Friday, 23 October 2015

16 questions I'm pondering about Forest under Fawaz

I can't decide what the most appropriate description is any more. Are Forest a soap opera, a circus or one of those trashy 'scripted reality' ITV shows? The Only Way Is Mid Table? (or is that ambitious)

Today saw the departure of Leon Hunter, the football co-ordinator drafted in from Stevenage to, seemingly, add some much needed structure and strategy to the running of the club.

His resignation was followed by some worrying comments from Telegraph journalist John Percy, which only added to the prevailing mood on social media.

The whole situation had added to a growing list of mysteries surrounding the running of the club. I'm not arrogant enough to think I speak for everyone - or that I'm 'important' enough to get answers - but here's 16(ish) questions that I'd love to know the answers to...

*Why has Leon Hunter really left?

*Hunter's departure is similarly swift to the exit of Paul Faulkner as chief executive. What prompted Faulkner to leave his post at the City Ground?

*Is it true that employees of the club were paid late? If so, why?

*Why do we, from time to time, encounter the threat of legal action over unpaid bills?

*Who exactly is responsible for the finances of the club? Is Fawaz the only one with a chequebook?

*Why does Fawaz allow himself to get drawn into social media spats? Surely this isn't the advice of Adrian Bevington?

*Why exactly has Liam Trotter not signed? Dougie didn't seem to know on Tuesday night and reports have been conflicting and confusing.

*What went wrong with Ben Hamer? Why did we go through the process of announcing his capture if the deal wasn't done?

*Was Dougie barred from selling Lansbury by Fawaz?

*is anyone at the club doing anything to address the worrying slide in match day attendances? The club used to be at the forefront of promotions such as 'kids for a quid' - could it not embrace '20s plenty' or such like?

*We're told that the club is likely to qualify to come out of a transfer embargo next summer. What is the plan after that and what strategy is in place to ensure we don't just revert to spending too much on average players again?

*What wages were actually paid to Jamie Mackie and Djamal Abdoun and why?

*What is the process for selecting new managers? What criteria do we look for?

*When will we last a whole season with the same man in charge?

*What is Fawaz's business experience? Why doesn't he appoint someone to handle day-to-day affairs? Where is the rest of his family?

*Why is the sentiment on social media much more hostile to the manager than it is among those in the stadium?

I'm sure some people might have answers - or part answers - to the issues raised above. I can think of a few suggestions. Little, in truth, is known about the way many football clubs are run. One things for certain though, 'smooth', 'organised' and 'logical' are not words typically attached to Nottingham Forest at the moment.

Still, there's a game on tomorrow. At least we can get back to the action on the pitch...

Monday, 19 October 2015

Forest face daunting tests against Burnley and Ipswich

These are crazy times in the Football League. Uwe Rösler being sacked and replaced by Steve Evans? Swindon sacking Mark Cooper and, temporarily at least, appointing the chairman? It used to be called the managerial merry-go-round yet that makes it sound rather too placid doesn't it? There's nothing merry about it. The firing range would be a more apt description.

Yet, sadly, you can see how quickly the spotlight can fall on any manager. When 1-0 up at Huddersfield, Dougie Freedman was riding high. Buoyed by some decent late business on deadline day, the Scot won two games on the bounce and gave title contenders Middlesbrough a run for their money in a match that should have brought a point. Even when the post denied Chris Burke a goal to double the lead and a goal line clearance stopped Chris O'Grady opening his account, things looked comfortable. Even still, when a wicked deflection from a thunderous long range effort flew in to level at 1-1 we still came away with a point. Freedman had suffered just one defeat in four after the deadline day loss of Michail Antonio, a return that not many had predicted.

That Huddersfield game was followed by yet another home encounter in which we mounted a good performance against a promotion contender and were unlucky to lose. Abel Hernandez's header for Hull looked a borderline offside call and a point from an entertaining game would surely have been a fair reward.

Yet context is very quickly forgotten in football these days. The performances against Boro and Hull were positive for large parts, yet, when added to Friday night's dismal defeat to Bristol City, they now form part of a run of three wins in the last 19 league games.

No matter that we played well in games, no matter that we had 11 players missing on Friday night and no matter that that stat includes 8 largely meaningless games towards the end of the last campaign. Those factors simply aren't considered when the stats are laid bare.

The other issue for Freedman is that Friday night's performance, particularly the opening 20 minutes, was so poor that it did much to spoil the good work of the previous matches. An out-of-position, and rusty, Danny Fox and two injury prone centre halves in Kelvin Wilson and Jack Hobbs looked completely lost as the rampant hosts pushed for their first home win of the campaign and raced into a 2-0 lead.

With the midfield providing no screen for the struggling defence, Forest made Aaron Wilbraham look like a Knutsford Didier Drogba and Luke Freeman like Andres Iniesta with a woman's hair cut.

Credit must go to the hosts for such a forceful start, but the fact we couldn't see this out - and could have conceded more - was frightening. Were it not for Dorus De Vries and Daniel Pinillos you feared an Alistair Cook-esque cricket score.

From then on we did gradually improve but, as a friend at the game said, this was (at least in part) because the home side had done their job and played within themselves to avoid letting the three points slip. They saw it out well and largely restricted us to potshots as our goal-shy attack continued to struggle to find the back of the net.

Ordinarily you'd relish the chance to put right such a performance. Yet Sean Dyche's fifth placed Burnley and a Mick McCarthy-led Ipswich outfit looks a tough double header at any time, let alone when you're struggling at home.

Neither of the two visitors are quite as strong on the road as at home, but both arrive with genuine promotion ambitions and offering tough tests of our side's physical, tactical and footballing ability. Dougie would, I'm sure, snap your hands off at two performances that are worse than those against Hull and Boro but bear greater fruit. He knows the points column is where he'll ultimately be judged.

I personally think it's fairly daft to consider Freedman - with the FFP noose around his neck - to be under pressure at this moment. Equally, though, it's daft to think that Fawaz wouldn't pull the trigger prematurely.

Football management has never come with such a short shelf life. As I've said before, Brian Clough's start of two wins in his first 17 matches at Forest would probably have earned him the sack long before the miraculous European adventures began had this current climate existed in the late 70s. Many people are laughing at Leeds and Swindon today, I merely wince and fear what might come closer to home.

Dougie has shown that he knows his way around the financial restrictions we must operate within. He's recruited well and been a lot less defensive than people have given him credit for (the lack of goals comes despite more shots than anyone else in the Championship). He's hasn't got every decision right and he's got a lot of work to do but he needs to be given a fair chance.

I just hope he can get some results at home this week so that he's got something tangible to hold onto - and not just the context of performances and circumstances.