Speaking to Stuart Pearce before the season began, the new Nottingham Forest manager was adamant that his focus would remain on all three competitions that his side had entered. It would be foolish, Pearce insisted, to rule out the Capital One Cup or the FA Cup before they had even begun. Victories and success were addictive, was the rallying cry, and a setback in one competition could well impact on Forest's Championship form .
That is, of course, a very admirable stance to take, but one easier to promote in pre-season than when an arduous campaign has begun to take its toll on a squad. SSpeaking to the Nottingham Post before Forest’s third round trip to White Hart Lane to face Premier League Tottenham, Pearce’s stance seemed to have taken on an altogether different slant.
"The games come thick and fast for us. I would say that we are going to rest one or two players, but that is not the right way of putting it. Not at all. We have a few players who have been patient and waiting for their chance to play and that is the ideal game for one or two of them to come in and play their part.
"I have to trust the whole squad and I have so many fixtures coming up. Spurs is a great game for us, in the cup, and it might be the chance to have a look at one or two who have been patient. It might be a chance for them to show what they can do."
The manager’s deprioritising of the League Cup is understandable given the fitness issues that have again begun to ebb away at the Forest first-team squad – it feels like it was ever thus. The club’s official site lists Chris Cohen, Matty Fryatt, Jack Hobbs and Andy Reid as currently suffering from injuries.
There must also be a strong temptation on Pearce’s part to omit the likes of Britt Assombalonga, Michail Antonio and Michael Mancienne from his starting side. These have been the top performers so far this season, but with a daunting run of Championship fixtures coming up (Brighton, Wigan, Ipswich, Cardiff, Watford and Blackburn are our next six league opponents), one could forgive Pearce for seeing Spurs as little more than an annoyance.
The beneficiaries of such a schedule, at least on Wednesday, could include Dan Harding, Lars Veldwijk, Jamie Paterson and Jamaal Lascelles, who share just 294 minutes of Championship action so far this season.
Whilst the travelling support on Wednesday (Forest have sold out their allocation at White Hart Lane) may prefer to see a side picked with the best intention of further progression in the draw, there can’t be many that would assess the Capital One Cup as anything other than the club’s lowest priority competition. Keep your eyes on the real prize, would be the presumed message from Pearce and the club.