Chris Hughton was confirmed as Nottingham Forest’s latest manager earlier this week and he’ll be tasked with, initially, arresting the early slide they’re on before, make no mistake, being expected to put together a promotion challenge either this or next season.
That’s what Hughton does in the Championship and that is why he has been appointed but, naturally, he will want to make his own changes to the squad and so whether he can rally his newly inherited players to achieve something with only a week or so left in a domestic window to change things remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, he’ll add where he thinks he can and Anthony Knockaert’s name has arisen as Hughton flicks through his contact book:
Knockaert has been promoted three times before and importantly – if you know the way Forest work – this one is Hughton's pick. @TheAthleticUK
— Daniel Taylor (@DTathletic) October 7, 2020
A name that creates an almost involuntary sense of excitement for a Championship fan when their side is linked to him, we perhaps need to explore whether he is still the same player as the one once seen as one of the most feared in the second tier.
Indeed, last season for Fulham we saw him play regularly but he could only produce three goals and five assists in the league.
He was left out of the play-off final starting XI for the Cottagers with Neeskens Kebano hitting form and we’ve seen him fall down the pecking order in the months since, with Ademola Lookman arriving whilst the likes of Aboubakar Kamara and Ivan Cavaleiro are ahead of him too.
He’s not played a Premier League game this campaign and looks firmly on the periphery at Craven Cottage, hence the reason Hughton is probably considering a loan deal.
Yesterday’s man, then? Well at 28-years-old that seems a little harsh – he’s certainly got time to enjoy another strong period at the right club and, perhaps crucially here, under the right manager.
When did Knockaert become one of the best players outside of the Premier League? At Brighton under Chris Hughton.
He arrived at the Seagulls midway through 15/16 and bagged five goals and seven assists before kicking on a year later in their promotion-winning season.
16/17 saw him hit 15 goals and set up a further nine as Brighton finally went up but perhaps, since then, we’ve not seen him at that swashbuckling level.
When he arrived at Fulham last season, initially on loan, fans were excited – similar to how Forest supporters are feeling now over the speculation – but inconsistencies and only flashes of what he could do led to frustration as the season wore on.
It’s something Forest fans perhaps need to brace themselves for, then, but with a manager in charge that once got the very best out of the Frenchman you can understand the willingness to take the gamble.
He could well frustrate those at the City Ground but there’s every chance we could see a revival and, as the Reds look to kickstart their season, it’s a bet worth placing.