Weblog: The football punter
Lolley can star for Forest in opener against Baggies
Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports Football & Sky Sports Main Event, 5.30pm Saturday
If there’s ever a good time to take on West Brom then week one of the season is probably it. So take a chance on a massively overhauled Nottingham Forest celebrating the dawn of the Sabri Lamouchi reign with three points.
The Baggies make the short trip to Nottingham looking slightly undercooked and as vulnerable as they ever will be.
New boss Slaven Bilic reckons he’s at least three players short, although he wouldn’t be the first manager to bleat about not having enough players.
The fact is that more left the Hawthorns following May’s playoff heartache than have come in and they also have Chris Brunt and Hal Robson-Kanu suspended following late-season misdemeanours.
The biggest absentees are strikers Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez, who between them bagged 45 of their 87 league goals and who are going to prove extremely hard to replace.
Results and performances in pre-season haven't been exactly uplifting so Bilic may well need time to get the Throstles to full throttle.
To that end, Forest look worth a punt even though it’s almost anyone’s guess what side Lamouchi will send out.
The former France international, appointed within minutes of Martin O’Neill being axed, has gone transfer nuts in the summer, purchasing the best part of a new side to add to an already bloated squad.
Lamouchi, who did great things putting Rennes on the map in his previous job, will be looking to get rid of bodies but at the moment it means he’s chronically spoiled for choice.
The likes of Manchester City loanee keeper Aro Muric, talented Portuguese midfielder Tiago Silva and flyers Albert Adomah and Joe Lolley look definites and will be key figures in a team which, if they gel, could be electric.
Lolley is classy. Forest’s player of the year scored 11 times last term and his battle with Kieran Gibbs will be pivotal.
Three of Lolley’s goals came in the last three games, he has looked exceptional during pre-season and the 26-year-old gets the nod to score first. He should certainly get chances against a defence minus the crocked Ahmed Hegazi.
Despite finishing fourth, the Baggies’ had the joint-leakiest defence in the top half of the Championship. Semi Ajayi may improve their rearguard but he wasn’t exactly mistake-free during his time at Rotherham.
J Lolley first scorer