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.