Nottingham Forest 2016/17 Season Review: A dismal season on Trentside ends with a renewed sense of optimism

Nottingham Forest 2016/17 Season Review: A dismal season on Trentside ends with a renewed sense of optimism

A look back on what was a dismal season for Nottingham Forest which proved to be the end of the toxic Fawaz Al-Hasawi era.

samstraw
Sam Straw

Nottingham Forest supporters went into the season with reasonably low expectations. A flurry of unknown signings and the appointment of a manager with no experience in The Championship made it impossible to predict how the season would pan out. 

It turned out to be a season marred by chaos off the pitch which had a significant impact on the performances on it. However, despite the season being largely forgettable, there are some positives to take.

A refreshing start

Majority of Forest fans thoroughly enjoyed the start to the season. Philippe Montanier's side were winning games and scoring plenty of goals in the process. Many Reds fans were relieved to see this kind of attacking, free flowing football back at The City Ground after previous manager Dougie Freedman had taken the approach of grinding out results whilst being a relatively low scoring side. 

Forest won their first three home league matches, scoring 11 goals in the process. Teenage sensation Oliver Burke had burst onto the scene and was creating a huge sense of excitement around the club. Despite being one of the highest scoring teams in the division, Forest's defence was looking very fragile and conceding three at home against both Burton Albion and Wigan Athletic was a concern, despite still picking up the three points. 

Oliver Burke made a blistering start to the season at Forest. (picture: Getty Images / Mike Hewitt)
Oliver Burke made a blistering start to the season at Forest. (picture: Getty Images / Mike Hewitt)

The positive vibes around the club did not last long. Owner Fawaz Al-Hasawi opted to sell prize asset Burke to RB Leipzig for £13 million, a decision which was the last straw for many supporters. This decision resulted in Forest's form tailing off and the poor recruitment completed during the summer was starting to show. Following Burke's departure the Reds went on a winless run of seven games in all competitions. 

A number of false dawns 

This ended in mid-October as Forest put in a superb performance at The City Ground to comfortably beat Birmingham City 3-1. New signing Nicklas Bendtner played a key role before being forced off through injury. However, the game will be remembered for a superb solo goal from Hilderberto Pereira who joined the club in the summer on loan from Benfica

Nicklas Bendtner was surprisingly snapped up by Forest. (picture: Getty Images / Nathan Stirk)
Nicklas Bendtner was surprisingly snapped up by Forest. (picture: Getty Images / Nathan Stirk)

Many fans felt that this game would be a turning point in Forest's season and that they could get back on track. However, this proved not to be the case as Forest went on another four game winless run including a very poor 2-1 defeat at home to Cardiff City in which there appeared to be discontent amongst the players. 

It was not until mid-November that Forest got their first away win and clean sheet of the season in a 2-0 win against Ipswich Town at Portman Road. A brace from striker Britt Assombalonga gave fans hope that the DR Congo forward might be back to his best. This was followed up by another remarkable away win as the Reds beat Barnsley 5-2 at Oakwell with Henri Lansbury getting himself a hat-trick. The pressure on Montanier was eased further when the Reds picked up their third win in a row against Newcastle United at The City Ground, albeit in very controversial fashion

Chaos on and off the pitch

It was that win against the Toon which proved to be Montanier's last as Forest boss. Many would argue that the 3-0 defeat at Pride Park to bitter rivals Derby County in early December was the beginning of the end for the Frenchman. 

Derby County beat Forest 3-0 at Pride Park in December. (picture: Getty Images / Michael Regan)
Derby County beat Forest 3-0 at Pride Park in December. (picture: Getty Images / Michael Regan)

This was followed up with another seven games without victory in all competitions, including an utterly embarrassing performance in the 2-0 defeat to Wigan Athletic in The FA Cup which saw Eric Lichaj start taking control of the team. 

This chaos on the pitch was matched by Al-Hasawi off it. Fans were left clinging on to hope of the proposed takeover by American businessman John Jay Moores over the Christmas period but this collapsed in spectacular fashion at the final stage. This collapse saw Al-Hasawi regain full control of the club which resulted in him immediately dismissing Philippe Montanier to leave the club searching for yet another manager. 

A host of young talent 

Al-Hasawi ended up giving youth team managers Gary Brazil and Jack Lester the job until the end of the season after being turned down by a host of managers including Nigel Clough. Brazil's appointment did make an instant impact as Forest won three of their next four games. Brazil also gave young talent such as Ben Brereton the chance to impress and he scored a late winner in a 2-1 win against Aston Villa in early February. 

However, Brazil's brief spell in charge led to a very inconsistent set of results. One week Forest were losing 5-1 to Norwich City at Carrow Road and a couple of weeks after that they beat promotion challengers Brighton & Hove Albion 3-0 at The City Ground. Zach Clough was snapped up from Bolton Wanderers on Deadline Day in January and was making an instant impact at his new club. However, Ross McCormack who joined on loan from Aston Villa, was struggling to get match fit. 

Warburton provides hope for future

Brazil's final game in charge came in a 1-0 defeat to Burton Albion at the Perelli Stadium which left the Reds under serious threat of relegation. Mark Warburton was soon appointed as new manager of the club, with the objective of keeping the club in The Championship and avoiding the drop down to League One

Majority of Forest fans were delighted with this appointment, mainly due to the style of football they knew the former Brentford and Rangers manager would bring to the table. This is exactly what Warburton implemented despite being in a precarious position in the league table. There were still some disappointing results along the way, but it was ultimately Forest's home form which saw them remain in the division. 

Britt Assombalonga scored twice against Ipswich on the final day. (picture: Getty Images / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA)
Britt Assombalonga scored twice against Ipswich on the final day. (picture: Getty Images / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA)

The most impressive performances under Warburton came in home wins against Huddersfield Town and Reading and then the 3-0 win against Ipswich Town on the final day to retain their place in the division. These results helped the Reds remain in The Championship on goal difference alone after being put under serious pressure by Blackburn Rovers

What does the 2017/18 season hold?

Forest fans can now look forward to next season with a renewed sense of optimism following what was a dreadful campaign. One of the main reasons behind this is because the disastorous five-year tenure of the Fawaz Al-Hasawi ownership has recently ended with Greek shipping magnate Evangelos Marinakis completing his takeover of the club

Not only this, but Mark Warburton appears to be the best manager to grace the home dugout for a significant period of time and will now be given the time by the new owners to be a success. Warburton has inherited a decent squad which with some fine tuning would be capable of competing at the other end of the divison next season. The squad is full of talented youngsters including Jordan Smith, Joe Worrall, Matty Cash, Jorge Grant, Ben Brereton, Zach Clough and many more. This young talent, combined with the experience of the likes of Matt Mills, Michael Mancienne, David Vaughan and Chris Cohen next season could be a recipe for success. 

Whatever happens next season, stability is key if the club is to move forward after five years of decline under Al-Hasawi. Fans remain aware that it will take several years for the damage done under the previous regime to be rectified. However, in the mean time, supporters will still expect to see the style of football they demand and a much more enjoyable season than the one they just had to endure. 

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