For­est tar­get Jokanovic after Karanka re­signs

For­mer Ful­ham man­ager in frame with Car­val­hal Spa­niard pays price for be­ing out­side the top six

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football - By John Percy

Not­ting­ham For­est are ready to move for Slav­isa Jokanovic as the re­place­ment for Ai­tor Karanka, whose stormy man­age­rial reign ended yes­ter­day.

Karanka’s 12-month ten­ure at the Cham­pi­onship club was brought to a halt fol­low­ing talks with the board and owner Evan­ge­los Mari­nakis.

It is un­der­stood Karanka was go­ing to be sacked after the 3-3 draw with Nor­wich on Box­ing Day, but re­ceived a stay of ex­e­cu­tion for league games against Mill­wall and Leeds, and an FA Cup tie at Chelsea.

How­ever, the sit­u­a­tion be­came un­ten­able, ac­cord­ing to well-placed sources, and Karanka asked to be re­leased from his con­tract. It is claimed the Spa­niard was “dis­tant” in train­ing ses­sions over the past two weeks.

Karanka spent over £23 mil­lion in the sum­mer, sign­ing 17 play­ers, in­clud­ing record £13.2mil­lion sign­ing Joao Car­valho, and was ex­pected to be in the play-off places by Jan 1. But For­est are seventh in the Cham­pi­onship de­spite an ex­cel­lent win over Leeds on New Year’s Day, four points adrift of the top six.

Jokanovic, the for­mer Ful­ham man­ager, is the strong favourite to step in, after re­ject­ing an of­fer from Stoke City this week. He is keen to re­turn to man­age­ment and is un­der­stood to have had ini­tial talks.

There is also thought to be some sup­port for Car­los Car­val­hal, who left Swansea City at the end of last sea­son, while for­mer For­est player Martin O’neill could emerge as a con­tender.

For­est’s state­ment read: “Ai­tor Karanka has asked to be re­leased from his con­tract as the man­ager. The club have agreed to this re­quest and the terms of de­par­ture have been agreed.”

Karanka’s po­si­tion has been pre­car­i­ous since a meet­ing with Mari­nakis, the Greek busi­ness­man who also owns Olympiakos, in Oc­to­ber when it was spelt out that the club’s start to the cam­paign was not good enough. There were also is­sues be­hind the scenes. Re­la­tions be­tween Karanka and key staff, such as chief ex­ec­u­tive Ioan­nis Vrent­zos, who re­ports to Mari­nakis al­most daily, be­came strained.

The ap­point­ment of a direc­tor of foot­ball, Kyr­i­akos Dourekas, was al­legedly made with­out Karanka’s in­put and there were re­cent claims that he was even sit­ting on the For­est bench for the game against Derby last month. The ar­rival of a sport­ing direc­tor, Jose Anigo, was also ap­par­ently made with­out Karanka be­ing told.

For­est’s own­ers clashed with Karanka over the lack of games for Arvin Ap­piah, a teenage winger. The man­ager felt his team was be­ing ef­fec­tively picked for him.

Karanka wanted to sign even more play­ers this month, in­form­ing the board he also would like to sell Michael He­fele, who only joined in Au­gust. He had al­ready been backed, sig­nif­i­cantly, and For­est’s board be­lieve the spend­ing should have yielded bet­ter re­sults.

The club hope to ap­point a new man­ager next week, with coach Simon Ire­land tak­ing the team for the game at Read­ing to­day.

Time al­most up: Ai­tor Karanka (cen­tre) on the Not­ting­ham For­est bench dur­ing match with Nor­wich City at Car­row Road last month

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