In one of the more left-field moves of the summer transfer window, Premier League new boys Nottingham Forest managed to capture Jesse Lingard on a free after his contract expired at Manchester United. The Midlands outfit, who earnt top-flight promotion having won the play-off final against Huddersfield Town at Wembley, return to the Premier League for the first time in 23 years and despite notable absences from their side, they have managed to attract big names to the City Ground in an attempt to prove wrong the betting sites tipping them to go down.
With a £200,000 a week wage, Lingard will be the top earner for Steve Cooper’s side, and with such big money comes added responsibility. Having previously been linked with Newcastle United as well as West Ham United and Leicester City, the move is certainly a gamble for ‘J-Lingz’ but one that could reignite an otherwise stagnated career, plagued by inconsistency and injury. Read on, as we look at what Lingard will offer Forest ahead of the new season.
Having spent the majority of his senior career at Manchester United, with successful loan spells to Birmingham City and West Ham breaking them up slightly, Lingard has garnered years of experience in top-flight football. At 29 he would be one of the more senior figures in the dressing room and as well as his productivity on the pitch, could help unearth the potential and personality of Brennan Johnson, who was something of a talisman at the City Ground last season. The young Welshman, who is often deployed on the right of midfield, can be expected to link up with Lingard in an exciting Forest attack that will surely surprise a few this season.
With the Premier League introducing a five substitutes rule, similar to that at the end of the coronavirus pandemic, Cooper’s side will be stretched to within an inch of its life. The reality of the situation is that Forest have one of the weaker sides in the division and bar glimpses of excellence from the bench, they will rely heavily on their starting line-up to produce results.
Djed Spence and Brice Samba are already big misses from the side that won the play-offs last season but Lingard’s introduction will ease the burden on the understudies and provide more optimism to those at the City Ground. There will inevitably come a time where injuries and suspensions test Cooper’s squad selection and although you’d expected Lingard to be one of the first names on the team sheet, there may well be a time where he influences games from a substitute role.
For a Forest squad lacking the appearances usually required to beat the drop in such a competitive division, who better to have in the side than a man for the big occasion. Lingard has cropped up for United more than once in big moments — from his moonwalk down the Emirates touchline to the FA Cup winner against Crystal Palace in 2016, Lingard can grab the game by the scruff of the neck when needs must.
What’s most refreshing is how the 29-year-old spoke about his status in the team and despite commanding such a high salary he knows he still has to earn his stripes. “I’m on a level playing field with everyone, and I’ve got to work hard to play in the team and gain a spot in the team,” he said.
“The manager and the owners have been brilliant with me, the manager’s taught me the way how they’re going to play, the structure of how they’re going to play and it’s really insightful and gives me excitement to get on the pitch and play for him.”