THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

21 January ~ Last Saturday's mauling at the hands of Southampton – followed by a four-goal thrashing in a midweek FA Cup replay at Leicester – demonstrated a shocking decline in fortunes for Nottingham Forest. Having made it to the Championship play-offs last season, Forest now languish in the relegation zone. Today they travel to second-place West Ham. Change was clearly coming last summer, with Billy Davies, the Forest manager at the time, unhappy due to a lack of transfer funds. The club's board were happy to let Davies go, especially when owner Nigel Doughty saw the opportunity to bring in Steve McClaren. Having acted with undue haste, Doughty has since resigned as chairman and left behind a club in turmoil.

The appointment of Forest's latest manager summed up the way the club has been mismanaged for years. Frank Clark, in his opening press conference as Doughty's successor as chairman, announced his pleasure at the quality of applicants, which he planned to reduce to a shortlist for interview. Just 24 hours later Steve Cotterill was in the post with an absurd three-and-a-half-year contract.

Whether it was Clark or unpopular chief executive Mark Arthur who appointed Cotterill is unclear. Warnings from Burnley fans of an unappealing style of play they term "Cotterball" have proved to be depressingly accurate as forlorn strikers chase long balls and fans see a treasured heritage of passing football fade further away.

However, the greatest fear for Forest fans is not that the club will return to League One, but that it is in terminal decline. While Doughty was a generous, well-meaning benefactor, he proved to be an appalling chairman. His money convinced him he could buy success, while it seems to have infused Arthur with the arrogance to ride roughshod over other clubs, claiming their players could not wait to join Forest's money train.

There was a time when Forest were many people's second club, playing attractive football, welcoming visitors and always playing fair. Money seems to have changed that. We are now seen as arrogant by others, while Doughty's lack of overriding vision has diluted the personality of the club. Now it has no soul for fans to attach themselves to. The manager isn't helped by injuries and suspensions but the club's problems run much deeper than team selection or today's result. Steve Wright

Comments (5)
Comment by Harbinger of Hope 2012-01-21 16:53:02

Couldn't agree more. The slightly bizarre signing of Sean O'Driscoll as first team coach this week is quite puzzling. At the time of McLaren's sacking, my choice for the new manager was O'Driscoll. Firstly, he was unemployed after being harshly sacked by Doncaster. Therefore no compensation. Secondly, he plays the passing game which would be popular and fruitful with the fans and the players. O'Driscoll and Cotterill would appear to be totally at odds in the way they want their teams to play.

Cotterill was a slightly odd choice from the start. Firstly he was already employed, and not exactly setting the league alight with Portsmouth. His style of football would probably work if he took over at Stoke, but with a squad that is overly endowed with short, lightweight players, adapting the current Forest squad to long ball tactics was always going to be a disaster.

In Cotterill's defence, he came in on his own. McLaren's full backroom team had been kept on, presumably because we couldn't afford to sack them. He came in at a time when he had no chance of making any signings for three months. The fans realise this, and have given him a fair bit of leeway to start with. The fact that we picked up a few results early on obviously helped. The game when Cotterill had been in charge about 18 hours, was probably our best of the season. The players, having finally got shot of McLaren's overly defensive style, fell back into their old Billy Davies patterns of play. Slick pass and move filled the ground with cheers, and hope for the future. Unfortunately it wasn't to last. Once Cotterill had spent some quality time with the squad and had time to explain and put into practice his style of play, the slide steadily started. Getting worse and worse, game by game.

Unless Cotterill suddenly decides to bring back a passing game, we are stuffed and heading down. The signing of O'Driscoll could be the god send we need.

I'm not one to call for a manager's head overly early as some do. There have been plenty of cries from the messageboards to sack the entire squad for not trying, and other completely insane pronouncements. The squad is relatively unchanged from the side that finished 3rd and 6th in the last two seasons. The players are clearly not the problem (Greening aside). The problem is Cotterill and his tactics. The sooner he gets the elbow the better. It seems highly unlikely we could get Billy back, even if we wanted to. We have the opportunity to promote SO'D from within and get the players doing what they have done perfectly well for the previous two seasons. The comeback is on, but only if the board finally makes one of their very few good decisions.

Comment by Red Adder 2012-01-23 12:59:32

Forest's main problem is they don't play Ipswich every week.

Another club that many like but being destroyed by an odd new owner and succession of poor managers.

Comment by Adam Wilson 2012-01-23 16:17:27

Dear Harbringer of Hope:
"I'm not one to call for a manager's head overly early as some do."
"The problem is Cotterill and his tactics. The sooner he gets the elbow the better."
???
as for me - I agree with the latter sentiment.

Comment by Harbinger of Hope 2012-01-23 16:43:42

Some have been calling for him to go since about 5 weeks after he took over. I have been giving him time to settle in. He's been in charge over 3 months now, so I don't think those comments contradict each other.

Comment by Langstone Garibaldi 2012-01-23 17:04:54

I have been a follower of the reds since moving to Nottingham in 1976. So that means I have seen the best and worst of the Club over 35 years. The Clough days weren't all glory, and arguably he was the architect of the Club's current woes by not recognising that he had lost the plot, and retired when there was time for someone new to come in and fill his boots. Since then the yo-yo syndrome seems to have become established in the psyche of the Club. However it looks now as though it is going to be happening outside of the Championship, with League 1 beckoning, and the current apathy among the supporters is likely to be rewarded with yet more despair in the seasons to come.

What is clear is that this is fundamentally the same team as last season and the one before, the only significant piece missing is Billy. Sure, he was a pain in the ass with the hierarchy because he told them the truth, not a sanitised version of events to protect his own job. Yet the cold facts are that the team hasn't been good enough for the Premiership, and more quality was needed. Why not spend £10 million when just 1 season of promotion will pay back 3 times that amount. A "lifelong" supporter Mr Doughty? Maybe, and yes, you put a lot of your money in, but to hide behind the "Fair Play" financial restrictions is a bit rich. By August we will have a shadow of the squad on a fraction of the wage bill in League 1 with no prospects of promotion, and no chance of ever transgressing the UEFA rule book again.

So I guess that is OK then. I will never stop supporting Forest, albeit from afar, but will I fork out around £70 to travel to watch this? Unlikely. Unlucky seems to be the common attribute of the current team - maybe, but in life you tend to have more control of your destiny than lady luck. Whilst there is time, let's get back to someone who subscribes to the fact that Mr Clough put so eloquently at times - it is FOOTball, not HEADball played by shorter than average players as alluded to in another comment. Sad times.

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