Opportunity knocks for new-look Nottingham Forest – 2022/23 season preview


Nottingham Forest will end their hiatus from the Premier League this weekend as they travel up to St James’ Park looking to make a positive start after 23 years out of the top flight.

There is little doubting the ambition that owner Evangelos Maranakis has shown since securing Premier League football in May with Forest currently the 7th highest spending European club in this summer’s transfer window with transfers totalling £85 million with still another month to go until the deadline.

It has been a busy summer off the field at The City Ground, with 12 new faces coming through the door and more set to follow as Head Coach Steve Cooper has begun to shape his new-look squad for the challenge that is coming it’s way.

Whilst eyebrows have been lifted across the media, Forest have had little choice but to spend big considering the status of the squad that finished the season. 

Departing loan stars

There is no doubt that Forest are going to be up against it, having been promoted through the Championship Play-Offs at the end of May. All five of their loans, which were hugely instrumental in last season’s success, have not returned despite hope amongst supporters that deals may still yet be struck for Manchester United’s James Garner and Villa striker Keinan Davis.

Wing back Djed Spence, has gotten his move to Spurs from parent club Middlesbrough after catching the eye of Premier League clubs during a rich purple patch of form at the turn of the new year.

Attacking midfielder Philip Zinckernagel joined Forest’s sister club Olympiacos from Watford after he impressed last season but although he was a regular feature, he was yet to convince Cooper that he was worthy of starting in each and every game.

Max Lowe, who initially impressed after joining from Sheffield United, missed the majority of Forest’s push into the top 6 although he did appear in the play-off final at Wembley as a second-half substitute. Without the loans, Forest would not have been promoted given the overall lack of quality in the squad.


With influential goalkeeper, Brice Samba also moving to Lens at the beginning of the window due to feeling undervalued at Forest’s renewed contract offer, and Lewis Grabban deciding not to take up new terms, the holes left in the squad would have ordinarily caused major concern.

Tobi Figueiredo, who has been a reliable asset over the years has moved to Hull City and with Joe Lolley deemed surplus to requirements, Forest’s squad has increasingly looked lighter albeit looking as the right football decisions. 

Xande Silva has departed to Dijon after failing to convince Cooper that he could be more than an impactful substitute. Lyle Taylor, Braian Ojeda and Richie Laryea have all failed to impress over the preseason, and their futures will lie elsewhere with Forest making the step up a level. 

Talking to BBC Radio Nottingham Sport, Cooper reflected on squad movement:

“There have been changes in the squad and there is an inevitability of change. We have had to bring so many players in and it looks like we are changing everything around but we have had no alternative.”

Summer Business

Forest’s business in the transfer window has been impressive and no doubt part of Forest’s plan A recruitment strategy when they were threatening to get into the Championship top 6 back in March 2022.

Jesse Lingard, the marquee signing has certainly captured the imagination of supporters arriving from Manchester United but add into that the arrival of England International goalkeeper Dean Henderson from Old Trafford also, those two players on form alone may well be enough to secure and save points throughout the campaign.

Arriving from Liverpool, Neco Williams (£17m) looks the natural successor to Djed Spence and Matty Cash in the wing-back position and with regular football now on offer and playing with Wales teammate Brennan Johnson, Williams looks to be another tidy signing.

French defender Moussa Niakhaté (£9m), Nigerian striker Taiwo Awoniyi (£18.5m) Belgian midfielder Orel Mangala (£12.8m) and English wing-back Omar Richards (£7m) have all arrived from the Bundesliga with growing reputations.

Niakhaté will be joined by fellow Frenchman, Guilian Biancone, a £5m capture from Troyes whilst one for the future, 19-year-old Chilean youngster Brandon Aguilera (£1m), will arrive in January following the World Cup finals.

Harry Toffolo and Lewis O’Brien, who impressed in the Championship for Forest’s play-off rival Huddersfield Town have opted for a move to the Reds for a combined £10m fee to further their careers.

For Toffolo, it was only four years ago that he was plying his trade for Lincoln City in the fourth tier. With Richards sidelined with a hairline fractured tibia, Toffolo will have a fantastic opportunity to showcase his credentials in the top flight as the first choice left wing-back.

Welsh international goalkeeper, Wayne Hennesey has also joined as back-up from relegated Burnley.

