With the arrival of Philippe Montanier, Pedro Pereira and Apostolos Vellios, it’s clear the investment of Evangelos Marinakis is already taking effect at Nottingham Forest. Time to look to the future, says Peter Blackburn
Just seconds after Stuart Pearce had spoken his final words on 3 August 2014, an overwhelming sense of optimism flooded into the hearts of Nottingham Forest supporters.
The Reds legend had just been introduced to the press, and fans, at the City Ground and after two troubled years under the ownership of Fawaz Al Hasawi – including the bitter, divisive and painful second coming of Billy Davies – the hurt was suddenly forgotten.
Many of us knew, or at least worried, in those moments that our mended hearts were ruling our heads and that this was a fairy-tale without a fairy-tale ending. But why should we care? For these blissful moments our club was whole again – a hero at the helm, a chief executive appointed, a recruitment team in place and a backroom staff for the rest of the league to envy.
Fast forward nearly two years and – after another limp, disappointing and frustrating season – some of those feelings returned to this beleaguered fan, and judging by reaction on social media many others too.
And, this time, I’m much more confident that the positivity can last.
Forest are on the brink of being released from the suffocating, incompetent chains of the Al Hasawi family – and their litany of unpaid bills, sacked staff and enemies made across football. Not only that but the club, and presumably the team of prospective new owner Evangelos Marinakis, appear to be creating something resembling a structure.
Two men with genuine pedigree have arrived to take charge. Pedro Pereira has filled the much-needed director of football role and Philippe Montanier is the club’s new head coach.
I couldn’t pretend that either would have been obvious choices to me had I been in charge of the recruitment process – both because they would have been far more ambitious than I would have been for this previously stagnant, rotten club, and because my knowledge of European football is clearly less impressive than the men or women Marinakis has charged to do his business.
To doubt either’s credentials or to turn your nose up at a foreign import – as sadly, seems to be the current way in this country – would be foolhardy. These men come with credentials well above our station. That is not a guarantee that this new path will work, but it looks rather better than Pearce, Freedman, McLeish and Davies doesn’t it?
Some questions have been raised about Forest’s prospective new owner but most of us are in no position to make any judgements on that front. We are, however, perfectly capable of seeing how rapidly fortunes appear to be being transformed at our club. Odds are often wrong but the best odds on Forest beating Burton Albion on the opening day of the season at Hityah’s newest site are currently 1.7/1. Probably best not to look too far ahead at this stage.
From now it is crucial that these initial steps are not repealed as soon as the first storm clouds appear on the horizon. Doubtless Montanier will need time to adjust – and likewise the players to him. But Forest should now be planning for life with Pereira in charge of footballing matters in a decade, with as few head coaches having passed beneath him in that time as possible.
For genuine progress to continue a chief executive must be appointed – as Pereira should not be wasting his acumen in business and commercial deals – and the scores of unfortunate staff members culled by a rogue manager, his ‘trusted advisor’ and a weak chairman must be replaced.
After that, it may be worth considering bringing a Forest man, and not one tarnished by the previous regime, into the club, whether that be on the coaching staff or in a more advisory role, to ensure that the apparent progress brings the fans along for the ride – but that is far from critical.
It’s been a long time since supporters had the right to genuinely feel positive about a club which has fallen so far from its lofty history, but they certainly do now.
And this time it’s the head speaking – not just the heart.