You’re king, Big Eck, but watch your back
SO now we know.The sacking of Sean O’Driscoll wasn’t mad, knee-jerk or senseless. It was calculated long in advance, with Alex McLeish lined up as a more than willing successor.
Do you really believe that McLeish was contacted on Thursday then took the job on Friday? No, me neither. Football just doesn’t work like that.
It’s a tawdry business, but one the new Nottingham Forest boss would do well to remember. For like Henry IV, who deposed Richard II only to spend his life putting down plots and rebellions, McLeish will know full well that what goes around, comes around.
O’Driscoll had done a brilliant job at Forest. He inherited a patchwork, imbalanced side that narrowly avoided relegation last year. He used his contacts (and, admittedly, the owners’ cash) to sign top-drawer players like Simon Cox and Billy Sharp. And he got the side playing a patient, passing style of football that had Forest pushing for the play-offs.
When I visited the City Ground early this season, the optimism and excitement was palpable. Last year, it was like a morgue.
That is progress. If the club’s Kuwaiti owners, the Al-Hasawi family, truly believed that it wasn’t quick enough then they are at best naïve and at worst idiotic. As Cardiff and Leicester have proved, even limitless cash takes time to bear fruit.
But O’Driscoll has been eulogised enough. Back to McLeish. The owners justified their decision by saying they wanted a man with Premier League experience.
Which is a bit like saying you wanted the captain of the Titanic for his sailing experience. Big Eck is a fine coach and nice bloke but his main ‘experience’ of the big league is of relegation (Birmingham) and struggle (Aston Villa).
What they really wanted was someone who can win promotion. So it follows that if McLeish does fulfil his brief, he too will be expendable.
Clearly, O’Driscoll was hired to stabilise the club. McLeish has been chosen to take them up.When he does, it will be only a matter of time before AlHasawis decide they want someone with European experience. And when they do, McLeish doesn’t have the right to complain.
As for the Al-Hasawis, they have made a monstrous rod for their own back. Had they or their representatives taken the time to read messageboards or listen to phone-ins, they’d have realised that Forest fans are united in antipathy towards McLeish. They do not want him one bit, mainly due to perceived long-ball tactics.
Unless the new man hits the ground running, a stable club could suddenly find itself in the midst of a rebellion.
And if you want to know where that gets you, just look at Blackburn, the club for whom the word ‘omnishambles’ could have been coined.
Like the Al-Hasawis, they sacked a popular and moderately successful manager in Sam Allardyce. Then they appointed a man who nobody wanted in Steve Kean.When results didn’t follow, the atmosphere turned poisonous.
The resentment and hostility seeping down from the stands inhibited both the players and Kean, resulting in confidenceshorn performances and relegation.
Now – having delaying the dismissal of Kean for too long – they have sacked his replacement Henning Berg after just ten matches and 57 days. They didn’t even give the bloke a transfer window. It’s a sorry mess that no selfrespecting manager would go near.
So yes, the Al-Hasawis run the club and can do what they want. But all good leaders have a decent grasp of history and precedent. Forest’s, it seems, do not.
OUT: Sean O’Driscoll
IN: Alex McLeish