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Potential Nottingham Forest XI if they had kept their best players

Nottingham Forest's Oliver Burke celebrates scoring their third goal

How would Nottingham Forest's starting lineup look now if they had kept hold of their brightest prospects?

General view inside the City Ground

Fawaz Al-Hasawi's tenure as chairman of Nottingham Forest has been tumultuous to say the least, and his relationship with the fans reached boiling point following the sale of Oliver Burke to RB Leipzig on transfer deadline day.

The 19-year-old was just one in a long line of talents that the club have opted to cash in on for short term gain. The £13 million fee is by all means sizeable for a relatively young and unproven player, but his dazzling performances for the Reds so far make the sum look rather meagre to most supporters of the club right now.

Forest are obviously not the club they once were under Brian Clough when they lifted European Cups, but they remain a proud and well-supported club nonetheless. The lack of ambition shown by the club's board over the sale of Burke is certainly disheartening, but few fans could honestly say they were surprised a the move. Similar situations have occurred in the past such as the sales of Michail Antonio and Jamaal Lascelles, and the failures to tie Garath McCleary and Luke Chambers down to new contracts before they left on free transfers.

The Reds have seldom been lacking in talented players at the City Ground, where it be from new acquisitions or academy products. Frequently however, Forest's owners have given into the temptation of relatively large cash sums in return for players with potentially big futures. 

The difference in calibre of Philippe Montanier's current side and a possible team featuring former stars, is stark. Here is look at how Forest's starting XI could look if they had held on to their best players in recent years.

Nottingham Forest's Dorus De Vries

Dorus De Vries (GK)

Last year's Player of the Season and winner of three Player of the Month awards in a season where the Reds struggled overall makes Dorus De Vries the prime choice for the number one jersey, and just edges him in front of Karl Darlow.

The Dutchman was initially signed as cover for Darlow but an injury to the young stopper in April 2014 and his subsequent move to Newcastle United the season after meant that De Vries became a common sight between the sticks at the City Ground. His loyalty to the club where he only enjoyed one season out of three as the first choice was appreciated by the Forest fans, and recognised by the 35-year-old who issued a statement explaining his departure when he left for Celtic.

Wales' Chris Gunter in action with Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas

Chris Gunter (RB)

The Welshman came to the East Midlands via an unsuccessful spell at Tottenham after impressing in his first two seasons at Cardiff City. His 74 Wales caps show the high regard he has been held in since his international debut at the tender age of 17.

His ability to play on either side of the defence also help make him the valuable asset that he was to Nottingham Forest in his four seasons with the club. In 2009-10 his good performances earned him a place in the PFA Championship Team of the Year, but his form did not go unnoticed and Brian McDermott was sufficiently impressed to take him up to the Premier League with his Reading outfit in 2012 for a fee in the region of £2.3 million.

Wes Morgan celebrates after scoring the first goal for Leicester

Wes Morgan (CB)

Leicester's title-winning captain spent 10 years at the City Ground before making the switch across the East Midlands that he could never have imagined, a move which culminated in last season's success. He also captained Forest during his time at the club, although he wasn't made the official club captain until a year before his departure.

As a youngster at the City Ground, it didn't take long for Paul Hart to notice the imposing centre-half, whom he even asked to lose weight before handing him his first-team debut. Morgan suffered highs and lows at Forest, with relegation to League One in 2005 and promotion back to the Championship in 2008. However, his performances over a long period with Forest and Leicester were recognised by an inclusion in the PFA Team of the Decade (2005-2015) as well as his penultimate season with the Reds in 2010-11 when he featured in the PFA Championship Team of the Year.

As if his exploits with the club where he made his name are not enough to warrant his selection at the hear of defence, his achievements since then with Leicester more than prove that Philippe Montanier would love to still have him at the club. 

Everton's Ross Barkley is brought down in the area by Newcastle United's Jamaal Lascelles resulting in a red card to Lascelles and a penalty to Everton

Jamaal Lascelles (CB)

The relatively young defender has been highly sought-after even before he turned professional and begun playing in the Forest first team. Even as early as January 2011, when Lascelles was only 17 and still two months before he signed professional papers, Arsenal saw his potential and made an offer of £5 million which was promptly rejected. Other clubs also came calling for the 22-year-old. First Everton expressed an overzealous interest which saw them receive a £10,000 fine and Lascelles himself warned. QPR also had a £4 million bid rejected.

However, overtures from other clubs were not to be ignored forever, unfortunately for the supporters. His reputation, his promise shown in a Forest shirt and the fact he had represented England at every youth level from Under-18 to Under-21 meant that it was only a matter of time before an offer arrived that could not be rebuffed, this time from Newcastle.

Lascelles has found life at St. James' Park a hard adjustment, only making his first start for the Magpies earlier this year. But now with the club down in the Championship and in need of a new lease of life under Rafa Benitez, Lascelles has finally found himself a regular and been named club captain. The promise the fans at the City ground had seen is looking like it may well be fulfilled, and many will be cursing that he plies his trade for Newcastle rather than the club that made him.

Wigan Athletic's James Perch is fouled by Sheffield Wednesday's Caolan Lavery (R) for a penalty

James Perch (LB)

Perhaps an odd choice, but his 190 appearances in red might deserve a selection here. Perch has been deployed as a left-back among several other positions in his career. Like Morgan, he was a trainee with Forest and spent a long time in Nottingham, six years in total, before moving to Newcastle in 2010.

