Four years of Fawaz Al Hasawi and four years of ever-diminishing returns for Nottingham Forest. If we don’t address our problems this summer the consequences could be dire next season, says Andrew Brookes
Here we are again. Another season, another tame end for Nottingham Forest. Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to Wolves continued a tepid run that has delivered just two wins in 15 games.
It means that for the fourth season in a row – or every year of the Fawaz Al Hasawi regime if you will – we’ve ended the season with a poor run of results.
It symbolises the complete failure of the short-termist approach that has been evident at the City Ground under the current ownership.
The first and third years of the Fawaz era saw honeymoon periods peter out – for Billy Davies and Dougie Freedman – while the second and fourth were wasted caretaker spells for Gary Brazil and now Paul Williams, as we tread water waiting for a new manager to take over.
Each end-of-season flop is indicative of the lack of vision and long-term strategy at a club that lurches from one failure to another.
In some respects Saturday’s opponents were a decent contrast to Forest. Like us with Antonio and Assombalonga, Wolves are a side that have been hampered by the sales and injuries to star players. Sako and Afobe have departed and Dicko has been ruled out through injury. As a result they’ve been about 15-20 goals short of being promotion contenders.
Yet Wolves have probably played the ‘team in transition’ role more smartly than us. Take a look at their squad and you’ll see that it’s packed with up-and-coming young players who have useful experience under their belts. If they can add a bit of class in the final third – and get Dicko and the impressive Jordan Graham fit – they could easily be next season’s Brighton, under the calm tutelage of Kenny Jackett.
Where Wolves have an improving squad and a smart manager, we just have uncertainty. With six loanees to return to their parent clubs, three senior players out of contract, a captain likely to leave for the Premier League, no manager in place and uncertainty over investment, we’re a long way behind the likes of Wolves.
You’d hope that we could come out of our transfer embargo – although I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t – but with no plans in place for signings at the moment we’ll have to play catch up on that front in a division that is set to be highly financially competitive given the size of the clubs set to come down from the top flight.
In fact, anybody thinking of using accumulatortips.org.uk will probably be including us as favourites to be at the wrong end of the table.
This contrast – and the latest poor run – also highlights one damning statistic. Each year of the Fawaz era has seen us get steadily worse as the lack of leadership at the top takes its toll. From 8th to 11th to 14th and now 17th, there’s been a clear slide. While we still have chance to arrest that positional sequence with a win at MK Dons next week, victory there would only get us up to 55 points, down from 59 last year, 65 the year before and 67 in 2012/13.
If we don’t address our problems this summer then make no mistake about it, we’re not too big or too good to get involved in a relegation scrap, continuing the trend that we’re now on. The form of the last 15 games has certainly been relegation-worthy.
We desperately need a structure at the club, a proper plan and a manager who can be trusted to take us forward over a period of years and not months. Without that, we’ll be sitting here in a year’s time looking at another poor end to the season – and maybe with dire consequences.
2012/13 (Billy Davies)
End of season run: P8 W1 D4 L3 F7 A11
Final position: 8th (67 points)
A draw, followed by six wins in a row gave hope that Billy Davies’ return could propel us to an unlikely play-off push. It wasn’t to be, however, as the honeymoon waned and the end of season slump set in.
2013/14 (Billy Davies/Gary Brazil)
End of season run: P16 W2 D5 L9 F17 A34
Final position: 11th (65 points)
Billy Davies’ second reign came to an abrupt conclusion – just over a month after his 16-match unbeaten run ended. He hurtled towards the sack as the wheels came off his now-toxic tenure, and caretaker Gary Brazil couldn’t halt the slide as we all prepared for the waiting-in-the-wings Psycho to step in.
2014/15 (Dougie Freedman)
End of season run: P8 W0 D2 L6 F10 A18
Final position: 14th (59 points)
After a surprisingly exciting burst of ‘Freedmania’, the bubble burst – and with it any dreams of a top six finish – with a limp run to the finish line. A season that began with such promise fizzled out tamely.
2015/16 (Dougie Freedman/Paul Williams)
End of season run: P15 W2 D4 L9 F10 A21
Current position: 17th (52 points)
This season’s rot set in as soon as Dougie Freedman’s 13-match unbeaten came to an end. Since the Huddersfield game, which broke the run, the team has managed just two wins in 15.