A club in transition since 2011, if not longer, are Nottingham Forest finally on the cusp of stability? Brandon Reeves thinks we could be there
What is it that makes for a stable football club? Financial security, knowing that you can pay the bills, buy players and not cross the line on certain financial rules? Having the same manager for more than two seasons, with a recognisable team? Or is it having a set structure, to which everybody can work?
Well, in all truth it is probably a mixture of those. Swansea and Southampton are the leading examples for stability outside of the Premier League’s ‘top six’. Year upon year from being in League One they have had a set way of managing things and have improved each year also. It isn’t a mistake.
Since that famous day you hear so often about in Swansea’s history, when they were one game from the footballing obscurity of the conference, the club has been a steadier ship each season. That day was a line in the sand, drawn by Huw Jenkins. Since then they have gone on to a new stadium, Premier League football, winning the League Cup and then playing in the Europa League. And now, since they turn a profit, they’re ready to smash down that glass ceiling of the ‘top six’.
Similarly, Southampton are on the precipice of that top six. When they slipped into League One, the club was penniless and on the brink of bankruptcy. Luckily for them Markus Liebherr, roughly a year before his death, bought the club and put Nicola Cortese in charge. In due course, Les Reed was hired as director of football and they’ve not looked back since. Not to mention the production line of fine, young talent the likes of which are gracing the upper echelons of the game.
So, how does that relate to Forest? Well, since our ever so graceful plunge into League One, we have (mis-)managed to sack eight managers, one particular Glaswegian twice, marginalise our youth setup and are threatening to have a Championship stay as long as Ipswich’s. Thirteen years, we’re halfway there. We are, to avoid being rude, urinating into an excessive breeze… while moving sideways… in a nettle bush.
We’ll never know what would have happened had our venerable ex-owner not had a sad and untimely passing. Cotterill might have stayed at the helm, and who knows what next. But, the cold, hard fact is that the Al Hasawis are in charge, for the long-haul it seems, and we haven’t improved since the summer of 2011. I know they bought the club in 2012 but hear me out.
That summer of 2011 was an exciting one. King Billy, as we gladly called him then, had “taken the club as far as he could”, and fresh from his European adventure, Steve McClaren was the man to take us back to the big time. If you know anyone who fell into a coma, induced by the tension of that Swansea play-off, just at the time McClaren was hired and they’ve recently woken up, I’m sure they would be devastated at the… progress the club has made since that summer.
Since McLaren wanted to bring a few of his own additions in, the club was officially “in transition”. And that has been the case every season since. Since that season, the only constants at the club have been the fans, Reid, Cohen, Blackstock and Majewski and Terry the kit man. Every year since we’ve been given a new batch of players to cheer on and when they don’t get promotion by January, the manager cops it.
Everyone wanted it to work for Sean O’Driscoll, despite him being duller than an afternoon round James Milner’s house. He was trying to implement a style, the slow-build approach. It seemed to be working, but being naïvely ambitious, the Al Hasawis sacked him after a 4-2 win and we were in and around the play-offs. Odd. I did get the feeling of boredom, slightly, under SOD. His feature-length radio interviews probably didn’t help. His lowest point will have been the insipid display against Millwall. Maybe we needed a boring season, and understand what was being built.
McLeish’s tenure reminds me of a Simpsons clip where Grampa Simpson walks into a burlesque house where Bart is working, puts his hat on a stand, sees Bart is there, turns around instantly and puts his hat on and he’s away. That’s the perfect comparison really. No sooner had he put his hat down, he saw who was running things, and ran a mile. The George Boyd situation tipped him over the edge.
Then King Billy returned for a second stint at the throne. Yet another summer of change in the playing staff. More transition. That season… It was what it was. No further comment.
Pearce brought about more change but you could sense that it was change for the better. More transition. He had a squad more than capable of challenging at the top, ability wise. And as Forest Boffin said, he was learning on the job, so to speak and would have needed only a further eight points to affirm safety. Then, with a summer of reflection, he may have been able to given it a proper go.
In the context of the season it was probably right that he was sacked. In the larger scheme of things, we’ll never know if he would have learned from his transgressions and idiosyncrasies.
I think with Freedman, we have a real chance at something good. A project if you will. Freedman seems to know how he wants to play, where he needs players and what type of character he wants. FFP could help this. For too long we have been in transition, and the endless line of Big Time Charlies will probably stop with FFP.
We’re looking like we are trying to sort out recruitment, with Leon Hunter and Omar Yabroudi brought in to help. Also, we’re starting to see a clear path for youngsters into the first team.
This next season, I’d take a play-off push and develop a team ethic and a style, push for the Premier League fully the year after. It’s a nice idea, but we don’t know that Fawaz won’t lose his nerve and sack Dougie if we aren’t in the play-off picture in January.
We’ve got some work to do before we’re anything like Southampton or Swansea but with patience and a collective ambition, we can get to where we want to be. Just one more season of transition though before we get there, eh? It’s kind of our thing.