Alex McLeish sacked after 40 days
6 February ~ On Boxing Day Nottingham Forest were in eighth place in the Championship, one point outside the play-offs. They had a well-respected manager, admired for the way that he developed teams and got them playing attractive football – a man seemingly made to be Forest manager. Although results had been inconsistent his players had just swept aside Leeds United in one of their best performances of the season and there was plenty to smile about. That evening Sean O'Driscoll was sacked and Alex McLeish was quickly announced as his replacement.
This appointment was not universally popular and was made less appealing still because of the affection and esteem many held his predecessor in. By making the change though the club's owners had sent a message that slow building was not an option. They wanted instant results. Thus began a traumatic January.
On the pitch the team were soundly beaten by Blackburn Rovers and then despatched from the FA Cup by League One Oldham Athletic, while off it the axe continued to slice through the club's structures as ambassador Frank Clark, chief executive Mark Arthur and head of recruitment Keith Burt were all dismissed. For some this was good news but for others it just increased the sense of unease about where the club was heading.
Reports in the media were expressing concerns about the relationship between McLeish and chairman Fawaz Al-Hasawi and it was becoming harder each day to ignore them as mere gossip. Fawaz made a statement attempting to reassure fans that the two of them had an "excellent" relationship but a botched close to the transfer window and McLeish's subsequent refusal to confirm his commitment to the club at the weekend, following defeat to Birmingham City, suggested the writing was on the wall.
Given that his appointment was not popular in the first place it might seem odd that his departure is such a concern. But this is not about the individual personalities, rather the shambolic management of the club over the last few weeks, the instability that the owner's decisions have caused and the apparent lack of any coherent strategy.
Nottingham Forest, soon to be celebrating their 150th birthday, are now in a state of total disarray. In a little over six months in charge, the Al-Hasawi family have seen three managers leave and the club's reputation is now in tatters, as well as their own. As they look to appoint yet another manager, one wonders who would want to take the job in such an atmosphere of chaos and with rumours of heavy interference. Stephen Wright