálvio Fagundes.
Uruguay could have doubled their lead after 30 minutes when the sharp eyed Suarez picked out a lovely through ball for Diego Forlan who was denied another elusive international goal by a good save from Paraguay keeper Villar.
Forlan did manage to break that duck however on 41 minutes with a superb strike after a defensive error from Ortigoza who poorly gave the ball away to Arevalo Rios.
Rios slid the ball through to Forlan who did the rest, striking the ball perfectly across the face of Villars goal from 15 yards and into the bottom right of the Paraguayan goal.
The second half started slowly with no early signs of a Paraguayan fight back until the 54th minute when Valdez came close with a bold strike on the volley. The shot was heading in if it was not for the fingertip save of Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera to ping the ball onto the crossbar.
Uruguay took their foot off the gas to allow Paraguay back into the game for a short period of time, and they could have scored again on 62 minutes. Great play from Ivan Piris down the right led to a low cross towards the near post. Cristian Riveros met it but could only muster up a tame back heel effort allowing Muslera to claim the ball.
Paraguay could have had a penalty on 69 minutes after a shove from Sebastián Coates on Pablo Zeballos but Zeballos made a meal out of it and the referee failed to award the spot kick. Paraguay failed to capitalise on the possession they did have early on in the second half however, and Uruguay again began to retain the ball.
When Paraguay did get the ball back they failed to make it count with a host of ineffective corners, free kicks and throw-ins. They brought some of their attacking side to the game, but unfortunately it was too little, too late.
Uruguay turned Paraguayan agony to anguish in the 89th minute after a fantastic counter attack led to a third goal and a second for Forlan. Suárez headed down perfectly for the running Forlan who was left to slide the ball past Villar majestically. A special goal for Forlan, his 31st international goal, and one which takes him on par with the great Hector Scarone.
This was a thoroughly deserved win for Uruguay who outplayed Paraguay for the biggest part of the game. Uruguay now goes on to become the most successful South American nation in the Copa Américaahead of Argentina who have only won 14 times compared to their 15.
Congratulations to Uruguay for a fantastic win and commiserations to Paraguay who had a brilliant tournament.
Final Score: Uruguay 3 – 0 Paraguay
Man of the Match: Luis Suárez – Scored one goal, set up another and could have had more. Showed some great skill throughout and will be a real threat in the Premier League next season.
With only 13 days to go until the start of the NPower Championship season it is easy to see why things are beginning to heat up in the race for the Premier League.
In my opinion the NPower Championship is the second best league in the world, and this year it will be closer than ever. West Ham and Leicester are joint favourites with many bookmakers to win the league and (some believe) run away with the title.
Leicester have certainly flexed their muscles in the transfer window so far accumulating 9 new players, including former Pompey forward David Nugent. However as many foxes would tell you, it was in defence they were left lacklustre last season, and Sven-Goran Eriksson has also been quick to address that conundrum. Ex cottager John Pantsil is one of the few names looking to bolster the Leicester defence this season. City fans are adamant their side has what it takes to push for a top two spot this time around, and injuries, referee decisions and luck will all play a major part in whether or not that happens.
Pantsil also used to play for the Hammers, whom to many people’s surprise have managed to keep hold of an assembly of their top players. Big Sam has also managed to do some handy work on the transfer market, yesterday making Bolton’s Matt Taylor his third summer signing after Abdoulaye Faye and Kevin Nolan. The East Londoners must not underestimate the league they have fell into however. Especially if Scott Parker decides to depart Upton Park, like many others, their fans could be in for a whirlwind of a season.
This is not a league however that is dependant on two teams, in fact it is usually dependant on each of the 24 powerhouses in the Championship and their individual fortunes. Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Nottingham Forest and Reading are all being backed to rise to the challenge too. So are the likes of Cardiff, Leeds and Southampton. It is often said that anyone can beat anyone in this league on their day, and that is very much true this year more than ever.
Championship new boys, Steve McClaren at Nottingham Forest and Chris Hughton at Birmingham have also quietly been badgering away behind the scenes to prepare squads which are ready for the imminent new season on August 6th, and it would not be a surprising to see a push for the top two from any of these sides.
If one thing is for sure about the upcoming Championship season, it is that it will be full of Big names. And that in itself is something that has not been quite apparent in recent years.
It is in some ways becoming a mini premier league, a pre school before life in ‘big’ school. Blackpool, as we saw could not cut it in the end after a honourable attempt, and like many before them are back where they began. But can anyone make that giant leap without falling back on their face? QPR, Norwich and Swansea may tell us, but for now… let the greatest league in the world wait. We have a Championship season to be getting on with!