Prior to the recent season suspension, Nottingham Forest were motoring along nicely in their quest to win promotion to the Premier League.
A 3-0 defeat to Millwall at the City Ground had seen them handed a substantial blow in the automatic promotion race; although the play-offs were firmly within their sights.
Football may well return in the coming months but only when it is safe to do so following the health pandemic.
Now seems like an ideal time to look back at the season and given how the 2019/20 campaign has unfolded so far, picking a Player of the Season isn’t an easy thing to do.
With Matty Cash, Joe Lolley, Samba Sow, Brice Samba and Joe Worrall earning rave reviews all season, one other player has quietly but astutely gone about his business.
When Ben Watson was handed the chance to shine in midfield under Sabri Lamouchi it came as a surprise.
One of the criticisms thrown at Martin O’Neill was his persistence to play the ex-Watford man, despite his legs hitting the twilight of their powers.
Supporters needn’t have worried. Watson has been akin to a fine wine this season; with the man labelled the brains of Lamouchi’s team by the man himself, starting all 37 of Forest’s fixtures in the Championship.
Alongside Samba Sow in the middle of the park, Watson has rolled back the years and produced performance after performance for a new look Forest.
Simple but effective is a mantra that embodies the 34-year-old. Get the ball and find a more creative player is clearly his remit from Lamouchi. Without him this season, however, it’s fair to say Forest might not be fifth in the league.
The man who scored a winning goal for Wigan in an FA Cup Final has shown real class.
If anything he has epitomised exactly what the Reds are all about under Lamouchi’s stewardship.
The football under the Frenchman hasn’t always been the most free-flowing but with Watson in command on the pitch, they have claimed some eye-catching results.
Watson’s hardworking commitment to the cause has been the epitome of the never say die team spirit that Lamouchi has been desperate to implement on Trentside.
The midfielder’s contract is due to expire at the City Ground during the summer. His form since August has not only adhered himself to the club’s fanbase but also given the club food for thought of an extension.
There’s a saying that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. With that in mind, Watson’s experience and intelligence have given a new lease of life to the Forest engine room.
Typically when Watson has been on fire, Forest have played well and collected vital points.
Earlier in the season at Stoke, Watson was quality. During a 1-0 win over Derby County, he was superb. Aginst Luton at the City Ground he highlighted his ability and in a draw against West Brom, he kept former England international Jake Livermore out of the contest.
Cash has been a revelation at right-back during 2019/20 and could easily claim the official Player of the Season title.
Likewise, Worrall could win the crown. He has returned from Rangers and alongside Watson, is the only ever-present player under Lamouchi.
New foreign imports Sow and Samba would also be worthy winners for their efforts.
Something about the inspirational Watson gives him the edge though and it’s perhaps the element of surprise.
Before a ball had been kicked this season very few would have wanted the ginger-haired maestro to become a mainstay in the Forest team.
He has proved his critics wrong though. In the league this season he has a pass success ratio of 82.8%; making him one of the divisions most competent with the ball.
Watson has been arguably the club’s most consistent performer during the season and that just about gives him the edge on his competitors for the personal accolade.
The aforementioned Cash, Worrall and Samba might be more fashionable choices for the award.
Putting trend aside, however, it would be the icing on the cake for Watson should he claim a reward that he so richly deserves for his efforts over the last 37 Championship games.
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