Garry Birtles: I want to see McGugan grasp chance after Majewski KO
IN every crisis, there is an opportunity. And, as Nottingham Forest look to an immediate future that will not include Radi Majewski, I want to see one man given his – and I want to see him grasp it with both hands.
I sympathise with Sean O'Driscoll as he figures out how to replace the former Polish international, who does have a very particular set of talents.
But my sympathy only goes so far, because it is not as if he is exactly short of options. Henri Lansbury, Jermaine Jenas – when he gets over his slight injury – and Adlene Guedioura can all fill the void left by Majewski's ankle injury.
But there is another player I hope is given the chance to grasp the nettle and make himself the integral player for Forest that we all know he can be. I am talking, of course, about Lewis McGugan.
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This season we have already seen Andy Reid rejuvenate and revive his Forest career. He clearly spent the summer working hard on his fitness and he came back looking trim – and as though he had regained a yard of pace.
It tells you everything you need to know that Reid has started every single Championship game for Forest this season.
At his best, when he is on his game, when he is mentally and physically at it, he would be one of the first names on any Championship team sheet. He would get into many Premier League sides.
Last season, Steve Cotterill did not believe Reid was capable of playing in two or three games in the space of a week. Now, I suspect O'Driscoll rarely gives much thought to leaving him out of the starting line-up.
I am not suggesting that McGugan needs to look at Reid's attitude, because there is nothing to suggest that McGugan's attitude has been in any way wrong this season.
The only thing that has changed for Lewis is that he now finds himself in a squad where there is an extraordinary fight for places. His place in the side can no longer be taken for granted.
But Reid is the example of what is possible for McGugan. Reid is proof that, when you take your chance to impress, you can pin down a place under O'Driscoll.
The manager has spoken this week about his desire to see some consistency in the side. So, the underlying message is clear. If you are given a place and you impress, you will hang on to the shirt.
Now McGugan's chance might not come today at Leicester. O'Driscoll might choose to stick with Guedioura, who had plenty of opportunities to score when he came on against Middlesbrough in the week.
But, with Majewski out for a few months, McGugan will get his opportunity at some point. He has to. Because, for me, he is the logical replacement for Majewski.
Yes, he is not the same type of player, exactly. But when has McGugan been at his best in the past? When has he flourished most in the red shirt?
It has been when he has played in that 'number ten' role that Majewski occupied; it has been when he has been handed the responsibility of linking up defence and attack. It is what he does best.
McGugan has a great touch, he is comfortable on the ball, he can spot a pass and he can shoot. Yes, the formation Forest play does mean that a certain work rate is required from all of the midfield players.
But Reid has knuckled down; Reid has demonstrated a willingness to chase down the opposition, to track back and to do the ugly stuff. More significantly, it was also one of the biggest improvements in Majewski's game, before he collected his injury.
I am sure McGugan can do the same, if he is given the opportunity. With Jenas, Lansbury, Guedioura, Chris Cohen, Reid, Guy Moussi and the forgotten man Jonathan Greening all fighting for a place in the side, those chances are going to be hard to come by.
So, when it comes, McGugan has to take his. He has to be on his game, he has to be ready, he has to be motivated.
But, if he is, make no mistake – he can be more than a replacement for Majewski. He can become an integral figure in the side in his own right.
We have always known McGugan has the ability, that he has the potential to be an outstanding player.
But, through no fault of his own – simply because of the additions Forest have made – his opportunities may be running out.
I hope, for his sake and, more importantly, for Forest's, that this is the time that he proves himself; that he grasps the opportunity when it comes and establishes himself in the same way as Majewski and Reid.