Speculation is mounting that Nottingham Forest are about to be taken over by an American consortium in a deal that will see current owner Fawaz Al Hasawi staying on as chairman and retaining a 20% stake in the club. Nick Kehoe believes this would be a mistake and that Fawaz should agree to take a back seat, for the good of the club and himself.
Fawaz Al Hasawi is a good man but he’s dragging Forest down. He doesn’t mean to and (unlike many chairmen) I’ve no doubt that he has the club’s best interest at heart… but good intentions are not enough. You need bagsful of know how to run a football club and sadly that’s something Fawaz doesn’t seem to have.
Since he took over four years ago Forest have lurched from one crisis to another… a depressingly regular pattern of managerial sackings, unpaid bills, a transfer embargo, ground safety issues, resignations from chief executives and directors of football…all symptoms of the malaise brought about by the lack of a coherent strategy to achieve sustainable success.
I sympathise with his position. He’s a fan and every fan thinks they know how their club should be run. We all have strong opinions on who should be in the team…where it needs to be strengthened and which players need to be brought in.
It doesn’t stop there…we all think we know about ticket prices, transfer values, shop merchandise… even which brands of beer that should be on sale in the bars. But we’re not stupid or deluded either… no matter how much we sound off, deep down most of us know that we wouldn’t really be up to running the club. I certainly wouldn’t.
It’s a job for experts…people steeped in the commercial side of football. The game is littered with wealthy businessmen like Fawaz who buy clubs as some kind of hobby or status symbol…but most stay in the background and leave the running of the club to others. That way they get the best of both worlds…the pleasure of owning the club without the risk of managing it badly and bringing it to its knees.
The problem with Fawaz is not that he doesn’t do enough but rather that he tries to do too much. He seems to have a hand in everything that happens at the club and the net result has been far from impressive.
The constant chopping and changing of managers is perhaps the club’s biggest failing during the Fawaz reign. I dare say a good case could be made for sacking any one of them, but surely not all of them?
Would an experienced chairman or director of football have sacked Sean O’Driscoll when the club was hovering around the top six? Would they have brought in a manager like Alex McLeish whose style was anathema to most Forest fans brought up on the glory years of Clough, and then Frank Clark and Dave Basset?
And if an experienced chairman had brought in a McLeish, would they have allowed a situation to arise where he leaves within a few months making the club look shambolic?
Since the McLeish fiasco, several more managers have come and gone with few of them given enough time to put down roots and really get to grips with the club.
The desire for instant results has been Fawaz’s greatest weakness. He spent too rashly…found himself in trouble with fair play rules and then felt obliged to balance the books by selling a player like Michail Antonio…the very person whose star quality might have made us contenders for promotion.
Fawaz has supposedly sunk an eye-watering £100m into Forest. If so then sadly much of that money has not been spent well …and the changes of managers haven’t helped with each one inheriting players that they don’t rate even though may have cost a fortune. It’s wasteful and self-defeating.
Fawaz possibly resents the fact that Forest fans aren’t suitably grateful for his efforts and money. I could understand if he feels that way but ultimately he only has himself to blame because his short term approach has not worked.
It was perhaps a sense that he had overspent on an ungrateful club that made Fawaz cash in on Oliver Burke, but ultimately it’s the club and the fans that lose out.
Burke was the most promising player to emerge at the club since people like Jermaine Jenas, Michael Dawson and Andy Reid. He will quite likely to go on outshine those illustrious stars but sadly that won’t be to our benefit. Burke is the kind of player that gives a club that little extra and I believe he could have helped us towards promotion over the coming year or two.
We’ll never know but it’s interesting to think of the team we might have had if the club had been run differently. Imagine players like Burke and Antonio alongside current stars like Pereira and Assombolonga.
Put seven solid pros alongside them and I’d put money on them for promotion.
In spite of all this I find it hard to dislike Fawaz. I think he’s a victim of his own enthusiasm and made the mistake of thinking that his opinion as a fan, albeit a very wealthy one, puts him in the same league as people who’ve been steeped professional football all their lives.
Some fans have lost patience with Fawaz and want him out…but it needn’t end in tears. He could do himself and the club a huge favour just by taking a step back. Put proper professionals in charge, agree a coherent five year strategy with them and then let them get on with it…and don’t sack the manager if he goes through a bad patch.
Then all Fawaz has to do is turn up on matchday and enjoy the game. As I mentioned when I appeared on Radio Nottingham’s Monday night Matchtalk, there’s no shame in not being able to walk into a club and run it perfectly from day one when you have no experience. The shame is in carrying on when you risk driving the club into the ground.
I think the fans would respect Fawaz more if he accepted his limitations and took a back seat. Who knows? He might like being out of the pressure cooker and the club might get the dynamic leadership it needs.