With Evangelos Marinakis on the verge of taking a majority stake in Nottingham Forest, a new manager must surely be on the cards. Peter Blackburn runs through a few of the likely candidates
It feels like we’ve been here before.
Mick McCarthy was once a done deal and later Neil Warnock was definitely taking the reins at Nottingham Forest.
Gus Poyet had been hailed as the man to lead the Reds forward until this week. Except none of them – including now Poyet, who has moved onto another interesting challenge at Real Betis – ever took the job and the hot seat at the City Ground appears (once again) to be about as appealing as the Mastermind chair is to an idiot.
It may be that you need to be an idiot to want the gig – after all you’re dealing with a chairman and owner and leadership structure with the capability of making BHS look like a successful organisation.
But this is still Nottingham Forest isn’t it? Just about, anyway. Our history, our brand, our beautiful (if crumbling) stadium and our loyal and committed fan base must still make us an attractive proposition.
Couple that with the vast swathes of managers out of work as football spirals deeper into utter chaos and madness and finding someone half-decent, or at least not utterly useless or contemptible, to do the job shouldn’t be too hard.
Here’s a look at who could be a realistic proposition, a few whose Forest links might see a few more of those empty red seats filled, and a cheeky look at some of the wildcards Fawaz is unlikely to be looking at but perhaps should.
Established (relatively speaking) managerial merry-go-round names
Neil Warnock: As I’ve already mentioned we’ve been here before. But Mr Warnock has been up to his usual tricks performing miracles in the Championship and may well have a renewed appetite for another challenge. Whether he’d want to come back given that last time talks ended in a blur of slightly weak racism allegations it’s hard to say. On top of that I am still desperately hoping Fawaz might have suddenly come round to long-term thinking and Warnock is unlikely to be that man.
Karl Robinson: Robinson is a good-talker. I’m always attracted to him as a managerial prospect after listening to him talking about his style, his philosophy and the way he looks after players. He clearly played a good part in the development of England’s hottest young star Dele Alli and plenty of relatively average players have been improved under him. However, achievements have been relatively limited despite huge stability and sound backing at MK Dons.
Paul Lambert: The Glaswegian may well be heading back North of the border but if not would be a shrewd addition for a club at this level. He has a sound record – basket club Aston Villa aside – but doubts persist over his style of football. You would have to wonder whether he’s interested in working in another madhouse after spells at Villa and Blackburn Rovers too.
Steve Clarke: Many felt Clarke was a little unlucky to lose his job at West Brom and things only seemed to go downhill at Reading after the Scot entered talks with Fulham. A reputation as an excellent coach is the positive side of things, an uninspiring style and manner balances things out somewhat.
Paul Clement: Well, it wouldn’t be the first time Forest and Derby County had shared a manager. Clement’s potential was the talk of the town in the summer with clubs like Sunderland reportedly considering him. Mistreated at Derby where the side was in fifth place when he left. But Clement would be unlikely to be afforded the sort of cash he had at Pride Park – spending £5 million on utterly unnecessary players like Jacob Butterfield and with a wage budget bigger than twenty Kelvin Wilsons. It would be a real stab in the dark.
From the left-field
Paul Tisdale: Despite plying his trade with Exeter at a level of football I relatively rarely watch, Tisdale is one of my all-time managerial heroes. He’s reportedly spurned advances from the likes of Swansea and Southampton in the past but you’ve got to wonder whether he would like to make the move at some point. Effortlessly stylish, hugely engaging and used to working with next to no resources Tisdale is a seriously talented, studious manager who genuinely improves players rather than simply using recruitment to climb the table.
Graham Potter: Admittedly this is a bit of a ridiculous choice given all I know about Potter is what I’ve read in the papers but this is a man achieving impressive things against all the odds. Now, don’t we know a club where those skills would be useful!? Managing up in the frozen wastelands of Norway at Osterlunds, Potter is making a real name for himself as a progressive, impressive manager. And teams in the UK are starting to take notice.
Michael Appleton: Not so long ago Appleton would have sat proudly under the previous list of names but the highly-rated young coach is now down at Oxford rescuing his reputation after a series of unfortunate failures. Look a little deeper though and Appleton’s only mistakes really are choosing the clubs in the first place. All were in disarray and all were beneath his talents. Oxford are turning into an impressive unit and you don’t have to listen to Appleton for long to realise he’s got potential to be something really credible.
Former Forest men
Nigel Clough: I’m going to have to declare an interest here. I’ve got a few pounds on Nigel to get the job at 14/1. If Fawaz made the choice I’d be a happy man, if at least for a few minutes. After that, I’m not so sure. Clough Junior has done a really credible job everywhere he has been. He’s always left clubs better than he found them, he has a reputation for working within budgets and improving players. He also loves this club and understands what makes people here tick. He’s not the most exciting or charismatic candidate but I’m not sure this current Forest deserve much better and Clough is a very reasonable candidate.
Gary Bowyer: How ironic that Blackburn have just cut all their budgets and asked Paul Lambert to do the sort of job Bowyer was already doing before he was sacked – scraping a decent football team together from a mess of waifs and strays with black financial clouds looming everywhere. He’s got a Forest history and it may well be his previous experience of working conditions would be perfect for Forest. But if new investment and new ideas are coming in ambitions should perhaps be a little higher.
Roy Keane: Steer clear. Keane’s record as a manager is almost as worrying and foreboding as his record as a player is impressive. Spend big, ruffle feathers, bore fans, leave, repeat. That seems to be the mantra and I’d rather be in steady Eddie town than become even more ridiculous a prospect than we currently are.
The ones that could spell the end
Steve Evans and Billy Davies: I’m not sure if this category means these men would spell the end for me or for Forest really, but both could possibly be the case. These two unpleasant men are the sort of characters we could really do with not being associated with. Both have behaved in ways that are not becoming of our fine name – after all that’s pretty much what we’re left with – and both would probably result in me abandoning support of the club for their tenure. Here’s hoping the men in charge aren’t as silly as they sometimes seem.
I’m not sure there is one. I have some sympathy for John McGovern and Fawaz Al-Hasawi because this must be a very difficult task. The men who are really fitting for this job probably aren’t on this list – but that’s in no small part down to the way Forest has been run over recent years.
In the absence of indisputably credible, solid, experienced Championship options I would be looking to the lower leagues and promising talented, young managers the time and space to build their careers and – ultimately – a legacy for Nottingham Forest.
Of course, there’s the nagging feeling that I’ve missed somebody obvious out…