New manager has good Championship record
5 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