David Vaughan - Vaughanny was as good as ever when he was able to play. Like fine wine he only seems to get better but unfortunately seemed unable to stay fit enough to play on a regular basis. Who knows if it was more injuries or the level that was the issue but there’s no doubt that he just couldn’t get on the field often enough and so the curtain had to come down on his time with the Reds. Only sad we couldn't say a better goodbye to a great player.
Liam Bridcutt - It was a weird campaign for Bridcutt. It seemed as if he was a key part of the Warburton masterplan and was initially undroppable after he arrived. Personally I think his arrival was the nail in the coffin in that awful style of play and he was used as the means to evolve it into it’s farcical conclusion. I couldn’t stand the slow, sideways and ponderous style that he helped take to it’s most extreme and he was therefore the butt of most of my frustration with that system. His star waned alongside Warbs final curtain and had a pretty much blanket exclusion from the team much to my delight. However I know he’s actually a decent player but just one that needs to be used far better. It was therefore encouraging that a completely different style of player reappeared when he did get onto the pitch. Still often a bit too anonymous on occasion but also a few buccaneering, all-action performances that showed what he can do. He’s certainly on the fringes of the team with an unclear future unless his role is clarified soon.
Ben Osborn - Benny has always had the same issue for me too. Attitude is 100%. Love his approach but he’s just not able to change a game. Every team needs an Osborn as the glue to reliably hold a team together and allow others to take the limelight. I tended to think we suffered by always having him in the team alongside too many in a similar boat - so I would tend to have given him a rest more often than others whilst still remaining a fan. Really you can’t blame him, he can only do what he can do like any player. This season however he has added an extra 20% which might not have quite converted him into a game changer but he’s definitely had the best season of his career. He’s always been consistent but operating at a higher level, in a system that suits him, he might finally become a key in taking Forest to the next level.
Ben Watson - Finally! The hairy-arsed midfielder we’ve needed since Paul McKenna left. Watson has provided the backbone, intelligence, big mouth and leadership to our midfield. Often played in a midfield that was too safe for me whilst Karanka was stabilising things - I hope he’ll look even better as part of a better balanced midfield next season.
Jack Colback - A known, known. Colback is quality. Efficient and a proper, classical midfielder that does the job quietly and efficiently like a German motorcar. I’d only pick one of him, Watson or Bridcutt so I don’t think he’s probably worth the money in wages we’d need to lay out to keep him next season. Maybe another loan might work depending on what happens on other fronts. If he stays though you will know exactly what you’re getting - a player with the pedigree to play in the Premier League week in, week out.
Barrie McKay - Early signs were Mad Dog McKay was going to destroy the careers of many full backs last season. He oozed quality. You could never have imagined his season coming to such a sad and sticky end as it effectively did during that match against Preston, although I think he was given a couple of kicks afterwards if my memory serves me correctly. Now he might have taken an almighty kick but the time he lay motionless on the sideline and the way he waved the white flag afterwards was not very inspiring at all. We know he can do it but he was mentally shot now. What next? Who knows? It’s up to him. He can be anything he wants to be if he’s able to get his head round doing it. Stories are the same thing happened at Rangers. Hopefully he has what it takes to get his mojo back.
Joe Lolley - When we signed him most fans asked ‘Who?’ Now however he is seen by many as one of our most exciting players. Lolley hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped since. His direct, tricky running are a nightmare for opposing teams and he can score goals too. In a successful team with more options Lolley will prove even more of an asset based on how well he was able to do in difficult circumstances this season.
Andreas Bouchalakis - Started with a bang with two stunning debut goals but drifted out of the team when he put in a few performances where he didn’t seem able to keep up with the pace of the Championship. After sitting out most of the second half of the season put in a couple of eye catching performances that convince me he’s a player that we should keep hold of and use more creatively. My own feeling is with a large squad you need to exploit this and use your attacking options more creatively. Effectively pick 9 attacking players with 6 on the pitch and a well planned strategy off the bench for the other 3 whichever way the game is going. Bouch would be the type of player who would work well in that system.