His career didn't begin on the best footing, with Forest dropping out of the Championship and into League One, but he was involved in all three seasons in England third tier and helped guide the club to promotion back up. If anything Perch has only matured as a player with the experience he has gained since leaving the City Ground, and would no doubt strengthen the back line.

Nottingham Forest's Oliver Burke in action with Brighton's Liam Rosenior

Oliver Burke (RM)

At this point, many readers and Forest fans alike may be sick of hearing about the sale of Burke to RB Leipzig, but it's for that reason that he is now in this proposed team rather than the team that will face Aston Villa on Sunday. The 19-year-old, whose future seems extremely bright after only 13 games, was the first name on the teamsheet. The winger, who has already been compared to Gareth Bale, has thrilled spectators from the first goal he scored for the club, an exquisite curling effort with the outside of his foot.

Burke really began to dazzle this season, with four goals already this season prior to his controversial departure. His displays had earned him praise and interest from all around but particularly from the Premier League. Having retained the player for almost the entire transfer window up until the final day, fans could have been forgiven for believing they had hung on to their most exciting prospect in years.

Nottingham Forest's Henri Lansbury celebrates

Henri Lansbury (CM)

Lansbury's career had been disjointed in the extreme before he finally found his feet at the City Ground. Having made his debut for Arsenal in 2007, he has been on loan no fewer than four times and only played 100 games before 2012; only three of those were for the Gunners.

However, since making the move to the East Midlands he has cemented his place in the centre of Forest's midfield and shown a commitment to the club that has been lacking from previous players. He has recently been outspoken on social media, tweeting that he "wished he could tweet" on transfer deadline day after the news of Burke's sale broke. He also openly supported Dexter Blackstock after the club controversially discarded the striker. While the Reds have let go of their fair share of talented personnel, this 25-year-old is one they have kept hold of and he still has plenty of football ahead of him.

Nottingham Forest Chris Cohen in action against Derby County's Craig Bryson

Chris Cohen (CM)

Alongside Lansbury in central midfield is another current player, a long-serving member of the squad and the captain. Chris Cohen has had a career plagued by injuries and therefore not played as much for Forest as you might expect in his 10 seasons at the club. However, his commitment to the club has been demonstrated time and time again, having come back from three knee ligament injuries and still giving everything for the team in aggressive all-action displays.

His consistently good performances while fit and leading the club by setting an example on the field have endeared him to fans, and seen his place in the team and as captain go unchallenged despite several managerial changes since he earned the role in 2013. The West Ham youth product has won Forest's Player of the Year award on two occasions in 2008-09 and 2012-13 and the 29-year-old looks set to lead the team through one of its best campaigns in recent years after a good start to the season with three wins from the first five games.

West Ham United's Michail Antonio celebrates scoring their first goal

Michail Antonio (LM)

Possibly the most high-profile name in the lineup after his scintillating last 12 months with West Ham and the England call-up it earned him last week. Antonio had a chequered career before establishing himself at Forest and his subsequent move to East London. He played for six clubs between 2007 and 2014, including non-league Tooting and Mitcham.

An atypically physically strong winger who is useful in the air but still possesses all the pace and mazy dribbling ability associated with his position, he quickly became a favourite at the City Ground. His direct style was encapsulated by a sublime solo goal against Bolton Wanderers in February 2015 when he ran from inside his own own half and drove through the midfield and past the defence before smashing the ball into the corner of the net.

Unfortunately performances like that did not go unnoticed and before long, West Ham came knocking and yet another starlet was sold.

Joe Garner celebrates scoring the first goal for Preston North End from the penalty spot

Joe Garner (ST)

Garner was never really given the opportunity to establish himself as a prime striking option for the Reds. Managers came and went while he was on the books at Forest but he was often limited to covering more senior strikers such as Robert Earnshaw, Dexter Blackstock and Nathan Tyson - or filling in out of position on the right wing. However, he still managed to show off some of his goalscoring ability in his time at the club which saw him loaned out twice. In the 48 appearances he made for the club he netted nine times.

However, his career really took off when he moved to Preston North End and scored 49 goals in League One and the Championship before securing a to Rangers last month. Therefore this selection is more based on his success since leaving Forest, and the striker he has become, than his performances at the City Ground.

This selection can almost be discounted though, since we all know that Nicklas 'Lord' Bendtner will now finally score the goals his talent has always promised and earn his place as a legend, right?

Nottingham Forest's Britt Assombalonga and Hull City's Sam Clucas in action

Britt Assombalonga (ST)

The explosive striker has incredibly only played 36 times for Nottingham Forest, and yet is widely seen as most valuable and crucial player. That is no small part due to his goal tally, with 19 goals to date. His goalscoring prowess was a poorly kept secret though, with 23 in 43 for Peterborough before a £5 million deal took him to the East Midlands.

Of course the former Watford trainee would have more games and surely goals to his name had it not been for an lengthy and unfortunate injury in February 2015 which kept him out for 14 months, with the 23-year-old only seemingly returning to near full fitness this season.

Recent omissions of Assombalonga from Forest's lineup caused panic among supporters, fearing that he shared the same fate as Oliver Burke. Although he has remained a Red after this transfer window, Assombalonga is likely to continue attracting suitors, especially if his goalscoring tally reaches its pre-injury levels. He is probably the most likely key player that the club will lose next.

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