Nottingham Forest defender Joe Worrall has recently come out and insisted that midfielder Ben Watson receives unfair criticism from fans, after what has been a positive start to the season for the East Midlands side.
The Reds have won two of their first six games in the Sky Bet Championship and are currently embarking on an unbeaten run of seven matches in all competitions, with Watson establishing himself as a very important player under Sabri Lamouchi.
But after becoming the subject of criticism from Forest fans in the early stages of the season, Joe Worrall has jumped to the defence of his teammate, telling the Nottingham Post that Watson receives “a lot of unnecessary flak” from supporters.
He said: “Ben Watson has been brilliant at the start of this season – he takes a lot of – in my opinion – unnecessary flak from some of the supporters.
“He’s someone who is very reliable and brilliant to have around the dressing room. You look at the performances he put in during pre-season; they earned him the right to play in the first few games.
“He’s another leader, another captain figure in the team – him and Michael Dawson. Long may it continue.”
As Forest prepare to travel to Wales to face table-toppers Swansea City this weekend, FLW writer George Harbey discusses Watson’s start to the season, and whether he deserves the criticism from Forest fans.
Firstly, what have you made of Watson’s start to the season?
“I think he has been one of the unsung heroes in all honesty.
“There have been better players than him, but he is one of them players who always puts in a seven out of 10 performance week in, week out in my view.
“The likes of Lewis Grabban, Joe Lolley and Joao Carvalho get so much credit for their attacking output and rightfully so, but Watson’s role is completely different and he provides Forest with a solid base in midfield.”
How important has he been to Forest?
“Watson has been a regular for Lamouchi in the early stages of the season, establishing himself as a first-choice midfielder under the Frenchman.
“He has started every league match for Forest so far, and is clearly thought of highly by Lamouchi.
“His experience and knowhow in the middle of the park is what teams need at this level, and along with Michael Dawson, the pair add real steel to the core of Forest’s side.”
Why does he receive so much criticism from fans?
“Watson’s performances this season have divided Forest fans right down the middle.
“There are some fans who rate him highly, recognising that his job isn’t to drive forward, play five one-two passes and slam the ball home from 25 yards, and it’s simply to break up play and give the ball to the flair players.
“But Watson is 34 years of age, therefore he doesn’t get around the pitch as much as he did when he was a younger player at Wigan and Watford, and his lack of mobility sometimes lets them down.
“There is an argument that fans demand too much of Watson, but you know what you are going to get from a player of his age and experience.”
Is there anyone else who could do his job better than him?
“John Bostock has really impressed me when he’s played in the Carabao Cup against Fleetwood and Derby – he’s a younger, more dynamic version of Watson who is also good at tackling and breaking up play.
“Whereas Samba Sow and Alfa Semedo can play further forward and operate as box-to-box midfielders, Watson and Bostock are more out-and-out holding midfielders, who sit back and become the lynchpin in midfield.
“Arguably, Bostock deserves a chance to impress from the off in the Championship, and due to the nature of Forest’s massive squad, he might get that chance soon.”
How do you think Watson will be feeling right now?
“Watson is old enough and experienced enough to bounce back from criticism, and whilst it may sound arrogant, it won’t affect him too much at all.
“He’s not made any glaring errors at all, his performances haven’t been too notably bad whatsoever, and he is clearly rated highly by Lamouchi having started in every single one of their Championship clashes thus far.
“Most would have thought that he would be gone in the summer, but he’s turned into a very important player under the new manager.”
Finally then, what have you made of the criticism overall?
“Football is loved by so many. Fans will always disagree and share different opinions about various things.
“I think there needs to be a sense of realism – Watson is a 34-year-old midfielder who has been a comfortable bottom-half Premier League player back in his heyday.
“He’s hardly put a foot wrong for Forest this season, and whilst there might be younger, more energetic midfielders in the squad, if it’s not broken, then why fix it?
“He is clearly having a massive influence on younger players on and off the pitch, and should be appreciated more in my opinion.”