Paul Taylor: Forest may lose more players for nothing, but they can also play the system
LAST summer, Nottingham Forest kissed goodbye to around £3m worth of players for nothing.
In six months time, an even more valuable portion of the dressing room could walk away on free transfers.
Luke Chambers, Joel Lynch, Paul Anderson, Paul Smith and Garath McCleary left last summer, when their contracts expired.
Now, this time around, Lee Camp has already been told he can leave for nothing in January, with his deal set to expire at the end of the campaign.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Also, Lewis McGugan, Radi Majewski and Dexter Blackstock could all move on, on the same basis.
To sign such players, if they were under contract, how much would it cost?
Conservatively, it might be something close to £4m, with Blackstock, as an experienced, top-level Championship striker, probably accounting for at least half that amount.
In such black and white terms, this is an easy stick to beat the club with.
And, in the past, they have deserved such criticism. Kris Commons and Kelvin Wilson, for example, were two prime assets who should not have been allowed to saunter out of the City Ground for nothing.
But times are changing. Football is changing. And, more specifically, players and their agents are getting wise to how it is possible to play the system.
But so, perhaps, are Forest.
Because, while Blackstock, McGugan and Majewski are all in a position of power, so are many other players.
And Forest have utilised the situation as well as anyone.
What do their two major January signings and the majority of their other transfer targets all have in common?
Answer: They are out of contract in the summer.
If Elliott Ward and Gonzalo Jara do well between now and the end of the campaign, their loan moves will be made permanent. And Forest will have signed two experienced, quality professionals for nothing.
Jara cost West Brom £1.6m three years ago, when he joined from Colo Colo. While Ward, after building his reputation at Coventry City, has played the system himself before, moving to Norwich when his contract expired.
Beyond that, Forest are hoping to tie up deals for Chris Burke, the Birmingham winger, and Peterborough's attacking midfielder George Boyd.
Bids for both players have so far been rejected. But, with both men also in a position where they could leave their clubs for nothing in the summer, the negotiations are likely to continue.
The fact Birmingham leaked news of Forest's bid to the media and Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony announced details of the Boyd situation on Twitter is not a surprise.
Both actions will have been motivated by the simple desire to get the best possible deals for the players; to potentially get a bidding war started.
It may be that both situations drag on towards the end of the window but, if they are patient, Forest can work the situation in their favour.
It is the same story with Alex Baptiste, the Blackpool defender, although the clamour for his signature is likely to include a larger group of potential suitors, including East Midlands rivals Leicester City.
If the right bid is made during January, he will move on. If not, his representatives will not be short of offers for his signature in the summer.
Even Lucciano Becchio, the much-wanted Leeds striker, may benefit from his own contract situation.
While he is tied to Elland Road for another 18 months, the Yorkshire club may be tempted to cash in now, rather than risking him running his contract down and leaving for nothing.
With financial fair play rules approaching on the horizon, clubs outside of the Premier League are going to have to adopt a more frugal approach.
One or two clubs – Forest included – may gamble by bringing in one or two players for significant transfer fees over the next few weeks and, to a lesser extent, even next summer, as the new rules are steadily enforced.
But, beyond that things are going to change.
And players, as much as clubs, will start to dictate their own futures.
Increasingly, more and more players will move on Bosman free transfers. At least when it comes to Football League clubs.
Between now and the end of the season, Forest are almost certain to make fresh attempts to agree new deals with Blackstock and with Majewski, in particular.
If McLeish can find a way to bring the best out of McGugan on a consistent basis, he could still have a long-term future at the City Ground.
But, if deals can't be agreed; if Blackstock, Majewski or McGugan are offered more money elsewhere, Forest will not be short of options when it comes to potential replacements.
McLeish, with his handling of the Camp situation, has already shown he is not afraid to make big decisions.
It is fair to say Camp, since he was denied the chance to move to Swansea 18 months ago, has not been the influential figure he once was.
He has still been an important player for Forest. But the fist-pumping heroics he had produced during the two seasons when Forest finished in the top six have not been evident for some time.
But even as he prepares to leave Nottingham under a slight cloud, is Camp really guilty of anything more than something dozens of other players will do in the coming months?
All Camp is guilty of is playing the system. And, as long as Forest are willing to do the same in the future, it does not have to be an issue.