By Jim Hearson
Nottingham Forest are a mess – in many ways. Wrong end of the table, revolving door on the manager’s office and a scattergun transfer policy. BUT… at least our defenders are wearing the right numbers – albeit with a Portuguese flavour.
We’ve often played with Cyrus Christie, Tobias Figueiredo, Joe Worrall and Yuri Ribeiro wearing numbers 2, 3, 4, 5 (respectively) across the back line, so given the nationality of half of them (plus our dubious dealings with Jorge Mendes), the Portuguese slant on things is forgivable – and after last season, it’s actually welcome.
On our way to bottling a playoff push, we had our right-back (Matty Cash) wearing 11 and Ribeiro wearing 2, while 5 was free. The Cash situation came about by happenstance, as he was intended to play in right midfield, where Steve Stone had worn 11 previously – he was just meant to fill in at right-back, but he absolutely blossomed and ended up staying there.
For the others, they were the result of the constant churn of players at the club. Hillal Soudani had an injury-hit spell on Trentside before being moved on to effective parent club Olympiacos after a year, and despite being a striker, it was the number 2 shirt he vacated for Ribeiro to assume once he joined a week later.
Not a bad number for a left-back – Jim Brennan had worn it previously at Forest, while it was Stuart Pearce’s number at Manchester City – but not ideal. He’d previously worn 5, 15 and 95, so we could guess where he ultimately wanted to end up, but it wasn’t free at the time.
When Ribeiro joined, it was worn by Adlene Guedioura, whose second spell at the club was disappointing in terms of on-pitch results and the fact that he was a playmaker wearing 5 – he could be good, but he was no Zidane – so his release wasn’t met with much emotion from the fans.
It could have made for an interesting discussion at the club, however. Ribeiro’s preference for 5 has been established, but his compatriot Figueiredo seemed to favour it too, having worn 55 throughout his time at Sporting. You’d think he would’ve had first call, having been at Forest longer, but he was seemingly happy with 3, despite it being synonymous with Pearce.
For the other defenders, it appears to have been more straightforward. Worrall took 4 when he returned from his season on loan at Rangers, following in the footsteps of Des Walker and Colin Cooper in wearing the number, as opposed to a defensive midfielder. For Christie, it seems like he just took the number vacated by Cash’s move to Villa – Sammy Ameobi is this season’s 11 and 2 was free on the initial squad list, so it doesn’t take a genius to work out what happened there.
We’ve also got a third centre-half with a starting XI number too, in the form of French youngster Loic Mbe Soh, emulating the heady days of the mid-90s when we had Cooper, Steve Chettle and Carl Tiler sporting 4, 5 and 6, despite us never utilising a back three.
Of course, Forest being Forest, this tidy state of affairs is unlikely to last. In the short-term, recent signing Scott McKenna has been favoured at centre-half alongside Worrall, while in the summer, Christie will probably be off once his loan ends, while there’s bound to be another mass turnover of players, and who knows what numbers they’ll end up with?