Friday, 27 January 2017

The Clough dilemma: Fans and Nigel both torn over job approach

Nigel Clough has got a dilemma this weekend. Does he ask for permission to have talks with Forest, a job he's apparently long fancied a crack at? Or does he stick by Burton Albion and try to finish the job of keeping the Brewers in the second tier?

Yet, he's not the only one with a dilemma. Many Forest fans seem torn over whether or not they want him to take charge of the club. How will we feel in either scenario.

Nigel Clough on the touchline at the City Ground
(Photo: Diego Sideburns, Flickr)
It's a tough one isn't it? First of all, I'm a huge fan of Nigel Clough. Even if you set aside his family name, this is a man who is our second best scorer of all time. He is a genuine Forest legend and deserves our total respect. The 'non-league Nigel' stuff thrown about in the heat of the battle when he was Derby manager must be consigned to the past.

Some people felt a little let down by his behaviour as Derby boss but that's probably more a reaction to the fact that we didn't like seeing 'our number nine' show passion with a ruddy ram on his jacket. Paul Severn summed it up the rivalry for Seat Pitch back in 2013:
Clough displayed the same fierce will to win as Derby manager and the fixture took a more explosive context, rather than a thaw that might have been expected with a Forest favourite managing Derby. Billy Davies was keen to pay back Derby for his sacking and Clough was in no mood to surrender easy points. After a number of ugly derby-day incidents, Clough’s popularity amongst Forest fans plummeted. Perhaps the feeling was mutual. And what made things worse was that Clough proved rather adept at beating Forest. And it hurt.
Given what we've seen of Billy Davies it is perhaps no wonder that he relished taking the man on and beating him so much.

Whether that rivalry upset you or not, it's over now and it's time to move on. The reception he got when he returned at Burton Albion was heartwarming and if you doubt what the club means to the man then just watch him talk about his time at Forest:

Yet, does that all mean we should leave things as they are? It would be a shame if taking charge of the club somehow diminished or damaged the reputation he deserves. Worse still, it'd be a crying shame if he was only being approached to be manager to deflect attention away from the owner.

Nigel deserves better than to be ringmaster of the Fawaz circus and Fawaz doesn't deserve to get off the hook so easily. There's no doubt that the focus would certainly move away from the ownership if the Clough family legacy were to be continued on Trentside. It would, after all, make for a 'good story'.

Then there's the question of Nigel's managerial credentials, which some feel are modest.

While it's fair to say Nigel might not have had the greatest success in his time in the dugout, he is someone who has experience of operating in the second tier on a shoestring budget, both at Derby and Burton. At Derby, he stabilised the club after the disastrous Paul Jewell era and probably set the foundations in place for a period of promotion challenges that followed. His Burton side is competitive and isn't out of the race for survival.

He took Sheffield United to two cup semi finals, although failed to get them back to the Championship. A Blades fan I trust said they did become 'terrible' toward the end of his reign and said that his signings he made were poor...although did at least prefer him to his successor Nigel Adkins.

A mixed bag then, but you have to remember the market we're in. The likes of Gary Rowett don't want to work for Fawaz and he's greatly damaged the reputation of the club. If Nigel didn't have such a strong link to the club then there wouldn't even be a dilemma to resolve.

Nigel is experienced and would be able to steady the ship. As much as I respect Gary Brazil and Jack Lester, a 20-game stint would be an awful long caretaker spell. Personally, and I know not everyone feels the same, I'd feel a little less nervous about relegation if we had a more established manager at the helm. I've advocated Kenny Jackett as a calm, sensible, stable figure to lead us to safety - Nigel could fit that bill. We do, after all, need to stay in this league if we're going to be able to attract a buyer and get shut of Fawaz.

There'd certainly be no danger of Clough not understanding the club and its odd combination of history, yearning for a style and expectation of results. Indeed, this is a man who had to live with being the 'manager's son' for his entire Forest playing career so he's already learned to live with that 'Brian Clough legacy pressure' in a way that the club hasn't. At the soap opera that is Nottingham Forest, a Clough return seems like an obvious plot development.

Still, the biggest issue is what Nigel makes of it all. It might turn out to be a tale of two chairmen and, if it does, he'll surely stick with Ben Robinson. His stewardship of Burton has been superb and puts Fawaz to shame. Nigel has personal and emotional ties with Burton that must be every bit as strong as those he has for Forest and we'd do well not to forget all of that. Is it worth jacking all of that in to get sacked here in six months?

On the flip side of the coin is Fawaz. The man who criticised Dougie Freedman's style of play, blames Billy Davies and Stuart Pearce for a transfer embargo and is seemingly now taking responsibility for signings himself. Whether he likes it or not he's an interfering owner and someone who could put anyone off. He's showed no sign of learning a single lesson from the mess he's made of the club either, something that was abundantly clear in his interview with Natalie Jackson this week.

Of course, you could look at this another way. Clough could use the fact that the club's owner is under pressure to force him to agree to what he'd want. His dad certainly knew how to 'play' a chairman to get his own way. Fawaz, who seemed rattled in his interview, might think backing Clough would get people off his back so that he can return to the process of looking for signings. The words 'could' and 'might' are important there though.

I'm torn, therefore. I like Nigel and think he could do a job to ensure the club survives in the Championship. But the fact that I like him also means that I don't want him to be the next man to be burned by the Fawaz regime and I certainly don't want the owner to be able to hide behind a club legend and escape the spotlight.

If he decides to come, I'll be right behind him. We'd owe him nothing less than our full support. Yet, I'd also respect him for staying at Burton.

It's not an easy dilemma for anyone involved but as Tuesday looms - with the transfer window set to close and a crucial game against Rotherham to be played - this weekend has to end with a decision.

No comments: