You’re king, Big Eck, but watch your back

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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