THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Al-Hasawis look to replace Steve Cotterill

icon newforest16 July ~ When the Al Hasawi family from Kuwait took over Nottingham Forest last Tuesday, one of their first moves was to sack manager Steve Cotterill. He had seemingly left one crisis club for another when moving from Portsmouth to replace Steve McClaren at Forest last October. The players were desperately short of form and confidence, while the patience of long-suffering supporters was wearing thin. Cotterill's was not a universally popular appointment, but the club was hardly going to attract a bigger name given that the new manager had to work with the existing coaching staff and finance any transfers by selling players. 

Hopes of a third successive tilt at the play-offs (or better) having long disappeared, Cotterill's brief was merely to preserve Forest's Championship status. Four wins in six games initially suggested this would be possible, but Forest saw 2011 out with a dismal run of one point and no goals in seven matches.

Just when it seemed things could not get worse, the sudden death of Nigel Doughty, the club's owner, in February put mere footballing matters into perspective. By then, more than £2 million had been raised from the sales of experienced defender Wes Morgan and prolific youth-team goalscorer Patrick Bamford, while Sean O'Driscoll had joined the coaching staff. 

Some astute loan signings helped bring about an upturn in form, the undoubted highlight being a 7-3 thrashing of Leeds on their own turf. Portsmouth's ten-point deduction helped Forest's survival chances and when the season ended with a win against Cotterill's former club, Forest had scrambled to three places above the relegation zone.

Cotterill's critics, who had taken against anything from his distinctive Cheltonian vowels to his perceived "hoofball" tactics, put the revival down to O'Driscoll's influence. Other supporters were more pragmatic, believing Cotterill had proved to be honest, decent and (largely) uncomplaining, and had achieved his brief in difficult circumstances. 

Following the purchase of the club by the Al-Hasawi family, many felt Cotterill had earned the chance to show what he could do with money to spend, though most felt he might not be the man to lead Forest back to the Premier League. You can be grateful to the fireman who stops your house burning down, but you don't necessarily want him to rebuild it.

The Al-Hasawis plan to appoint an "iconic" manager with "a perfect understanding" of the Championship. Names bandied about have ranged from the predictable (anyone with the slightest past connection to the club) to the downright ludicrous (Diego Maradona), with Mick McCarthy the latest favourite.

The owners have made a good impression so far, saying they are in it for the long haul. There has been more communication from the club than fans are used to but, as a threadbare Forest squad wait to welcome their fourth manager in 14 months, it remains to be seen when the Reds will achieve some much-needed stability. Richard Harrison

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