Too many too soon

The obvious concern is that with reduced time for preseason preparations, trying to integrate a new team into the Nottingham Forest way of doing things is going to take time beyond August 6th. Whilst Cooper is still looking to add more quality, he appears satisfied that along with that quality, comes good character which will only help to speed up the bedding-in process.

Niakhaté skippered Mainz back in Germany, O’Brien was vice-captain at Huddersfield and Lingard with 32 England caps (6 goals), and also captained a youthful Manchester United side back in 2019 under Ole Gunner Soljskaer. Despite being a one-off, wearing the armband of the Red Devils is not a stat to be sniffed at as a career highlight for the 29-year-old.

Given the number of new faces, there will also be a degree of unpredictability about the Reds in the opening round of fixtures. Whilst Cooper may not deviate too far away from his preferred 3-4-1-2 formation, he demonstrated last season that he is happy to tweak his set-up to suit the circumstances in front of him. Forest will be an unknown quantity when they line up this weekend.

No nonsense

Although the talk and excitement will be about the new faces arriving in Trentside, Cooper has retained the vital backbone that allowed Forest to progress through the league but also pass Premier League tests in the FA Cup with some excellent showings against Premier League opposition. Considering that holders Arsenal, then League Champions Liverpool and Europa League hopefuls Leicester City only managed two goals between them will give Forest hope that they possess the defensive stubbornness to turn the City Ground into a fortress with sellout crowds expected each week.

Forest’s Player of the Season in the last campaign, Scott McKenna was outstanding in his first injury-free run in the side and combined with Academy graduates Joe Worrall and Ryan Yates sleep, eating and breathing Nottingham Forest, there will at the minimum be setting standards for themselves and new teammates.


What captured the imagination of Forest supporters and many national viewers across the country witnessing their FA Cup exploits was the exciting brand of football that the Reds have been playing.

In front of goal, Forest were simply too good for the majority of opponents faced in the previous campaign but moving up to the next level, the question is can Forest score enough goals to keep them up?

Awoniyi has been brought in having scored 20 goals in the Bundesliga but having lost Grabban and Davis, Forest still look light in the attacking area. Sam Surridge has shown that he is a natural finisher in front of goal provided with the right ammunition and maybe one to look out for this season.

Welsh starlet Brennan Johnson put pen to paper over a new contract during the summer which was another excellent piece of work and he too will be chomping at the bit to play in the Premier League for his local club. Youngster Alex Mighten may also get the opportunity to show what he can do given that Forest’s forward department is still looking short on numbers going into Saturday’s curtain raiser. Cooper has alluded that he is still hoping to bring in three more faces that can fire Forest initially to safety.


There is no doubting that when you look through the squad, every single member has something to prove at Premier League level. Henderson and Lingard will be looking to make Gareth Southgate’s England squad for November’s World Cup finals but both will need to make impressive starts to be considered more than bit-part players.

Aside from those two, none of the other ten arrivals have any Premier League experience.  Jack Colback and Surridge are the only two surviving members of the promotion-winning squad with Premier League experience but both will have more than a point to prove, with the pair being handed a second bite of the cherry when almost a year ago, their careers had stalled. 

There is no doubting the scale of the task ahead of Steve Cooper, but with a coach also with no top-flight experience, siege mentality could well be a decisive factor in keeping Forest up come May 2023.


Planning permission was granted just last week for a new Peter Taylor Stand which has been in much need of development. Not only will the development increase capacity to 35,000 at The City Ground, but the state-of-the-art facilities will also breathe new life into the stadium infrastructure and matchday experience.

Jamie King, Head of Digital Media and Marketing for the NFL has also just taken up post as the club looking to further capitalise on their Premier League status. With Chief Executive Dane Murphy already working his magic since doing an impressive job at Barnsley and Gary Brazil at the helm of the Category One Academy, owner Maranakis is placing his pieces in the right areas.

Forest fans have waited decades to have another shot at the big time. The ‘one club’ philosophy that Cooper has begun to embed since starting last September has already proven successful. Pulling off the next plans of the NFFC blueprint may well catapult him beyond the accomplished hero status. He will be emboldened by his staff, the owner and every supporter along the banks of the River Trent if he can do it again.

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