|Nottingham Forest 2 v 1 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 14th April 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Klug: I'm Very Fortunate to Have Big Responsibility
Thursday, 12th Apr 2018 18:41
Town visit Nottingham Forest on Saturday for the first match of the four-game Bryan Klug era, former boss Mick McCarthy having departed along with his assistant Terry Connor on Tuesday. Caretaker-manager Klug, who first joined the Blues as a player in 1977 during Sir Bobby Robson’s time as boss, says he’s “very fortunate” to have been handed the role and knows it is a “big responsibility”.
The 57-year-old, who has been working as the academy’s head of coaching and player development, has spent most of his career in youth coaching but knows the emphasis is far more on winning matches at senior level, while he knows that part of his role is to start to heal the rift which has developed between the club and its fans.
Following the Blues’ trip to the City Ground, Aston Villa are in Suffolk next weekend, Town travel to Reading and then Middlesbrough are at Portman Road on the final day.
“I share one trait with Mick, I like winning games of football,” Klug said. “I know there is a bigger picture here. Obviously, it’s a tough league and every game is going to be tough and I did have a giggle with Mick when I saw the games he’d left us to get through.
“I look at the managers in there, they’re going to be quaking in their boots probably coming up against me.
“I’m coming from youth development aren’t I, so we’re allowed to say [it’s about performances and development] but I know the game’s about winning. But they're fantastic games, I want the lads to go and try and express themselves and play and enjoy it.
“But it’s about winning, I know that. I know what the game’s about, I’ve been around a long time.”
His four games will see him face two experienced bosses in Villa’s Steve Bruce and Boro’s Tony Pulis as well as two up and coming younger managers in the shape of Reading’s Paul Clement and first Forest’s Aitor Karanka.
“I’ve met one or two of them, I’ve come up against some of them a couple of times,” he said. “But it’s just terrific and we’ll look over at their bench and I’ll see those faces, and actually some of the [players on the] benches as well for some of those teams. Actually, perhaps I won’t look!”
Inevitably, given his background, fans are expecting Klug to play a lot of younger players during his spell in charge but he says that while they will get their chance, there are unlikely to be wholesale changes.
“I think there has to be a balance for a variety of reasons,” he explained. “I very much think that for the development of these players it's about finding the right time and the opportunity.
“Listen, I want to get as many minutes for as many young players as we possibly can but you’ve got to be fair and make sure you’re putting out a team which is very competitive.
“It is a balance, but of course I’m going to put them in whenever I can. At the same time, the more senior or established players, if they’re performing in the right way, I’ll take it game by game, but very much on what people show me. But if it’s possible we’ll get them on the pitch, of course I will.”
He says it’ll be impossible to turn Town into a ‘Bryan Klug team’ in the time he has available.
“I think that’s very difficult, especially when the players have been used to something for as long as we have,” he said.
“It’s very unusual in football that a manager does five and a half years at a club and there’s so much that you want to keep.
“To throw something completely different, which might be a ‘Bryan Klug team’, I don’t know, but I share the trait with Mick that we want to win, we want to be competitive.
“I think to change too much will spook players, so there will be some differences but there’s not going to be a revolution. That would be ridiculous, that takes a lot longer than one day’s training like we’ve had today.”
How will he feel on Saturday morning ahead of the game? “Nervous, I think, of course I’ll be excited, but this is not my best [suit], I can think of things in football that I’m better suited to.
"When I came down as a 17-year-old, if I’d have looked Mr Robson in the eye and said one day I was going to be standing on the touchline, he would have laughed. I’m very fortunate and I’m very aware of that. It’s a big responsibility.”
Town’s injury situation is as it was going into Tuesday’s game against Barnsley with skipper Luke Chambers and Adam Webster both unavailable.
Klug is unlikely to stray too far from McCarthy’s side given the short time he has been working with the squad; his first session with them was on Thursday morning.
Bartosz Bialkowski will be in goal with Barry Cotter likely to keep his place at right wing-back following his hugely promising debut on Tuesday, with Myles Kenlock at left wing-back.
Jordan Spence and Jonas Knudsen are likely to be either side of Cameron Carter-Vickers in the back three.
Cole Skuse will wear the captain’s armband in the centre of midfield, probably alongside Callum Connolly, although Luke Hyam is another option.
Up front, Grant Ward and Freddie Sears could come into the reckoning for the wide roles occupied by Bersant Celina and Mustapha Carayol on Tuesday with Martyn Waghorn again set to play the central role.
If Klug is considering giving an academy graduate a first start, Ben Folami might also come into his thinking for the front three. Otherwise the Australian and Ben Morris will be among the subs.
Forest, who are 18th, six places and 10 points behind the Blues, are without a goal in their last six games, three goalless draws having been followed by three defeats.
