Jordan Smith - It’s only thanks to Mr. Smith we were in this league in all probability. The value of that save cannot ever be underestimated. The Warburton Dogma has had its victims though and it seems as if Smithy is one of those currently. Whilst there were doubts about his ability on crosses and with his feet that the flaky experiment he was engaged in only served to highlight there’s no doubt about his ability as a shot stopper. Everything I see from him suggests to me he has the perfect attitude though and my feeling is he has the ability too. Hopefully he continues to work hard and gets another chance as I think he has the ability to be a great keeper when given the right chance. Anyone would have suffered in the circus.
Costel Pantilimon - The intimidating Romanian giant provided the much needed calm assuredness to the Forest defence when needed most. Much like the saying regarding heavyweight boxers you never bet against a good big ‘un. Panti definitely fits the bill. Understandable that Karanka wants to re-sign him as a safe pair of hands whilst he establishes and grooms a long-term heir for their place between the Forest posts. A return seems likely and would certainly be welcomed.
Stefanos Kapino - Although he ably stepped in for the final few games of the season and is highly rated by many, we didn’t really learn too much about Kapino. He did his business pretty competently but wasn’t given the chance to show if he was capable of taking the gloves full-time now or in the future during his time on the pitch. You would imagine the club has to decided to perm 2 from three long term and the best combination is far from obvious at the moment or which parties might be happy to be patient or not as necessary.
Eric Lichaj - It feels as if Eric must have killed a black cat during last summer or something because the reigning POTS had a campaign to forget. The USA came calling which meant he missed the start of the season with Warburton and that combined with a few so-so games at the end of last season left him out in the cold for some time. When his chance did finally come he had just about reclaimed his place when he was once again frozen out after getting sent off for a spectacular 'revenge tackle' after losing his head. OK he should have had a clear foul himself and his response looked far worse than it was to the ref who suddenly regained his sight. But it was a rare loss of discipline and once again he had a long wait for another chance. Again he wasn't quite as consistent as usual but put in some decent performances including the spectacular, dog-winning, two-goal haul when knocking Arsenal out of the FA Cup - but even that seemed to conspire against him. No one could really blame him for answering when his country came calling, possibly forgive him the hot head and a bit of average form - partly from not getting a run of games and being asked to play as a left back - but it was a season where everything has conspired against him. Hopefully not fatally so as, for me, he is a great asset to the squad.
Matt Mills - Being a 'wild card' isn't really a great trait for a centre half but Millsy seemed to fall into that category to some extent. He could be a warrior when one was needed but he seemed to be too emotional amid the failing defensive system and fans' vocal criticism. In the end it was in everyone's interests to part ways but I feel he was harshly treated and actually was probably more of a victim of issues higher up.
Armand Traore - He seems in desperate need of a PR person. I can't quite figure out what the issue is but I think it involves his fitness to play. Early on in the season he played regularly and well and won over a number of skeptical fans, myself included, in the process. Karanka gave him little chance and shipped him off the Cardiff before his first cup of tea in the manager's office had got cold. He loves the club but I get the impression he may not be quite tough enough or maybe he's just considered a bad influence or a loner. If he is 'too soft' then there should have been a frank discussion and an understanding reached. Personally I'd love him back and with a new, agreed definition of 'fit'. Getting rid of him has created a perennial problem at left back again that might prove an itch that's still hard to scratch.
Michael Mancienne - I am a huge Mance fan. He’s not a conventional centre half. Way too small and fragile looking for most. Quiet too. Have you ever seen him be ‘nasty’? Because of this he isn’t everyones idea of a stopper. I can understand that. I’m really more of the Larry Lloyd School too myself in all honesty. However Mance has insane defensive skills. He reads the game like an Eastenders plot and intercepts almost everything at source. No doubt he’s not much use offensively, you need to play him with a big thug ideally and he invites an ariel bombardment rather than discouraging one by virtue of his height alone. The truth is he has about one dodgy game a season and holds everything together the rest of the time. Versatile too of course and whilst many sirens call for his head I would keep him for that reason alone even if more outstanding candidates are ahead of him at this moment on present form. My feeling is Karanka also appreciates his obvious talents and they will become clear to the forgetful Forest fans again next season.
Danny Fox - It’s no secret that few people had a good word for Foxy for most of his Forest career, certainly not one I’d want to share here anyway! The way he’s performed at centre half though have been incredible and should serve as a lesson to anyone either going through hard times or writing someone off prematurely. He has played out of his skin and whoever we sign in the summer you cannot drop him until his form wanes. Genuinely a contender for player of the season despite only playing relatively few games. His attitude is also a huge asset and seems to have come to the fore hand-in-hand with his improvement in form.
Tendayi Darwikwa - Started with a bang before losing his way and then producing a few exceptional performances in the latter stages of the season. He looks like a confidence player to me. Not something you like to see in a defender typically. I feel as if he only attacks half-heartedly and often gets caught in no-mans land. If he could concentrate more on just defending and then attack with full commitment I think he’ll switch the tables on wingers and find they need to worry more about him than he currently does about them. Possibly this all stems from what he’s being asked to do but I think we will get the most out of him when he is able to concentrate on defending and given free reign to attack when the opportunity arises.
Tobias Figueiredo - Unheralded upon his arrival and slowly eased into the team. Few arrivals have been so warmly welcomed and rightly so. Figueiredo has performed like a player who would be comfortable in the Premier League from everything we have seen so far. Calm, assured, combative and surprisingly tough when asked questions physically too. Only in his final appearance of the season did he look uncomfortable after being injured. If he can maintain his performance level he will go down as one of Forest’s best ever signings.
Jack Hobbs - I don’t think I ever saw Hobbsey play a bad game for Forest. Then again it’s hard to recall him playing at all. With Mance though I thought he formed a very formidable wall that bore comparison to anything Forest have had for many years. It seems as if his card was marked all season, he had been written off already and although he was fit and training well for much of the season not trusted with a shirt when players we already had and were invested in were available. Great pro, just a case of what could have been.
Joe Worrall - Came into the team and never left it. Asked to play a stupid role and run into the ground before being dumped out of it at the end of the season. I feel Joe hasn’t been given the support he’s needed. He’s a good, modern defender. Too good really in that he does the job efficiently without being a specialist in any department I feel. Is he the dominant thug or the subtle footballer? For me he’s either but neither. No bad thing but who do you pair him with? That’s the dilemma for me now. The emergence of Figueiredo who is similar to some extent make things tricky for Mance and Wozza as the physicality you are often looking for becomes an issue. For me he needs to mature and become a bit more of a thug. Warbs system was a disaster for him too. Like many others they were hung out to dry trying to prove the impossible would work if you just kept on doing the same thing. He has to be patient and continue to work hard, his chance will come again soon and he will learn a lot from Daws too.
What do you think? Comment below… Part 2 - the midfielders - to follow.