clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Dougie Freedman sacked

New, 7 comments

Dougie Freedman sacked as manager of Nottingham Forest.

Harry Hubbard/Getty Images

It was always going to happen. It was always more of a question of 'when', rather than 'if'.

Dougie Freedman walked into the hot seat a year and a month ago with an inbox the size of a rhinoceros. Amongst other things, he faced a demoralised squad and the restrictions of a transfer embargo whilst all the while, having an owner hover around him with his finger poised over his Twitter refresh button in order to gauge opinion amongst fans.

Freedman enjoyed the bounciest of new manager bounces as the team went ten games with only one defeat. They then finished the season with 8 games without a win. The new season brought little cheer too as his team chalked up only one win in the opening 6 games.

Indeed, his teams specialised in runs, enjoying 13 games unbeaten over the Christmas period but currently find themselves in a rut: short on goals, lacking in confidence and looking for all the world like stumbling towards the finishing line in the same lacklustre manner exhibited towards the end of the previous season.

Given the swirl of circumstances surrounding the club, it is difficult to evaluate Freedman's skills without getting caught up in the white heat of polemic.

On the one hand, operating under the restrictions imposed on the club since March last year while various backroom staff whizzed in and out of the revolving door was always going to be incredibly difficult - impossible even. Who can say what the mood of the players is and has been against a backdrop of late wages payments and general mismanagement in terms of the club's infrastructure. Sure, they should forget about all of that when they cross the white line but it's really not that easy. They are, after all, human beings (most of them anyway) and not robots.

It seems that Dougie spent just as much time reading up on FFP restrictions and operating within the sanctions imposed than he did coaching the players. In spite of this, he managed to recruit well. Daniel Pinillos, Bojan Jokic and Matt Mills have added to the team and look set to make a long term contribution to the club. Ryan Mendes and Nelson Oliveira have done a job when called upon. There countless more too. Maybe that's part of the problem: he's had to rely on players coming in and out on an almost monthly basis which makes building a consistent team nigh on impossible.

In addition, he has endured some rotten luck with injuries. There's no need to document them here - you know them all too well. In light of this, even his harshest critic would have to concede that he walked into a tough gig.

But them's the breaks, especially in the harsh world of football management.

Besides, he has made mistakes. Insisting on playing loanees even in the nothing games in the fag end of last season was infuriating, especially given the shoddy performances and results during that period. He failed to get much out of Jonny Williams and more significantly, his management of the younger players has not helped matters. Besides which, in spite of the restrictions, there remained the core of a very good squad at his disposal.

A while back, I wrote that how Freedman manages the youth players would probably determine how he fares as manager. To his credit, he has coaxed some impressive performances from Ben Osborn in a wide left position. Initially, this seemed a doomed experiment but in fairness, it has been successful. On the other hand, Tyler Walker's development has regressed and although he has turned to youth, it has invariably been in the form of throwing them on with ten minutes or so to spare. Of course, if they're not ready, they're not ready but the Youth team has been playing exceptional well for a while now and if they're not ready now then when will they ever be? Furthermore, surely it's part of the manager's remit to get them ready: sometimes they'll make mistakes, sometimes they'll perform miracles. Generally speaking, fans will forgive kids more than seasoned pros. Sadly, by the time Dougie turned to them, the crowd had generally become disillusioned with the manner of performances being turned in.

Perhaps the real kicker for fans is the very nature of those performances. Even when points were garnered, it wasn't pretty. For the most part, the game plan revolved around ceding possession and taking one of precious few chances created. Against weaker teams or teams who were not at the races, it worked. But on occasions, watching such performances was like watching a toddler try to balance a ball bearing atop a needle: painfully frustrating and reliant on the tiniest detail and blind luck.

Given the shape the club was in back in August, mid table would generally have been considered to be fair. Indeed, if Dougie could hold on to the job until Christmas, he would have been doing well. So what changed?

For the most part, the performances he coaxed from the team over his period in charge left many wondering whether he was the man to move the club forward a level. In terms of guiding a club through a desperate season and ensuring heads stay above water, he was the right man at the right time. But once the novelty of anti football and defensive set ups wore off - alongside a run of defeats - his sacking was inevitable.

So who can lead the club out of this mire?

There's the rub. Does there exist the 'right' man to do so?

Given the current running of the club, no. There probably isn't a 'right' man out there. Until the club starts implementing a strategy for long term development in the current climate - FFP, parachute payments and increasing player power to name a few - the club will most likely continue to stagnate for a few years yet.

We've been here before and it's close to five years since Sean O'Driscoll was tasked with putting together a band new squad, pretty much from scratch, to contest the 2012-13 season under Fawaz al-Hasawi's leadership. It seems like the club has been patching together a brand new squad each and every transfer window since then. Lessons on how to run a football club remain defiantly and resolutely unlearned.

It doesn't have to be this way.

We don't deserve better because we went to Europe and won the league twice. Well, partly that but we deserve better for sticking by this club for the last 20 or so years since we tumbled out of the Premier League and even tasted three seasons in League 1. We deserve better for continuing to fork out north of £30 to watch our team play away from home. We deserve better for standing by and watching Bournemouth play proper football while they sail past us to glory on the back of wise investment. Throw in Sheffield Wednesday too if you like. Consider Brighton too who adhere to FFP restrictions and are now reaping the benefits.

It can be done, either with money or without. Just not by Nottingham Forest it seems.