Sunday, 1 February 2015

Good luck Dougie, you'll need it

Dougie Freedman. There's two words I didn't expect to be typing tonight. Still, at the ongoing soap opera that is Nottingham Forest, little should surprise us now should it? A returning character back at the Queen Vic, cue the 'doof doofs'.

I'll be honest, I'm underwhelmed. Dougie looked to be on to good things with Crystal Palace but jumped ship to Bolton, where things didn't work out. A Bolton fan friend was, well, less than impressed with his tenure at the Trotters to put it mildly.

The people who seemed obsessed with Pearce's win percentage at City will probably be outraged now since Freedman's figure was worse at both Palace and Bolton. Still, if Danny Mills hasn't got a bad word to say about him he'll be ok, right?

I just hope the new man at the helm hasn't been set a 'get the top six this season or else' target. We're a long, long way off being ready for the big time. We shouldn't go down but we cannot be complacent and think that isn't a danger. In essence this next 18 games should be the perfect period to settle on a formation and build a side that can be the basis going forward into next season. That makes sense and would be logical but you fear that Fawaz doesn't deal in the world of slow, steady building.

But, regardless of the new man at the helm we have to now face up to some home truths.

Firstly, we aren't a big club any more. I was appalled to read some people arrogantly suggest we could pinch a manager from a top six club as new boss in that heady hour when it appeared I'd be blogging on potential replacements for Pearce. We're not a Premier League club in waiting and we've certainly got no divine right to have a place in the top flight. Especially not since we were last there in 1999, when Freedman himself wore the Garibaldi and struggled to fill the shoes of Van Hooijdonk and Campbell. Most professional players in football today probably don't even remember us being in the top flight. It's a little depressing but it's time to accept that our name alone counts for a lot less than it once did. We should, rightly, aspire to get back to where we once were, but we can't expect it. Brian Clough left a wonderful legacy at this club but we're not far away from squandering it entirely. Footballing wise we're certainly back where we were when Ol' Big 'Ead worked his miracle.

In fact, you worry that we're becoming seen as a bit of a joke, frankly. We sack a manager every few months with no plan whatsoever for the future. When Southampton lost Pochettino they knew exactly what sort of manager would fit their system and ethos. Players, managers and coaches are brought in to fit the style and structure of the club. System, ethos, style and structure are not words you can associate with Nottingham Forest at the moment. Pretty much the best thing to come from the Pearce era is the renewed emphasis on making the academy at the heart of the club's future. It's a start, but we've got an awful long way to go.

We also have to accept that it is going to take some time to get to where we want to be. Constant chopping and changing has created a mismatch of a squad forged together by bits and bobs from different managers. We must have a long term plan, with coaches, scouts and board members all buying into it. It can't go on being Fawaz playing at it like it's a computer game. He needs sound advice from trusted senior employees and, importantly, to listen to it. I've read tonight that some people at the club were as shocked as we were by the Freedman appointment. Did he weigh up all the options, speak to the chief exec etc and go for someone who shared the club's vision or did he just plump for someone who wanted a job and was available? Too many more sackings and even those out of work with a point to prove will start to say no (cough, Warnock, cough). The one constant in the 'failures' of O'Driscoll, McLeish, Davies and Pearce is the club itself.

The job of shaping a squad is even harder given that we are under a transfer embargo. Freedman can make just one signing, and even that comes with financial caveats. He must get more out of what he has at his disposal.  Some may say that's not too hard given the potential of the players at his disposal. That maybe true but he's lacking a left back worthy of the name, a tackling midfielder and anyone with confidence at the moment. He can get more out of this current set of players and he'll have to. He'll also have to integrate our next crop of young players. We can't keep getting in average players on loan to fill full back and midfield berths - we need to start to forge those players 'in house' and use our budget wisely on the rarer creative and goalscoring positions.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure Fawaz means well. He's invested an awful lot of money but it's not just cold hard cash we need. It's proper management. That's from the top to the dugout and onto the field with the players themselves taking some responsibility too.

So, a club stuck in a rut with little or no strategy except a failed short termism and scant opportunity to change the squad. There's your in tray Dougie. Welcome back and best of luck. By God you'll need it.


Jurassic_Clem said...

Interesting piece but you should get your facts right. The incorrect fact included here - third paragraph: That Stuart had a better win percentage than Dougie had both at Palace and Bolton... Actually Dougie's win percentage was better both at Crystal Palace and at Bolton than Stuart's (see bottom of post). Admittedly not by much but then he inherited a relegation form team at Palace and Bolton and took them both up the table until it eventually ended in tears at Bolton. Sometimes it goes that way even for the best managers. Stuart unfortunately has been consistently less than moderate in his results and his teams' performances as a manager. I wish it were different - he's a club legend and a lovely guy. But it's all about hearts and heads and which should rule. I'm sure Fawaz has been concerned for a few weeks. It's his club and his responsibility to ensure the clubs future. He has acted hopefully before it's too late. I wouldn't call this sacking trigger happy as much of the press do and as you seem to imply. Most other championship clubs would have sacked Stuart 3 or 4 weeks ago. One other thing to consider - Stuart's stats are swayed by his fantastic start/honeymoon period. Some would consider his form over the past 3 months little short of appalling.

Actual stats:

SP Win % 31.25 NF

DF Win % 34.78 CP
DF Win % 33.66 BW

Trentender said...

Thanks for the comment - you've misread though. I'm talking about his win percentage at Man City (35.42) which many judged him by before he'd even took charge. If we're to judge Freedman blindly by the same statistic then many will write him off before he even comes through the door. I agree the form is huge cause for concern but the sheer number of managers under Fawaz has to put the spotlight on him now.

Jurassic_Clem said...

OK - I can accept your point concerning the stats, although I would argue that championship club management stats are more relevant in this case. On Fawaz: Just feel as though Fawaz was in an impossible position with regards to the press and the fans. Should he have waited until we were in the bottom 3 and fighting to stay in the league whilst boasting the divisions poorest form? Fans would have castigated him for not acting sooner. As it is, some will take the simplistic approach a la Pat Murphy and call him trigger happy. I think the fans should take into account the lack of experience of the English Football League that Fawaz possessed when he came in. Sure, he was trigger happy to begin with. With hindsight and looking at Bristol City now, maybe Steve Cotterill could have been given a chance. Fawaz came in with big, but naive ideas with regard to the championship. In my opinion, the only real trigger happy sacking was Sean O'D's and that was, I believe, because he hadn't yet learned the need for stability - Look at the others - Mcleish was simply a hasty and wrong appointment - you only had to see the way the team played (or should I say 'didn't play') under him. Billy Davies's insanity wasn't apparant in the beginning although he did, for a while, produce results and good performances at the cost of destroying all good feeling within the club; Gary Brazil was always going to be temporary and shouldn't really count and Stuart, love him as a legend, and I do, just doesn't have that managerial touch. We should give Dougie Freedman our backing. No-one can see into the future but if he can tighten that defence up get some clean sheets behind us we should at least be safe this season. Antonio is a talent but has been relied on far too much - he has great strengths but also weaknesses particularly in ungainliness and lack of ball control. He needs to be one of several outlets, not our only hope! I believe Stuart's emphasis on Antonio is one of the factors in our poor form. We need to play to feet. Using Stuart's long ball tactic, we at least needed to have someone up front who could hold a ball until support arrived and only Matty Fryatt has shown any sembelence of that skill, and he's been injured only too often. If we had continued with Stuart, we'd have been facing the simple footballing formula: Inability to keep a clean sheet + lack of goals = relegation. We have on paper one of the best squads in the division. The players have talent. It had to be the system that was flawed.