Nottingham Forest remain unbeaten under Stuart Pearce, with five wins and three draws handing them top spot in the Championship with 18 points from eight games. Saturday's 0-0 draw with Millwall was a hard-fought contest, but one player shone in particular.
Centre back Michael Mancienne made his name as a promising young defender with Chelsea, but after failing to break in to the Blues first team, he made the risky move to sign for German outfit Hamburg. Yet after only 55 appearances in three seasons, Mancienne chose to return to English football, with his former England Under-21 boss Pearce willing to fork out £1m to bring him to the City Ground.
And so far, Mancienne has made himself Pearce's first choice centre back after a series of outstanding displays, including what Pearce described as an "immense" performance against Millwall. After conceding just seven goals in their opening eight games, Forest have been solid defensively, and much of that is down to Mancienne, according to Pearce, who believes the 26-year-old is the best centre back outside of the Premier League.
"Pound for pound, what we have paid for him is a fantastic outlay, it really is," Pearce told the Nottingham Post. "He was immense on Saturday and, in my opinion, he is the best defender in this league. He is a fantastic man and a really fantastic professional footballer. He is really low maintenance."
"I think the crowd have seen, straightaway, how good he is," added Pearce. "He has gained the respect of the crowd and of the other players on the training ground, just through what he does on the football pitch. He is not the most vocal of players, or even as a person. But he delivers performances on the football pitch. He demonstrates a level of professionalism, both on and off the pitch, that I am very proud of. I am proud to have brought somebody of his ilk to this football club."