If you would care to look through my old posts, it is clear to see I am a forest fan. Entering nearly a quarter of century of watching my team its been possibly the most depressing week of following not just Forest but football more generally.
Most Forest fans did not know where our club was heading in the summer. Preceded by a disastrous season on the pitch and the tragic loss of our chairman and potential financial ruin off it. With one recognised defender left in walked our saviours the Al-Hasawi family. Little was known about them, they had made their money in domestic appliances and had involvement in Kuwaiti clubs and seemed clearly to have been captivated by a sport which grabbed me hook, line and sinker all those years ago stood in the Trent End with my old man and his broken flask.
Initially talk of an ‘iconic’ manager was muted with odds shortening for the likes of Hoddle, Sven and Strachan and the rebuttal of McCarthy. Then, all of a sudden and with apparent player discussion, they settled on a quiet unassuming bloke from the West Midlands in the form of Sean O’Driscoll.
You might think the majority of us fans were uninspired, a dull, easy somewhat safe appointment, yet it was met with near universal approval. Forest fans appeared to have grown sick of ‘names’ such as Platt and McClaren, wheeler dealers such as Megson and Kinnear and self publicists such as Davies. Here was a man who, like Paul Hart would have one eye on the first team whilst keeping his toe in with what was going on at lower levels and club structure.
After taking Bournemouth and Doncaster further than anyone could have expected, it was felt that at a club with bigger resources and bigger support he could really kick on and transform this sleepy, provincial club into something we could all have a bit of pride in again.
Early movement was positive. We were told to expect a slow steady build up with the club not wanting to chase short term success whilst risking long term stability. Our youth academy was renamed after our new chairman, club favourite Chris Cohen and talented youngster Jamal Lascelles were tied to long term contracts something which , if you follow Forest you would understand was a big step forward. Good signings were made and we actually did some good business on transfer deadline day which, again for Forest was ‘Is this really happening ?’ stuff. Communication from the owners was better and all this was being done outside the harsh glare of the national media.
O’Driscoll was a breath of fresh air. As calm in defeat as he was in victory he spoke with refreshing honesty and candour and I have to say I actually learned things about the game. He took a real interest in youth and reserve games, was happy to talk to the local press, and spoke about improving scouting networks and infrastructure such as training facilities. He definately had an eye on the future. Gone were the tired football cliches from the book of management, the very public squabbles with the board and the neglecting of the club as a whole. True, results were not fantastic nor were some performances but there was no over reaction from the majority of fans nor from the manager or the owners.
Thingz were simply too good to be true. Under Nigel Doughty we werepoorly managed as a club despite his best intentions. I had seen foreign owners join other clubs and make a mockery of decent teams such as Blackburn, Cardiff and Portsmouth. Our new owners seemed to be different , more patient and without changing the colour of our strip or the name of our stadium.
Like a fool I was drawn into this positive outlook and did not for one minute see the sacking of Sean O’ Driscoll coming. As stated results and performances had tapered off after early season promise but even the most impatient of Forest fans and typing trolls on internet forums had not started a determined O’Driscoll out campaign. That his sacking came after arguably our best performance of the season with a part owner afterwards stating that ‘O’Driscoll was doing a very good job’ made it all the more baffling. According to the owners, progress had not come quick enough and we were too inconsistent. In a league were we are constantly told that anyone can beat anyone, our inconsistency had led us to be a point off the play offs at the time of O Driscolls sacking. Its a tough league, a league made all the tougher by having new owowners, a new manager, new players all on top of a disorganised pre season. We are yet to hear from O Driscoll following his sacking but it will be interesting to see where he goes next but as far as I am concerned he will always be welcome back at the City Ground.
In comes Alex McCleish. He seems like a decent man too and certainly possesses more humour and warmth than I gave him credit for. However in football terms I recall both his Villa and Birmingham teams playing some of the most negative and dull football I have ever had the misfortune to witness. I also look at the legacies he has left at both clubs and they speak for themselves really. I have nothing against McCleish on a personal level but I will judge him on the football I have seen his teams play which is hardly a glowing endorsement.
Why the sudden impatience? Alex reveals he was approached in the summer but needed a break from football following his exhaustive attempts to remove any trace of the West Midlands from the Premier League. Was he offered the job over the summer fully aware that it would be held open until now, and did he merely have to state his interest resulting in O’Driscoll getting the boot. Or have the Al-Hasawis realised that running an English football club, particularly at this level, is far more expensive than they realised forcing them into a promotion or bust scenario? Forest, even in the good times have always struggled to make money and under Droughty, our balance sheets were a depressing with the man himself prepared to cover losses out of his own pocket. We presume they are wealthy types but its difficult to ascertain what their actual wealth is. They don’t appear to have any financial interests in oil which middle eastern owners normally have and although they passed the ‘fit and proper person test’ lets not forget that owners of Dartmouth also passed this test as did the ex Thai president at City and Yeung at Birmingham.
So now we’ve headed the way of the quick fix and with McCleish’s contract being only a one year rolling it would point to them being prepared to fire him too if things don’t work out. That’ll bring in another set of tactics, players and formations, something a club craving stability does not need. With O’Driscoll goes our chance to develop a n ethos or, in business terms, a brand. Even Swasea have a ‘brand’ now and bringing in successive managers who believe and operate in a similar way highlightsunami that. The work done by them over the last decade has been fantastic and they are a club whose results I always look out for. They have got their house in order without massive outlays and, most importantly done it patiently and over time and are now upwardly mobile. Compare that to Villa who chopped and changed managers under their American owner, spent a hell of a lot of money yet have ended up in a worse scenario than where they started. Wigan have developed an ethos under Martin and the fact they have made a profit over the last year should not be sneered at. It will be interesting to see where Chelsea end up when their owner has had enough. Although they sign youngsters, our very own Patrick Bedford being a good example, they rarely seem to break into the first team.
The Al-Hasawis were doing so well yet, to me, they have made the wrong decision on O’Driscoll. I feel sad that I got enthusiastic about what they were saying and dared to believe we were going to do things a different way. McCleish may well get us promoted but if, and I realise its a huge if, it is this season, it will be far too soon.
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