OPINION: Can 2018 World Cup help raise standards at Nottingham Forest?

Owls Jack Hunt beats Forests Jamie Ward....Pic Steve Ellis
Owls Jack Hunt beats Forests Jamie Ward....Pic Steve Ellis

The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia could possibly raise the standard of play for Nottingham Forest’s squad members.

With the planet’s biggest football tournament just over a year away, various individuals at the City Ground will by vying for places in Mark Warburton’s side, with a view to representing their national sides.

Despite the Red’s struggling to retain Championship status again this season, they do have several players that could possibly be competing on the biggest stage next year.

Admittedly, not all the players concerned will see their nations qualify but there are a handful of very realistic candidates.

Jamie Ward is one of those who has a great chance.

The in-form winger represented his native Northern Ireland at last year’s European Championships and will be keen to replicate the buzz of playing on the big stage again in Russia.

Since being recalled from his loan at Burton Albion, the pint sized forward has certainly made a positive impact in a Forest shirt, none more so than last Saturday against Huddersfield.

Britt Assombalonga recently pledged his allegiance to the Democratic Republic of Congo, having realised that and England call up is as unlikely as Leicester winning the Premier League ever again.

The out of form hit man is keen to follow in the footsteps of his father, Fedor, who played when DR Congo was formerly known as Zaire. Britt was named in his country’s African Cup of Nations squad but had to withdraw due to a clerical error.

I have no doubts that he will come out fighting next season and have one eye on the World Cup, which DR Congo are well placed to qualify for at this moment in time.

Although having not been selected since last year, Eric Lichaj has an excellent chance of re-establishing himself in the USMNT (United States Men’s National Team), the Chicago born full back has had a fine season for Forest and is tipped by many to be the club’s player of the season.

His chances will be further increased now that Bruce Arena is back in charge of the US, following the sacking of Jürgen Klinsmann earlier this year. The States have struggled in qualification but still have a decent chance via the play-off system.

You only have to look at the performance of the Welsh national team at the European Championships to see what an impact can be made with a host of Championship level players.

Former Forest man Chris Gunter had an excellent tournament and gives hope to those at his old stomping ground.

Although David Vaughan travelled with the Dragons, he did not feature in the Euros and subsequently retired after the tournament.

The meteoric rise for some players is astounding these days; Marcus Rashford’s sudden emergence proved that anything is possible in a very short time frame. What odds would you get on Ben Brereton making the full England squad for next year’s World Cup I wonder?

For this to happen, the youngster would probably have to make a move away from the City Ground and that is something us Nottingham Forest supporters do not want to see any time soon.

Gboly Ariyibi is another exciting youngster who will be keen to break into both the Forest and US first eleven’s. Since signing from Chesterfield he is yet to feature for the Reds, but next season could well yield opportunities for the tricky winger.

Having watched some of his footage at Chesterfield, he looks like a real prospect and I can see why he featured for the USA under 23’s in recent years.

If you dig even deeper in to the vast number of average Joes at NFFC you will find a hidden league of nations within; some who possibly, may never wear the garibaldi red again as it transpires.

The likes of Pajtim Kasami (Swiss) will probably not be coming back again after his loan expires but there are a few forgotten foreigners still to consider. Mustapha Carayol (Gambian), Thomas Lam (Finish), Vladamir Stojkovic (Serbian) and Armand Traore (Senegalese) will all be keen to re-establish themselves in the Forest side, in the hope of playing for their respective countries.

As unlikely as it seems for some of the afore mentioned to play for the Reds again, let alone their national sides; there will be an improvement in standard for those dreaming of some Moscow Magic in 2018.