Reports released last week that Steve McClaren was considering his future as Nottingham Forest manager will unfortunately not have come as any great surprise to the supporters. The former England manager has been in charge at the City Ground for less than 12 weeks and the word ‘frustrating’ probably doesn’t do justice to his tenure on Trentside. The board has appointed an experienced coach in McClaren and seemingly gone on to ignore his expert advice. The same happened with Billy Davies, who was forever calling for new signings to strengthen his promising young side, only to witness ineptitude and failure across three successive transfer windows. And now, with McClaren in charge the trend continues. Well, why should a group of men who know little or nothing about football listen to those who’ve been in the business for years and proven themselves time after time?
Nine players have exited the City Ground this summer with McClaren only able to make five additions to the squad. Even if you put to one side the quality of the players, just on a numbers game, this is surely poor business? Football is a squad game more than ever these days, and the Forest squad has not been big enough for the past two seasons. Billy Davies worked wonders to get the club to successive playoff campaigns but Forest ultimately fell short at the final hurdle. When McClaren replaced Davies, the club’s chief executive Mark Arthur told the media that a left back was the first priority. Of course, that’s what Billy and the fans said when Nicky Shorey’s loan ended in January 2010, and again when Ryan Bertrand returned to Chelsea in January 2011. When a left back failed to materialise and Julian Bennett was transferred to Sheffield Wednesday, chairman Nigel Doughty decided that he hadn’t been receiving enough stick from the fans and decided to announce that a left back was not in fact a priority. Who’s advising him, George W. Bush?
McClaren will have been pleased with the signings Forest have made, but has understandably been calling for more of the same. While it’s still early days, the Reds have come up short in the league this season. Converting chances when enjoying spells of dominance has been a problem, while the goals they’ve been leaking have been unacceptable. With Jonathan Greening and Ishmael Miller the only signings Forest have paid for this summer, it’s no wonder the manager is keen to strengthen further. As usual, the former European champions were linked with a whole host of names, with Wayne Routledge, Reginal Goreux, Max Gradel and Wade Elliott just some of the players the Acquisitions Panel failed to sign.
You can’t criticise chairmen for being cautious with their money. Overspending can be catastrophic if teams fail on the pitch (just ask Leeds United) and no one wants to see a repeat of what happened when David Platt was foolishly entrusted to think for himself during his time at the City Ground. The Nigel Doughty supporters will argue that you can’t question the owner’s financial commitment to the club and that we’d all rather see a fan in charge than somebody with no interest in football. But surely you have to question his some of his decision making?
Following David Platt’s attempt to destroy the club, the ship was steadied by Paul Hart, who reached the playoffs with a young squad. After narrowly missing out on promotion, the board allowed key players to be sold and Forest were ultimately relegated two seasons later, thanks also to Joe Kinnear and Gary Megson. Doughty also failed to back Billy Davies, despite the Scot proving his abilities, firstly by saving the Reds from relegation in 2009, then by guiding Forest to successive top 6 finishes. The squad was not strengthened when the team was in a position of strength and promotion went for a Burton. Then there is the much maligned Acquisitions Panel and Mark Arthur for which Doughty is responsible. While the transfer market is not an easy business, it seems that some of the deals Forest have missed out on in recent windows could probably have been more successfully negotiated by Karl Pilkington.
Shortly after McClaren was reported to be weighing up his options, the Forest boss announced his intention to see through the challenge at the City Ground. Although few Forest fans would blame him if he walked, hopefully this mini episode will serve as a wake-up call to the board and they will do whatever it takes to bring in the stellar loan signings which McClaren identifies. You do have wonder why they went to the trouble of appointing someone with McClaren’s credentials, replacing a popular and successful manager let’s not forget, if they were not planning on supporting him in the transfer market in every way.
Billy Davies offered the Forest hierarchy a win-win situation: back him and he’ll either get the club promotion or take the blame for the failure. This is the kind of thing that leads supporters to question whether Doughty does in fact want the club back where it belongs. The silence emanating from the top these days means that it’s no wonder the manager will win the PR war. The board has become increasingly unpopular at the City Ground and Nigel Doughty should be warned that he ought to learn from his mistakes because appointing a former England manager is only going to draw more media attention. As followers of the Championship have seen, it doesn’t take much to turn a promotion chasing team into a League One side. After suffering three seasons down there, a return to the third tier is the last thing Nottingham Forest want.