Forest vs. Wigan Athletic preview..

Normally this kind of draw might prove uninteresting – but I’ll be honest, I’m really looking forward to seeing Sean O’Driscoll’s red and white army pit their wits against Roberto Martinez’s Latics.  They’re a side who have developed the kind of playing style under the Spanish manager that we are starting to aspire to, so it will be a stern test of our side.

Whilst we have no fresh injury concerns, comments from the gaffer suggest he is eyeballing a few changes – Chris Cohen might be ready for a return having got back to training, Tudgay and Moussi are also nursing injuries but may be ready for a return, whilst Ayala is making progress with his hip problem and might be ready for a return tot he side.

Wigan have no injury problems, but reports suggest that Martinez will be looking to rest some of his key players and take the opportunity to test his squad depth.  Facing a slightly weakened team with probably a small number of away (and home!) fans is a good opportunity for both our new charges to gel further, but also for the gaffer to test some new ideas outside of the league programme.

I expect it to be a tough challenge, it will be interesting to see how we shape up against a side that will try to play in a similar way to what we aspire to do – admittedly it’s a game that both teams are likely to regard as a bit of a low priority exercise in the context of their overall season, but equally a game in which either side could take heart from winning.

Winning is a good habit to be getting into, after all, and from a Forest perspective having and unbeaten start to the season is something that would be great to drag out for as long as possible.  Those of you umming and aahing about coming down to the City Ground given than it’s being televised, go on, come down – it could be great!

Bolton Wanderers vs. Forest preview..

A daunting prospect for the Reds.  A trip to the Reebok Stadium, just three days after their last game – and in front of the Sky cameras.  Oh, and it’s against one of the teams fancied to bounce straight back to the top flight having fallen through the Premier League trapdoor last season.

It’s not been a rip-roaring start from the Lancashire side – opening day defeat against local rivals Burnley perhaps provided a wake-up call that lead to them defeating Derby on Tuesday to register their first points of the season.  As well as retaining a decent squad, they’ve added the likes of Matt Mills and Keith Andrews to their ranks.

In terms of injuries, Keith Andrews broke his nose after clashing heads with veteran striker Kevin Davies this week so is a doubt, whilst Forest have no fresh worries – just Karl Darlow with his ankle injury and Daniel Ayala with a hip problem.  It seems likely to me that following the performance at Huddersfield the Reds would line up with the same team if possible.

With Owen Coyle at the helm Bolton do benefit from a manager eminently familiar with this level, having joined them from Burnley.  The consensus of Bolton fans seems to be undecided on his calibre – but, and we will benefit here, the stereotypical Allardyce ‘hoof’ team is a thing of the past, and Coyle does promote a passing style.

They look dangerous on the flanks, with Petrov on one side and Lee on the other – up front they have the evergreen Kevin Davies who certainly knows where the net is.  It should provide us with a decent challenge – I’m hoping to see Forest try to impose their own game as they did at the John Smith’s Stadium on Tuesday.

Of course, with Bogdan in goal should we find ourselves more deadly infront of goal we will meet the resistance of an excellent ‘keeper too – so well, a draw would be a good result – a win would be tremendous (and would put us momentarily on top of the table!).  I’m looking forward to the trip, though!

Unlucky Reds miss the chance to go top..

Goalscorer and goal-maker celebrate..

Huddersfield Town – 1
Nottingham Forest – 1

It’s natural enough to feel crestfallen when you concede a clumsy penalty with less than a minute to go giving your opponent their only shot on target all game, and an equaliser.  Disappointment is definitely the word to describe the journey back to Nottingham, but tempered with some real genuine positives too – even echoed on the Twittersphere from home fans at the game tonight too.  We played well, and were very unlucky not to get the win.

Ragged at times, and certainly whilst Huddersfield may not have hit the target before Rhodes stepped up to coolly put his penalty away off the post, they did create chances – chances they really should’ve done better with.  As did we, from McGugan rattling the post from range, Guedioura bringing a top save from their ‘keeper and a myriad of other scrambles and chances we should really be capitalising on.  This could have been a high scoring game with a bit more sharpness from both sides.

