Halford and Harding arrive to bolster our defence..

Harding. A real life left back. One that we own. No, really!

Another couple of days, another couple of signings – this new slick decisive Forest transfer machine is taking a little getting used to for me still!  A raid of two south coast teams has seen the defensive line looking rather more promising than it has been doing with the addition of versatile Greg Halford from Portsmouth, and – and remember to take a deep breath here – a left back in the shape of Dan Harding from Southampton.

The three things that always stuck in my head about Halford was his oscar winning collapse whilst on loan at Sheffield United that preceded Kelvin Wilson get sent off at Bramall Lane, his lambasting of Joel Lynch who’d just been absolutely poleaxed last season – and referring to Forest and its’ fans on Twitter in derogatory fashion in the aftermath of that event.  So not the best initial impressions!

He can play centre-half, right back or in midfield – and is perhaps known best, aside from his fiery temperament, for his long throw.  As with anybody arriving to don the garibaldi, it’s a clean slate and a huge welcome from me – he’s been somewhat nomadic in his career of late, not helped by a big money move to Sunderland not working out and resulting in loans out to multiple clubs, let’s hope that he gets the chance to settle here!

There could definitely be an element of ‘he’s a bit of a bastard, but he’s our bastard’ about him – and certainly in recent times we’ve found that our defence can be easily intimidated or bullied by attackers.  Hopefully the kind of experience that Collins, and now Halford, bring to our back line will help to quell some of that kind of thing going on!

The second arrival was Dan Harding from Southampton.  He made 25 appearances for the Saints in what was obviously a very successful season in 2011/12, but has fallen behind Fox in the pecking order for his position.  A ‘modern’ fullback, he’s one that will get forward and whip in a decent cross – and well, he’s a left back – we should be happy with that really!

Dan came through the ranks at Brighton and made four appearances for the England under 21s in 2004 before securing a move to Leeds on a free transfer – although due to his age at the time this came with a £450,000 compensation demand, and a potential £400,000 based on appearances and achievements.  He only lasted a year at the Elland Road club before moving to Ipswich, from where he was loaned out to Southend and then Reading.

Roy Keane told him he wasn’t required at the Suffolk club which is how he found his way to Southampton in 2009 – the first signing made by new manager Alan Pardew.  He was named in the team of the year for League One 2010-2011 and obviously featured but started to lose his place more last season – it was, however, only during last season that he was deemed suitable to be offered a three year contract at Southampton – so he was clearly still well thought of.

A big welcome to both new men.  Rumours continue as to who the next new signing might be – there seems to be a lot of noise about Kelvin Wilson being in Nottingham, but with it being close season and him being from Nottingham that’s not really all that surprising.  Having said that, if there were plans to try to lure the former-Reds defender back from Celtic then I certainly wouldn’t be adverse to the idea.

Reservations about Halford’s temperament aside, I’m pleased with the continuing policy Forest seem to have of targeting sensible-profile players who both know their way around this league and in many cases have been either involved or at least around successful sides operating in the Championship.  It’s a promising strategy that appeals to me rather than the ‘let’s get a marquee signing’ direction I was a bit worried we might take.

Guedioura and Collins check in..

Adlene is back in a Forest shirt. Permanently!

There’s as ever been lots of rumours, both outlandish and realistic, and certainly Forest’s two confirmed acquisitions featured amongst the forums and Twitter folk.  The first was the very welcome signing of Adlene Guedioura.  The former Forest loanee joining from Wolves and has signed a three year contract and – looking at his Twitter feed – it looks like he’ll be rocking the number seven shirt next season for the Reds.

Gued had a great impact on loan last season as the Reds were floundering, almost instantly winning Forest fans over with his swashbuckling performances in midfield.  Of course, that goal against Leeds was pretty special too.  Rumours put the transfer fee at just under a million quid – which is a cracking price for me.  In signing the Algerian international the Al-Hawasi family have bought themselves yet more good will from pleased Forest fans.

