With the Football League kick-off this weekend, this series of articles takes a closer look at the 24 teams vying for the £100 million Premier League bonanza.
The return of ‘Psycho’ to the City Ground is sure to be one of the most-talked about stories of the season. For all those Forest fans who still think of Pearce in such affectionate terms they will be hoping his ‘homecoming’ can bring about a return to the top flight after 15-year absence.
Pearce took the job because of his love for the club and the fans, but, sentimental reasons aside, it is difficult to judge whether he is a shrewd appointment.
Pearce has been absent from the day-to-day grind of club management and his results as England U21 and Team GB managers were a mixed bag. At U21 level he did lead England to the final stages of two tournaments, but at that level the Three Lions are largely untested - and the less said about Team GB's failure at the London 2012 Olympics the better.
The image of Pearce as a manager is in stark contrast to the ‘hard man’ image he presented as a player. It remains to be seen whether he can find that same fire in management and the tactical nous to make Forest a success again.
Events of the past week haven’t helped, with Forest reportedly agreeing to sell promising youngsters Karl Darlow and Jamaal Lascelles to Newcastle for a combined fee of £6 million without Pearce’s consent - a move Pearce described as 'disappointing'.
Pearce also re-iterated his intent to stay and the big money signings of Britt Assombalonga and Michail Antonio this week contradicts any suggestion that the sales of Darlow and Lascelles were due to a lack of ambition.
In spite of the obvious tension with the club’s owners, I am backing Pearce to take Forest on a step or two this season.
His recruitment has improved the squad. Michael Mancienne should be a commanding presence at this level, Chris Burke is a match-winner on his day, and although the £5.5 million shelled out on Assombalonga carries a risk, he should prove a genuine threat at the City Ground.
Last Season: 11th
Manager: Stuart Pearce
Transfers In*: Michail Antonio (Sheffield Wednesday, £1.5 million), Michael Mancienne (Hamburg, £1 million), Britt Assombalonga (Peterborough, £5.5 million), Lars Veldwijk (Excelsior, undisclosed), Danny Fox (Southampton, free), Matty Fryatt (Hull, free), Roger Riera (Barcelona, free), Chris Burke (Birmingham, free), Jack Hunt (Crystal Palace, loan)
Transfers Out*: Simon Cox (Reading, undisclosed), Matt Derbyshire (Rotherham, free), Marcus Tudgay (Coventry, free), Darius Henderson (Leyton Orient, free), Ishmael Miller (Blackpool, free), Radoslav Majewski (Huddersfield, loan), Simon Gillett (Yeovil, free), Guy Moussi, Jonathan Greening, Gonzalo Jara, Ishmael Miller (released)
One To Watch: Britt Assombalonga (striker)
Having scored 23 goals in League One, Congolese striker Assombalonga was not short on admirers. Nevertheless it was still something of a shock to discover Forest had smashed their transfer record to bring the forward in from Peterborough.
Considering the size of the fee there is huge pressure on Assombalonga to deliver and do it quickly. He has been in this position before having started last season as Peterborough’s record signing, and it did not affect his form. But the difference between that situation and this is grossly different.
That’s not to say Assombalonga is not up to the challenge. He carries more than enough pace and power to threaten any defence, and his goals return in the past two seasons should leave Forest fans confident he can fire them to Championship wins.
Selected Odds: Champions 18-1; Promotion 6-1; Relegation 20-1
Opening Fixtures: Blackpool (H), Bolton (A), Bournemouth (A)
*correct at the time of writing
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