Promising start, but do the new owners really mean business?
On July 23 our new owners took a giant leap in winning the hearts and minds of the Nottingham Forest faithful with the crowd-pleasing signing of Adlène Guedioura. The Al-Hasawis had delivered what the fans wanted and also broken the news directly to the fans via Twitter – a perfect public relations recipe.
Their next moves continued in the same vein, adding the experienced Danny Collins, the versatile Greg Halford and, astonishingly, a left back in Dan Harding. All signings are solid on paper and should play a big part in the upcoming campaign.
However, some fans have treated these developments as if it were revolutionary – almost as if Forest had been freed from some dark, North-Korean style regime which failed to communicate at all or invest for the future.
For all the tweeting of Fawaz, he has a long and expensive road ahead of him to match the financial dedication and long term security that was provided by Nigel Doughty. Our previous owner in fact indulged in a similar spending spree in the summer of 2009, landing popular and effective signings in Lee Camp, Dexter Blackstock and Chris Gunter, plus the astute pick-up of Paul McKenna amongst others. With several existing contracts also renewing at the time (including four central defenders), this was a significant push that was somewhat forgotten amidst the protests of Billy Davies the following January.
Forest were transformed from relegation strugglers into a top-three side, beaten only to promotion by Newcastle and West Brom with squads funded by Premier League money and parachute payments.
The new owners face a similar task as that summer. The sacking of Steve Cotterill was rash and perhaps slightly egotistical without an ‘iconic’ name in place beforehand. The appointment of Sean O’Driscoll, however, could be a happy accident as he seems to have the full support of fans and players alike, but let’s not pretend that this was the plan when they took over.
Despite the excellent acquisitions so far, questions remain on what exactly the owners are prepared to spend. The transfer fees of the new signings have in effect been financed by the sale of Chris Gunter to Reading. Apart from wages, it could be argued that the owners haven’t yet dipped their hand in their pockets. It should also be noted that several free agents such as Garath McCleary and Luke Chambers have departed the club leaving extra room for wages that perhaps wasn’t there in previous transfer windows.
The squad remains unbalanced and painfully thin in key areas. The club is saddled by poor signings from previous managers who didn’t even make away trips last season. As much as fans may call for the sale of the likes of David McGoldrick, Matt Derbyshire and Jonathan Greening, their contracts were significant investments by the previous regime and will not be taken on by other clubs on current form.
I’m perhaps being impatient, but a marquee signing or two is needed before even a top half finish is likely. Further defensive strength in depth, pace and flair are vital if any sort of challenge is to be mounted. It is important to keep Financial Fair Play in mind and avoid vanity-inspired big name signings that can cause distractions and disharmony. However, promotion will not be obtained if the rest of squad is made up free agents and Kuwaiti imports (who could possibly cause instability between manager and owners if they are not picked on a regular basis).
A number of question marks remain. It does however seem certain at this early stage that we are not the new Manchester City, or indeed the new Leicester City. Perhaps the new owners need to manage expectations and communicate their strategy if a pragmatic, careful approach is the way forward. If it is not made clear, we need only look to our recently history how unfulfilled expectation can cause huge rifts once the serious business of winning football matches begins.