Jul 15, 2016

Is this man to blame for Nottingham Forest’s regression?

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It has been a very intriguing past few months at the City Ground for a variety of reasons. Philippe Montanier is the new manager of Nottingham Forest, ending many months of speculation. Adding to the saga, the City Ground itself was ruled unfit for use last week by Nottingham City council. Reminiscent of a Sunday league side, Forest effectively, had no ground. Of course we all know they will open their championship season at the City Ground to newly promoted Burton Albion when the staffing problem is resolved but the fact that this was even allowed to happen to a club such as Forest is nothing short of embarrassing. It begs the question, what is really going on at Nottingham Forest?

Forest, historically, are one of the biggest clubs in English football. In a championship division which is now full of sleeping or underperforming giants, Forest are still up there as one of the biggest clubs in the division, perhaps top 6 in calibre. So why are they forced in to such mockery at times?

Fawaz Al-Hasawi

In these days of football, controversial owners are unfortunately a regularity and Fawaz is no exception. Despite all of the news over the past few months, one of the most exciting headlines for Forest fans was that of a potential financial takeover from Greek Investors. That, unfortunately for Forest, has led to nothing more than disappointment again with interest withdrawn. As a result, Forest are again left with Fawaz, a man who in his time at the City Ground seems almost incapable of making a correct decision in the best interest of the club. Forest have collapsed down the table over recent seasons and there comes a time when questions can no longer be asked of the squad, the manager, the academy, the backroom staff or even the fans but instead, questions should be asked of the owner and board. What is Fawaz trying to do?

Obviously the goal for him, for any owner/chairman in the championship is to find a way to get their side in to the promised land of the Premier League, however Fawaz has a very unorthodox way of trying to achieve this. He persists on sacking coaches and failing to attract big name coaches to such a historic club. Montanier, his latest acquisition may be a success, he may not, but he is a risk and in terms of English football is not a big name. Why is it that Forest’s biggest rivals, a club of similar stature, is able to attract one of the biggest names in Championship football in Nigel Pearson, but Fawaz can only attract someone English football has never heard of? It is unacceptable.

The latest incident at the City Ground just adds more salt to some bitter red wounds. How is it possible for a club that is in the second tier of English football, and not only that, a club which considers itself one of the biggest clubs outside of the top flight, to have its own ground closed due to safety fears over a lack of personnel? It is, at best, shambolic. Also, according to local press in Norfolk, Norwich City are interested in signing one of Forests most valuable assets up front; Britt Assombalonga. Should that happen, should Fawaz allow arguably Forests most important attacking option to go to a championship rival that, in my opinion should condemn Fawaz to a point of no return.

I fully respect the fact that whilst in a transfer embargo it is incredibly difficult to compete with the big spending clubs in the division such as Derby County and Newcastle United, but selling key players such as Assombalonga is in my view, a big mistake. Assombalonga may have spent a long period over the last seasons on the injury table but he should still be considered a key player to Forest.

After the arrival of a new manager, there should be hope, expectation and excitement surrounding a football club. However, with the on goings at Nottingham Forest over the last few weeks, many Forest fans seem more anxious than excited. The best thing to happen to Forest now, in my opinion, would be a financial takeover and a complete clean of the board room. Fawaz has lost his way, and in return has lost the support of the fans with season ticket numbers dwindling in the low teen thousands, again, unacceptable for a club of Forests size. Under the Fawaz era embarrassment after embarrassment is all that has happened to Nottingham Forest. The occasional East Midlands derby win is sometimes enough to dilute the anger and distract the Forest fans from what is really happening; a rapid decline of a terrific club.

So, the football season is fast approaching, a win against Millwall and a defeat against Tottenham is how Forest’s preseason has begun. Intriguing away encounters against Braga, Port Vale and Notts County will swiftly follow before a final home friendly against newly promoted Hull City. Forest fans eagerly anticipate how they will perform under their new manager who has set a target of two seasons to get Forest back in to the top flight. The only thing standing in Montaniers way is the threat of an early exit if Fawaz’s track record is anything to go by.

I would like to think that by Christmas, Montanier may have achieved many great things at Forest, maybe achieving a top half position, but the reality is, if he has not, Montanier may become the ninth Forest managerial casualty in 6 years. If Fawaz would just stay off of social media, out of the papers and actually run a football club rather than be inclined to get involved with everything else then Forest might succeed, but unfortunately I do not see it.

Featured image: All rights reserved by Heather.

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Aspiring sports journalist and currently a 4th year undergraduate to a Broadcast Journalism Honours degree. Avid sports fan, particularly football where I am a full licensed semi-professional official.

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