Those few people still intent on seeing the negative side pointed out the lack of defenders – indeed, even Sean O’Driscoll said in his press conference that it didn’t take a football manager to see our shortage of defensive players.  So it’s good news that we’ve added experienced centre half (who can play left back) Danny Collins from Stoke.  He’s a 31 year old Welsh international, and he scored twice against us last season when on loan from Ipswich.

He too signs a three year deal having apparently had the club talked up to him by Reidy, his Wales team-mate Gunts and last-season-loanee Stoke defender Danny Higginbotham.  It’s nice to think that a key figure in our current squad, a recent departee and a short-term loan player are talking us up in this way.  A huge welcome to both Danny and Adlene to the esteemed position of Forest player!

So a huge welcome to both players – certainly a positive start to recruiting the players we need for the squad.  The other confirmed news are the Kuwaiti trialists – striker Bader Al-Mutawa and goalkeeper Khalid Al-Rashidi are currently training with the Reds.  If you pop over to the LTLF forum you’ll see a few video clips and photos of them in action – although Sean O’Driscoll’s comments in his press conference were decidedly luke-warm about them!

Forest under the law of SO’D..

Sean O’Driscoll returns to Forest, and this time he’s in charge..

After all the gossiping, rumour mongering and endless list of names and swinging bookmakers odds, Forest have turned to Sean O’Driscoll to fill the managerial hot seat.  And do you know what?  I am absolutely bloody delighted about it.  I’ve been sitting on my hands somewhat resisting the urge to get drawn into the stories doing the rounds, although have been remiss in not marking the departure of Chris Gunter.

Whilst we’ll never know the full story, you can’t but help have noticed that the upturn in our fortunes last season, when we stopped going games on end without scoring, when Raddy and Reidy were reintroduced to the side and we started to experiment with playing the ball on the floor – it was when Sean arrived on the scene as assistant to Steve Cotterill.  Before that we were humping aimless long balls to Marlon Harewood and Marcus Tudgay.

He is an exponent of playing football in the way we like, he knows the squad and by all accounts is well liked by them – and whilst many people seem to have latched on to the one time when Abdulaziz Al-Hasawi pondered for a moment and foolishly chose the word ‘iconic’ when talking about a manager (whilst ignoring the many times both he and Fawaz have stressed a desire to have a boss with Championship experience).

All in all, this pre-season so far has proven a bit of a case of bad timing.  Perhaps the likes of Garath McCleary, Chris Gunter and Luke Chambers might have reconsidered turning down contract offers had the takeover occurred more smoothly and had a manager been appointed more readily.  Indeed, we could have avoided paying Crawley Town compensation for Sean had we simply retained him on the staff in the summer.

Part of that compensation agreement is to player Crawley in a friendly before next season starts – which seems fair enough!

So a big welcome, Sean.  Certainly this is a different challenge to those he’s faced before – but I would hope that with us and the squad behind him, and the Al-Hasawi family backing him in the transfer market, then he can make a success of the role.  I for one am genuinely pleased to see him back – anyone that can help turn things around with the massive drag factor of Cotterill in charge has to be a talented chap.

Gunts moves on for a shot at the big time

And now on to the other news – Chris Gunter departed to Reading to be reunited with Garath McCleary for a reported £2.3-2.5m.  This is really disappointing, not least because he was our only remaining senior defender – and a thoroughly decent chap and excellent right back.  That said, with Brendan Moloney and Kieron Freeman both experienced through loan moves in the past it’s oddly a position we do, unusually, have cover for.

I can’t really blame him for wanting to take his shot at the Premier League amidst uncertainty of ownership and management at Forest, and if he’d had his head turned then it makes sense – given our recent experiences with such things – to not have a player who wants out run their contract down and leave for nothing.

