Forest target Jokanovic after Karanka resigns
Former Fulham manager in frame with Carvalhal Spaniard pays price for being outside the top six
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