27 December 2012

Forest chop down O'Driscoll

Sean O'Driscoll at Nottingham Forest: sadly, it wasn't allowed to last.

Nottingham Forest have sacked their manager Sean O'Driscoll - rather harshly I feel - after just five months in charge.

His sacking on the day after Christmas came in the aftermath of an impressive 4-2 victory over fellow Championship play-off contenders Leeds United. In fact, that win saw them leapfrog Leeds into 8th in the table - putting them just one point outside the top six.

Despite their relatively poor finish of 19th last season, I was one of not many people who tipped Forest as major contenders for the play-offs in this campaign. Indeed, I predicted that they would win promotion in their first season under the ownership of the al-Hasawi family from Kuwait.

To be fair, Forest haven't done bad. The only thing they could be accused of was being inconsistent. I don't recall them going on a winning streak of more than two games all season, and in December, they've beaten Burnley and Leeds but lost to Hull City and Watford.

Turn the clock back five months, and Forest was a club in turmoil. In the 12 months since sacking manager Billy Davies in June 2011, the Tricky Trees had tried two very different managers - former England boss Steve McClaren and lower-league journeyman Steve Cotterill - without much success.

A team that had finished 6th the season before fell 13 places down the table. By the end of the season, their squad had been decimated. Whoever would be their third manager since the end of the 2010/2011 season would have a tough job on his hands.

When the al-Hasawi brothers bought the East Midlands team this July, they vowed to respect the legacy of Nigel Doughty, the club's long-time owner who sadly passed away in February. One of the first announcements they made was to rename the Youth Academy after Doughty. Another announcement, made a week after they sacked Cotterill, was that O'Driscoll had been appointed as their new manager.

O'Driscoll is not the most high-profile managerial name in the Football League. He did a fine job at AFC Bournemouth and Doncaster Rovers, before being harshly dismissed by the latter in September 2011.

This was what Fawaz al-Hasawi - now chairman at the City Ground - said when O'Driscoll was hired in July: "We interviewed many well-known and high profile figures but we truly believe Sean O'Driscoll is the best man for the job.

"Sean's passion for Nottingham Forest, knowledge of the game and the Championship in particular, plus his work ethic, shone through in our conversations."

Five months on, and this is what he said yesterday: "We have a responsibility to look to the future for this great club because we have huge ambitions for it.

"We feel we have developed a really strong squad of players but are still searching for consistency, underlined by the fact that we have not won more than two games in succession in the Championship this season.

"And with the January transfer window approaching, we feel it's the right time to make a change. We are looking to bring in an ambitious manager with Premier League experience."

So, we now know what the al-Hasawis are like. I think that Cyndi Lauper once sang a song about something along those lines, but I can't for the life of me remember what it is.

Oh yes - it's this one.

One name immediately springs to mind when the al-Hasawis talk about an ambitious manager with Premier League experience. I bet Forest fans are shuddering at the prospect of Mark Hughes coming to the City Ground, especially after he somehow transformed a group of very gifted players at Queens Park Rangers into a group of very gifted players who can't play as a team.

As for the other contenders, what are the odds on a return to Forest for Roy Keane? He has been out of work since being sacked by Ipswich Town nearly two years ago, apart from the odd stint as a god-awful pundit for ITV. Then there's also Alan Curbishley, who has been linked with almost every job in English professional football for the last four years.

If you want a dark horse, I'd say Paolo Di Canio will surely get a job offer from a Championship club soon. Could the Swindon Town gaffer be on his way to Nottingham Forest?

But Sean O'Driscoll has, not for the first time, been given a raw deal, and I hope he finds work at another club soon, preferably a club that has enough sense to stick with him.

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