Nottingham Forest have been sailing through smoothly in the Championship following a wonderful start to the campaign under Sabri Lamouchi and with the January transfer window knocking on the door, the fans at the City Ground already have plenty to look forward to in the coming months.
The Reds currently sit 4th in the Championship standings after winning 9 and drawing 5 of their 17 league fixtures so far and the promotion noise at the City Ground is only going to get louder if the two-time European Cup winners continue to rack up such impressive results.
Forest had been dubbed as one of the promotion dark-horses in the first month of the campaign following a string of positive results and with more than a quarter of the season already done and dusted, the Reds are certainly showing signs of living up to the expectations.
Lamouchi, who took over the reins from Martin O’Neill back in the summer, made several alterations to the big squad that he inherited at the City Ground, with the Frenchman completing low-cost deals for some little-known players from across the continent.
Fast-forwarding the sequence of events to the end of November, the manager has every reason to be happy with the kind of impact made by the summer recruits, with almost all his gambles paying off handsomely in what has been a bright start to the season for the Reds.
Despite that, however, he might have to make some key decisions regarding some of the club’s loan stars when the transfer window reopens in January, and the situation involving academy prospect Jayden Richardson is something that needs to be sorted out at the earliest.
Born in Nottingham, the 19-year-old right-back rose through the youth ranks of Forest and put pen to paper on professional terms at the City Ground back in April earlier in the year before being named as a part of the first-team squad for the 2019-20 campaign.
Things looked to be heading in the right direction for the teenager when he was named on the bench against West Brom on the opening day of the season but he soon found himself farmed out on loan to Exeter City in League Two.
Indeed, joining the Grecians on a season-long loan deal made perfect sense for Jayden Richardson, with Matt Taylor’s side expected to challenge for promotion in the fourth-tier.
Forest, on the other hand, would have expected him to progress by leaps and bounds and gain some valuable professional exposure at St. James Park, with a view to integrating him into their plans moving forward.
The Championship clubs often use the loan system to good effect by sending youngsters away on loan to other Football League clubs in the lower divisions in a bid to enhance their development and Jayden Richardson was tipped to make a big impact at Exeter City.
With that in mind, however, the 19-year-old’s loan stint at Exeter has been a massive disappointment, at least as far as Forest are concerned, given that he has barely featured on a regular basis for the Grecians in League Two.
Richardson has only started thrice in the league for Exeter so far this term, playing the full ninety minutes only on a single occasion, which came in a 3-1 defeat against Scunthorpe United back in October.
The highly-rated teenager has found himself relegated to bench duty more often than not and a new low in his loan spell has seen him get named in Exeter City’s U-23 side for the game against Doncaster Rovers, which is not something that Forest would have expected when they agreed to send Richardson out on loan in the summer.
The 19-year-old was very much on the brink of a first-team breakthrough at the City Ground prior to the start of the campaign and he probably would have found some regular minutes had he stayed put for a bit longer, with summer recruit from Arsenal, Carl Jenkinson, suffering an injury.
Held in high regard by the coaching staff at Forest, Jayden Richardson now faces the risk of falling behind his development schedule if his lack of playtime at Exeter City is anything to go by.
Moreover, another disturbing fact is that the 19-year-old has been used as a right-winger in his loan spell. While playing regularly should be of paramount importance for a player of his age, featuring in unfamiliar positions isn’t going to do a world of good to his development.
To that end, it is clear that Richardson’s loan spell at Exeter hasn’t really worked out in favour of his development and it would make perfect sense for Forest to recall him in January. Of course, that is subject to the condition whether they did insert a recall clause in his loan agreement in the first place.
The ideal stance for Forest would be to bring him back to the City Ground and then loan him out to another club in League One or League Two where he would play regularly.
The teenager needs first-team action to make a gradual transition from the youth ranks to senior football and the lack of game time at Exeter City is only going to stall his development.
Conversely, the Reds can also look at him as a realistic option at right-back heading into the second half of the campaign, with Tendayi Darikwa and Jenkinson both injured.
Matty Cash has excelled in an unfamiliar right-back role so far but Lamouchi has shown trust in the club’s academy prospects and Jayden Richardson is someone who deserves a crack of the whip to prove his credentials.
Either way, recalling him from his loan spell should be the right call as far as Nottingham Forest are concerned.
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