OPINION: Test of character awaits Nottingham Forest in fight for Championship survival
As the old saying goes, a week is a long time in football.
The past week has felt much longer than seven days on the calendar and who knows what depths Nottingham Forest might sink to in the next seven days, with the visit of bitter rivals Derby County to the City Ground on Saturday.
By that point Forest could have a new man in the dugout after reports this afternoon of former Brentford and Rangers boss Mark Warburton is in talks with the club to become the Reds’ third manager in the same season.
Warburton, if convinced to take the job, could find himself in the bottom three before a ball has been kicked under his watch with the teams around Forest all playing before the Rams make the journey up Brian Clough Way.
Defeat to Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion last weekend has left the Reds perilously close to the Championship relegation zone with just two points separating themselves and third-from-bottom Blackburn Rovers.
The gap to the bottom three was six points after the morale-boosting victory over promotion-chasing Brighton and Hove Albion on March 4. Consecutive losses - to Brentford and Burton - have dragged Forest into the scrap.
Wolves will play one of their two games in hand over Forest on Tuesday away at mid-table Brentford, who beat the Reds 3-2 last Tuesday, while Blackburn play their game in hand at play-off chasing Fulham on the same night.
Bristol City are at home to third-placed Huddersfield Town on Friday night and, while the form book would suggest Forest’s rivals have an uphill task to overcome teams towards the top, Forest too have a mountain to climb to drag themselves from danger.
This derby could yet prove to be a make or break point in the Reds’ season.
Defeat to closest rivals Derby, who are expected to announce Gary Rowett as their new manager after sacking Steve McClaren, could see Forest cut adrift from those around them and left licking their wounds.
Survival hopes would depend on how fast they could recover, with eight games of the season to go, under a cloud of a second defeat of the campaign to Derby and a third consecutive defeat in the league.
It would be a test of character. It is a test of character.
Yet victory could be the shot in the arm Forest are desperate craving.
Coupled with the arrival of a new manager with a good reputation south of the border for his work at Brentford, where he took them from League One to the Championship play-offs, could see the clouds begin to lift.
Survival and stability over the summer with a Warburton at the helm - and the promise of structure from Fawaz Al Hasawi - is encouraging. But it’ll take more than words to shift attention from the club’s failings.
If Gary Brazil - the same man who engineered that win over Brighton little more than a week ago - is to lose his first team manager role then it is vital the club does everything in its power to keep him on in the academy.
Both Brazil and Jack Lester have overseen, and hopefully will continue to oversee, the development of the club’s emerging talents, with Ben Brereton the pick of those they have introduced into the first team arena over the past months.
We as fans are led to believe they still retain respect around the club and dressing room for their work and I genuinely hope this remains the case and they are part of any future plans if Warburton arrives.
But the immediate focus has to be Derby - and it has to be three points.