It is easy to look at the mess that is Nottingham Forest Football Club and clamour for change, any change. There is no easy answer though to the current malaise. It has taken years of poor leadership to bring us to this point of despair and it will take years of good leadership and hard work if we are ever to find a way out of it. Let no one kid themselves that short term decisions about Coach A over Coach B will dig us out of this hole.
Our problems are not entirely the fault of the current owner, Fawaz Al-Hasawi, although he has accelerated and underlined them. If we are honest the rot had set in before he came to the club, as the view pervaded that a saviour manager would be found if we just kept working our way through the available pool. Whilst an admiration for Brian Clough is a prerequisite for anyone with a heart for Forest, the systematic failure of the club to understand that the game has moved on has cost us dear.
We are operating in a highly competitive environment in which many of our competitors are ahead of us strategically and a substantial number of those with similar aspirations have stronger finances. With a new television deal only increasing the financial gap between the Premier League and the rest, relegated clubs should find it easier to bounce back, if they have a semblance of control, so the goal of gaining and retaining top flight status could well become harder still for those of us who have been away from the top table for a long time.
The only way that Forest can reasonably hope to stand still, never mind progress, is to invest in a structure that helps it get the best value from its resources and therefore gives it the best chance of performing on the pitch. Throwing some money at a group of players and then rotating the coach until one of them gets lucky is not a basis for building a successful football club and you need only look at Forest over the course of the current century to see that.
I hope that the Supporters’ Trust meeting on Thursday might be the first step on the road to recovery. I have to admit that I have found it hard to remain engaged with Forest over the last few years. The club has so clearly lost its way that it is easy to give up hope, but attending Saturday’s 150th Anniversary party, so brilliantly organised by Greg and Matt, has reinvigorated me. It has reminded me how much more we are than a few bad results. This club is 150 years old and we owe it to all the Reds through those years to envisage a better future and to try to make that future happen.
I hope that we can begin a discussion at Thursday’s meeting about how we do that and I hope that we can do it in a way that brings the whole Forest community together. I honestly believe that the year ahead should be focused on the longer term, on defining who we are, where we want to go and how we intend to get there. Our infatuation with being in the top 6 when we are hamstrung not only by FFP penalties but also a club structure that is not fit for purpose, makes no sense at all. We need to put the basics in place and I’m afraid that to do that we need to accept the reality of where we are and be honest about our expectations.
This is a discussion and it is one that must involve the whole Forest family not just one person tapping away at a keyboard (or one rich owner for that matter), but I will say this: now is not the time to turn away from our club, now is the time to nail colours to the mast, grit teeth and get to work. We are going to lose football matches, there are going to be mistakes, there will be some pretty turgid days, (so some things won’t change at all for now), but we need to find a way to unite behind something bigger, something that started with 15 men in The Clinton Arms in 1865 and endures to this day.
At a practical level we need a manager and I actually believe that at this time there is no better fit for that role than Nigel Clough. That isn’t because of some dewy eyed mystique about his surname, it is because we need to steady the ship while the bigger stuff like structures and strategy are sorted out and he has experience of doing exactly that. Some of you wouldn’t like it and the football might not be champagne stuff, but in a period of transition that is hard for anyone to achieve. We need a period of calm in which we can engage with the club hierarchy and try to make headway.
We also need to bring fans back on board and into the ground en masse, so the other thing we should seek to do quickly is get the ticket prices down to an offer fans cannot refuse. It would need the supporters to step forward, commit their weekends to whole hearted support of their team through thick and thin but it would breathe new life into the club and prepare us for the hard yards that lie ahead. It might need some negotiation with the Football League around Financial Fair Play but a positive discussion about a new direction would help give regulating authorities confidence.
It’s a discussion so I do not want to go further at this time, but I do think we need time and we need a movement to galvanise as much of the Forest support as we possibly can, so we also need quick wins to ensure that the club survives whilst the longer term stuff is developed. I encourage Forest fans to go to the meeting on Thursday at the Albert Hall in Nottingham, listen to what the experienced people of Supporters Direct and Foxes Trust have to say and then become part of our own discussion about the future of our club. Let’s make this historic anniversary count for something.
You can follow the organisers here
The Nottingham Forest Supporters' Trust meeting will take place on Thursday 7th April: 19.30 - 21.30 (bar open from 19.00) at The Albert Hall (Osborne Suite)
The meeting is open to all fans to discuss the formation of a Supporters' Trust. The evening will feature:
- Presentations from the core group of fans who have launched the inititiative; Supporters Direct and Foxes Trust (Leicester City)
- Q&A session
- Official vote to decide whether fans support the formation of the trust
- Special screening of a video montage celebrating the club's 150 years anniversary
Free admission. All welcome.