Paul Taylor: Why Sean O'Driscoll is right not to make more loan signings at Nottingham Forest
IN seven days time the loan window swings shut and, with it, the last chance for Sean O'Driscoll to add to his defensively depleted squad, until January at least, will pass.
With Sam Hutchinson on a long road to recovery with a knee injury and Daniel Ayala and Dan Harding both having struggled with hamstring problems recently, you might presume that O'Driscoll would be busily scouring the loan market.
But, while the back four Forest fielded at Leicester City last weekend comprised of the only four defenders Forest had fit and available, the manager has no such plans.
At first glance, such a stance sounds like madness. But, dig a little deeper, and there is more than a little logic to it. In fact, it makes perfect sense.
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Because, while it might solve a short-term problem, if Forest were to go out and make another addition to tide them over, it would not address the potential issues that are looming on the horizon further down the line.
When you listen to him, O'Driscoll's slow, considered way of delivering his opinions can often disguise the fact the majority of what he says makes absolute sense.
The impact, colour and significance of what he has said is often only revealed when you have typed it out and read it back in black and white.
And, of all the sensible observations the manager has made in recent weeks, perhaps the most relevant, over the next seven days, is this: "We have a full quota of loan players and you don't want too many," he said.
"It is difficult to keep players motivated when they are yours; when they are under contract – if they are loan players and they are not in the team, it can become a massive problem when it comes to the environment that you work in."
O'Driscoll's concern is not so much that loan signings are not committed or dedicated. The performances of Billy Sharp and Daniel Ayala, in particular, would provide plenty of evidence to the contrary.
But having a dressing room full of players who might not be at the club beyond next summer or, in some cases, even beyond this January, is not a healthy formula for long-term stability or unity.
Forest already have six loan players who fit into that category; whose long-term futures are uncertain.
Jermaine Jenas, James Coppinger, and Elliott Ward's loan deals all expire in January, or before, while Hutchinson could go back to Chelsea if his injury does not improve.
But they also have seven other players whose destiny is yet to be decided – in the form of those who are out of contract in the summer.
Forest were recently successful in persuading Chris Cohen to put pen to paper on a new deal.
But there remains uncertainty over the likes of Lee Camp, Andy Reid, Radi Majewski, Dexter Blackstock, Lewis McGugan and Brendan Moloney.
Camp and Blackstock have both been in negotiations, but are not understood to be immediately close to reaching a successful conclusion.
While Marcus Tudgay's future almost certainly lies elsewhere, after he joined Barnsley on loan yesterday, with a view to a permanent move.
So, not including Matt Derbyshire and Ishmael Miller, who are also out on loan – and seem surplus to requirements, but have another season remaining on their Forest contracts – Forest have only 11 senior players who are still tied to the club next season.
In contrast, there are 13 who do not know if they will be playing for Forest next season.
In the case of Sharp, Ayala and Elliott Ward, Forest may try to make the loan moves more permanent.
And, while one or two could leave for nothing in the same manner as Garath McCleary, Luke Chambers and Joel Lynch, it would be a shock if some of them do not agree new deals.
The chance to be part of things at Forest, under the Al-Hasawi family, is far more alluring now than it was last summer, before they had arrived and the future of the club was in doubt.
But, with more than half his senior players walking an uncertain path, you can understand O'Driscoll's reticence to add more short-term additions. Instead, his priorities are likely to be very different.
Given the circumstances; given the late stage at which both new owners and manager were installed, Forest did well to patch together a squad of any sort. With just weeks to go before the season, Forest did not even have a back four. Loan signings were a necessity, rather than a choice.
But, while it was a case of needs must so far, January will provide the chance to secure more permanent solutions. In the summer, O'Driscoll found a way to plug the hole in the bucket. In January, Forest can invest in a new bucket.