Matty Cash - Cashy was in red hot form in pre-season before suffering a nasty injury against Girona. Ultimately though it might have worked in his favour as he fell down the pecking order but managed to dodge Warbs car crash whilst he left him kicking his heels on the sidelines for far longer than necessary. In the end he came back properly and in red hot form mid season when things were finally starting to get fixed. Along with Lolley we suddenly had pace, energy and creativity on both flanks and the team started to click in no small sense as a result of this. He’s managed to become one of our most exciting prospects this season. If he’s able to keep his head down and work just as hard next then he really will have arrived as a force.
Chris Cohen - Played a couple of games early in the season but it was pretty clear we hadn’t really got our old captain back this time. I’ve done both my ACLs so I can sympathise with him through bitter personal experience. When he suffered another injury setback it was generally accepted it might finally be the end of the road. Hopefully he can stay around and help from the sidelines as Cohen has been nothing but a good thing for Forest.
Kieran Dowell - Superbly talented and a revelation in his debut. The way Warbs handled Dowell was, in my very humble, cough, opinion, not far short of criminal. Every kid need their chance and he certainly gave him that, but more than that they need to be looked after and how he ended the season was enough to make you cry. He was run into the ground and his scuffed pen against Arsenal was par for the course by then. He seemed to have lost everything that made him such an exciting player for the first half of the season. I’ll never understand why, but Warbs would never drop him. When you see a kid struggling like that you protect them. Give them a rest, boost their confidence, their young and fragile but not stupid. He must know he was awful for virtually every moment of the last few months of the season. One game he played like he had lead in his boots, the span from his best to his worst was huge but should never ever have been allowed to happen. I hope he can put it behind him and become the player he clearly has the ability to - there’s no doubt he will play for England if he can.
Adlene Guedioura - Pep’s return only goes to prove there’s no place like home. He’s the classic modern footballer for me. He has the traditional qualities of a direct approach and total commitment fused with a modern style, flair and technique. Karanka is obviously a fan but the lack of games in recent seasons has probably left him slightly off the pace. You can see it’s there but he’s not quite operating at full power. Competition for midfield places is going to be fierce but I feel he, like Bouchalakis, are the sort of players that offer you options and are going to be most effective being used on a regular but occasional basis to get the most from them and also make the team less predictable and easy to play against. He’s happy to be back and we are happy to have him, he should never have left.
Lee Tomlin - I hadn’t really appreciated how good he was when we signed him. Tomlin is a man who can though. He has the same kind of confidence and quality to back it up that we enjoyed with Reidy. Our stats when he played were so much better and Tomlin is another of those winners who just give your team belief. You need those players who will single handedly win you a few games each season. Forget the odd bad game, you need to have guys like these around to win you games you maybe don’t deserve to. Karanka is reportedly trying to get him back again next season. You understand why. Players like Tomlin make the game worth watching.
Tyler Walker - Tyler strikes me as another confidence player. I feel Forest have a few too many of them and maybe that’s the root of our recent troubles. He looked the business when we got our first glimpses of him in action for the first team but seemed to lose his way completely along with his place in the squad. This season he came back with renewed purpose and a much more powerful player. Reminding me of a certain Trevor Francis at times. It did seem though as if history repeated itself again and when the team started to struggle he lost his place, went out on loan and once again his prospects at Forest are decidedly dicey. Every Forest fan would love him to make it, ideally at Forest, he’s from a good family and seems like a great boy. If he’s lucky enough to get a third chance he really has to grab it with both hands. He has it in him.
Jamie Ward - There’s something going on in Jamie’s head but it’s not always obvious what it is. Credit where it’s due though, as he did come back and offer a lot at the end of the season. His return might have been what actually allowed us to cling on to Championship status but he’s just too erratic to be a long-term solution for us. It was always fun to watch him having one of his days where he’d want to pick a fight with everyone and the corner flag but we have to get serious and say thanks for everything but…
What do you think?