Diagnosis Dougie: why Freedman is the right man to fix Forest
In a season of turmoil, Dougie Freedman – whose contract was extended for a further two years by chairman Fawaz Al-Hasawi last week – has undoubtedly steadied the ship and has had a credible run of results since taking the Forest manager’s hot seat.
Freedman had a dream start as Forest manager by defeating Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium in his first game in charge and proceeded to immediately win over the Forest faithful by winning five out of his first six matches.
Indeed it makes me wonder how the Reds would have fared should they have held on to their 4-3 lead at Bloomfield Road back in February, which saw the nine men of Blackpool equalise in the dying embers of the game to draw the match 4-4.
Had the Reds won that game and not lost their 15-goal hotshot Britt Assombalonga to injury in the previous match against Wigan Athletic, I believe that the momentum gathered and team spirit fostered by Freedman would have fuelled the Reds to make a substantial last gasp play-off push.
In a season of many highs and lows, the Reds have proved themselves capable of competing with the Championship highflyers by beating Bournemouth twice and taking four points off arch rivals Derby County, but they have lacked consistency throughout the season which cost Stuart Pearce his job.
Subsequent defeats against Charlton Athletic, Norwich City and Watford have since dampened the Reds’ promotion hopes under Freedman, but Freedman’s short spell as manager has certainly whet the fans’ appetite for success next season.
Freedman has been a breath of fresh air since arriving at the club and has put his own stamp on the club since following in the footsteps of former manager Stuart Pearce and his team has played an attractive style of play.
In the duration of 15 games Freedman has already proved himself capable of getting the best out of Forest’s best players.
This was a major criticism of his spell at Bolton Wanderers, during which the former England international Kevin Davies and starlet Chris Eagles transformed from influential first team players to free agents in the duration of Freedman’s stint in charge, with the latter castigated and frozen out from the first team set-up and made to train alone in the gym.
Handling big name players has ceased to be an issue for the Scotsman since arriving at Forest and Freedman has shown to get the best out of Henri Lansbury since handing the 24-year-old the captain’s armband.
The former Arsenal midfielder has re-paid Freedman’s faith show to him by reaching the heights of his form shown last season under Billy Davies which Lansbury failed to do under Pearce.
Lansbury has come of age since Freedman’s homecoming as Forest manager by bagging five goals in a string of fine performances which saw the midfielder awarded the Championship Player of The Month accolade for February.
In Gary Gardner Forest have got an impressive defensive midfielder on loan at their disposal which the club has lacked since the days of former captain, Paul McKenna.
Gardner has stamped his authority on the Reds’ midfield by dictating play and catching the eye with several outstanding efforts including a free- kick against Watford on Wednesday night, and it is no coincidence that the form of defenders Kelvin Wilson and Jamaal Lascelles has picked up since the assured presence of Gardner in front of them. Gardner is a player which the club should look to hold on to.
Freedman has also shown to be happy give youth a chance, and with a crop of young players waiting in the wings this is certainly an exciting time for the club.
Forest have not had a cluster of young talent vying to break into the first team since the era of Paul Hart over a decade ago.
Hart nurtured the household names of Jermaine Jenas, Michael Dawson and Andy Reid to name but three, but with the assortment of Oliver Burke, Jorge Grant and the flashy Tyler Walker, Freedman has three players in the mould to have big futures at the club.
Freedman was by no means Forest fans’ first port of call to replace Pearce but the Scot has fully earned his opportunity to try and return Forest to the promised land of the Premier League.
Taking over from Pearce was a ballsy decision made by Freedman, with Pearce idolised by many on Trent side for his passion and loyalty shown to the club during his playing days.
At this moment in time with the club the subject of a multitude of transfer embargoes I that believe Freedman is the right man for the job, if he continues to integrate Forest’s youth players into the first team and somehow secures Gary Gardner’s future at the club.
Stability is the key for Forest now, and with a successful pre-season under his belt and the return of fan favourite, Andy Reid, I believe that Forest can be a success next season.
Good luck, Dougie.