I wish him all the best in his future career – certainly not one who ever shirked in a red shirt, and I’ll miss his strange compulsion to go and slap the corner flag before each half starts.  Definitely I’d hope that he’d get a decent reception from Reds fans should we encounter him again – a consistently good performer, a great appearance record and moved on for a profit.  All highly unusual things to attribute to a recent Forest player.

Hopefully from now the news will be positive – we have some rebuilding to do, and in a hurry.

New owners arrive, officially!

I think the wind was taken somewhat from the sails of today’s press conference by the eagerness of the Al Hasawi family to engage with fans, because not masses of new news really emerged as Abdulaziz, Fawaz and Omar Al Hasawi and their entourage welcomed the media officially in their capacity as Forest’s new owners.

Along with other fans not lucky enough to be granted a place amongst the 100 who got to meet the family, I did pop down to the ground to see a reasonable crowd form to greet the new owners and catch a glimpse of them. To say they look delighted to be here is an understatement – they could barely contain their glee at fulfilling what is clearly a long term ambition to be involved in English football.

Amongst the things that were raised, most have been covered before – sustainability is the aim of the game, there will be a plan – a risky 3-5 year timeline was placed on it, although of the aim of that timescale wasn’t clear beyond being in the Premier League. That, in truth, is what I wanted to hear – I don’t want outlandish targets and reckless investment – sustainability sounds good.

Other key things that were clarified:

Manager
Talks with managers will be happening from tomorrow – it would seem likely an appointment will be made mid next week. The Al Hasawis ARE using their influence to bring Kuwaiti players in on trial but for the manager to run the rule over. Glenn Hoddle was not under consideration (neither is Billy Davies according to a friend in the ‘meet the family’ event, despite misguided chanting for him by some of the gathered fans.

Stadium
Moving is not a short term priority, the team and academy is. Longer term they are keen to engage with fans to establish the best way forward. Very pleasingly to me there seems to be a resistance to moving away from a central location. It will be interesting to see how that resolve remains after a few more encounters with Nottingham City Council! However, if we were to consider the wrench of moving from our home, then not ending up in a horrible edge-of-town retail park arrangement would make it a much better prospect.

Frank Clark
Frank as chairman was a favour to Nigel Doughty, it was never likely to remain post-takeover – but it’s great that he retains a position as ambassador and advisor to the new regime. Player, manager, chairman and now ambassador – that is very good indeed, I’m pleased he’s not simply moving on – he might get to hand out the Ferrero Rochers at functions now!

Mark Arthur
Stays. Despite more idiot comments from some of the fans directly to the Al Hasawis today (I mean, really?!). The family were vague about titles – they stressed they work as a team, so whether he remains as CEO or as an advisor or, well, who knows? It might not be the fashionable view but I’m actually pleased there’ll be some continuity in the leadership of the club. If things don’t work out then it would seem our new owners aren’t slow to be decisive.

The thing that really struck me overall was the realism – when probed about the Premier a league it was one of the Al Hasawi family who reigned things back and pointed out that we must first focus on getting promoted from this league. Absolutely bloody right, which is why they talk of managers with experience of this league – it is the press adding in the more outlandish sounding names, I’m sure. This reassures me massively.

So we don’t know much more than we did, but I got some real reassurance that the intentions of the owners are honourable. They seem to want to build sensibly, to develop for the future and be in it for the long haul – these early impressions are a great comfort to me as a naturally highly cynical Forest fan always looking for the next disaster to befall us. That might of course still happen, but my early impressions are good.

I don’t think we will be waiting long for news – the next piece of which should be the new manager, obviously quite a pivotal factor. Interesting times!

Cotterill swept-aside as Al Hasawis clear the decks..

New brushes sweep cleanest – Cotterill consigned to Forest’s history books by new owners

Gosh, our new owners don’t mess around do they?

Since the Al Hasawi family have taken over at Forest, it would seem that the best thing to do is assume the opposite to the Nottingham Post speculates will come true.  Long they had denied the takeover was close, boom, it happened, and more recently has been a lone voice trumpeting the case of incumbent manager Steve Cotterill – he’s now gone after a meeting with the new owners.

