Mark Warburton will have learned more from his recent relegation battle with Nottingham Forest than at any other point in his managerial career.
Despite relative success at both Brentford and Rangers, the Londoner had never been involved in a relegation scrap during his short time in professional management. I was surprised when he accepted the challenge at Forest, although we weren’t exactly fighting for our lives at the time. He, like the majority of NFFC supporters must have massively fancied his chances of keeping the Reds in England’s second tier.
He had the hardest first game possible too, dealing with the visit of Derby County, and looking back, Mark Warburton will no doubt acknowledge the importance of Dani Pinillos’s last minute equaliser that day.
At the time I went on record to say that the Spaniard’s header could well be the difference between relegation and safety come season’s end; what followed for the new manager was a bumpy ride to say the least, as he attempted to implement his own playing style and learn about his inherited squad in the process.
His body language and general demeanour when he first took over was authoritative and assertive, but as the victories eluded him, the club slipped ever closer to the drop zone.
It must have been daunting when approaching the dotted line at the wrong end of the table, for one so used to chasing a handful of clubs in the pursuit of silverware. It’s amazing how a combination of poor results, media pressure and fan scrutiny can effect ones persona so quickly.
Especially in this country; you need only look at the likes of Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp to see how the smiles have turned to scowls in the wake of unsatisfactory results.
It is due to this unfamiliar territory and removal from the comfort zone that I believe will bode well for Mark Warburton and Nottingham Forest.
We supporters have been there a few times since the birth of the Premier League and the subsequent restructuring of the divisions below it, but Warburton wants it to be a first and last for himself.
If you heard his post match interview following the Ipswich victory, you will have no doubt picked up on the gaffer’s overwhelming relief and modesty; the dawning of what could have been seemed to weigh heavy on his thoughts. He seemed almost shell shocked as he categorically announced that the club would never again find themselves in this predicament whilst he was in charge.
I was impressed by Mark Warburton’s vision for his first full Championship campaign in 2017/18, I got the feeling that he wanted to begin the pre season fundamentals the very next day.
He dropped a massive hint as to how this might unfold, in regard to slashing the oversized squad numbers to around the twenty mark.
A sentiment shared by the vast majority of Forest fans if we’re honest; most of the players on the periphery are not fit for League One but have somehow been comfortable enough to reside by the banks of the Trent for too long. Especially the loan signings, who, but for a couple, have been sent packing, hopefully never to return!
The brainchild of the minimised squad is of course Frank McParland, who is expected to commit his future to the club now that Championship status has been confirmed once more.
Throw in the immanent takeover of NFFC by Evangelos Marinakis and you have the potential for success for the first time a very long while.
Regardless of new ownership, squad numbers and possible acquisitions, personally, I think that Mark Warburton’s brush with a first relegation will prove the most beneficial factor in the club’s progression.
The 54 year old now has a relegation survival section on his CV, which will be invaluable for his future with Forest.
Having spoken to a few professional boxers, they told me that they learned more from one defeat than five victories.
I truly believe that Warburton’s mindset is now of a very similar ilk, it will not only rejuvenate him but make him a better manager in the process. The fear of a first relegation has certainly had a positive effect on him, and as they say, “When Daniel escaped from the lion’s den, he didn’t go back for his cap!”