Chris Hughton admits it has been frustrating not to have built up a relationship with Nottingham Forest fans since taking the reins at the City Ground.
Hughton was appointed as manager of the Reds back in October after succeeding Sabri Lamouchi, but the 62-year-old is yet to manage his side in front of any Forest supporters.
Norwich City and Reading were both allowed to let 2,000 fans into their respective stadiums in wins over the Reds back in December, but Forest haven’t welcomed supporters at the City Ground since their 3-0 defeat to Millwall in March 2020 due to COVID regulations.
This means that Hughton, who has now been in charge of Forest for over six months, is yet to walk down the tunnel and be greeted by a vociferous City Ground crowd, and thus hasn’t had the chance to build a relationship with them away from the stadium.
“I haven’t bumped into many, which is a big frustration,” he told FLW.
“I rent here in Nottingham, but my life is heavily involved around going to the training ground, working, going home and coming back the next day.
“That’s our life. Managers never really tend to go out shopping and get the chance to do other things like that, especially not now. Even if you go into shops or petrol stations, you have to wear a mask anyway.
“I know the city, but not too well, so you’d normally like to go out for a meal and so forth.
“Not meeting the fans has been frustrating, because it’s a big part of going to a new club.
“I certainly look forward to being able to do so.”
Forest fans and Hughton share a common goal – to see the Reds end this season strongly and build momentum heading into next season, ready for the return of supporters.
The Reds currently sit 15th in the Sky Bet Championship table, 10 points clear of the relegation zone with five league matches remaining. They are currently unbeaten in four heading into this weekend’s clash with Huddersfield Town, where they will hope to put another three points on the board.
After being away for so long, fans will be desperate to get back to the City Ground and watch their team live, and a strong end to the season will undoubtedly leave them in high spirits heading into the new season.
“That’s part of it,” Hughton told FLW.
“Ultimately, we always want to do as well as we can for the supporters even though they aren’t able to attend at the moment.
“But it’s mostly about building momentum for the team and for the feel of finishing strong going into the summer. It’s all about mentality, and finishing strong means that we are very capable of competing in this division.”
Forest have a really good chance of ending the season strongly and picking up a decent amount of points.
They have struggled at times this season, but the January additions have really helped them turn a corner and start to control more games.
With winnable games against the likes of Huddersfield, Birmingham and Sheffield Wednesday on the horizon, Hughton will be looking to achieve mathematical safety as soon as possible.