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Nottingham Forest need stability from Alex McLeish

New manager has good Championship record

icon mcleish5 January ~ Nottingham Forest fans have become used to constant change – of playing and coaching staff, of tactics on the pitch and the way things are organised off it. Almost as much as a return to the top flight, we crave stability and long-term planning. Sean O'Driscoll's appointment in the summer was a broadly popular move. Here was a thoughtful manager with a reputation for attractive football and a record of making the most of limited resources. With more financial clout, perhaps he would be the manager who could stick around and realise some of the club's potential.

O'Driscoll had to act quickly, though. Last season's already thin squad was further depleted by summer departures and he had three weeks to put together a team, long after our competitors had strengthened. Some astute signings and loan moves later, Forest were the last team in the Championship to lose a game. O'Driscoll encouraged the players to think for themselves, wrote the most informative and intelligent programme notes I've ever seen and was a regular attender of academy games, all of which spoke of a commitment to the long-term future of the club.

Where many of us had hoped for an improved season of mid-table security before a push for promotion next season, suddenly a place in the play-offs didn't seem too unrealistic. But when results became a bit too inconsistent for the owners' liking, they acted quickly to replace O'Driscoll with Alex McLeish.

None of us knows what was said and done behind the scenes but from the outside it looks like O'Driscoll was harshly treated. The 4-2 win over Leeds that preceded the his departure left Forest a point off the play-offs. So the decision had presumably already been made, based on a number of recent defeats in which O'Driscoll seemed more concerned with countering our opponents' style than imposing our own.

McLeish's appointment was not a hugely popular one, his reputation for dour, defensive football being viewed by many as the antithesis of the much-vaunted (but recently only intermittently seen) “Forest way”. Yet his introduction to the crowd before the recent Crystal Palace game was greeted with warm applause (as well as a few boos). So for all the doom and vitriol on the message boards, the majority of fans, well aware that we were never going to get the likes of Roberto di Matteo or Martin O'Neill, seem prepared to give McLeish a chance.

Despite his successes at club and international level in Scotland, McLeish is judged largely on his meagre win ratio (24 per cent) in the Premier League. His equivalent figure in the Championship is 50 per cent and, as he himself says, he is in the unusual position of inheriting a team in a healthy position. Is it too much to hope that he can work on our frailties at the back without sacrificing the more attractive elements of our play? While McLeish may find he gets a shorter honeymoon period than most if results don't go his way, some Forest fans would do well to remember that the appointment of Billy Davies was not widely popular at the time. It's up to us to support McLeish and the team and give them the best chance of achieving that stability we all crave. Richard Harrison

Comment on 05-01-2013 11:31:19 by donedmundo #747785
I hate to throw cold water on your hopes before the new reign has even begun BUT:
McLeish's has only ever been successful in the international sphere (probably because his reign was so short). If you look at the facts you will find that he left every club he has ever managed worse off than when he arrived. At Rangers he even pulled off the impressive trick of coming third in a two horse race.
When it was rumoured that he might come from Birmingham to Aston Villa a number of Blues fans offered to drive him over themselves.
The stability he will bring will be that of boring, unimaginative and ultimately losing football.
I wish you luck. You will need it.
Comment on 05-01-2013 12:19:32 by jamiebrown #747790
As a Forest fan who's been waiting for this to be covered in the daily, I find this article hugely disappointing. You explain in the first two and a half paragraphs exactly why O'Driscoll's sacking was ridiculous and wrong, then simply explain the owners' ludicrous reason for firing him without challenging it. Too inconsistent? Not too inconsistent to lose touch with the promotion race at any stage, not too inconsistent to keep us completely clear of trouble despite the relegation battle endured last season and despite having to quickly assemble a new team. Also, no more inconsistent than 90% of teams in the Championship, inconsistency is clearly the nature of the league. Most commentators with any experience and knowledge of football have expressed shock at the sacking, because they know O'Driscoll was doing a fine job.

The negative reaction to McLeish has been overplayed. The identity of the new manager was largely irrelevant, it was the change and the way it was carried out that induced the most anger. If any reaction to McLeish appeared personal it can probably be explained thus: to justify getting rid of O'Driscoll would have required a major appointment; some unmissable opportunity that came with no second chance. McLeish was clearly not that individual. It's true there were concerns expressed about his playing style, but I've found this view to be shared by fans of all clubs, not just Forest fans stoically clinging to the glory days.

