Dean Henderson, Neco Williams and Brennan Johnson… how Nottingham Forest could line up next season


After ending their 23-year exile from the Premier League by winning the Championship play-off final in May, Nottingham Forest have caught the eye with their busy summer of transfer activity. 

Steve Cooper has made six new signings so far, spending close to £60million, but Forest’s business appears far from over.  

Sportsmail looks at how the Reds could line up next season as they attempt to survive in the top-flight. 

Nottingham Forest have caught the eye with their transfer activity after winning promotion

Goalkeeper – Dean Henderson

When the promotion celebrations were in full swing at the end of May, Forest probably didn’t expect to be changing goalkeepers over the summer. 

That was before Brice Samba – the hero in the play-off semi-final penalty shootout win over Sheffield United – asked to leave and eventually secured a move away to French side Lens. 

In his place is Manchester United loanee Dean Henderson, a player eager for regular game time and someone who has experience between the sticks for a newly-promoted team after his excellent season at Sheffield United in 2019-20. 

Centre-Back – Joe Worrall

With Lewis Grabban turning down a new contract at the City Ground, Joe Worrall will be the leading contender to be named as his hometown club’s new captain in the Premier League. 

The 25-year-old wore the armband at the end of last season as Grabban was injured and his rock solid displays didn’t falter. The arrival of Giulian Biancone from Troyes adds competition, but shouldn’t see Worrall lose his spot.

Joe Worrall will be the leading contender to be named as his hometown club's new captain

Joe Worrall will be the leading contender to be named as his hometown club’s new captain

Centre-Back – Moussa Niakhate

Moussa Niakhate should slot straight into Forest’s back three after signing from Mainz in a deal that could be worth up to around £13million, probably at the expense of Steve Cook. 

Mainz were very reluctant to let the former France under-21 international leave after he played a key role in their eighth-place finish in the Bundesliga last season. 

Niakhate was captain at the German club too, so adds more leadership to Steve Cooper’s defence 

Centre-Back – Scott McKenna

Despite Forest’s additions at centre-back this summer, Scott McKenna should still keep his place in the starting lineup after winning the club’s player of the year award last season. 

The Scottish international, who signed from Aberdeen two years ago, started every league and play-off game in 2021-22 apart from the final day of the regular season when Forest’s place in the top six was already secure.

Scottish international Scott McKenna was named Forest's player of the year last season

Scottish international Scott McKenna was named Forest’s player of the year last season

Right Wing-Back – Neco Williams

Whoever took the right wing-back spot this season was always going to have big shoes to fill following Djed Spence’s excellent displays on loan at the City Ground last season, but Neco Williams has all the attributes to do just as well. 

Forest paid near £17million to end Williams’ 13-year association with Liverpool and he showed he was ready for the Premier League last season as he helped Fulham win the Championship title. 

The 21-year-old has extra motivation to start the season well as he looks ahead to the World Cup with Wales in the winter.  

Left Wing-Back – Omar Richards 

There is also a new face on the opposite flank, with Omar Richards arriving from Bayern Munich for around £10million. 

The 24-year-old only joined the German giants last summer after leaving Reading, but he returns to England after playing alongside some of the world’s best players, tasting Champions League football and lifting the Bundesliga title. 

Huddersfield full-back Harry Toffolo has been heavily linked with a move to the City Ground too, so could provide competition for Richards.  

Former Reading left-back Omar Richards has arrived from Bayern Munich for £10million

Former Reading left-back Omar Richards has arrived from Bayern Munich for £10million

Centre Midfield – Ryan Yates

Like Joe Worrall, Ryan Yates is a Forest academy graduate and has been at the club since the age of seven. 

Having played in the National League, League Two, League One and the Championship, the 24-year-old now gets to test himself in the Premier League. 

Yates chipped in with eight goals last season – more than double his previous best tally for a season – and he is the heartbeat of this Forest team.  

Centre Midfield – Lewis O’Brien

One area of Forest’s team that is the most lacking at the moment is the centre of midfield, so it’s no surprise that they are desperate to sign Lewis O’Brien, who lined up against them for Huddersfield at Wembley in May. 

The Terriers are said to want around £12million for the 23-year-old, who has been at the club since the age of 11. 

He is not necessarily one to be regularly contributing in the final third – he registered three goals and three assists last season – but his hard-working displays in the Championship over the last two seasons should earn him a top-flight move. 

Lewis O'Brien lined up against Forest at Wembley but could now move to the City Ground

Lewis O’Brien lined up against Forest at Wembley but could now move to the City Ground

Centre Midfield – Morgan Gibbs-White

Another proposed transfer and another player who faced Forest in the Championship play-offs. Morgan Gibbs-White was on loan at Sheffield United last season and missed the decisive penalty in the semi-final shootout. 

It was a disappointing end to a stellar season for the England under-21 international, who scored 13 goals and provided 10 assists in 40 matches for the Blades. 

Now he is back at Wolves and Forest face competition from Everton and Crystal Palace for his signature. This might be a deal done towards the end of the transfer window.  

Striker – Brennan Johnson

While Forest have made plenty of additions this summer, perhaps their best bit of business has been tying down Brennan Johnson to a new four-year contract. 

The 21-year-old is going from strength to strength for his boyhood club and contributed 18 goals and nine assists in the Championship and play-offs last season.  

His rapid rise continued with a first international goal for Wales last month and it is a hugely exciting prospect to see him play in the Premier League. The sky is the limit. 

Brennan Johnson agreed a new four-year contract this summer following a superb season

Brennan Johnson agreed a new four-year contract this summer following a superb season

Striker – Taiwo Awoniyi 

Taiwo Awoniyi was Forest’s first signing of the summer as the Reds broke their transfer record to bring in the Nigerian international for £17million. 

It’s not hard to see why. Awoniyi scored 15 goals in the Bundesliga last season, is quick and strong and is used to leading the line in a 3-5-2 system.   

The 24-year-old ended an eight-year spell at Liverpool last summer without making a first team appearance for the Reds. He probably didn’t expect his second chance in England to come so soon.  



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