By Jason McKeown
The 23-year-old Scot was signed by the Championship outfit from Dundee in the summer of 2011, but despite a promising first season that included a brace against the Bantams he has found opportunities hard to come by since Gianfranco Zola took charge. His last Hornets appearance came in the 2-1 league cup defeat to City at the end of August.
Forsyth has been drafted in to cover for the medium-term injured Kyel Reid, whose value to the team has been heightened by average form since he was injured against Rochdale in early October. And how successful Craig proves to be at Valley Parade could be intrinsically linked with City’s fortunes in the run up to Christmas. It is Parkinson’s latest solution to a problem he has failed to solve since taking charge.
For as much as Reid drives a number of supporters crazy with his inconsistency, the direct-minded wideman has been a pivotal part of City’s attacking strategy ever since he joined City on the same day Parkinson was confirmed as manager. With a general preference to deploy a right-sided player who can tuck inside and act as an extra ball winner, Parkinson has long since looked to Reid on the left to provide the pace and attacking zest for his front strikers. Even more so when the centre of the park has often seen the inclusion of two defensive midfielders – Lee Bullock and Ricky Ravenhill last season, and of course Nathan Doyle and Ravenhill at the moment.
The trouble Parkinson has had is the lack of adequate back up for Reid. Go back to last December, when City took 10 points from a possible 12 to roar their way away from relegation trouble. Alas, a bad injury to Reid on New Year’s Eve left Parkinson with a hole to fill that a succession of loanees – Charlie Taylor, Andy Haworth (yes, I’d forgotten him too), Will Atkinson and Deane Smalley could not fill. Form tailed off, and just when we’d reached the point when we thought a mid-table finish could be achieved, we were back into relegation trouble longing for Reid’s return.
This time around, Zavon Hines has struggled to fill Reid’s considerable shoes. A promising cameo from the bench against York – including a stunning individual goal – suggested a step in the right direction. As is the welcome news that City have invested time and money in getting Hines a life coach in the hope of replicating the transformation of Luke Oliver. But with Reid apparently out until Christmas, Parkinson clearly feels Hines is not yet ready to take on the responsibility week in week out. So we welcome Forsyth.
Not that it spells a relegation to the reserves for Hines. Earlier in the season when City were defeating one and all, the best performances seemed to come from Reid on the left and Hines on the right (let’s overlook Rotherham away). Perhaps the biggest losers from Forsyth’s arrival will be Garry Thompson and Will Atkinson, who may find their first team route blocked by Hines returning to the right wing.
Nevertheless, Parkinson’s decision to bring in Forsyth has to either herald or coincide with an upturn in fortunes. Reid’s absence is a blow, but City can’t afford to allow the season to drift by pining for his return. City need a good second quarter to the season and they need Forsyth or Hines or Thompson or Atkinson to provide that wide spark. And if they don’t, fingers will undoubtedly be pointed at Parkinson for failing to bring in the right replacement.
Last season a lot of money was wasted on poor loan signings. This year we need Forsyth to hit the ground running before City find they are left with too much ground to make up.