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Bolton fans hope there will be no repeat of Clough's dramatic exit to Forest this January

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
A year on from Zach Clough’s sale of necessity, Wanderers fans will be hoping the upcoming January transfer window does not bring with it such a nasty sting in the tail.

Folk in these parts have had to get used to a controversial exit or two – tears have been shed down the years for favourites like Per Frandsen, Gary Cahill, Mark Fish, Frank Worthington and Peter Reid as they left the building in ignominious circumstances.

But few outgoing deals felt quite so abrupt as Clough’s dramatic departure to the City Ground, seemingly initiated and completed in half a dozen hectic hours on deadline day 2016.

Ken Anderson had pledged not to sell Wanderers’ best players as Phil Parkinson’s side pushed for promotion but such were the escalating problems between himself and Dean Holdsworth in the boardroom at the time, and the consequent financial pressures which followed, Forest’s improving bids became too difficult to resist. In the end a fee of around £2.2million was paid up front, with another bonus following quickly behind for helping to secure Forest’s place in the Championship.

Though Bolton’s ownership situation is infinitely more stable these days, there remains a cash shortfall to make up, and potentially more difficult decisions to be made. The losses have been reduced significantly thanks to some smart commercial decisions and now stand at around £6million per season, according to the chairman.

Although no comment has been passed in public by the club as the names of Gary Madine and Josh Vela circulated by the rumour mill this week, it was difficult not to make comparisons with the circumstances of Clough’s departure.

Anderson said at the time: “I had to weigh up the financial benefits for the club of selling him and regrettably, following Dean’s refusal last week to contribute any funds to financially support the club, alongside me, I was left with no alternative but to try and reach the best deal possible with Forest.”

That transfer, along with the return of Sammy Ameobi to Newcastle United, forced Parkinson and his staff to rip up the plan and start again. That they did keep a promotion campaign on track amidst all the upheaval is one of their biggest achievements.

After leaving Bolton, where he had been schooled at the academy since the age of eight, Clough played a significant part in keeping Forest out of League One.

He scored twice in an important win against Brighton and endeared himself to his new club’s fans with a goal against rivals Derby County.

Since a summer £50million takeover by Greek Angelos Marinakis helped loosen the purse strings for Mark Warburton, however, the Tameside-born striker has had to wait in line for his opportunities with a group of others.

New additions like Barrie McKay, the former Rangers winger, and Keiran Dowell, the exciting young Everton midfielder, have left just one place up for grabs on the right side of the Forest attack. There, Clough has had to scrap with local youngsters Ben Brereton and Ty Walker plus another summer addition, Jason Cummings, for a starting spot.

Warburton remains upbeat about the youngster’s chances of success at Forest but a reunion with Wanderers tomorrow does not look a sure thing, with Clough limited to just five starts in all competitions this season.

“I think the fans would quite like to see him in the side,” said Paul Taylor, Forest writer for the Nottingham Post. “He’s an exciting player who makes things happen and he has done quite well when he’s had the opportunity.

“There are about seven or eight players who are all vying for three spots at the moment, so he has been a bit unlucky.”

Forest legend Gary Birtles reckons Clough’s time will come.

“I thought he was one of the best signings they could have made,” he said. “I’d seen him play a lot for Bolton and he ran the show for them, and I thought he’d walk into the City Ground and do exactly the same things for the Reds, no problem.

“I was really excited to see him in a red shirt because of the way he plays the game, because he made things happen for Bolton.”


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