Roll Up, Roll Up… “This is horrible! But it’s not boring!”
It isn’t often cartoons can be used to describe recent events at a football club, but in this case, this exchange in Futurama between Fry and Professor Farnsworth as Bender is pulled apart by magnets sums up perfectly the mood surrounding The City Ground.
In the last few weeks, Nottingham Forest manager Dougie Freedman successfully signed Ben Hamer – a player whom he wanted for three months – on loan, only for the club to mess the deal up. Hamer went back to parent club Leicester City, and in the time it took Forest to ruin their own transfer, two other goalkeeping targets had found clubs. To rub salt further into the wound, Hamer went to Bristol City on loan.
That episode alone would be bad enough for most clubs, but not to be outdone, Forest decided to go further. Next, the club were in talks with a mystery striker, who turned out to be Michael Frey of Lille. After several weeks of intense negotiations, Frey passed a medical and agreed personal terms at the club, even watching the Reds take on Walsall in the cup, only for Forest to say they want to see him train first as he had a dodgy ankle. Fair enough, you may think.
Frey went back to Lille and it was all arranged for him to train for a bit. Lille cleared it, and Frey and his agent went to the airport to fly to Nottingham. As they got to the airport, they were informed that Forest had pulled the plug on the deal – presumably leaving player and agent furious.
The only logical explanation that can be given for this, comes by way of a swap deal. Stand-in Forest skipper Henri Lansbury has been chased by recently relegated Burnley all window, and despite seeing a club record fee of £4m accepted, with a senior official at the club telling the press the news, owner Fawaz Al-Hasawi then took to Twitter to outlaw the transfer as the saga rumbled on.
Next we heard that Forest would only play ball if they got a striker in return – primarily Lukas Jutkiewicz, who had worked with Freedman at Bolton Wanderers. Burnley were initially reluctant, but on Wednesday they gave Freedman the all-clear to proceed with the swap.
As Freedman was going about setting up meetings with Jutkiewicz and his agent, Fawaz again took to Twitter and posted a picture of him and Lansbury with the caption, “Henri is staying with us.” A club statement confirmed Lansbury was part of the club’s future plans. Obviously while this is a significant boost for Forest – and one I’m personally delighted about, especially as it’s strongly rumoured he will sign a new deal – I’d spare a penny for Clarets boss Sean Dyche’s thoughts, who must be absolutely seething with how the Kuwaiti owner has gone about things.
Then, the piece de resistance – hated rivals Derby County, who despite claiming they have gone about their transfer business in a classy manner, offered a derisory £4m bid for Michail Antonio just 24 hours before Forest’s home match with Charlton Athletic.
Antonio – who had also been subject of a failed £6m bid from West Bromwich Albion – was withdrawn from the squad as he was not ‘in the right frame of mind’ according to Freedman. Since then, several rumours have surfaced – namely his agent is pining for a Premier League move and demanded Antonio declare himself unavailable and, more recently, that Antonio wants to stay but only if he can get a pay rise.
In amongst all of that, Forest drew 0-0 with Charlton with academy graduates Tyler Walker, Oliver Burke and Jorge Grant all featuring, Freedman and Fawaz have both held talks with free agent Joey Barton, Andy Reid stepped up his return from injury with a 64-minute spell for the Under-21 side against Brentford – getting an assist after just two minutes – and Forest have signed Dutch midfielder Kyle Ebecilio on loan from FC Twente for the season.
Oh, and I nearly forgot. The club made a highly ambitious loan bid for Watford’s Matej Vydra, who has just signed a five-year deal at Vicarage Road, which was apparently rejected – only for Hornets boss Quique Sanchez Flores to say that no decision has been made yet and that they are happy to wait a few days to see what happens.
To say it’s been a whirlwind is an understatement. In some ways this has been the most exciting window…possibly ever for the club, in many others it has been one of the worst in terms of general behaviour, ownership and debacle.
If – somehow – we can end the window with Antonio, Vydra and Lansbury (despite official confirmation he’s staying, this is Forest and until that window shuts I do not personally trust a single word said from Fawaz Al-Hasawi) at the club, then there is a genuine chance that – whisper it quietly – the play-offs could be achieved.
With the likes of Andy Reid, Chris Cohen and Britt Assombalonga in particular to return, there is some serious talent in that side and with not much to separate 14 or more teams in the Championship, these players can make the difference.
Next up is Bolton away, where I’m sure Dougie Freedman will get a tremendous reception from the Wanderers faithful…who may well realise come the end of the season how vital a job he did during his spell at The Macron Stadium. Until next time!