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