A mere few weeks ago, Nottingham Forest were short-priced in the Premier League relegation betting, their return to the top-flight after twenty years absence looking for all the world like a flying visit.

With just shy of a third of their season completed the Tricky Trees had posted a solitary win, that game also producing their only clean sheet. Defeats were racking up on a regular basis.

If the results were miserable, the performances were no better, with a lack of cohesion squarely to blame and this was particularly evident at the back where defenders played as if with strangers. That of course was largely because they were.

Twenty-two signings. That was the remarkable final tally from a frenetic summer of transfer dealings, the likes of which we had never before seen, least of all from a newly promoted club.

For a while it felt like Forest were recruiting a new player every other day and for what it’s worth, their seemingly scattergun shopping spree came at a cost of £160 million, giving them a nigher net spend than the Bundesliga, Ligue 1, La Liga and Serie A combined. 

Yet if the outlay was a legitimate talking point, the real conversation centred on the sheer number of incoming talent. Granted, last term Forest had an array of loan players and with them returning to their parent clubs that needed addressing.

But their many purchases far exceeded replacing them and with essentially an entirely new squad to make sense of, and shape, how on earth was Steve Cooper going to achieve that while also adapting to a higher level of competition?

How on earth indeed.

In the opening weeks players came and went, impressing in cameos or flattering to deceive, and the inconsistency in line-ups naturally led to inconsistent displays.

By matchday 10 Cooper had utilised 28 different players as he struggled to settle on his best XI and from this relationships weren’t being formed across the pitch and understanding of movement was in short supply.

As for a spirit of togetherness – so often the most important attribute for any promoted side – there was instead only relative chaos.

When their poor results rooted Forest to the foot of the table the I-told-you-so brigade emerged in their multitude, almost triumphant.

Fast forward to the here and now however, and the situation is much improved. A series of positive performances have taken Forest to within touching distance of mid-table while crucially Cooper appears to have forged a team from many disparate parts.

A centre-back pairing of Joe Worrall and Willy Boly looks promising. Up front, Morgan Gibbs-White is linking up well with Brennan Johnson. 

Forest’s online betting odds are significantly healthier and subsequently we can start to view their supermarket sweep last summer through a more upbeat prism. 

With it being accepted that Nottingham Forest’s squad is substantially better than it was twelve months ago – now heavily populated by internationals and experienced top-level fare – perhaps it can be said that the Midlands club have embarked on an accelerated upgrade, rather than the incremental improvement typically favoured by sides outside the top six. 

And if that is indeed the case, they will be in a position to challenge that top six at a much faster rate. 

Was their strategy sensible? Far from it. It was high-risk and even reckless. But nobody is saying I-told-you-so anymore, and that at least is a start.



Stephen Tudor is a freelance football writer and sports enthusiast who only knows slightly less about the beautiful game than you do.

A contributor to FourFourTwo and Forbes, he is a Manchester City fan who was taken to Maine Road as a child because his grandad predicted they would one day be good.