High-flying teams in the Championship are coming thick and fast, aren’t they! Having rounded off 2019 with trips to playoff sides Preston North End and Fulham, we return to league action in 2020 by hosting fourth-placed Nottingham Forest at the Madejski Stadium.
Forest have had an enjoyable time in the Championship so far under relatively new manager Sabri Lamouchi, who’s guided them to fourth in the division at this point. Hopes are high at the City Ground that they can go all the way and seal a long-awaited return to the Premier League. To find out if they’ll be able to do that - and, more pertinently, whether or not they’ll win on Saturday - we spoke to Forest fan Sean Hockett.
How would you sum up Forest’s season so far?
Better than expected really. Apart from the five-game blip we had recently, it’s been a very pleasant season so far. I’d like to see us create a few more chances and score a few more goals, put teams who are out of form to the sword rather than winning by the odd goal, but that’s really only icing on the cake. I’m sure most Forest fans would have snatched your arm off for a position fourth in the table after Christmas; I certainly would!
What have you made of the job done by Sabri Lamouchi so far?
For someone who was at the “Who is he?” end of the scale when he was appointed (after the dismissal of Martin O’Neill), we’re now at the “He might make it to the end of the season!” end of the scale, which is a big thing for Forest fans these days.
There’s always a sense of trepidation when you appoint someone who has had very little experience of English football, let alone managing/coaching in the Championship. And I don’t think it’s dumb luck that he’s taken us this far. We are a (usually) defensively solid team, who by and large take the chances we’re offered.
There’s also a sense of togetherness on and off the pitch which hasn’t really been felt for a while. That may sound trite but it’s true and long may it continue.
Three wins in your last three and fourth in the table - do Forest have what it takes to get promotion this season?
I look at our personnel and look at the teams that were promoted last season and think it may be a little too soon. Yes, Sheffield United are doing well so far with their style of football, but once the established Premier League teams work them out, it may be a different story.
That being said, I’d love to see us get back to the Premier League this season. We haven’t played in the top flight since 1999. I think a wide man and an additional, proven goalscorer wouldn’t go amiss in the January transfer window to bolster the squad - that would certainly see us in with a chance.
What are your main strengths?
As I’ve already mentioned, we are generally defensively sound, although we’ve had a few wobbles of late. We can be quick on the break too. We generally allow the opposition to have the ball and invite them on, even at home. That’s something which can frustrate the home fans. I’ll be honest and say I’d rather see a more dominant home performance, but maybe Sabri is still working out the team and this league. This is, after all, only his sixth month in English football.
Any weaknesses for Reading to exploit?
Ironically, we can be at sixes and sevens defensively if you start a game quickly. There have been a few occasions when we’ve not shown up for the first 20 minutes - or in the case of the thumping that Sheffield Wednesday gave us, for the first half. We certainly seem more vulnerable at home for some reason.
We also struggle if you press and give us little time on the ball.
What do you make of Reading at the moment?
Unbeaten since your first game of December; I think you’re a real threat now.
Momentum is key is in this league - just look at Norwich last season. I’ll be honest and say I rarely look at the other teams in the division, so I can’t comment on how you’re playing, but the results speak for themselves.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
The Madejski has not been a happy hunting ground for us these past few seasons. We’re both on a run of form and I’d be delighted with a win, but I don’t think that will happen. I’ll be happy with a draw; maybe 2-2.
Good luck for the rest of the season, just not against us!