This is reflected in on-line polls (see right). It can’t be very often that facing a new campaign, with all the hope and bravado this time of year encourages, 74% of Forest fans dismiss chances of a top 6 finish (if my research reflects true feeling).
How does the morale of Forest fans compare with their rivals?
Polls such as “Where will we finish this year?” are a pre-season mainstay of football forums; I have scoured the web in a (tiring, frustrating – even tantrum inducing!) effort to compile perhaps the very first fans confidence league table, for the forthcoming season, which shows where each team's fans think they will finish, proportionally (see below).
I expected fans of Derby and Middlesbrough to be looking forward to the new season – we can see that they expect, on mass, automatic promotion. This is no surprise - they are the teams to beat, and their fans know it. The pressure is on!
Being under pressure in this league is not a comfortable position, considering it’s unpredictable nature and strength in depth, there are some good teams whose fans have every right to believe. Ipswich supporters are the next most confident (although I was able to unearth five of them who thought The Tractor Boys would be relegated).
The relegated sides also have reason for optimism - three strong squads and money still to be spent. The Burnley fans are the next most confident - surprisingly though followers of QPR are more cautious, only a little more sure of themselves than Forests.*
Perhaps of interest to the land's geo-psychologists are the results from Yorkshire. You may be surprised to see Huddersfield and Leeds featuring so high up our confidence table, with large proportions of their fans extolling their automatic promotion credentials; having spent a lot of time in that lovely county, I am not!
It was interesting reading the forums and message-boards belonging to our rivals; there are quite a few teams being heavily backed by very happy sets of fans - teams I didn't expect.
To a smaller extent I include Wolves in this; they had a good season last year, but have just lost their star player and will find their second season in The Championship more difficult, yet the majority of their fans expect play-off action at the very least.
But if you pay attention to the fans of Charlton, and in particular Brentford - at least online - many are looking forward to a season of glory, and this is reflected in their high positions.
They obviously know more about what's going on in their clubs than the outsider. Compared to some much bigger clubs below them in our confidence table, the Addicks and Bees fancy their chances.
In truth, there aren't any really depressed sets of fans - although that may change if Jordan Rhodes manages to escape from Blackburn. They are perhaps the least happy supporters, but still generally expect Rovers to stay well clear of relegation.
Followers of Rotherham, Preston and MK Dons are the least confident of all, but they generally have faith in their clubs to creep into mid-table safety, and are relatively optimistic.
All this may indicate we're in for another competitive, exciting and unpredictable year - but it also means that there are going to be a lot of disappointed sets of fans around the division. This is the first time I've compiled this data, but if this is the usual state-of-play it may explain why managers have such short tenures at this level.
As for Forest, it may mean the opposite. With comparatively low expectations, perhaps Dougie Freedman will be allowed the breathing space necessary to build. Personally I think the Forest squad is better than many of the teams above them in our fans confidence league table, but coming from under the radar may be a good thing.
Then again, there is only one man whose expectations must be met at The City Ground; lets hope Fawaz Al Hasawi doesn't have any ancestors from Yorkshire!
Thanks for reading, and thanks to the Forest forums in particular I raided for information (Vital Forest, LTLF, and City Ground Faithful), and all the other sources of information too numerous to list here.
*Disappointingly, there was not enough raw data to include Hull City. Try as I could (I really, really did), the polls were neither there to be found, nor could I induce enough opinion myself - no more than a couple of dozen votes - too small a sample to use. They have more important things on their mind, with an owner trying to erase their very identity.