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Nationwide Division One, 06/12/03, 3.00pm
Nottingham Forest
Far too big to go down!
By Nicholas Winwright

Our next opponents are no strangers to the feeling of winning things, they have won - and bear with me, as before I started to write this article, I didn't realise how much there was - The Football League, FA Charity Shield, League Cup, European Champions Cup, European Super Cup, Simod Cup, Zenith Data Systems Cup, FA Cup. So fans could be forgiven for thinking that the world champions were on their way to play us. However, as shown below, this is no longer the case.

Forest's best days were under the stewardship of Brian Clough, the red nosed man famed for his authoritative style was in charge when Forest won most of the above-mentioned cups/tournaments. Clough was a manager of days past, controlling his players and ensuring they looked smart and never outgrew the club they played for. However, those days are gone and the recent sale of Marlon Harewood, their top scorer this season, has angered some fans. Since Brian Clough, Forest's managers have included Frank Clark, formerly of Leyton Orient, who after spending millions in the transfer market oversaw the relegation of Forest from the top flight despite all the football 'experts' (term loosely used - Chris Kamara!) stating they were far too big a team to go down. As West Ham, Blackburn and all have since found out, that's not always the case.

After Frank Clark, there was David Platt who seemed to confirm many beliefs that he should stick to coaching rather than managing as Forest continued to go backwards as team. Forest now have Paul Hart at the helm and he seems to be steering them back in the right direction. Due to financial constraints (we know only too well), he has concentrated on the academy and coaching their youngsters into a decent footballing side coupled with the experience of a couple of purchases (side note - sound familiar, isn't that what we tried to achieve year on year before the Vialli/Wilkins debacle? Thankfully Ray is taking us back!).

Forest play Ipswich before they travel to us and they will be desperate to end a run of six games without victory. Their previous game was a 3-0 drubbing at home to West Brom, the bitter aftertaste of this defeat will mean Forest coming to Watford to prove why people have been tipping them for the top six all season.

They will probably line up with Darren Ward in goal, signed from neighbours (but not really rivals) Notts County. The keeper has been knocking on the door of the Wales side and will surely replace Paul Jones soon.

The defence will be likely to include Mathieu Louis-Jean signed from Le Havre for 500,000 after impressing on loan. Gregor Robertson, a product of Forest's academy, made his debut this season against Walsall and is still only nineteen. Des Walker is at the other end of the age scale to Robertson and, at thirty-eight, time is running out for the centre back, however we all remember the impact Filippo Galli made at the club during Vialli's time in charge and few would doubt the advantages of an experienced centre back. Along side Des Walker will be John Thompson, another product of the academy.

As if to prove Paul Hart's ability to coach young players into able first team performers, Forest's midfield against West Brom did not cost them a penny, with three of the players coming from the academy and one signed on a free transfer. Last season at the Vic, Andy Reid made a big impact against us, linking well with Darren Huckerby, and whilst Huckerby is now at Norwich, Reid will be playing against us on the left wing. Reid was given an extended run in the first team last season, however it has been said that for someone with such a sweet left foot he doesn't score enough. Forest's scorer against the Golden Boys at the City Ground this season was Eugene Bopp and he looks set to continue in the centre of midfield. The third player in Forest's midfield signed from their academy is Gareth Williams - winner of the Forest player of the year award in his first full season in professional football, he is widely regarded as one of the best midfielders outside the Premiership. The only player in Forest's midfield not produced by their academy is Eoin Jess. The former Scottish international was signed from Bradford on a free transfer and looks to get into the area at all opportunities.

With David Johnson injured and Marlon Harewood's departure to last week's opponents West Ham, up front for Forest will probably be Gareth Taylor, the lanky striker signed from Burnley who despite scoring a hat trick against us last year at Turf Moor didn't leave with the match ball as Michael Chopra went one better for Watford, and Marlon King, the recent 950,000 signing from Gillingham. Forest's signing of King pleased the Watford fans as it means that they will almost certainly forget their interest in Danny Webber for the time being.