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EPL Newcomers Nottingham Forest Splash the Cash With Lingard the Next Latest Recruit

Nottingham Forest have been outside the English Premier League (EPL) since 1999, but the Reds’ playoff final victory over Huddersfield in May booked them a return to the top table of English soccer for the 2022/23 campaign. After 23 years, Forest would be forgiven for simply being happy to be there. However, if this summer’s transfer activity is anything to go by, they don’t just intend to make up the numbers. No less than ten new faces have arrived at The City Ground, but despite this the sportsbooks still make them second favorites for relegation. They’re priced at -125 for the drop with Paddy Power, who currently have a free promotions for new users ahead of the forthcoming English soccer season.

However, the leading sportsbook traders may have to readjust their preseason lines following the announcement of their latest big-money signing. Former Manchester United forward Jesse Lingard has signed on a free transfer with Forest, who pipped top-half outfit West Ham United to his signature. It signals an almighty coup given Lingard’s successful loan spell with the Hammers last year, which effectively kick-started his EPL career. However, Forest were said to be willing to blow West Ham out of the water on the salary front, with reports suggesting a weekly salary of up to £180,000 a week has been agreed.

Lingard announced the move on his official Twitter account, with both parties agreeing to a lucrative one-year contract. It’s not yet clear whether the Reds have an option to extend his time in the East Midlands if they are able to avoid the drop in 2022/23. Whichever way you look at it, Lingard turning down West Ham in favour of a newly-promoted side is an eyebrow-raising transfer. It’s clearly testament to the personality of head coach, Steve Cooper, and the financial backing of the club’s Greek owner, Evangelos Marinakis, that Forest are competing with sides well above their station in recent decades.

Who is Evangelos Marinakis?

Marinakis is a 54-year-old Greek entrepreneur, born in Piraeus. Marinakis is the only son of Militiadis Marinakis, an MP in Greece and a board member of Greece’s number-one football club Olympiakos. Evangelos became sole owner of Olympiakos in 2010 and has been the club’s owner and president ever since. He is also founder and chairman of the Capital Maritime Group, a shipping line with a fleet of over 70 ships. He has been well-known for his philanthropy in his home country, working closely with the likes of UNICEF to support developing countries.

However, Marinakis has courted plenty of scandal in recent years too, with a string of match fixing allegations plaguing him since the mid-2010s. Marinakis was acquitted of all previous charges relating to match fixing in Greek Cup and Second Division matches dating back as far as 2009.

Having owned Forest since 2017, Marinakis will surely see the 2022/23 season as an opportunity to rebuild his image with the eyes of the world on the EPL. What better way to do so than to fund a squad overhaul that gives Forest the best possible chance of avoiding an immediate return to the EFL Championship?

A rundown on the recent recruits at The City Ground

Steve Cooper has been incredibly savvy with his recruitment so far. A large chunk of the £70+ million spent in the transfer market this summer has gone on two players – Nigerian centre forward Taiwo Awoniyi and attack-minded full back Neco Williams. Both arrived for fees in the region of £18 million. Awoniyi joins off the back of a stellar 2021/22 Bundesliga season for German side Union Berlin, where he bagged 15 goals in 31 appearances. It’s a savvy move for the Reds as another solid campaign in the English top flight could see him worth three or even four times that £18 million figure. The 24-year-old has power and pace to burn and ice-cool composure in front of goal.

The Reds’ other headline signing, Neco Williams, is another clever move. The 21-year-old Welsh international made 13 appearances for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool between 2019-22 but was always going to struggle to cement a place in the side at right back ahead of Trent Alexander-Arnold. In the latter half of 2021/22, Williams also helped Fulham to Championship promotion and is ready for the challenge of regular top-flight soccer.

Williams has further competition for his place at The City Ground with the £9 million arrival of French right back Giulian Biancone from Ligue 1 side Troyes. After his first full season in the French top-flight, Forest snapped him up on a three-year contract. On the opposite full back position, England U21 international Omar Richards has also returned to English soccer in a deal worth between £7 and £8 million. Richard spent 2021/22 with Bayern Munich, making 12 appearances for the German giants before being enticed back to England with Forest. The marauding left-footed wing back will provide width and poise to the Forest attack.

Fast-developing left back Harry Toffolo will compete with Omar Richards for a starting berth after signing from Forest’s playoff final opponents Huddersfield Town. Toffolo has come up through the leagues of English soccer, with successful stints at Lincoln and latterly Huddersfield to earn his first taste of EPL soccer. Toffolo’s Huddersfield teammate, midfielder Lewis O’Brien, has also joined him at The City Ground. O’Brien has been a bag of energy for the Terriers in the last 12 months and is exceptionally strong at retaining possession and achieving high pass completion rates.

After the shock of losing popular goalkeeper Brice Samba to French side Lens, Forest moved to secure the services of Manchester United keeper Dean Henderson on a season-long loan. Meanwhile veteran Welsh stopper Wayne Hennessey has also signed on a free transfer to provide worthy, experienced backup.

When all is said and done, Steve Cooper and his recruitment department have done a fantastic job at bring some additional “X Factor” to the Forest roster ahead of the 2022/23 campaign. During their promotion-winning season of 2021/22, Forest ran Liverpool close in their FA Cup quarter-final tie, with only a single goal separating the two sides. Reds supporters will be hoping that was a taste of things to come.

Despite being one of the favorites for relegation, Forest are clearly hellbent on making their mark and choosing not to take the common path trodden by the likes of Norwich City and Watford of taking the money and running back to the second tier.

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