Wolverhampton Wanderers all but paved the way for all other Championship teams – brave enough to follow – to find a way to get to the Premier League by taking one big risk.
It might seem like an obvious one but signing talented foreign players with no Championship or, in fact, English football experience can actually work. Wolves did so with the likes of Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota and Leo Bonatini.
Nottingham Forest, it would seem, liked the look of this model and thought they would do it themselves. Except it hasn’t quite had the same resounding effect for their Midland counterparts.
They spent well over £20 million on inexperienced players from European leagues such as Joao Carvalho and Tobias Figueiredo as well as employing a hefty amount of loan players in the form of Diogo Goncalves and Gil Dias.
It would be fair to say that not all of these signings have proved dividends. Carvalho hasn’t had a bad campaign and has recorded four goals and eight assists in his debut season for Forest.
The same, though, can’t be said for the rest of their signings. It was instead the signings of experienced players that have done the job for them this season. Lewis Grabban, Costel Pantilimon, Jack Robinson and Jack Colback have all been far more influential.
So where did it go wrong for Nottingham Forest? Why were they unable to replicate the same successes with a similar plan to Wolves?
Firstly, the players weren’t as good. It may sound obvious, but it needs saying. Just look at what Neves and Jota are continuing to do in the Premier League. Goncalves and Carvalho are just not at the same level.
Probably the biggest difference between the two, though, was the manager. Having a Portuguese like Nuno Espirito Santo definitely helped players like Neves, Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro could thrive. He wanted to play attacking expansive football which benefited these tricky players.
The same cannot be said for Aitor Karanka or in fact Martin O’Neill who are much less expressive – with O’Neill only just realising at least what Carvalho can do. Perhaps next season, we’ll see more consistency.