The appointment of Mark Warburton is an exciting prospect for Nottingham Forest. But only with patience from the players, the fans and, most importantly, Fawaz Al Hasawi, says Andrew Brookes
Patience is a virtue, so my grandad used to say. He was right of course, grandads have a habit of that don’t they?
It’s something that everyone at the club should keep in mind after the appointment of Mark Warburton as the latest man in the City Ground hotseat.
The ex-Rangers and Brentford boss is an exciting prospect. In fact, I believe he has the talent to finally continue what Sean O’Driscoll tried to start here five years ago.
First and foremost, we need patience from Fawaz (or whoever might be calling the shots from the outside this week). This is probably the hardest ask of them all and is certainly the biggest worry for me going forward. If Fawaz doesn’t put faith in Warburton to deliver a steady and sustained improvement in results then it won’t happen. The target can’t be ‘promotion or bust’ if we’re able to stay in the Championship. Yet all along Fawaz has had that as his sole goal – anything less is a sacking offence in his eyes. Not only that, but he fails to accept his role in the club’s inability to be able to mount a promotion push.
Fawaz needs to realise that Warburton’s appointment shouldn’t just be about filling the vacancy. If we want him to thrive then he needs to be one piece of the larger puzzle. Warburton’s preferred possession-based game won’t just magically come out of the training ground alone. It should also be embraced by scouts looking for the right players to fit in — not sub loans from Wolves that no one knows what to do with or vanity buys like Nicklas Bendtner — and be a joint vision shared with Gary Brazil. Warburton’s lucky in that he already has a strong academy which has produced technically gifted players. He also has a close bond with the director of football. It’s not the finished article yet but it’s dangerously close to being a coherent structure. There’s no place for Fawaz in this structure, he needs to put his faith in the men he’s recruited and butt out. He can stick to skiing, that’s a downhill slope that does us no harm.
One of the reasons we’re in such a mess is not just because we change managers, but because every time we do so we lose a whole backroom team and lurch towards a new manager with a completely different playing style. Whatever your view of either man, Philippe Montanier clearly wanted to play a different game to Dougie Freedman. That meant that none of the more positive strands of the Freedman era were picked up and built upon. Clubs such as Southampton have forged a clear identity and can move more calmly between appointments.
Now, probably more by luck than judgement, we’ve come full circle and returned to a manager who seems more like Sean O’Driscoll than any we’ve had since. I’m happy with that but I’m also aware that if this is to work it’ll need more than just patience from Fawaz.
The players need to embrace what the new boss wants them to do. They need to be open to ideas and, to be fair, most our current bunch seem like they would be, especially since the academy has schooled a bunch of players with the right character and attitude as well as talent. Warburton himself has to show patience with this current bunch of players for this season at least, since the lack of loan window robs him of the chance to make any signings. The ever-looming FFP rules mean that his recruitment strategy can’t be about buying in a whole new squad for himself either. The basis of a side needs to come from what we have. I don’t think Warburton would be here if he didn’t think he had something to work with as a starting point.
But there is a role for us to play here too. Without wishing to sound too self-centred (cough, ‘The Derby Way’ cough), Warburton’s brand of football is surely the one that most Forest fans want to embrace isn’t it? I’m certainly up for seeing a classy passing team pinging the ball around the City Ground. Yet, it’s not easy to pass your way out of this league. It’s a brave and commendable way to go and it needs us to show a little patience too.
We’ve done it before. I remember fans being more forgiving in the Paul Hart era, geeing the team up if we went behind or showing appreciation for a slightly misplaced but imaginatively conceived pass. Warburton’s side will make mistakes but we need to be supportive of that approach. He might also make unusual decisions in the transfer market or opt for team selections that seem odd but we need to be more relaxed about that too. Fawaz panders to our grumbles – axing managers to stop the heat coming to him – and we need to be wary of this prospect. Protest against the regime is necessary, but it needs to be clearly directed.
This isn’t intended as being a moral dig over the jeers that greeted the Clough substitution on Saturday either. I cringed when that happened – and the ironic cheers when Britt was taken off – but that’s been and gone now. People are frustrated – and they’ve got plenty of reasons to be with this club at the moment – and the white-hot atmosphere of a Derby clash brought that to the boil. Arguing on Twitter about this is tiresome, as is re-running debates about issues from the Pearce or Freedman eras. Life is too short to squabble about all that.
There is, of course, no guarantee that Warburton is the right man. But without patience – from Fawaz, the players and the fans – we’ll never know. If we’re lucky enough to still be in this division next season – and that’s by no means certain – then let’s hope he gets it.