Craig North Nottingham Forest blog: Sometimes unpopular decisions can bring long term success

Well, hasn’t Fawaz Al-Hasawi been busy since Christmas?

By The Newsroom
Friday, 18th January 2013, 7:52 am

It is fair to say that 99 per cent of the football world believes Sean O’Driscoll was treated harshly when dismissed from his position as Nottingham Forest Manager on Boxing Day.

It is also fair to say that 99 per cent of Forest fans (or indeed fans of any club) would not have had Alex McLeish as their preferred choice as the new Manager.

This has now been topped off with the news that Mark Arthur, former Chief Executive, Frank Clark, a City Ground legend, and Keith Burt, Director of Recruitment, have now faced the bullets that the Kuwaiti Chairman has been so happy to load and fire in recent weeks.

So, just what is Fawaz thinking?

I will be the first to admit that I’m the first to blow my top when the club make what seems like a ridiculous decision, but usually after reflection, I try and understand why the decision has been made. Even if I don’t agree with a decision, if I can at least understand the logic behind it, I will not become a ‘boo-boy’ in the stands. Sometimes the tough and unpopular decisions can be the ones that bring long term success.

Football fans, and in particular those on Trentside, get too wrapped up in either loving or hating a Manager. Frank Clark, Paul Hart, Billy Davies and Sean O’Driscoll are loved. Steve Cotterill, Gary Megson and David Platt are hated. There is no middle ground. We let our emotions over ride what is actually happening in front of us, and what we need to take us forward.

Let’s consider what Sean O’Driscoll had actually achieved. Most will point to the fact that he assembled a squad, almost from scratch, with just a few weeks of pre-season remaining, and kept us competitive in the first half of the season. Is this an achievement? Yes, if you believed the mandate of the new owners back in the summer was to consolidate this season, and build gradually over the next few.

But remember, he clearly wasn’t the Al-Hasawi’s preferred choice. In fact, it’s probably fair to assume that they had never even heard of O’Driscoll before the summer. It’s become clear now that he was always just a stop-gap to steady the ship whilst Fawaz & co. got to grips with what was required to take the club forward long term.

The more I think about it, the more I see that Fawaz has made this change now because he knows that the worst that can happen is we drop to mid-table whilst McLeish learns about his squad and prepares for next season. The bounce of the new Manager may even give us a shot at the play-offs. The rumour mill via Twitter and the media would have you believe that it is because the owners demand promotion this season. Other than adding 2 and 2 together, and getting 5 what reason do we have to think this? I am sure everyone at the club would love an unexpected promotion, but it is far from expected, and the statement from Fawaz earlier this week maintains that long-term building is the aim.

Because of the upheaval in the summer, it was prudent to appoint someone who knew the players and could get them working together straight away. If McLeish had come in the summer, cold into a situation where he had half a squad and didn’t know the capabilities of the current players at his disposal, we could have seen a scatter gun approach to signings like the dark days of Steve McClaren. Had the takeover been completed in April, then I firmly believe Sean O’Driscoll would not have got near the job. The new manager would have had all summer to assess and build his squad, and there wouldn’t have been a need to appoint someone who knew the existing players.

Having said all that, O’Driscoll was given a lengthy contract. This was needed to entice him back to the club from Crawley, and did show that the owners were prepared to at least give him a chance. Other than being the hand to steady the ship though, they have not seen enough in the last six months to suggest he is the man to take Forest forward. Why was this?

The Al-Hasawi family have spent a considerable amount of cash, culminating in a squad bristling with top end Championship players. You would be hard pressed to find another midfield in the division with as many options as one that sees Henri Lansbury, Guy Moussi and Lewis McGugan barely getting a game. I would go as far to say that any other team in the division would swap their strikeforce for one that gives them Billy Sharp and Simon Cox with Dexter Blackstock in reserve.

Despite signing players of such quality, I can understand the argument that we needed time for the players to gel and improve as a team after being thrown together on the eve of the season. However what Fawaz must have seen is that the ‘team’ wasn’t improving and gelling more, and O’Driscoll wasn’t learning from his mistakes.

If form had begun to become more consistent (or at least performances improved) then the argument to have kept O’Driscoll would have been more compelling. The fact is the games at Brighton and Watford just before Christmas were two of the worst performances all season. The balance of the team hasn’t progressed and improved since the beginning of the season; it has actually got worse.

O’Driscoll appeared to pander to some of the big players within the squad meaning the likes of Lee Camp and Andy Reid had become undroppable despite their erratic form, and in Reid’s case, his inability to stick to the wing not only disrupted the balance of the team, but also gave Dan Harding at left back no protection whatsoever.

There has been enough evidence to substantiate Fawaz’s position in dismissing O’Driscoll regardless of how harsh it seemed at the time, it needed to be done to take the club forward to the next level long term; there was no evidence to suggest things would get better.

Fawaz has taken six months to assess and see where the clubs needs changing to move forward. The news of Frank Clark and Keith Burt leaving their posts has been met with abhorration by most fans. But you have to ask why?

Frank Clark is quite rightly a legend at the club having success as a player and manager, but what exactly does he bring to the table now? The fans don’t know, and if Fawaz doesn’t think he is worth his current wage packet then I’m glad that money will be better spent elsewhere.

Keith Burt has been at Forest for several years and in that time, how many players have we signed from outside England? How many ‘unknown’ players has he bought in that have gone on to be a success? Every transfer window we are linked with the same old names. Even this week we were linked with George Boyd, who we were after 3 years ago!

The dismissal of Mark Arthur will be met with parties and dancing in the street. I must admit I don’t know what he actually did, so can’t bring myself to hate him. All I know is that he was the Chief Executive of the club through the most unsuccessful period in its history. This further backs up my opinion that Fawaz left people in situ whilst he assessed things, and now he’s had chance to, he’s making the calls that will take Nottingham Forest forward.

Only time will tell if Fawaz Al-Hasawi is an excellent decision maker with a ruthless streak who knows how he wants to get us to where we want to go…… or whether he really has just lost the plot.