Left Brian: September

Words: Gareth Watts
Thursday 28 September 2023
reading time: min, words

Our columnist reflects on another month at the City Ground with a look over their transfer window activity and more...


Like most fans I was hoping that the summer transfer window would go some way to consolidating Nottingham Forest’s place as a ‘proper’ Premier League club. Be careful what you wish for, they say.  

At first, I really hoped the Reds would sign Chelsea’s promising young (and let’s not forget, Champions League-winning) winger Callum Hudson-Odoi. Upon signing Manchester United’s speed-merchant Anthony Elanga, I accepted that was probably the last we’d hear of a link with the Chelsea man. Come deadline day… we’d signed them both. Wowsers! 

Rinse and repeat for our top summer target - PSV’s commanding midfielder Ibrahim Sangare. After initial noises, as a fanbase we all assumed he was ‘too big’ for Forest, linked as he was with moves to Bayern Munich and Liverpool. On a personal note, I thought there was no chance of getting him because he’d been on my list of fantasy (completely unrealistic) signings for Forest, way before any rumour or link. Sure enough, our attention turned elsewhere to a loan for Chelsea’s Santos and a swap deal for Bologna’s Dominguez. Decent business. And then, deep into the night of deadline day, the floodlights flashed and Sangare was also announced, for a club record fee in excess of £30million. Blimey! 

The £47million sale of our beloved Brennan Johnson to Tottenham felt sad, yet inevitable. We will never forget Brennan’s two magical seasons in our starting XI. 

Hudson-Odoi, Elanga, Sangare, Santos and Dominguez were joined by striker Divok Origi (another Champions League winner), goalkeepers Matt Turner from Arsenal and Odyseas Vlachidomos from Benfica, left back Nuno Tavares from Arsenal, Brazilian wonderkid Murillo and Irish wonderkid Omobamidele.  

On the pitch: highly creditable, narrow defeats at Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City. A squeaky bum-time winner at home to Sheffield United. A frustrating home draw with Burnley and an incredible victory, to mark my son’s first every away day, at Chelsea. 

And if that was all there was to tell I’d be a very contented boy indeed. Thank you, Mr Marinakis, sir. Significant upgrades in quality all over the pitch: young players with strong track records in elite football – what could there be to complain about? 

Well, maybe this is where the notion of becoming a ‘proper’ Premier League club becomes problematic. Like many fans I’d watched Manchester United’s unnecessarily prolonged, ham-fisted handling of the allegations against their player Mason Greenwood in horror.  

If I had a scintilla of sympathy for United it was that Greenwood had been with them since boyhood and that while they had a duty to improve the messages and prevailing culture around how young male footballers perceived and treated women, it was, at least, not a problem they had consciously brought upon themselves. 

Which is why I find Nottingham Forest’s transfer ‘coup’ of signing right back Gonzalo Montiel, from Sevilla, all the more baffling. In June, Montiel was interviewed by Buenos Aires prosecutors investigating an alleged rape of a young woman at a party at his house in January 2019. Montiel has denied any involvement in an alleged rape. Of course, Montiel is innocent until proven guilty. 

Focusing on Forest, their decision to sign Montiel at this precise moment, amidst such troubling allegations, invites scrutiny of their core values and priorities. Nottingham Forest issued the following statement: “The club has conducted due diligence and we are fully satisfied following conversations with his representatives”.  

If this is how you become a ‘proper’ Premier League club, then send me back to Championship football tomorrow. I frankly couldn’t care how many World Cup winning penalties the player has scored, because I’d far rather we’d have not signed anyone, or, even better, waited for justice to take its course, than to deliberately invite this controversy and to be perceived, even for a second, even mistakenly, as a club who does not have the wellbeing of women and of alleged victims of sexual assault at its heart. 

It says something about how personally upset this has made me, that Forest’s decision to partner with Kaiyun Sports, a ‘digital platform’ to quote the press release euphemism for a gambling company, isn’t even the thing I’ve felt most cross about.  A ‘proper’ Premier League club? Right now, I’m sad to say it feels like that remains to be seen. 

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