As Forest continue to string results together, clawing their way back into contention for the playoffs, they entertain a Wolves side on Saturday experiencing a season to forget. Expectations were high at Molineux: an immediate return to The Premier League should, on paper, have been on the cards, however The Championship is no place for predictions - which is why Forest should treat this game with caution. Since Billy Davies waltzed back into The City Ground there has been nothing but positivity surrounding the reds, Dean Saunders has conjured the opposite effect at Wolves - can Forest prove that the table doesn't lie, or will the Wanderers leave us wondering where it possibly went wrong?
After consulting with Wolves fans online, there seemed, to me, two main themes of complaint, the first being that they have the players not to be in this position. Inspection of their squad reveals a menagerie of players from all corners of the world such as Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Roger Johnson, George Elokobi, Jamie O'Hara, Stephan Ward, the list goes on, many of whom have proven themselves at this level already, as well as less familiar talent such as Bakary Sako & Bjorn Sigardson. They have good players - but do they have a good team?
Long term observers of The Championship will be aware of the huge improvement in the league over the past few seasons - teams are making massive efforts to join the gravy train that is the Premier League - Forest Boffin doesn't believe good players are enough any more. Low motivation and team spirit will relegate you quicker than sub-standard players - some of the surviving teams of recent years such as recent Barnsley sides, Scunthorpe in 09/10, or even the Plymouth side of 08/09 - none of these teams had anything like the talent in this Wolves side, yet they performed at around the same level. Forest Boffin suggests they had more spirit and were better motivated.
Which brings us to the second vein of dissatisfaction amid Wolves fans: the manager. Dean Saunders start at Molineux has been woeful, collecting just 8 points in 10 games. When quizzed on the former Forest man, one fan stated: "I absolutely loathe the man. He is the worst manager in the country." While this view may be polarised by the fear of relegation, the stats certainly don't make easy viewing. Saunders is performing worse than his predecessor Stale Solbakken, and even worse than Alex McLeish was at Forest. Both clubs should serve as a warning to chairmen everywhere that the grass isn't necessarily greener, as both clubs sacked managers only for their replacements to do much worse! The fans accuse Saunders of being a poor tactician, making numerous errors and making baffling team selections, one fan referring to "Deano's magic ball team selector." A comparison has to be drawn between Saunders & Davies - their effects on morale & results have been stark opposites.
Forest have now won the last 4 games under Davies, including a game so poor against Ipswich on Tuesday that the Gods showed pity and obscured much of it in fog. The reds didn't play well, narrowly beating 9-man Ipswich 1-0 in a game lacking the creativity of recent times, however it's a fantastic sign that we won having played so poorly - Forest won't be as bad against Wolves.
On the face of it, a resurgent Forest side, who have just proven they can win ugly, motivated by the new messiah, having won their last four games, playing at home against a relegation threatened side full of un-motivated players who don't want to play for the club, who have won only 1 in their last 13 games and are led by a poor, unwanted manager - on the face of it there is only one winner this Saturday. Wolves don't have the upturn in results that Ipswich or Sheffield Wednesday possessed, they should be there for the taking. Looking at the fixtures of Forest's rivals shows how important this game is: there is bound to be a few points dropped - this is the time for Forest to really crank up the pressure.
It is difficult to see anything other than a Forest victory, but this is football - Forest have just beaten
three teams from the lower reaches of the league - three games that have gone the way of the form book - at some stage there has to be a hic-cup and Wolves undoubtedly have the players to upset us - we all know about Ebanks-Blake, opposition fans have warned Forest Boffin of Sako & Siguardson. The opposition are clearly a goal threat, and watching them don't appear likely to be as defensive as Sheffield Wednesday or Ipswich were - there may be a few goals scored on Saturday, hopefully Forest can come out on top again.
Thanks to the Wolves fans at www.wolvesforum.co.uk for their kind help, and thanks for reading. COYR!