Former Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Mark Crossley believes left-back Gaetan Bong remains as a trusted member of the East Midlands side’s first team as he spoke in an interview with Football FanCast, though he admitted the 33-year-old was at fault for Derby County’s opening goal at the end of last month.
The Cameroonian was recruited by Sabri Lamouchi from Brighton & Hove Albion in January 2020, but failed to make a real impression at the City Ground and was told he could leave the club just a matter of months after his arrival.
However, former boss Lamouchi was sacked just four league games into the 2020/21 campaign with Chris Hughton being appointed his successor and this gave Bong a new lease of life at the Championship side.
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The duo had previously worked together at Brighton, with the Irishman signing the left-back in 2015 after the expiration of his contract at Wigan Athletic.
In his first season on the south coast, he helped the Seagulls to vastly improve on their 20th-place finish from the previous campaign, guiding the now-Premier League side to 3rd before losing out to Sheffield Wednesday in the play-off semi-finals.
But they went one step further during 2016/17 and secured automatic promotion to the Premier League, with Bong making 24 league appearances during that campaign and becoming an even more regular player in the top flight during the following two seasons.
He may have fallen out of favour at the Amex Stadium eventually, but he’s now back with Chris Hughton at the City Ground and will be hoping to fend off new arrival Max Lowe to retain his spot in the starting lineup.
Delivering his verdict to Football FanCast on whether Chris Hughton will keep faith in Bong after recruiting Sheffield United man Lowe on a temporary deal, ex-Forest man Mark Crossley said: “He’s someone the manager trusts, because he brought him in.
“He’s had him before, at Brighton, so he just looked a little bit out of position for the (Derby) goal for me.”
Chris Hughton needed to trust Bong with Yuri Ribeiro and Tyler Blackett’s departures in the summer, leaving him as the only orthodox option at left-back until Lowe came in.
You could argue youngsters Fin Back and some of the other right-backs may have been able to fill in on the left, along with natural centre-back Loic Mbe Soh, but the Cameroonian is the most suited to this position with a strong left foot and his knowledge of this position from over the years.
However, it wouldn’t be impossible to see him frozen out of the first team with the number of right-backs that are currently at Hughton’s disposal.
Back, Carl Jenkinson and new signings Jordi Osei-Tutu, Djed Spence (both loans) and Mohamed Drager are all natural options there and at least three of those will be looking for regular football.
To solve this issue, Bong may be dropped with one or two of the right-backs moving over to the left to provide Lowe with fierce competition, especially after clearly being at fault for Derby County’s goal in their last league game.
Middlesbrough loanee Spence has played on the left before, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him move over in a bid to get more minutes under his belt.