The 2014/15 campaign was a tale of two halves for Nottingham Forest, with both, rather frustratingly, following a similar pattern.
Last summer, the return of club icon Stuart Pearce was heralded as the managerial appointment the Reds needed to push them back to where they believe they belong – in the Premier League.
A bright start bode well, but injury issues and questionable leadership ultimately led to Forest’s early momentum falling away and Pearce being ushered through the exit door after just seven months in the post.
The baton was then passed to another former Forest player, not one held in quite the same esteem as his predecessor, but a man that nevertheless knows all about the club and the expectation levels that surround it.
Once again, a fresh face in the dugout delivered immediate results, with a surge under Dougie Freedman rekindling play-off ambitions and landing him an extension to his initial short-term deal.
The Scot, much like Pearce, was unable to maintain that level of success, though, and Forest rather stumbled their way through to the end of the season on the back of an eight-match winless run that delivered six defeats and saw 18 goals conceded.
In fairness, the Reds did face four of the eventual top six during that run, and the side that finished seventh, but they also dropped points – as they had done for much of the season – against teams that they really should have been disposing of.
Former Forest goalkeeper Dave Beasant, who played alongside Freedman during a productive four-year stint at the City Ground, acknowledges that inconsistencies must be ironed out over the summer if the promise of a supportive board and a number of useful Championship performers is to deliver tangible results.
Beasant – who was speaking on behalf of Vauxhall, the England team sponsor – told HITC Sport during a phone interview: “It’s surprising that when he (Freedman) started they were on fire, but for some reason they fell away at the end after thinking that they had a chance of making the play-offs.
“It’s a huge club, Forest, and there is huge expectation there. They have got the players there and they have spent the money, they aren’t shy of doing that. Hopefully Dougie will get it right there and get Forest back into the play-offs.
“The first thing that Forest have to find is that consistency again. On their day they can beat anyone, but also on their day they can lose to anyone. To be towards the top of the table and to be in the automatics and around the play-offs, the losses to the unexpected teams have to be few and far between.”
Forest, despite working under the constraints of Financial Fair Play restrictions, have been linked with a number of possible additions ahead of the summer transfer window.
Getting the right players in will be key for Freedman, with their quality on the playing side having to be complemented by a mental strength that allows them to grind their way through a testing 46-game slog in the second tier and refuse to wilt when the going gets tough – which it inevitably will at some stage.
Dave Beasant was visiting Gordon Saunders Goalkeeping as part of the Vauxhall Football Youth Programme in partnership with Tustain Motors. For more news, views and competitions go towww.vauxhallfootball.co.uk