By 90Min
July 28, 2019

Every good Championship campaign needs a dark horse, an outsider for promotion who stuns the league competition. Last season saw Norwich rocket from mid-table mediocrity to runaway champions. 

The season before we were privy to Fulham's remarkable turnaround and it was David Wagner who beat the odds with Huddersfield the year prior to that. That's not to mention passion projects like Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds, who came so close but fell short last season.

The gulf in quality between the top and bottom is arguably smaller than any other league often, making for a thrilling chase for promotion with anything from 15-16 teams harbouring serious promotion ambitions going into the season. 

Nottingham Forest are one of the sleeping giants of English football having spent the last 20 seasons outside the top flight. But Forest fans have plenty to be hopeful for in the coming campaign and they could be the dark horses for promotion this season. Here's why...


The Owners Will Accept Nothing Less Than Success

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Both Aitor Karanka and Martin O'Neill may feel hard done by to have dismissed from their position but the Forest owners demand success. Karanka was told at the start of the campaign that should Forest be outside the playoffs at the half-way point, it would cost him his job.

Come January, Forest were one place and four points shy of the target and the board pulled the trigger on the Spaniard with O'Neill being announced as his replacement. But the Irishman was also unable to make up the difference, finishing ninth before also losing his job. 

The club have appointed an unknown in Sabri Lamouchi, which could give Forest an edge when the campaign kicks off. He doesn't have the best managerial record but he'll know taking the job that nothing less than promotion will keep him in employment, which is a powerful motivator. 


 Lewis Grabban Has Had a Year to Settle

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The nomadic forward has always been one of the Football League's most prolific attacking threats, earning promotions with MilwallBournemouth and Norwich. He's had a turbulent few years since stepping up to the Premier League, including a miserable spell at Sunderland. 

And it took him a while to find his feet following his initial switch to Nottingham Forest but he showed his prowess once he hit the ground running. A run of 15 goals from 15 games catapulted him amongst the league's top scorers but he suffered after the departure of Karanka, scoring just twice under O'Neill for an overall inconsistent season. 


He's had a full year to settle now though, and more of an attacking focus will likely be built around him. Plus, he's already proven more than capable of firing a club to promotion. 


They Have One of the Strongest Midfields in the League

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A lot of praise goes towards the players at the opposite ends of the pitch for both scoring and preventing goals. But an excellent midfield can be the foundation of a great side and there are few better at this level.

Joao Carvalho was one of the biggest signings in the Championship last summer, arriving for over £13m. He didn't have the impact some would have expected but like Grabban he's had a year to settle and could easily hit the ground running this season.

He'll be playing alongside another of the league's best attacking-midfielders Joe Lolley, who bagged 11 goals and 11 assists last season. Add to that more conservative players like Matty Cash, Claudio Yacob and Jack Colback, who they'll most likely be welcoming back for a third season.

They've lost Ben Osborn but there are a few impressive squad outsiders who could be welcomed back into the fold - including Liam Bridcutt and 2019 Africa Cup of Nations winner Adlene Guedioura. 


They've Added Some Shrewd Signings

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A club's prospects are only as good as their summer business sometimes and Forest were certainly still in need of recruitment to make the jump from ninth to top six. They haven't been able to spend as much as last season, with the league clamping down on Financial Fair Play regulations.

Shrewd business has been done though - particularly in acquiring Albert Adomah, who was one of the most desirable free agents on the market for Championship sides. After helping Middlesbrough to the Premier League in 2016, he moved to Aston Villa - where he scored 22 goals in three seasons, again culminating in promotion.

They've also extended their scouting into the Portuguese market, with three potentially exciting arrivals. Benfica duo Alfa Semedo and Yuri Ribeiro have joined to bolster the defensive options, whilst Tiago Silva has added to their attacking-midfield threat.

Silva scored three goals and contributed five assists in the Primeira Liga last season - and he could compliment his compatriot Carvalho nicely as Forest bid to get more out of him.

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