Nottingham Forest are clearly in a better position than they were a year ago — and for that we can only thank the Al Hasawis. But is it right to compare any current situation with the dire straits of last summer? Should we expect more? Stuart McKenzie thinks so…
After nearly a year of Nottingham Forest having new owners there are many positives — the investment is there for all to see, the club is still operating and, despite rumours of being bad and late payers, clearly enough bills have been paid to allow us to operate. And that’s not cheap — £10m plus of losses each year have to be paid by someone.
Yet I’m afraid to say I also see many huge question marks. Some claim we have billionaire owners (Natalie Jackson step forward, you are mainly to blame for that). We haven’t seen billionaire investment – nowhere near close. And we also haven’t seen the kind of appointments you normally see when billionaires take over a club.
Chelsea and Man City are the English examples of what happens when billionaires with ambition take over a football club. Very early on they address things off the field. From the start they go out and find the best CEOs, they spend fortunes on their hospitality offerings and they recruit the best in the business in all the fields that a football club operates in.
Commercial, hospitality, sports science, the academy, the training ground, finance… I’m not talking about the playing squad or coaching team, I’m talking about the entire infrastructure of a club being given new faces, huge investment and the best people these billionaire owners can afford to bring in to transform their new clubs.
Everything starts improving together at the same time. Serious investment is needed but serious and noticeable improvements happen quickly throughout their clubs.
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We haven’t seen any of this at Forest. We made do with an existing team of old hands — Arthur, Clark, Burt, Pelling, Marshall and co. — with no fresh blood. Halfway through the year we see them go but what happens next? Where’s the new men? Where’s the business acumen?
We had six months to find better personnel to fill these positions. There are undoubtedly better CEOs, finance directors, chief scouts, academy directors out there — there is the whole of Europe (and beyond) to scour for the best in the business. We have billionaire owners who have big ambition. They could buy any football club in the world. They want a third star on our shirts. But the third star won’t come looking for us – we have to go looking for it.
So what do we see? Sacking after sacking with no replacements. Why weren’t the best in the business lined up to step straight into these roles seamlessly? Why are we doing making do with an interim academy director for half a season? Surely that should be a very temporary role? Surely candidates must be in abundance for this role? Instead we have a great coach doing a job he allegedly didn’t want and, allegedly, had to be leaned on to take in the first place. The rumours are now that Gary Brazil has been asked to make the role his own with help from Charlie McParland. Two square pegs for one round hole. Why are we even putting one square peg into a round hole, let alone two?
The CEO has to be the most important role at the club other than the manager. I look back and think it was a big mistake for a new CEO not to come in on day one with the new owners. The best available they could afford. If need be have Mark Arthur work a handover with him. But it didn’t happen. Arthur would never be the innovator and leader we need off the pitch. He was never going to be our leader or set the direction. And then he’s sacked in mid-January. Why, after all this time, isn’t the new, improved CEO ready to start work the very next day?
It has been acknowledged by Fawaz that he was happy with the squad that was put together but not the consistency. Was the lack of consistency Keith Burt’s fault or Sean O’Driscoll’s? You could argue it was O’Driscoll’s fault but Burt goes regardless – where’s the replacement? The rumour is that it’s Dr Tariq Aljalahmah. And then Billy Davies comes in and the good doctor immediately goes home with glowing words from Billy!
Step forward Bobby Downes — supposedly one of Billy’s friends from the past and a part-time scout employed by Burt who we accept wasn’t up to the job himself. The best in the business money can buy? Must be pretty coincidental if he is and we had him doing a part-time job for so many years.
John Pelling? I haven’t got a clue if he was good at his job or not. Possibly not. Probably pretty average. So we sack him too. And where’s his replacement? No news yet. Don’t tell me we have people who used to work for him now filling in the gaps. I suspect we have.
This goes on. I am staggered that John Pye could even be in the running to be our shirt sponsor again. Staggered. Why haven’t we had a top commercial executive on the case from day one of the new ownership to have people queuing up to sponsor everything you could put a sponsor’s name to at the club. The right person in that role, with nothing else to worry about, should have us in the faces of everybody in football who wants to sponsor, or doesn’t even know they want to sponsor yet, and needs Forest selling to him.
It seems Billy’s sometime advisor Jim Price has shoehorned himself into a big role at the club. Good for him, at least he is putting himself forward and offering to do something to move the club forward. Is he capable? Maybe? Does he have any prior experience of running a football club? Not that I know of. Not that there’s any doubt he could help with some things. But he should be a small cog in a big wheel taking us forward, not a big cog or the only cog in a small wheel.
Forget on the pitch. We are crying out for action off the pitch. Leadership and direction, fresh faces, new ideas, a buzz, some positive momentum. We do nothing and we get nothing back or worse. The debacle of moving the away fans is a case in point — it was a shambles from start to finish.
Is Fawaz a shrewd businessman? I don’t believe he can be. He can’t be if he thinks a club can compete with the big boys without serious investment in quality staff off the pitch.
Is Fawaz’s heart in the right place – a resounding yes, but you can’t just hope for things to improve and for good things to happen. You have to make them happen. Twelve years of mismanagement needed sorting – even more reason to bring in a team of great people to sort out the mess. It shouldn’t be used as an excuse for why we haven’t sorted anything yet. Sack and replace, sack and replace. Introduce new positions with great staff to improve us in the many areas we’re trailing behind other clubs.
The billionaires we see take over other clubs don’t hang around like this – what are we waiting for? Success won’t come knocking, we have to go out and grab it. It’s time to get the show on the road now Fawaz, the learning curve is over. Show us you know what it takes to make this club great again.
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