Collins – Nottingham Forest can still claim automatic promotion
WHEN Billy Davies was appointed Nottingham Forest manager, he took on a side that was nine points adrift of the play-off places.
Now, just six games later, that deficit has been closed, with the Reds sitting pretty in the top six – and just nine points behind second-placed Watford.
Brighton could leapfrog back above them if they win at Barnsley tomorrow night, as Gus Poyet's men play the game in hand they hold over the Reds.
But, having made such remarkable progress in such a short space of time, Danny Collins says Nottingham Forest's players are allowing themselves to look upwards once more.
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And, while their play-off dream is unquestionably back alive, the Reds skipper is also daring to consider the prospect of something even more remarkable – that Davies could yet inspire Forest to play a part in the fight for automatic promotion.
"That is the Championship. Look at Reading last season. They came from nowhere after Christmas," said Collins.
"There are always one or two teams who make a charge and, since the gaffer has come in, he has changed one or two things and we have had a good run at it.
"We are climbing up the table again; we have got into the top six and we need to stay there. But we can also push on and put pressure on the teams at the top."
It is a big ask for Forest, who have nine games left to close a nine point gap. But, having done it once already, to get back into the play-off reckoning, Collins believes there is nothing wrong with having ambition.
And his hopes are fuelled by the fact that, with games still to come against Hull, Brighton, Cardiff, Middlesbrough and Leicester, Forest have the chance to take points off the teams in and around them in the promotion race.
"It is there for us, in black and white. We are capable of getting there. If we keep winning games and putting teams under pressure, then they will be looking over their shoulders," he said.
"There are still 27 points to play for, there is a long way to go. We will take it one game at a time, starting next weekend.
"Hull are just above us and we do have games against other sides around us as well. They are going to be six-pointers.
"But, I keep saying it, we will concentrate on games one at a time. If we can keep picking up results, we will continue to climb the table, step by step."
Collins does not attempt to gloss over the fact Forest will have to pull off something special to even challenge the likes of Cardiff and Watford, but he says the key will be to continue doing what they have done since Davies returned – and take things one game at a time.
"We do not fear anyone. When we play as well as we can, we can beat anyone. We proved that when we beat Cardiff earlier in the season," he said.
"We just have to look after ourselves. We have a good squad and we are firing at the right time, following our dip over Christmas. We are a confident bunch and that confidence is only growing with each result.
"I don't look at things in terms of the teams we face too much, because every game is tough in the Championship.
"We do have to face some tough teams, but we have to be beating these teams or at least coming away with a point if we want to be in the play-off places.
"We are six unbeaten and we have to keep it going. We are a confident team at the minute and we do not fear anyone. But we have to make sure we are ready for the next game.
"Hull should be fearful of us, given the form we are in. But, at the same time, we will focus on the game and make sure we are ready. We are never going to look beyond the next game.
"All we do is look at the team immediately above us and try to climb above them; to stay on their coat tails. That has got us up into the top six and we will continue with that attitude."