I must confess that my own lack of close-season Cotterill comment probably betrays my feelings on the matter.  A nice man, given a tough job – one he was barely capable of delivering.  Not a manager for an ambitious future, not a manager the fans are likely to unite behind – even after the takeover I know a number of fans who were withholding season ticket money based on his lingering malignant presence at the club.

Of course, on a human level it would not be nice at all to revel in somebody losing their job – then again, he came to Forest on a three and a half year deal and has three of those remaining.  On a football level, I must confess that I’m really very pleased – even if we’re being charitable then the job ‘Survival Steve’ was brought in to do is now very different, many will argue passionately the job he was brought in to do wasn’t done very well, I think he delivered the bare minimum.

It would be uncharitable to not thank him for his efforts since being at the helm of Forest, though – so thank you, Steve, and all the best for the future.  It would be a cold-hearted fan who can’t at least look back at that night at Elland Road and not smile.  Now the crazy train departs rumour-station as we see the likes of Harry Redknapp, Mick McCarthy and Alex McLeish leading the bookmakers lists.  Given the expedience of the Al Hasawi decison to give Cotterill the boot, I can’t help but consider they already have a name in the frame.

Giving a manager control of the chequebook without confidence in his ability to deliver would be folly, and Cotterill would’ve had a mountain to climb just to get sections of his own fanbase on side.  Mr Popular in the stands, he was not.  So this move, surgical, precise and not dragged out, is probably for the best for the club, and for Steve himself so he can move on to his own next challenge with dignity rather than enduring a Steve Kean like existence (I’d hope it wouldn’t come to that, but well, it might have).

The news of the manager being relieved of his position might otherwise threaten to overshadow another piece that appeared on the official website just before from the Doughty family, who have handled this whole situation with immense dignity.  It’s wonderful to see that they plan to remain supporters of the club, in the regular sense of course, and the renaming of the academy to bear the name of Nigel Doughty is – in my opinion – an excellent tribute to contribution that Nigel made to the club.

As for the next manager of the club – well, clearly Cotterill doesn’t match the long term plans the Al Hasawi family have (which is somewhat of a relief, in truth) – but it remains to be seen whether they go for an older experienced manager or, as I hope they do, a younger ‘hungry’ manager with a track record of playing decent football.  As Mark Arthur once said (he must be feeling twitchy in his office at the moment) you do have to be careful what you wish for…

… but I can’t help but feel pleased that we will have a properly fresh start including in the dug out next season.  Saturday’s trip to the City Ground becomes a more fascinating proposition by the day.  For now I’m simply thankful that we can properly draw a line under “The season of the two Steves” and look forward to hopefully a more bountiful future!

Let’s Kuwait and see..

As seems to be the way, things happen at Forest when I’m away from home and much of my technology – so I’m going to be brief as blogging by phone isn’t the most fun thing in the world, plus unlike Nottingham it’s not raining incessantly where I am so I’m hoping to enjoy the weather a bit as well!

With a flurry of Twitter activity Fawaz Al Hasawi confirmed that he and his family had concluded their deal to take over Forest – and, it’s fair to says there was much rejoicing. Given the length of time this has been speculated about, it was cathartic as much as anything. After all, we know now it’s happened, but we don’t know much else.

Of course, we know the identity of our new owner – so perhaps aren’t quite in the position of ignorance Notts County were in with the Munto Finance saga – and we know he’s a wealthy man. Then again, so are Derby’s owners and they just sold their best defender for a fairly meagre profit. I am glad of the news, but am not planning on getting too carried away.

That said, Al Hasawi does make the right noises – he talks of recognising the past but building a future, of engaging with supporters (he might regret that when he sees our capacity for bickering!) and, above all, seems genuinely excited the deal has gone through – a football fan, the kind of guy that tweets a picture of his kids in Forest kits upon the deal becoming official. Even his wife has been conversing with Reds fans on Twitter.

