Wednesday, 25 July 2012

An icon? Sod that, I'm happy with Sean

The Al Hasawi family have only put one foot wrong so far.

After finally finalising their purchase of the club the Kuwaiti trio have arrived amid a blaze of optimism and, in a nice gesture, swiftly renamed the academy after their predecessor Nigel Doughty.

They've also, rightly in my view, got rid of Steve Cotterill, appointed Sean O'Driscoll, improved communications with fans and helped seal the deals of former loan ranger Adlene Guedioura and solid and experienced defender Danny Collins.

It's just a shame then, that they slipped the word 'iconic' into their press conference when describing their manager-of-choice.

Maybe that was partly a mistranslation/misunderstanding and, to be fair, it was followed up by saying that the family wanted someone who knew the league well.

But, like it or not, the word was latched onto by journalists and fans and set the Twitter rumour mill into meltdown. Could it be Harry? Hoddle? Sven?!

Inevitably, then, the word has been seized upon with relish by rivals since Sean O'Driscoll became the surprise choice to succeed Steve Cotterill, just months since he left the club following a short-term stint as a coach for the successful survival battle.

Yes, Sean O'Driscoll is not an icon but I think he's a great choice. In fact the thought of a big name boss worried me a little. Schteve McClaren did not work as a high profile appointment last season - he needed too much money and to change too much to be able to work properly here. When the changes didn't happen fast enough for him he packed up his brolly and left (albeit waiving a payoff to his great credit).

Harry was always a ridiculous suggestion that helped fill the coffers of a few bookies and briefly get the attention of national journos eager for morsels of football news.

Hoddle? He had all the hallmarks of McClaren+1year, especially having been away from the English game for a while. He had also flattered to deceive at Wolves when last in charge of a club of this level.

The rest? Well Gordon Strachan was abysmal at Middlesbrough and Sven Goran Eriksson? As a circus ringmaster maybe.

Some of those names may have satisfied the expectation of a big name but none were as suited to actually doing a good job as Sean O'Driscoll.

He's smart, sensible, has good experience of this level, can spot a talented player and sets a good tone for the new ownership. The last thing we want to do now is throw silly money around on an ego trip. The clear model to follow is that of Norwich, Swansea, Southampton and Reading. All of those clubs assembled good squads under the tutelage of good, progressive managers. 'SOD' is an appointment in the mould of Lambert, Rodgers, Adkins, McDermott in my book.

Another positive from having SOD in charge is that he knows the players that are left. That will be vital in 'hitting the ground running' after a curtailed pre-season. It should also help him know the strengths and weaknesses of the playing staff and hep with what will have to be a bit of a dash in the transfer market.

O'Driscoll can, in time, bring stylish football to the City Ground if his work with Doncaster Rovers is anything to go by. His teams regularly mesmerised Colin Calderwood's Forest and for a while held an 'Indian sign' over us. If he can replicate that sort of football on Trentside the fans will be prepared to give him bags of time, just as they did when Paul Hart's young side burst on to the scene. He's also someone that is fully fluent in the modern word of football tactics and, like Billy, understands the need to be smart to win at this level. A straight up, no fuss 442 doesn't really work any more and SOD knows that.

So far so good then. But there's an awful lot still left to do. Danny Collins is a good addition, but will need to be joined by another three players in our now non-existent defence. Lascelles, Moloney and Freeman all have potential and one of them may well be able to make the step up to first team football. But not all together, and probably not any as a first choice just yet.

There's no doubt that knitting together a defence from scratch will be tough. As will developing the side and squad as a whole. For that SOD will need time. With that in mind I don't think we should all be expecting too much this season. The Al Hasawis said they were setting a goal of a top ten finish. That seems difficult but, given good signings, realistic. Of course many will want promotion right away, but that's a huge ask from the position the squad is in at the moment.

It'll be fascinating to see who SOD can add to his squad, how they are knitted together with the key members left and which, if any of the outcasts (Derbyshire, Miller, Greening, McGoldrick) can be brought back into the fold.

The Black Country born boss laughed off the icon tag at today's press conference and I loved his line that 'all the icons I know are dead'. If he can juggle the challenges in front of him and, in time, take the club back to the promised land of the Premier League then I've a feeling he'll be hearing that icon word once again...

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