David Marples: Neil Lennon. Lenny. Len. The Lenmeister. Leninho. It all seems to be going swimmingly since he waltzed into the hot chair. Save your ire towards his predecessor for later if you can but in the meantime, what's he done to rectify things?
Chris Manning: He brought things back to basics, back to what we ‘think’ Bolton Wanderers represents as a club. We’re now snappy in the tackle and we’re quick on the counter – something that Dougie and his tactics took away. We’d often sit back and invite teams to attack us without having an outlet to counter. Lennon has made some common sense changes and we’re benefitting in every position.
DM: It looks like you've got some defensive issues, what with conceding four times in the last five matches. Admittedly, two of these heavy concessions came against decent sides (Watford and Derby) but you also managed to ship four against Rotherham United. Even without Britt Assombalonga, we've got a chance of scoring, haven't we?
CM: The trouble all along has been that with Freedman’s preference for loans, we were always going to be left short once those loans expired. That’s why we’ve got part time defensive midfielder and natural centre half Tim Ream at left back, and our most promising midfielder Josh Vela filling in at right back. We’re putting square pegs in round holes to do a job until the end of the season when Lennon can go out and bring in players that he wants for these positions. We’ve been linked with Adam Matthews and Emilio Izaguirre of Celtic who are RB and LB naturals themselves. I think this will be a high scoring game and even without your main striker, I’d fancy you to get at least one consolation goal.
DM: That Zach Clough...care to loan him out to us? After all, were he to score for us, he could celebrate in front of the Brian Clough Stand and be snapped holding his arms aloft in such a way that the 'Brian' is obscured and it looks like he's had a Stand named after him. He looks good, doesn't he?
CM: We’ve not had too many graduates from the youth team of late – the Premier League years were too ‘high stakes’, and the recent struggles in this league have had similar consequences meaning managers haven’t put any faith in the Academy graduates. Freedman gave lip service to that – blooding one or two for 45mins here and there, but then banishing them to the reserves again. Lennon seems to have the stomach to give them a chance and then to keep them in the side. Young Zach is wonderful. He has been ready for two years, but Dougie refused to play him despite often talking him up in the local press. His development has been fantastic to see and I just wish that he’d have had a chance when he was 17. He’s only a little lad, and he’s destined for bigger things. He reminds me of a young Joe Cole – lots of tricks, but lots of finesse at the same time. You’ll notice that he’ll never blast the ball – he always weights his pass perfectly, and the same goes for his shots. He’s a fine prospect and I just hope we can keep him for a couple of years before he moves on. Maybe with a stand of his own at the Reebok.
DM: That’s interesting since Freedman gave youngster Oliver Burke a debut last Saturday. Maybe he’s more prepared to give youth a chance, or maybe he has little option to do so here at Forest. Despite playing some pretty woeful teams in his first three games, we've done pretty well and feel a whole lot better about not becoming embroiled in a relegation battle. So to the rub of the matter; you've been fairly scathing regarding Dougie Freedman: "with a goal difference of minus...struggling defensively all season...I put the blame at the door of former manager Dougie Freedman." And here's another one: "Plainly put, the man is clueless." Can we expect some derogatory chants aimed towards his general direction?
CM: Your initial success doesn’t surprise me – as I mentioned previously he’s clearly a good organiser of teams. I just don’t think he has much nous in the transfer market (not a problem for him here) nor do I think that he has the personality to win over ‘big’ dressing rooms full of characters and egos. I think the chants aimed towards the manager will be frequent and not for the faint-hearted. When a fanbase thinks that the manager has disrespected the club and its heritage then that’s the sort of insult that sticks in the mind. I know that he tried his best, and that he wasn’t rubbish on purpose, so there’ll be none of that from me, but I sincerely hope and pray that we just do not lose. I think both teams are safe from the drop, so it’s ‘merely’ pride at stake. There isn’t really a precedent, as when Sam Allardyce left we all felt too heartbroken to react when he came back, and we haven’t had the chance to give Gary Megson his just desserts yet either, so I do think it’ll be hostile and that the way the game goes will dictate just how hostile it can be.
DM: Gary Megson…. don’t, just don’t. And so, with the inevitability of another key Forest player limping off the pitch to the accompanying mutterings of 'looks like a serious one', we come to the part where we offer up some sort of prediction. After the goal bonanza that was Valentine's Day for both teams, this one's got 0-0 plastered all over it.
CM: I really sympathise. We’ve barely had any short-term injuries this season. Missing the likes of Craig Davies, Adam Bogdan and Mark Davies for months at a time has hampered whatever hopes we might have had about reaching the play-offs. Assombalonga is clearly a good player and I can only hope from a Bolton point of view that his loss is keenly felt. I don’t want to call out Matty Fryatt as a bad’un because then he’s guaranteed to score – but I have no idea who else you could call upon. Is Matt Derbyshire still there? Never liked his tattoos. I think it’ll be a high-scoring draw, say 2-2, or you’ll win and I’ll never speak to you again.
DM: That would be a shame. Regarding Matty Derbyshire, he’s in the midst of a Groundhog Day season at Rotherham: initially impressive, failed to score for ages, reduced to a bit part player but now banging them in for fun – weirdly mirroring his performance last season with us. Get some money on Fryatt to bag a hat-trick.