Football League Expert & Columnist
Fighting Forest fires
New manager, same issues... Peter Beagrie looks at Forest's woes and the form of their local rivals.
Last Updated: 29/09/11 5:38pm
Nottingham Forest may have changed their manager, but the same old mutterings are coming out of the club.
I thought Billy Davies did a fantastic job there and was surprised when he got the push. The directors obviously thought it was a massive coup to bring in a former England manager, but perhaps they overlooked the fact he's been away from English domestic football for five years.
Forest had been building a squad of young talent, but McClaren went back to what he knew by bringing in more mature players like Jonathan Greening, George Boateng and Andy Reid. That went against the speedy, fluent style of the players already there.
They had a solid defence last season and it was great to watch players like Lewis McGugan and Paul Anderson on the break, but it all seems to have fallen apart now. There seems to be discontent in the dressing room and there are rumours that players aren't happy with the training methods.
It has become a massive task for McClaren after that 5-1 hammering against Burnley. You would expect players like Clint Hill, Wes Morgan and Luke Chambers to deal with crosses into the box, but four of the goals were conceded in that fashion on Tuesday night.
They were making errors as individuals and as a collective and they could have been 5-0 down by half-time. You hope that was a one-off - they'd played well in a 1-0 win at Watford last Saturday - but you can't ignore the fact they are fifth bottom after nine games.
Their fans were hurt by their defeat at home to 10-man Derby and McClaren may need to appease them by changing his style. Perhaps he will bring players like McGugan back into the side and play more counter-attacking football. They certainly needed more midfield energy in the game against Burnley.
On Thursday, it was announced that David Pleat has stepped down from his part-time consultancy role and a new structure is in place with chief scout Keith Burt becoming the director of recruitment and scouting.
I don't know if McClaren was involved in those changes, but I'm sure Billy Davies will tell you it's come a year too late. There have long been complaints over the club's transfer policy and it will be interesting to see if that now changes.
But in the short term they need to address their issues on the pitch, starting with the weekend clash with Birmingham City.
The misery of the Forest fans will be compounded by the good form of their local rivals.
After a slow start, Leicester have gone eight games unbeaten and seem to be coming to the boil. Their midweek draw with Middlesbrough was another good result.
The Leicester treatment room has resembled Emergency Ward Seven this season, so it's a good job they're the Manchester City of the Championship and can afford to support a massive squad.
In the competitive environment of the Championship that is a huge advantage and that's why cleverer people than me have tipped them and West Ham to come through over the course of a 42-game season.
We've seen players like Kasper Schmeichel, Matthew Mills, Sol Bamba, Yuki Abe and Richie Wellens do well so far and when they get their other big names off the injury list then Sven-Goran Eriksson will have a tremendous headache over his team selection.
The squad is packed with quality and there are experienced players like Michael Ball and Sean St Ledger who can't even get on the bench. That bodes well for their promotion hopes.
Meanwhile, I felt Derby County would have the opposite problem. I was concerned about the size of their squad and I think Nigel Clough has done a remarkable job to get them into third place.
However, I won't judge them until after 15 games. They had a phenomenal start last year and drifted away because of a lack of steel. They had some lovely footballers who could dominate games, but sometimes they lacked the organisation and physicality to cope when they weren't in possession.
They got bullied more than any other side last year, but have made a great acquisition in Jason Shackell and the back four - plus goalkeeper Frank Fielding - have been tremendous this term.
They have creative players in front of them, but the likes of Ben Davies also have the energy to get back and help in defence. In attack, Steve Davies has hit the ground running with five goals so far and they've only failed to score in one of their nine league games.
This is their best start to a season since 1969/70 when the manager was also called Clough. Under Brian they won five and drew four of their first nine games so Nigel is matching his father.
But following a good start, this is a crucial stage of the season. They play Leicester away on Saturday followed by Southampton (h), Reading (a), Middlesbrough (a) and Cardiff (h). That's a big sequence of fixtures and I will judge them after those.
If you were to ask me which of the three East Midlands teams will finish highest I would choose Leicester, as I have all along.
However, I didn't expect Derby to start so well. A lot of the bookies had them among the favourites for relegation and Clough among the favourites to be the first manager sacked.
So he can be proud of the job he's done and it's nice to see a good guy prove everybody wrong.
What else we learned this week
This is the most competitive the Championship has ever been... We say it every year, but this season it seems the teams that have come up are doing just as well as the teams that have come down. Plus you've got sides like Crystal Palace and Derby who struggled last year, but they're doing very well right now.
If Middlesbrough sort their home form out then the other teams should start to worry... Another home draw shows the level of consistency they have achieved under Tony Mowbray, but as a perfectionist he won't be totally satisfied. They can be pleased with the progress they are making under him.
Old ones are often good ones... Cardiff's Kenny Miller proved that point as his goals helped to de-rail Southampton's storming start. Nigel Adkins will be disappointed by that defeat, but he can be pleased with the attitude of his players as the battled back into the game.
All change at Doncaster... Sean O'Driscoll took Doncaster a long way against the odds, but the chairman has taken a calculated gamble in replacing him with Dean Saunders, who is the polar opposite to his quietly-spoken predecessor.
Deano is one of the funniest men I have ever met... I struggled to get a word in edgeways when we were at Bradford together and he always had stories to tell. He's got a few impressions in his locker too; from Big Ron to Bobby Gould he can do the lot!
He's a good manager too... He did a great job under financial restrictions at Wrexham after learning his trade in the backroom staff at Blackburn and Newcastle. He can pass his domestic and international experience on to his players and is a great communicator with a sense of fun. The Doncaster lads will notice a few changes, hopefully for the better, and I wish him all the best. Four points from a possible six was a great start for him.