Early exchanges have been pleasant, but we know only too well that Twitter and football fans often are a poisonous combination, too. But I’d say the early signs are very promising – I look forward to popping down to the City Ground on Saturday to welcome our new owners, and see what they have to say after announcing a press conference and all but inviting supporters down to the ground as well.

Certainly I think it unwise to be mouthing off about being rich, or sending embarrassing tweets directed at the likes of Garath McCleary or Luke Chambers or Joel Lynch regarding their decisions to move on. Right now I’d be relieved to see some form of squad building, some stabilisation and then a sensible strategy put in place over time commensurate with the level of investment the Al Hasawis are prepared to commit to the cause.

All of this over excitement at being “the next Manchester City” and the clamour to see statements of intent in the transfer market is as deluded as it is premature – now is the time to take stock, steady the ship and consolidate to ensure we have the right foundations to build upon. I’d like to think that some of that preparatory work will already have been considered and possibly enacted during negotiations, but I would definitely rather get it right than rush into the kinds of mistakes that have dogged our recent history.

I am pleased to see excitement and optimism amongst our fans, of course I am, but not misguided bragging based on limited information. Of course, I am not naïve enough to dare think that the rumour mill will not go into hyper speed now – I have seen us linked with Harry Redknapp, Neil Warnock, Mick McCarthy, Jordan Rhodes… the list I am sure will be endless. I’m not going to engage with it until there is confirmed news.

A huge welcome to Fawaz Al Hasawi and his family goes without saying, but now is the time for planning to get things right – not lurching headlong into our next phase of mismanagement. I’m hoping for an enjoyable journey, but can accept journeys might have tricky hills or diversions along the way.

مع السلامة

Luke warms to Tractor Boys – eventually!

Chambers: Least effective captain since Gareth Taylor, now an Ipswich player

We are still sat here waiting for the takeover to go through, and whilst the #nffc Twitterati seem hell bent on over-ambition through the perceived wealth (and, let’s not forget, preparedness to spend said wealth) of our would-be owners, with another out of contract player finding his way to another club I can’t help but wonder about the ambition required simply to avoid relegation.

That said, I’m not too sorry to see Luke Chambers find pastures new – for his sake as much as ours.  I’m not quite sure why he was voted player of the season for 2010/11 – but it was a decent year for him, his only one in a Forest shirt, largely played out of position as a full back by Smoulderwood, he did seem to find his best form for the Reds under Billy Davies – and was crippled by the weight of the captain’s armband.

In a recent interview he admitted as much – and whilst it would perhaps have been harsh to expect Steve Cotterill to strip him of the captaincy, if Luke was finding the responsibility and duties of leading too much, maybe he should have been man enough to admit it and step down from the role.  Of course, I personally don’t see many obvious candidates for the role within the ranks either – so maybe it wasn’t as simple as that!

Either way, I wish him well at Ipswich where he reportedly doubles his salary for a three year contract.  It was a no brainer really, although given the ‘need more time’ move a decision he hasn’t found easy to take.  With Joel Lynch still in limbo that leaves us with one senior defender on the books in Chris Gunter, with the players back for preseason you can see why many fans are beginning to get twitchy for off-the-field matters to be resolved.

Until the takeover is resolved though there seems little point in either the gloating I’ve seen elsewhere on the web, nor the doom-mongering or naysaying you see elsewhere.  The fact of the matter is, we have no idea what the immediate future of the club holds in store for us until the Al-Hasawi take over happens and the new owners are able to implement their plans for the club.

This is why I kind of find myself sitting on my hands a bit waiting for actual news to comment upon, because anything else is conjecture.  Of course, I have my preferences for how things ought to be done much like the next fan, but it seems prudent to await official developments before hypothesising on areas that might not be part of the wider plans.  Hopefully the rumours of a completion happening this week are true, and we can start to concentrate on the football again!