Certainly there was none of the ‘playing not to lose’ mentality we might have become accustomed to on our travels in recent years, Sean O’Driscoll made one change to his starting eleven – withdrawing Majewski for Cox in a more 4-4-2 type of formation (kinda – the midfield was still very fluid):

Camp
Moloney   Halford  Collins   Harding
Guedioura   McGugan   Gillett   Reid
Blackstock   Cox

It moved about a bit – Gillett undeniably was the main holding player, Cox played off Dex as much as alongside him and Guedioura was often pulled in from the right.  McGugan bust a gut to play a more box to box role, and whilst he came in and out of the game he was very influential for spells.  Reidy for the most part stayed leftish, but also found himself covering other areas of midfield as the game played itself out.

Worth mention is Huddersfield’s ground – I always want to call it the Galpharm but it’s now the John Smiths Stadium.  I am usually hugely disparaging of new build grounds, but I really liked this one – from the setting on a hill nestled in a wooded hillside overlooking the town, but also having distinct stands – a nice open concourse (of course, the lack of rain made that good!) – it’s a pleasant place to visit.  The home fans relied on an irritating drummer to try to fashion an atmosphere and I was surprised at the empty seats in the stand opposite and too our left.

We took just shy of 2,300 fans which is great for a Tuesday night away game.  Hitting the seats just before kick off it was difficult to find a spot for a group of us as the stand was so packed.  Always good to make sure the boys get good support on the road.

An open start to the game saw some genuine end-to-end moments – Scannell with a worrying about of space on the left didn’t profit from some slack marking early doors from Forest.  At the other end, with just four minutes on the clock, Lewis McGugan almost punished the home midfield for standing off him at around 25 yards out, striking a vicious curling shot which struck the inside of the post and away to safety.

After this a defensive slip gave Dex a sight of goal from a tight angle, but whilst on target he wasn’t likely to beat Smithies from the angle.  Our goal did come under some threat, Scannell again proving tricky and getting a shot away from the edge of the box but putting it just off target.  In true end-to-end style Blackstock got his head on a Reidy cross but put it wide.

Probably the chance of the game so far fell to the home side though, the usually composed Halford misjudged a hopeful ball clipped over the defence which saw Lee Novak clean through at close range, but he somehow conspired to balloon his effort into the away end – who were mostly both laughing and ‘phew’ing that the ball hadn’t fallen to Jordan Rhodes who was also lurking ominously in the area.

Forest continued to try to work an opening against Huddersfield, a header from Blackstock allowed Cox to break through onside but Smithies was equal to his effort, making the save with his legs.  After playing some really nice football down the right the impressive Moloney found Blackstock with an intelligent pass from the bye-line, he put a decent shot in but it was blocked on the line and his follow-up was deflected over.

So 0-0 at half time but plenty of positives – not dissimilar to previous games but certainly with much more attacking impetus than we’ve seen before and creation of chances.  Cox gave us a lively dimension up front giving Blackstock more support and whilst we’d had wobbles, the defence was looking solid too with the midfield working hard –  I was particularly impressed with Gillett again who always anticipates danger and tries to nip it in the bud before it develops.

The second half again saw Brendan Moloney combining well with Dex, the fullback burst into the area and found the striker who perhaps could’ve pulled the trigger sooner – eventually his effort was deflected behind for a corner with the home side looking a little desperate at the back.  Forest didn’t make their pressure tell though, and Huddersfield had opportunities again – Southern ought to have done better from a corner Forest should’ve cleared, side-footing over from fairly close range.

Just as it seemed we’d lost our momentum we broke the deadlock – and it was a nice goal, too.  Adlene Guedioura cut in from the right and played the ball through to Lewis McGugan who had burst forward.  The midfielder could have probably taken on a shot himself but had the presence of mind to spot Simon Cox’s run into the area and slot the perfect pass for him to receive the ball and put it past Smithies to give us what I think was a well deserved lead.

