As my pen name suggests, I reside in the city of Nottingham in the East Midlands, a son of a proud Geordie who came down with his family, most of whom mined coal.
The company I work for has a few season tickets at Forest and occasionally over the past few years, I have gone along to watch the ‘Tricky Trees’ with some of the lads from work.
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Last season I ended up at about 6 home games, enjoying the banter with those who sit around us – knowing where my loyalties lay, plus of course the subject of the two loaned players was an almost constant source of good natured jibes from both sides.
As I said, I have been to Forest quite a few times in the last few years, I saw Lascelles and Darlow make their way into the team. I have seen them up close and personal against Championship opposition in good football matches and poor, I have listened to the opinions of fans even before they got their ticket up north booked, and here is what I think we can expect from them.
This is not a reaction piece to Lascelles’ defending against York, many of you will know that I have written about him many times before that, it is also not another piece beating young players with a stick, it’s an honest opinion from someone who has seen much of their career develop.
Starting with Jamaal Lascelles.
The lad looked like a huge prospect when he first broke into the first team at Forest, he partnered former Liverpool reserve Captain Jack Hobbs in the heart of defence and started off like a train, he was big, quick and commanding, but raw, he looked like a real find.
The problems started when Hobbs subsequently became injured and suddenly Lascelles didn’t have a vocal partner in the defence guiding him through the full 90 minutes, when he had to make decisions on his own he was found lacking, but it was mostly excused as age and inexperience, understandably.
The following season Lascelles didn’t get to play as much, though when he did he looked a mix of capable and error prone, last season he started the season in the first team and was, frankly, shocking, clumsy, flat footed and one paced.
He wasn’t the only one to blame as Forest seemed to flounder under Stuart Pearce, but he was noticeable in the crowd and was dropped.
Towards the end of the season Jamaal came back into the team under Dougie Freedman and played well, scored a couple of goals and once again seemed comfortable at the side of Hobbs.
Lascelles was talked about by Forest fans as being the ‘next Des Walker’ when he first got into the first team, until his inconsistencies began to show. Now he is regarded as a player whose development reached a plateau and has yet to progress.
Just this morning I was talking to a Forest season ticket holder about writing this piece.
His opinion was that Lascelles would not be the player that Michael Dawson (another former Forest prospect) became, simply because he lacks any football intelligence in terms of positioning, and often relies on being quick enough to get out of trouble – it’s just an opinion.
To counter balance this, it should be noted that Lascelles has been called up to train with the full England squad before, such was his reputed potential, and he is capable of doing things that will really impress people.
My personal opinion on him is that he has everything physically to be a top drawer centre half, but I do worry that mentally he is the next Titus Bramble and always capable of a horrendous error.
We can only hope that at Newcastle his development can kick on again under Steve McClaren, the lad is a beast of a player and certainly not lacking effort in training, it’s just his capacity to understand and anticipate the game which holds him back at the moment.
Darlow is a much more straightforward case, he is a steady keeper of decent ability at a lower standard but nothing special in my opinion.
People say that he is a decent shot stopper but name me a keeper who isn’t? That is their job isn’t it?
In his time at Forest he has been accused of caring more about how he looks for the cameras than working on his game, whilst others have said that he has the ability but not the attitude to be a top drawer keeper, personally I have never seen him be anything other than just ok. Hopefully I am missing something and he can kick on but I really don’t think so.
The hope for both of the new lads is that they step up a level and bring their game forward to become genuine Premier League footballers, I hope so but I’m not convinced.
Lascelles in particular is an interesting case as he could be incredible or he could be Bramble, the decision lies with him.