Garry Birtles: I'm going to say it... Nottingham Forest will make the top six this season
I AM going to put my neck on the line and say it . . . Nottingham Forest will make the top six this season.
There are certainly five or six other sides on the periphery of things who will fancy their chances of breaking into the race for promotion.
But, with each passing game, my belief that something remarkable could still happen only strengthens.
And the main catalyst for that is the feeling that this is something everyone at the club is starting to believe could happen as well.
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Ahead of the trip to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, you can almost sense the confidence growing at the City Ground.
And nowhere has it been more evident than out on the pitch, where Forest have simply been on fire.
In three games since Billy Davies returned, the Reds have torn apart the opposition at times.
Even when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Bolton, they created enough openings to have won the game comfortably.
And the pattern was repeated in the wins over Huddersfield and Charlton.
Immediately, since he walked through the door, Davies has got the best out of his players.
The big questions, of course, are, firstly, how has he done it? And, more importantly, can it be maintained?
I believe it can. Because I don't believe he has done anything particularly complicated.
I often refer to Brian Clough, because it is impossible not to learn from time spent playing under a man as great as he was.
But he was not the only manager whose knowledge I admired and benefited from.
Just when I thought my career was stumbling to an end, I enjoyed what was a fantastic final few seasons at Grimsby Town, under Alan Buckley.
He was a man I never felt got the credit he deserved for the job he did in steering Grimsby to two promotions, taking them from the bottom tier into what is now the Championship.
But his approach to the game was not complex, it was not mired in a myriad of instructions about the opposition or how he wanted you to play.
His strength was knowing what you, as an individual, were good at – and then utilising those strengths within the team.
He would look at what you had to offer, then tell you to go out on the pitch and do it.
We had two battering rams, physical central midfielders, two wingers who could play and deliver balls into the box for our strikers and an old-fashioned, solid back four.
By that stage, I was playing in the centre of defence; I had gone from poacher to gamekeeper.
But Buckley knew what I could offer the side and he made the most of what I could still offer, at a time when my previous pace and energy had been replaced with knowledge and experience.
When I look at Forest under Davies, I see the same things.
The Scotsman often used to talk about having square pegs in round holes, during his previous spell in charge.
Well, this season, the Reds squad has always possessed the ability to challenge for a top-six finish.
It was just that, in my opinion, nobody had put all those pieces into place; into the right positions.
Billy has done that, without question.
Chris Cohen may be an outstanding midfielder, but he is also currently probably Forest's best left-back.
Pushing him back into that position was a simple decision, but it was also a masterstroke.
Cohen, for his age, is one of the most experienced players in the squad.
And he has proved to be a good captain, in the sense that he leads by example.
His work-rate, determination and energy are boundless. He can tackle and he can deliver a decent ball into the box.
And, while I don't say this as a criticism of Cohen, it has also allowed Davies to find the right balance in midfield.
Which has, in turn, provided the foundation for their encouraging performances.
Adlene Guedioura does a great job of picking up the pieces in front of the back four; of providing a barrier between midfield and defence.
That gives Forest's most creative players the freedom to do what they do best; to make the most of their talents.
Andy Reid is just pure quality, we have known that since he broke through as a youngster at the club the first time around.
And we are seeing that consistently this season. Even when Forest have had dips in form, the Irishman has done well.
But now Radi Majewski and Henri Lansbury are having a growing influence as well.
Currently, it is probably the best midfield in the Championship.
And that is because Billy has set things up to give them the best possible stage on which to demonstrate their talents.
Many managers, including Davies himself, have searched for the best way to utilise Majewski.
At the minute, they seem to be finding that. Four goals in two games – and a host of further missed chances from the Pole – certainly suggests as much.
But Majewski's contribution should not be allowed to overshadow the fact that Lansbury has netted two goals himself.
When he arrived at the City Ground, he was carrying a slight injury, which meant he missed much of pre-season.
And fitness is so important. It may be that he is only starting to find his full sharpness in the last few weeks, now that he has a few matches under his belt.
And, boy, are we seeing what he is capable of.
But the starting point was the manager identifying those qualities – in all of his players – and finding a way to make the best use of them.
Billy may be a brash, confrontational character. He may not always be everyone's cup of tea.
But, make no mistake, he is also a very good manager.
And he may yet prove as much by steering Forest to a top-six finish for a third time.
I believe it could happen.