I’m a huge fan of the work Jorge Grant did when he was on loan with us, and by all counts, he’s a genuinely nice bloke, which is great to hear.
In 2016-17, when we were in trouble following the John Sheridan fiasco, he missed only 2 minutes of the last 15 games and was instrumental in pulling us away from trouble.
In 2017-18, he played 21 full games (plus an 88 minute game) and came off the bench 5 times, scoring 14 times and making 5 assists as we took our place at the top of the league and had one foot in League One. Although I think Jon Stead’s role in this is vastly under-rated. He’s one of the most intelligent footballers at this level, and some of the runs he made took defenders out of the way to create space for Grant to run into.
And this is where the huge January love in doesn’t fit with me. And, as far as Forest fans are concerned, they punished us by sending Grant to Mansfield.
But is that right? Let’s look at what he’s done when put under real pressure and you need to roll your sleeves up and fight.
The final 19 games of that season produced just one goal and one assist as we slipped out of the reckoning and hung on for a play off place. At the time needed big players to step up, he was one of the many who didn’t, starting just 12 of those games as his inconsistent form took its toll.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not singling him out or blaming him for what happened, but is he the man for the crisis we were in at the end of January?
I’m sure he’ll do very well in a good League Two side, and his start at Mansfield has confirmed that. In a team which has a lot of the ball and a lot of pressure, with other attacking players to occupy defenders, he’s one of the best to take advantage of the space his teammates create.
But is he any better than a good League Two player in a good League Two side?
He’s 24 years old now, the days of having potential are slipping away. He’s not been part of a Forest matchday squad for 2 seasons and doesn’t seem close to it, while other young players are starting at that level and higher.
He was given a chance in League One in the summer, and I thought Luton would be a good fit for him. An attacking side, plenty to occupy defences, and a manger who wants teams to play expansive football.
And he did well initially, starting 12 of the first 15 League games of this season, as Luton made a solid start to life after promotion, finding themselves in 9th place at that point.
Luton played 11 more league games before he returned to Forest.
Of those 11 games, he wasn’t in the squad for 2 of them and an unused substitute for 5 of them. He came off the bench in 2 games, playing a total of 11 minutes and started the other two, coming off after just over an hour in each of them.
At the end of that run, Luton were second.
His start at Mansfield has confirmed my thoughts. His first 6 games brought 4 goals and 2 assists, missing only 3 minutes of football. But, in game seven at Meadow Lane when everyone needed to roll up their sleeves and battle for the cause, he flitted in and out, making some good runs and passes around the half way line but very little where it hurts the opposition.
A lot of the credit for that is down to the way Notts played, of course, but with a reputation comes more attention and tighter marking. The really good players deal with that.
When we’ve signed winners like Jim O’Brien and Michael Doyle, and the huge change in Enzio Boldewijn (who’d have thought he’d put an opposing player into the third row of the crowd?!), is there really room in our squad for a luxury?