POLL: What will January hold for Nottingham Forest as Alex McLeish builds his squad?
ALEX McLeish does not historically have a habit of hitting the January sales. He prefers to do his shopping in the summer.
But he will have to buck the trend over the next three weeks, as he looks to inject some life into Nottingham Forest's promotion push.
In the past five winter transfer windows, during his time with Birmingham and Aston Villa, the Scot has made only six permanent signings.
In the last four of those chaotic January months in management, he has made only three additions – and the last of those was a little known Irishman from Shelbourne, Enda Stevens, who, a year after signing for McLeish last January, is only now starting to make a first-team impact at Villa Park.
Forest have already made a similar signing of their own, in the form of Derry City's Stephen McLaughlin, a promising 22-year-old winger who will be given time to acclimatise to the rigours of Championship football, before he is exposed to the first team.
But, between now and the end of the month, McLeish has revealed he wants to add another "three or four" new signings at Forest, as he looks to stamp his own mark on the squad.
That, of course, will mean Forest breaking a few habits of their own, given the club have made only three permanent January additions over the past six years.
Luke Chambers (2007), Garath McCleary (2008) and Marcus Tudgay (2011) are the last three winter signings made by the Reds – and Tudgay had technically arrived on loan several months before.
That number is a stick that has been used to beat the club quite frequently, largely by ex-boss Billy Davies, who would annually 'advise and recommend' that strengthening was vital.
But there is also a reason for the frequent lack of activity – one that is recognised by the current incumbent of the job.
January signings, by their very nature, are normally born out of desperation; out of an urgent need to strengthen.
Selling clubs, to some degree, can name their price. And it is normally over and above market value.
"January can be a window of panic," said McLeish. "We do not want to be doing things through panic. But we do need to add players. I want to stamp an identity on the club."
Panic, you sense, is not in the Scotsman's nature.
And, while McLeish will understand the need for urgency, it is also one of the nuances of the January window that much of the business tends to be done towards the end of the month, as clubs look to hold out for the best deal possible; to ring every last penny of cash out of a transfer.
And, while the Al Hasawi family have already demonstrated their willingness to finance big deals in the transfer market, the next few weeks may still have to be time for patience.
So, down to the big questions... what kind of deals will McLeish be looking to do? Which areas of his squad does he hope to improve?
McCleish has been transparent in his desire to add some toughness to his defence and some physical and mental steel throughout his side generally.
Forest want to tie up another loan deal for Elliott Ward, with a view to making his move from Norwich permanent.
But they will also look to add another defender to the mix, probably in the form of a left-sided central defender. Alex Baptiste, Blackpool's Nottinghamshire-born player, has been on the Forest radar for some months.
And, with the 26-year-old's contract set to expire in the summer, the Tangerines might be persuaded to do business over the defender, who can also play at left-back, in the next few weeks, rather than risk losing him for nothing in the summer.
Blackpool boss Michael Appleton recently quashed rumours linking Baptiste with Leicester City, saying: "Alex is a player we want to keep. He's captain of the club."
But it is understood the player would favour a return closer to Sutton-in-Ashfield, where he grew up.
West Brom's Gonzalo Jara could also be a target, with the Chilean international having had a successful loan spell at Brighton last season.
The versatile 27-year-old, who can also play in the centre or at full-back, has been on the periphery again at the Hawthorns and may be available.
Gabor Gyepes, the former Wolves and Cardiff defender, has been in good form for Portsmouth in League One this season – and, critically, is out of contract this month, having only signed a short-term deal.
McLeish has also been open in his wish to add more drive; more urgency to his front line.
Luciano Becchio is another who Forest, along with many other clubs, have had an eye on and there is a small amount of uncertainty over his future, given that his contract expires in less than 18 months.
Leeds themselves have ambitious, rich new owners who will be wary of the political fall-out that would come with selling one of their prize assets, who has scored 19 goals this season.
But, at the same time, assistant manager Mick Jones yesterday admitted the club do 'fear' losing the player in January, with Premier League Wigan also interested.
It might take big money to persuade Leeds to do business – but Forest have shelled out big money on strikers already, to sign Simon Cox, and are also ready to offer £2m-plus to make Billy Sharp's move from Southampton permanent.
On top of that, Forest are monitoring the position of Steve Morison, the former Millwall striker, who has made only four starts for Norwich this season.
Forest were beaten to his signature when he moved to Carrow Road in June 2011, but could make a fresh approach.
Forest are also expected to sign another Derry player, but 20-year-old midfielder Barry McNamee is also only thought of as one for the future.