Fawaz and Reds are on the ropes

The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY -

BILLY CONN is a name that re­ver­ber­ates through box­ing folk­lore. Not for what he achieved, but for what he wasted. A tough kid from an Ir­ish work­ing­class dis­trict of Pittsburgh, Conn had won ti­tles in sev­eral di­vi­sions be­fore chal­leng­ing Joe Louis for the World Heavy­weight ti­tle in May 1941.

Widely tipped for an­ni­hi­la­tion, he re­cov­ered from a first-round knock­down to bat­ter the Brown Bomber from pil­lar to post and, by the end of Round 12, was ahead on ev­ery score­card.

But Conn wasn’t sat­is­fied. De­ter­mined to fin­ish with a flour­ish, he went head hunt­ing, hell bent on the knock­out. Louis promptly laid him flat on his back.The fight was over, Conn’s big mo­ment up in smoke.

Still bleary eyed and reel­ing, Conn was asked what hap­pened. “What hap­pened?” he told re­porters. “I lost my head and a mil­lion bucks. That’s what hap­pened.”


Seven decades on, Fawaz Al-Ha­sawi must know ex­actly how he feels. It is 18 months since the For­est chair­man had his Conn mo­ment, throw­ing ev­ery­thing at one spec­tac­u­lar bid for pro­mo­tion.

The Kuwaiti had been steadily jab­bing away for a sea­son or so; a £2.5m deal for Kelvin Wil­son, another £1.5m on Djamel Ab­doun. Then, last sum­mer, he opened up, chuck­ing £1.5m the way of Sheffield Wed­nes­day for Michail An­to­nio be­fore swing­ing his own ver­sion of Suzie Q– a club record £5.5m on striker Britt As­som­ba­longa.

Fawaz knew the club didn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of com­ply­ing with Fi­nan­cial Fair Play. Like QPR in 2014, it was win or bust; the Premier League’s riches or the Football League’s wrath.

Sadly, the Cham­pi­onship proved a durable op­po­nent.The blows bounced off. Stu­art Pearce was sacked.The club slumped into medi­ocrity and, sur­prise, a trans­fer em­bargo was im­posed.

A fail­safe ex­isted, at least in the­ory. De­spite fall­ing short, For­est’s play­ers re­mained un­der con­tract and a trans­fer em­bargo would be no more wound­ing than a gnat’s nib­ble.

Which was great – un­til peo­ple started hurt­ing them­selves. Long-term in­juries to As­som­ba­longa, skip­per Chris Co­hen and Andy Reid have ripped the heart out of For­est. Star man An­to­nio was whisked away by West Ham.

And while his £7m fee should en­sure sanc­tions are lifted in May, the ques­tion now is: does the side have the qual­ity to make it that far?

Even as­sum­ing the loan of Ben­fica’s Nel­son Oliveira is ap­proved, For­est have looked blunt and tooth­less. So far, the only side they have beaten are rock-bot­tom Rother­ham.

A rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle is un­likely, but not im­pos­si­ble. Which is a shame, be­cause Fawaz is no ruth­less chancer.

Noth­ing about his de­ci­sions – how­ever mis­guided – sug­gest he has any­thing but the club at heart. Just this week, he an­nounced that a stand would be named in hon­our of Peter Tay­lor, side­kick to Brian Clough.

Call me naive, but I gen­uinely be­lieve Kuwait’s finest fridge ped­dler de­sires a place in For­est fans’ hearts more than he craves the riches of the Premier League.

Like Conn, he wanted to en­ter­tain, to give the crowd what it wanted... but lost his head and a hell of a lot more than a mil­lion bucks.

Now For­est, too, lie sparked on the can­vas, the Premier League as dis­tant as ever. All Dougie Freedman can do is hang tight and try to beat the count.

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