Is everything falling into place just in time for Nottingham Forest?

Stuart Pearce

A wave of optimism is back at the City Ground following the appointment of Stuart Pearce and the return of key players will add to the feel-good factor.

Nottingham Forest fans have had little to cheer in 2014.

The year began well enough with the Reds in the middle of what would turn out to be a 16-game unbeaten run in all competitions. The Reds were firmly in the Championship promotion shake up and a 5-0 thrashing of West Ham suggested there might be the added bonus of a FA Cup run this season.

Encouraging business in the January transfer window added to the feeling that things were going well, and while that was the case fans seemed content to tolerate the antics of Billy Davies. But it all quickly turned sour.

It seemed unimaginable at the time that a 3-1 FA Cup defeat at League One side Sheffield United would trigger a 10-match winless streak that Forest still find themselves on heading into this afternoon's home game against Millwall.

A humiliating 5-0 defeat in front of the television cameras to bitter rivals Derby was the season's low point. It must be noted that injuries had hurt Davies but supporters had now largely turned on him and his paranoia-fuelled us against the world approach had worn thin.

It was also the case with the club's owner and chairman Fawaz Al Hasawi who ended the Scot's second spell as manager after the loss at the iPro Stadium.

Step forward Stuart Pearce. A returning Reds hero who by agreeing to become the club's next permanent manager in the summer has this week lifted the gloomy clouds encompassing the City Ground.

The former Forest captain made over 500 appearances for the club as a player during a 12-year stay, twice winning the League Cup under Brian Clough. He also had a spell as caretaker boss during the 1996-97 season following the departure of Frank Clark.

It may prove another masterstroke by Al Hasawi after the Kuwaiti businessman also appointed legendary European Cup-winning skipper John McGovern as club ambassador and his aide.

To top of the week, key players Kelvin Wilson, Andy Reid, David Vaughan and Henri Lansbury are nearing returns from injury and may even feature against Millwall today.

Forest have slipped to seventh in the table and go into that game two points adrift of the play-off places but Pearce believes that one of the returning quartet in particular can help bridge the gap and lead the Reds to the Premier League.

Pearce worked with Lansbury when he was England Under-21 manager and insists his comeback is crucial.

"Henri has been pretty key so far from what I can gather,`` said the 51-year-old at Thursday's press conference. "He's played pretty well but he can get even better. He's not the finished article yet. He's done extremely well with the Under 21s, he's grown and got better. He's one of those individuals that needs working with but is a fantastic boy to have around and has great talent. There is some real talent here. We are a football club with a great history and under achieving. We have to target to get into the Premier League."

Academy manager Gary Brazil will remain in caretaker charge for the remainder of the season and Pearce hopes he will be beginning his role as a Premier League boss.

"If we get into the Premier League then brilliant, we'll take that on the chin and we go from there and grow the club accordingly. I hope Gary does it," said Pearce.

Sentiments shared by all Forest fans ahead of what could be a carnival atmosphere at the City Ground this afternoon.

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