FOLLOWING in the footsteps of some famous Forest strikers won’t be an easy task for £5.5million record signing Britt Assombalonga – just ask Dougie Freedman.
The Wanderers boss turned out for today’s opponents during a stormy time in their history, playing under four different managers in just over two years.
He arrived from Wolves in August 1999 with a £950,000 price tag but could not stop Forest slipping out of the Premier League.
Dave Bassett, Ron Atkinson, Micky Adams and David Platt failed to get the club promoted during his stay – a task that has also eluded the 15 different managers at the City Ground ever since.
But Freedman feels Stuart Pearce, backed by hard cash from the club’s Kuwaiti ownership, has the best chance of the lot.
The former England Under-21 boss smashed the club’s transfer record to sign Assombalonga from Peterborough United as part of a near-£10million spend this summer.
But Freedman has warned that wearing the number nine shirt at Forest does carry with it its own pressures.
“Knowing Forest as I do, I know there is a massive expectation on the players but particularly the strikers,” he told The Bolton News.
“Going back you’ve had Pierre Van Hooijdonk, Stan Collymore, Teddy Sheringham, Nigel Clough, Gary Birtles – there is a lot to live up to there.
“At Forest I felt a lot of expectation; it’s frightening when you think about it.
“Stuart Pearce knows that and he’s gone out and not only signed Assombalonga for a lot of money but also Matty Fryatt and another couple to give himself options.
“He’s a Forest legend and he knows exactly how that place works. He knows what they are up against.”
Forest have made a steady start, winning their first two games in league and cup.
Almost exactly a year ago, Wanderers lost 3-0 in Nottingham to trigger a record-breaking poor start – a result that also sent Billy Davies’s side sky-rocketing towards the top of the Championship.
They failed to stick around the top six, Davies paying with his job at the end of last season, but Freedman believes Pearce’s side are a very different prospect.
“They had a home game against Blackpool and you’d think that would be a winnable one,” he said.
“They are totally different this year. I think Stuart has been on record as saying his side are more powerful and pacy, whereas Billy’s was more of a tactical approach.
“We watched them and the depth Stuart has got in his squad is pretty much as good as you’ll get in the Championship.
“He can play two teams and two benches with good quality players at this level of football.
“It’s hard to know what side he will pick but in the last few weeks he’s picked up Chris Burke, Michail Antonio and Britt Assombalonga to give him that confidence boost. It’s something I’m trying to do – get those attacking players in as the final piece of the jigsaw. But with £8m it’s a bit easier to do.
“It’s a very difficult game but they have got some weaknesses that we’ll look to exploit.”
After watching his own side put in mediocre performances in the first half against Watford and Bury, Freedman admits he is expecting a much better start this afternoon at the Macron.
“It has been addressed,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say it has been a worry but it did sneak up on us at Watford – I didn’t think that would happen after what I’d seen over the summer.
“Hopefully the start will be a lot better than it has been over the last two games.”