It’s always nice when you score at the away end too, isn’t it?  Cox was clearly delighted to open his Forest account, running behind the goal and taking a bow to the celebrating Forest supporters and accepting the congratulations of his teammates.

The home side deflated and Forest continued to press without creating too many direct chances – and as both sides started to introduce substitutes I can’t help but wonder if O’Driscoll might have disrupted our shape a little too much.  Dex, McGugan and Cox made way for Tuds, Moussi and Hutchinson respectively in three separate substitutions with Moose in particular not looking particularly fit or settled in to what he was doing.

Whilst the game on Friday might well have been top of mind as well as resting players who’d put a hard shift in (and Dex, Lewis and Cox had certainly done that), it did seem to coincide with a home side resurgence as the Reds started to sit deeper and allow the home side to press more.  With stoppage time really over Harding put in what looked – from the opposite end – to be a foolish challenge in the area.

Sure enough the linesman condemned us to a penalty with a flag across the chest, which the referee corroborated.  Jordan Rhodes – whom we’d kept quiet most of the game – stepped up and coolly slotted the penalty in off Lee Camp’s right hand post – Huddersfield’s first attempt on target and it was enough to get them a share of the points which obviously brought delirious celebrations from the home fans (of those that remained – a fair few had left!).

On the bus home I noted nice comments from Simon Grayson post match about us, and a fair few from Huddersfield fans on Twitter too, which is great.  Of course it’s gut-wrenching to have missed the chance to sit atop the Championship owing to a drop in concentration with less than a minute to go, but as somebody eruditely observed on the #nffc Twitter feed – I’d much rather see us be unlucky to drop two points in an away game than labour to defend one.

So on reflection I’m pleased – and looking forward to Friday’s trip up to Bolton to see if we can fare any better against Bolton Wanderers who this evening hosted Derby picked up their first points of the season with a win.  Another day, another challenge – undeniably we are still a work in progress for Sean O’Driscoll and his coaching team – but the progress he’s making is very pleasing to behold.  Keep up the good work!

Huddersfield Town vs. Forest preview..

Tomorrow sees us take the trip up to Huddersfield to take on the Championship newcomers.  Town haven’t been up at this level for more than a decade – with the kind of record in the play-offs that we can empathise with, they finally found themselves up against Sheffield United last season and overcame them to book their place in the second tier.

A tough opening day saw them put in a good account of themselves at Cardiff City – but despite a spirited approach to the game and plenty of opportunities to breach the Bluebirds (Redbirds?) goal they weren’t able to break the deadlock and ultimately surrendered a goal to the home side (which looked offside to me) to leave Wales with nothing.

Simon Grayson is at the helm now, and the former-Leeds manager probably doesn’t need any introduction to those of us that can remember his unsavoury side whilst at Elland Road.  Then again, maybe that’s just what’s expected there!  He’s been quick to reassemble the squad he inherited from Lee Clark including snapping up former Reds defender Joel Lynch whilst our takeover was still being awaited.

The most obvious threat from them is striker Jordan Rhodes who – thankfully for us – is recovering from an injury and unlikely to feature tomorrow.  They appear to play nice football on the deck which is too early to say whether it will suit us or not – but we could find we are passing each other to death a little bit.

Much like us they seem to rely on their fullbacks to give width – so we perhaps need to be wary with our often narrow midfield getting bypassed down the flanks and exposing our fullbacks – however, we tend to operate in a similar way so that might not prove too tricky.  Certainly they will be keen to get their home campaign off to a solid start.

As for us, well we showed a solid defensive performance at the weekend with perhaps work-to-do on attacking impetus (although at times we showed promise here too).  It’s too early to say whether we will see a difference in home and away tactics, depending on how match-fit Cox is I’m anticipating a similar line-up to the weekend.

Cohen is likely to remain out through injury, I’m not sure what the story is with Ayala – if he were available then he’d presumably be in contention for Halford’s centre half spot, although Greg had an impressive game on Saturday, as did Moloney and Gillett who might be the players he could replace should Ayala return to the side.

