‘I didn’t know’ – Danny Batth on message from Swansea before wrecking Nottingham Forest’s season



Danny Batth didn’t quite realise what chain of events he was unleashing when he headed home his third goal in four games on the final day of last season.

He put Stoke City 1-0 up in the 19th minute at Nottingham Forest, who had needed just to avoid a heavy defeat – combined with Swansea running riot at Reading – to book their place in the Championship play-offs.

But an hour and a half later, Forest players were on their knees – beaten 4-1 while Swansea won by the same margin. Forest finished seventh, Swansea sixth, although they subsequently lost to Brentford in the promotion shoot-out.

What happened in those final 20 minutes at the City Ground, however, will be burned in Forest players’ and fans’ memories for a long time.

It had seemed like heading to a quiet conclusion at the City Ground at 1-1 when Michael O’Neill threw on Tyrese Campbell and Josh Tymon.

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“To be honest, I didn’t know what was at stake!” said Batth in an interview for the EFL.

“We weren’t aware of how close it was goal difference wise. I spoke to a friend of mine at Swansea City and he messaged me saying, ‘Hopefully you can win by a big margin today’ ahead of the Forest game, so I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do my best!’ 

“The game just took a massive swing. I remember seeing the reaction towards the end of the game from the Forest players and I didn’t really understand the magnitude of the result because I didn’t know the Swansea score.

“It was an incredible game to end on, but from our point of view it was also nice not to be going into that game needing a result or a big win. It was probably the first game in nine or ten months that we went into with no pressure, which was certainly enjoyable from our side.”

Stoke were already safe going into that game following a season battling at the bottom of the division.

Nathan Jones was sacked at the end of October and the side had only won two in the first 15 when O’Neill was appointed.

Batth said: “I know a few lads that played under the manager at Northern Ireland and they spoke very highly of him coming in. They told me what a good manager he is, said he’d get us playing football and get us the results we needed, which he has done. That was good enough for me and we’ve seen it first hand during the games we’ve played recently.

“When decisions needed to be made, he made the right ones and with that came the results we needed to stay up, so it will definitely be nice to spend a few weeks now preparing for the new season, training, developing and learning as much as we can as a side.  

“It’ll be the first time the manager has really had proper time to work with us in a pre-season and put his stamp on the team, giving us the identity he wants, so we’ll be all ears trying to pick up and deliver all of that.”

Now O’Neill is preparing for his first full season in charge, bringing in three new signings – Morgan Fox, John Obi Mikel and Steven Fletcher – as well as bringing back James Chester in hope that the club can challenge at the right end of the table.

“High standards are important,” said Batth. “Fitness levels at this level are really important, that goes without saying, but just team continuity really. It’s important that everyone knows what their job is, it’s important that everyone is on the same page because that’s what you fall back on.

“If you’re having an off day, bouncing back depends how good you are as a team and how good you are as a collective, so trying to incorporate all of that into our season is massive for us. From a personal perspective, I just want to try and pick up where I left off really and try to play as many games as I can.” 

He added: “All players will be targeting the first game and getting a result on that opening weekend, no doubt about that. Hopefully we’ll see the benefit of our forwards not having so much pressure on them, with every chance being absolutely vital to survival, they can go out there and create chances and the same goes for the lads at the back.

“We want to be able to go into a game with the mentality of playing with intensity, but relaxed and calm at the same time when on the ball. So hopefully we see that on the pitch and it translates into results for us.”





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