I can't abide this passive-aggressive nonsense about 'supporting the new manager and moving on'. I also completely resent the idea that this makes a me a boo-boy, or in some way responsible should the team suffer a decline. When this sort of thing happens, fans now divide into two camps, either they blindly accept the situation believing that anything else means you are not supporting the team, or they become venomous trolls, both online and at the match. It doesn't need to be so black and white, we should still question the owners when they take such inexplicable risks as this, it doesn't mean we are not supportive of the players.

The risk, by the way, has been hugely underplayed. What short memories people have; just 18 months ago Forest disposed with the services of their most successful manager in 10 years, in favour of someone who would bring with him Premier League clout (and for anyone blaming foreign owners for ruining the game, it was our previous, now sadly departed British owner resposible for this). It was a total disaster and almost got the club relegated. Already people seem to be assuming that the biggest failure we could endure under McLeish would be to achieve status quo. I fear that this could be grossly complacent.

I must also take issue with the 50% Championship win record cited as justification for the selection of McLeish. This figure was acheived over only one season at this level with Birmingham, immediately following a relegation (which McLeish oversaw from November of that season) and all the advantages that brings in the Championship. He has no experience of managing a club that has spent any significant time outside the Premier League. Oddly, his Premier League record contains an extremely impressive top half finish with Birmingham, but this is also largely overlooked in favour of meaningless win percentages.

Fans are quite justified in expressing anger at this episode. After initially making an ominous promise to apppoint an 'iconic name', the new owners sprung a pleasant surprise with the appointment of O'Driscoll. It served to ease all our worries of becoming another QPR or Leicester-style circus. Now those worries have returned with a vengeance, and the relative stability that Forest had achieved has been gambled away.
Comment on 06-01-2013 17:17:27 by rharrison #748144
I'm sorry you were disappointed by what I wrote. By way of explanation, my brief was to write 400-450 words on Forest fans' reactions to McLeish's arrival. Without saying half of what I wanted to, I wrote well over twice that guideline amount, edited the piece severely and still only just got it down below 600 words.

In doing so I reluctantly left out a large section about the owners' role and concentrated on a comparison of what we had in O'Driscoll and what we have got now in McLeish. I thought that a national readership such as WSC's would be more familiar with the two managers than with our owners. Had I been writing solely for a Forest-supporting readership the article would have been quite different.

In a longer piece I would have said that this looks like being the first major error of judgement the owners have made and expressed my fear that the measured, long-term approach the whole club seemed to be taking (which many fans have been comparing to the recent rise of Swansea) was being cast aside in favour of the same knee-jerk short-termism that has failed at other clubs.

I was trying to summarise what I had seen, heard and read of fans' views in general rather than merely present my own individual opinions. That said, as you point out, I did spend half an article on McLeish's arrival extolling the merits of his predecessor. I personally wasn't very impressed with any of the more realistic names being linked with the job and I agree with you that the main issue is O'Driscoll's sacking rather than his replacement.

In short, I agree with most of the points you make (in a reply that was longer than my original article) and feel the topic would have merited the longer treatment that an article in the magazine might permit, rather than (or as well as) the necessarily brief format of WSC Daily.

Comment on 12-01-2013 07:10:37 by HenryF #750247
Would be nice to see Forest back in the top flight. Not just becoz they are my sister's team!! Hehe
Comment on 14-01-2013 07:31:18 by mistrollingin #750784
I think that the reality is probably that the long term approach some of us were so excited about never existed. I honestly doubt that the owners had ever heard of Sean O'Driscoll when he was appointed on the suggestion of senior players and they were just conscious that the season was about to start and McCarthy and McLeish had turned them down.

It is a great shame as I believe that O'Driscoll was exactly what we needed and that sacking him will simply lead to a continuation of the old spend and hope approach of the last dozen years with no foundations to hold any success in place.

As it is, of course I want McLeish to succeed but I am concerned about the sustainability of the club, the lack of an inclusive club identity for fans to associate with and that we are again simply another Championship club losing money every year hoping to get lucky and win promotion. It is the way football is now but it is deeply disappointing.


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