Predictions seem ludicrous considering we are talking about two teams who’ve undergone quite a bit of change – but certainly the Reds should approach this game positively and hopefully will be able to depend on the backing of a good number of vocal Forest fans.  I’m quite excited as it’s one of the diminishing opportunities I have to visit a new ground (easily pleased, me!).

Certainly I never recall O’Driscoll’s Doncaster side coming to the City Ground and camping out for a draw, so I’m hoping that philosophy of going for the result holds true here too.  With Fawaz confirming post-match at the weekend that we are in discussion with further players to bolster the squad it’s clear that we are still a work-in-progress, but certainly we should have enough about us to pose a threat on Tuesday.

Much like the squad, us observers on on a learning curve too to see how the SO’D revolution develops – much like normal, I find myself cautiously optimistic.

Forest vs. Bristol City preview..

Aah, here it comes – the start of the season.  Had the ownership remained uncertain, had the managerial reins still been in a grubby mitts of Steve Cotterill, well, this would be a begrudged and pessimistic post.  With ownership secured and Sean O’Driscoll at the helm it’s going to be cautiously optimistic with a healthy smattering of what might pass for realism in my head.

City were one of the few teams to finish below us in the league last season – one place below – and much like us will be hoping for a considerable improvement this season.  Part of their rebuilding has involved recruiting former Reds – released winger Paul Anderson and loanee Greg Cunningham were snapped up by Derek McInnes in the summer.

As for Forest, well we have plenty of new players to pick from too – it would seem from the friendlies and cup games that certainly Collins and Ayala are SO’D’s centreback pairing of choice, with Harding at leftback – it’s possible today’s loan arrival Hutchinson may feature at rightback – but then so could Moloney or even Halford.

Midfield is difficult to predict – likely to include Reidy and McGugan who were influential on Monday’s trip to Fleetwood.  Guedioura is likely to be in the mix, as is Halford if he isn’t included in the defence.  Blackstock will probably play, leaving a space for either another midfielder or potentially Cox depending on how he came through his ninety minutes for the Republic of Ireland.

In fact, we have no injury concerns at all – both Cohen and Gillett have returned to training following niggles.  So this second-guessing exercise is really rather futile.  If you were looking for a reasonably comfortable opening fixture then this would look like it on paper – but that would be a slightly over-confident attitude; much like us, Bristol City will be somewhat of an unknown quantity this season.

Certainly I’m hoping fellow fans are feeling excited like me and play their part in building the atmosphere and getting behind this new era of Nottingham Forest.  I’m really looking forward to see what the manager has up his sleeve and am quietly optimistic that it might be something good – I’m not getting carried away, there’s still work to do, but I’ve been impressed with the goings on at the City Ground this summer.

The other bit of news was the home draw against Wigan as a reward for beating Fleetwood which is, well, a bit underwhelming – but a good challenge for O’Driscoll’s side to face.  Forest are offering season ticket holders the opportunity to go to the match for just £8 which isn’t bad at all really – probably to combat the fact that the game is to be televised on Sky Sports.

And of course we should make note of Sam Hutchinson arriving on loan from Chelsea – following in the footsteps of John Terry and Ryan Bertrand.  Contrary to initial reports he’s here on a season long loan – he actually retired through injury in 2010 having made inroads into the Chelsea squad, but a dramatic improvement in his knee injury saw him sign a new deal with the Londoners.

Work in progress..

Tonight was my first opportunity to take in Forest’s stunted pre-season, and if nothing else it reiterated what we should already know, Sean O’Driscoll’s era as Nottingham Forest manager is still very much a work in progress.  Of course, first things first, a belated welcome to Simon Gillett and Daniel Ayala who joined Forest over the last few days.

Ayala joins on a season long loan from Norwich City – I first remember him whilst on loan at Hull City from Liverpool in a game at their place.  It was the first time we played them in about eight million years, we threw everything at them but couldn’t score, not least because of the classy young centre half who seemed hell bent on thwarting our chances of scoring.

Subsequently he returned to Liverpool with an injury problem – but he did score against Derby for the tigers, so that’s not so bad.  He later joined the Rams that season once the injury situation was resolved and made seventeen appearances for them.  Norwich signed him from Liverpool around a year ago, but had a nightmare time of it with injuries.

