Following on from Impact Sport’s recent end of season review of Nottingham Forest’s squad; this week we take a look at the Goalkeepers and Defenders who would fill the gaps, and help Mark Warburton’s side challenge for a top six finish.

Goalkeepers

It is highly likely that Vladimir Stojkovic will leave the club in the Summer and that will leave three goalkeepers at the club, Stephen Henderson, Jordan Smith and Dimitar Evtimov. Stephen and Jordan both had good spells last season but neither really struck as being ready to be the number one in a promotion chasing side. It is unknown whether Mark Warburton will look to recruit a goalkeeper in this window but here are a couple of potential options:

Karl Darlow

Darlow is no stranger to Nottingham Forest. Having both come through the Nigel Doughty Academy and also having been the first choice keeper in both the 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 seasons, Darlow would feel right at home if he was lured back to the City Ground. Darlow was arguably one of the best goalkeepers this season and helped take Newcastle to the Premier League. He kept 13 clean sheets in 34 games for Newcastle this season and only conceded 32 goals, an average 0.94 goals conceded per game.

However, Darlow lost his place as number one at St James’ Park towards the end of the season and was displaced by Rob Elliot after the latter returned from a long term injury. Rafa Benitez has already said that he wants to turn Newcastle into a side that mounts a challenge for European football and therefore, considering his controversial decision at the end of the season to drop a goalkeeper who was in fine form, it looks likely that Darlow will not start for Newcastle next season and could be loaned out to gain more experience.

If he could bring Darlow in on a loan deal then this could be an ideal fit for Mark Warburton, as he looks to build a promotion challenging side. However, it all depends on Newcastle’s willingness to let Darlow leave and whether the player wants to leave or stay and fight for his place at St James’ Park.

John Ruddy

In May 2017 Norwich City announced John Ruddy was one of seven players to be released this Summer. On paper, you would be mad not to want Ruddy wearing a Forest shirt next season. He made over 238 appearances for Norwich in a seven-year stint, won their player of the season award on two occasions, and has 1 cap for England, featuring in their Euro 2012 side. Ruddy has a wealth of Premier League experience, and won the Championship Play Off Final against Middlesbrough in the 2014/2015 season.

Mark Warburton loves a free transfer and does not want to break the bank on a new goalkeeper when there are other areas of the squad which need to be looked at in greater detail. Therefore, Ruddy could be an ideal signing. He would give years of experience to young keepers Jordan Smith and Dimitar Evtimov and only help them to improve. However, Ruddy’s wage demands could be the issue and this is something Marinakis (the new Nottingham Forest owner) would have to sanction. If they can acquire his services, then this would be a quality signing for Forest.

The Defence

Forest had the second worst defensive record in the 2016/2017 season as they conceded 72 goals. It is safe to say Forest need to invest heavily in their defence, to insure they have not just quality defenders but also sufficient depth defensively.

Forest chose not to give Dani Pinillos a new contract, which was a very bold move by Warburton. It is also highly likely that Damien Perquis will be on his way out of the City Ground this Summer, having not played under either Gary Brazil or Mark Warburton this season. Jack Hobbs can be a real asset to any defensive rearguard, but it is unlikely he will be able to play regularly given his injury history.

Matt Mills has also been linked with a move this Summer and many Forest fans express the opinion that he is not good enough for a team looking to challenge at the right end of the table. This leaves just Danny Fox, Eric Lichaj, Joe Worrall and Thomas Lam as the only fit senior defenders.

Warburton needs to sign at a handful of defenders given the current squad he has at his disposal. Below are some potential transfer targets:

Gaetan Bong

Bong has just signed a new 1 year deal with Brighton and will look to prove Chris Hughton that he is the man to help Brighton survive relegation this coming season. However, it is highly likely Hughton will look to sign a player with top flight experience.

This could leave Bong on the bench and playing back up next season. Bong is known for his ability to cross the ball with real whip when attacking and is not afraid to get forward, which could tempt Warburton to try and lure him away from Brighton. Bong also possesses the pace and strength to hunt down attacking players and nullify any potential attacks. He could be the ideal all round full back Mark Warburton needs.

Alex Bruce

Hull City recently announced that Alex Bruce would be leaving the club after five years at the KC Stadium. Many argue against this option but we need to address the facts of the man. Bruce has over 250 senior appearances, represented both Republic and Northern Ireland at international level and has also won promotion to the Premier League with the Tigers. Bruce plays similarly to his father, Steve Bruce, and is not afraid to throw himself into challenge. He thrives under pressure, being commended for his performance against Arsenal in the FA Cup Final in 2014. Bruce would offer the experience that is needed in a Forest side and would be a perfect partner alongside Joe Worrall.

Adam Webster

One for the future? Webster only signed for Ipswich in the Summer of 2016 but he has already proven he is one to watch. The young defender (21) made 35 appearances for Mick McCarthy this season. He is known as a ball playing defender and has been dubbed the next John Stones. Mark Warburton likes to build from the back and keep the ball, so this young man could be the perfect fit. In my opinion, Forest should splash the cash on this young man and his promising potential.

Conclusions

Who Mark Warburton decides to bring to Forest in the Summer depends on a number of things:

1) Which positions he chooses to vacate and make room for,

2) How much money he is given by Marinakis to build his side,

3) Where the Manager wants to finish by the close of 2017/2018 season.

These targets may seem too ambitious for some. Forest may well not be challenging at the top end of the table next season. However, I feel that is exactly what Mark Warburton will be looking to achieve. For this, I think he will be given money to spend. Warburton is a man who does not like paying too much for a player and likes to get value for money, an achievable objective should he pursue the signatures of any of these targets.

Look out for Part Two of Impact Sport’s review of potential targets for the Reds, looking at the midfield and attacking departments.

Nick Kaba

Featured image courtesy of ‘Matt Buck’ via Flickr. License here.

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