They last scored 551 minutes of football ago in a 2-1 victory over Birmingham at home on March 3rd.
Manager Karanka says he has plans to add to his striking options in the summer but in the meantime has to work with who he currently has at his disposal.
“We do have targets in mind,” he told the Nottingham Post. “I have a lot of targets in place.
“But my first target is Ipswich on Saturday and trying to win with the players we have here.
“Again this crowd deserves a win at home and the players deserve a win, because they are working hard for it.”
One player not available to the Spanish former Boro boss is ex-Blues frontman Daryl Murphy, who has a calf problem having previously had a rib injury.
“I do not know. I do not know. I do not know. I am the coach, not the physio,” Karanka said when asked when the 35-year-old Irish international might return.
“It would be a boost to have somebody like Daryl back, but I cannot do anything with players who are not training with us. I hope he can be back as soon as possible.”
The Forest boss doesn’t care who scores or when his side finds the net just as long as they end their goal drought against the Blues.
“I don’t mind if it is the first minute or the last – the main thing is to score a goal and to win a game, because everyone deserves that here,” he said.
“The players deserve that, the crowd deserve that and my aim and my biggest target is to finish the season as well as possible. Because we want to give ourselves a positive start for next season.”
In addition to Murphy, midfielder David Vaughan is out with an ankle injury and club captain Chris Cohen is a long-term absentee with a knee problem.
Blues captain Chambers, who is likely to be alongside Klug and caretaker-assistants Gerard Nash and Chris Hogg on the bench on Saturday, joined Town on a Bosman free transfer after departing the City Ground in the summer of 2012 and was targeted by his old club on deadline day in January 2017.
Chambers made 209 starts and 20 sub appearances for the Tricky Trees, scoring 21 goals, having joined them from Northampton in January 2007.
Currently injured striker David McGoldrick signed on loan at Town from Forest in January 2013 before putting pen to paper on a permanent deal the following summer.
Having joined Forest from Southampton in June 2009, he scored nine goals in 36 starts and 39 games from the bench.
Fellow injured Blues frontman Joe Garner was at the City Ground between July 2008 and August 2011, scoring 10 goals in 35 starts and 20 sub appearances.
Mustapha Carayol joined Town in January after leaving Forest. The Gambian international made 17 starts and 21 sub appearances in 18 months at the City Ground.
Ex-Town striker Murphy joined Forest from Newcastle last summer for £2 million and has scored seven goals this season, none since November.
Waterford-born Murphy scored 67 goals in 207 starts and 18 substitute appearances for Town in three loan spells and a permanent stint - June 2013 to August 2016 - at Portman Road.
Forest keeper Stephen Henderson, who is on loan back at his former club Portsmouth, was on loan with the Blues from West Ham twice in the 2012/13 season making 24 appearances.
Another ex-Town loanee, Jack Colback, joined Forest on loan from Newcastle in January and has made 12 appearances for the East Midlands side.
The midfielder had two spells on loan with the Blues from Sunderland and made a total of 46 starts and eight sub appearances, scoring five goals.
Historically, Forest very much have the upper hand, winning 36 of the games between the two sides (33 in the league), with 18 (17) ending in draws and Town winning 22 (21).
At Portman Road at the start of December, Connolly, Dominic Iorfa, Waghorn and Celina were all on target as Town beat Nottingham Forest 4-2.
Connolly netted his second goal in two games in the seventh minute, Forest equalised via Kieran Dowell’s freekick on 29, then Iorfa’s first senior goal restored Town’s lead in the 37th minute before Tyler Walker made the scoreline 2-2 six minutes later.
Eight minutes after the break Waghorn made the most of some hesitant defending to make it 3-2 and Celina sealed a deserved three points on 67.
The teams last met at the City Ground - where Town are without a win since December 1999 - on the final day of last season when Forest saw themselves to Championship safety with a 3-0 victory over the Blues.
Britt Assombalonga put the home side in front via a 43rd minute penalty, skipper Chris Cohen made it 2-0 on 57 then, having missed a second spot-kick, Assombalonga added the third in the 69th minute.
Saturday’s referee is Darren England from South Yorkshire, who has shown 127 yellow cards and seven red in 34 games so far this season.
His last Town match was the 1-0 defeat at Bristol City last month in which he booked Knudsen and one home player.
England, who is in his second season as a Championship official and has refereed 27 matches at this level, had only taken control of one Town game prior to that, the 2-0 win at Sunderland a month earlier in which he booked Garner and one home player.
Squad from: Bialkowski, M Crowe, Spence, Kenlock, Knudsen, Carter-Vickers, Cotter, Smith, Skuse (c), Connolly, Hyam, Bru, Gleeson, Nydam, Ward, Celina, Carayol, Waghorn, Sears, Folami, Morris.
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