So hopefully he can stay fit – because I rate him.  I must admit, I’d not really heard much about Simon Gillett before our interest in him.  He came through at Southampton but never really made it at the Saints, being loaned out to Walsall, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Yeovil and finally Doncaster before moving permanently to Rovers in 2010.

His contract at Donny expired and left him a free agent in the summer – and the gaffer has taken the opportunity to reacquaint himself with him.  He’s a small combative midfielder who plays the ‘niggly’ role that we’ve kind of missed lately.  I didn’t get to see him in action this evening, so haven’t really got much else to say about him!  It’s generally a role that I think is important though, and under-valued by most fans.

So anyway, as I said I got down to the City Ground for tonight’s friendly, which looked something like this in terms of line-up:

Darlow
Halford   Ayala   Collins   Harding
Moussi
Moussa   McGugan   Reid
Blackstock   McGoldrick

After a decent result against Villa and a decent half against County, tonight’s game was a bit of an anti-climax really.  Forest were disjointed and a little relaxed against a West Brom side who didn’t really have to work too hard either – an early lead was acquired through a hit from range by Mulumbu, it deflected slightly but I thought Karl Darlow in the goal should’ve done better than get a hand to it on its’ way in.  McGoldrick had a couple of efforts from range – they might’ve been our only shots on goal.

It was 2-0 and game over just after a quarter of an hour – Gera had an effort from range which Darlow again messed up a little – he parried it toward Shane Long who, as we know only too well, is a diving bugger – he fell over under no contact from Danny Collins but the ref pointed to the spot and Long picked himself up to send Darlow the wrong way with a well taken penalty.  Really, there’s not much else to say – it wasn’t a great match!

The second half was more even – Forest looked more useful in containing their opponents and getting a bit of possession in,  but there wasn’t much by the way of threat going forward.  Lots of changes came ten minutes into the second half – Al-Mutawa, Guedioura, Greening, Derbyshire, Majewski and Tudgay came on for Moussa, McGugan, Moussi, Reid, McGoldrick and Blackstock, as noted – it didn’t make much difference but Forest were containing the not-exactly-busting-a-gut Baggies.

Bader Al-Mutawa’s appearance was interesting – he didn’t even have a number on his shirt, he sat infront of Halford mostly and I thought looked a bit lost most of the time, but he did have some nice touches on the ball which is promising.  Lascelles came on for Collins as O’Driscoll looked to protect his defence, Moloney replaced Halford, then Taylor (a triallist) replaced Harding and Regan later replaced Ayala meaning we had a whole new eleven out by the end of the game.

Probably the best thing about the evening was the slight sense of arousal at having a number three with a blonde Psychoesque haircut.  Of course, Harding is no Psycho, but if you squint a bit then you could almost sell the idea to yourself.  It’s too early to judge anything or either take overly optimistic or pessimistic views from what we’ve seen so far – my friends who made it to the other friendlies reassured me they had been much better, so certainly it’s not doom and gloom.

With the season proper kicking off on Monday night at Fleetwood for the Capital One Cup and then we’re into the League season next weekend I can’t help but think we’re going to be basically having a bit of an extended preseason into the real one – it can’t really be helped given the level of rebuilding and disruption our usual preparations have undergone.  I do think that given the circumstances we’re taking the right approach, but we will need a bit of patience (certainly more than the two whinging sods sat behind me!) whilst the team gels.

Other things that are work in progress is the blog – I’ve been absorbed by a summer of sport so been less active than I might otherwise have been online, as the season starts it should galvanise me to get a bit more lively in posting on here!  Obviously Forest have been through a gigantic upheaval on and off the field over the last few months – but well, I wanted to stick to my ‘having some time away from it’ resolve, so stuck to it.  I could do with rejigging the look of the blog though, and obviously as the season commences there’ll be more impetus to write.

I did find a bit of time to moonlight for the Guardian for a preview of our season  though, which you can find here.

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