What a remarkable few days it has been at the City Ground.
Fresh from the delight of a convincing Boxing Day victory over Leeds at The City Ground we hear the bewildering news only a few hours later that Sean O’Driscoll had been relieved of his duties.
Twenty-four hours on and Alex McLeish is announced as his successor, tasked with achieving the lofty ambitions of the Al Hasawi’s.
These ambitions are not to be ridiculed; they are shared by every single Forest supporter I’m sure.
Yet the time scale seems to have been dramatically reduced since the summer. Back then there were reassuring statements about long terms plans and gradual growth.
Five months later and the chairman, Fawaz Al Hasawi, claims in the club statement that “the process has taken longer than we anticipated.”
This is a somewhat disturbing revelation which demonstrates their impatience and perhaps a degree of naivety.
I share their views that results and performances have been inconsistent, but it has to be remembered that this is a brand new team.
The first half of the season was always destined to be a mixed bag of fantastic football and frustrating defeats.
Unfortunately, we have leaned towards the latter in recent weeks but a look at the league table shows we are sat in a comfortable position just one point outside the top six. I had hoped the Leeds result would prove to be a catalyst to launch us into the play-off places.
The appointment of O’Driscoll was perhaps more universally welcome than any other in recent history.
I saw it as an opportunity to have an experienced Championship manager at the helm who had the advantage of already knowing the players and being someone who lacked the ‘noise’ that we have witnessed with previous appointments.
Combined with a renowned passion for playing the ‘Forest way’ I was excited about the future under his leadership.
While it’s fair to say we began to lose our way recently I felt strongly that the right man was at the helm.
What this club desperately needed was a long term appointment; someone who was backed over an extended period to deliver what both the owners and the fans want: promotion.
If we were sat wallowing in the bottom half of the table I would have understood the decision more but I can’t help but feel that O’Driscoll has been rather unfortunate in being dismissed.
I have to wonder if he has become the victim of not being a big enough name to satisfy the Al Hasawi’s.
The initial ‘iconic’ manager search as well as the arrival of players like Jermaine Jenas suggests to me that this may hold some truth. What’s more it has made a mockery of the vision that the owners sold to us when they first introduced themselves in July.
I will admit I had pretty large reservations initially but I have been impressed by their approach so far. It was refreshing to see owners who strayed from the type of overseas investors we have seen at various other clubs.
Instead the Al Hasawi’s appeared to be keen to adopt a shrewd but ambitious model that could be realised over a number of years.
They placed emphasis on the bigger picture and stressed that we wouldn’t be demanding immediate success. This has ultimately proven to be untrue.
Whether this was ever the plan in the first place or if this approach has been altered since we will probably never know but I find it alarming that we are experiencing such disruption so early into their tenure. The positive spin on this could be that their ambition has spurred them on to seek immediate success with a new manager but, alternatively, they could be viewed as making a rash decision.
A precedent has now been set. Where will we be in a few months if McLeish is faring worse than O’Driscoll did? Do we start again with someone else? This question is my biggest concern. I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that but only time will tell.
And so we come to McLeish. The reaction seems to be overwhelmingly negative so far which is hardly surprising but we’ve been here before with Billy Davies.
I recall his appointment being widely unpopular due to a perceived dour brand of football (and his Derby connection, of course) but this proved to be wide of the mark. That said, McLeish has certainly developed a style of ‘industrial’ football that will not go down well on the banks of the Trent.
It helped his Birmingham side to success before he took them down and it made him no friends at Villa who admittedly couldn’t stand him in the first place. The promotion on his CV will no doubt have been the attraction.
While I am disappointed with his appointment I believe that (almost) all managers should be given a fair chance.
He will know full well that he’ll be out of the door in the summer if he doesn’t perform so we should probably provide him with that time. At the very least, I would hope that we can rise above the likes of the Chelsea and Blackburn fans who have opted to very publically and vociferously criticise their respective managers.
I’d like to think that we are a better class of fans that won’t stoop to such levels. McLeish gets my support, albeit slightly reluctantly at this stage.
With respect to both O’Driscoll and McLeish, I feel the manager’s position is only a secondary issue in this matter anyway.
The sudden importance placed on promotion troubles me. It spawns a number of theories about what has changed since the summer. I have seen a number of people suggest that the owners are treating the club as a ‘toy’. I don’t think this is the case but there is no doubting that the last few days have made many supporters concerned.
I just hope that this is an isolated incident rather than a sign of things to come.
The honeymoon is over for the Al Hasawi’s; let’s see what the next few months bring.