Was the sacking of Sean O’Driscoll another JFK/World Trade Centre/Princess Diana moment for you? Do you remember exactly where you were when you heard the news? I do. Let me take you back…
It’s just after lunchtime on Boxing Day. Forest have delivered a resounding 4-2 victory over play-off rivals Leeds United, and although I don’t get to see the match on TV, it makes Christmas all the happier, and all seem well with the world. I’m explaining to a member of my wife’s family (with whom we’re staying – all Mancunians of the red half, who take a passing interest in Forest on my account, and have that distant fondness for Brian Clough that I find almost all football supporters of a certain age do) that the club’s new owners appear to have their heads screwed on.
I’m explaining how, faced with the usual uninspiring suspects to fill the vacant managerial position in the summer – Mick McCarthy, Glen Hoddle, Roy Keane (try sometime explaining to a Man United fan how not everyone likes Roy Keane, by the way) – the Al-Hasawis opted for a well-respected but inexperienced recent member of the coaching staff, with a reputation for encouraging expansive, flowing football.
I’m sure, looking back on that conversation, I would’ve explained how the owners seemed intent on not pushing for instant success, and how a season of upper-half-of-the-table consolidation was just what we needed after the trauma of the McClaren/Cotterill experience.
Later that evening, I’m looking at the BBC’s website to see where the day’s other results have left us in the table, but I never get that far. Instead, I read “Nottingham Forest sack manager Sean O’Driscoll”, and for the next few minutes, hours, days, everything seems to run in slow motion.
So I take full personal responsibility for the complete and utter steaming pile of a train-crash that our club has become, barely six weeks since that heady Boxing Day. Yes, it was me. I put the mockers on what was starting, slowly, to look like an OK situation, a relative success story in the clutch of recent takeovers by wealthy buyers of football clubs from distant shores.
And now I’m really, really angry and disappointed. Not that we now find our club managed by someone whose previous teams have achieved their success (or got relegated) playing a style of football we don’t much appreciate – that’s happened before, of course (Dave Bassett, anyone?). Not that we’re now sliding down the Championship table like shit off a shiny shovel. That’s also happened before, very recently. It doesn’t even bother me too much that the Al-Hasawis don’t actually appear to know what they’re doing, any more than that amusing bunch of chicken-botherers at Blackburn do. Everyone needs a laugh these days. If it happens to be at Forest’s expense just now, I can handle that. It’ll be someone else’s turn soon. Just let it be very soon.
What I’m really, really angry and disappointed about, is that I don’t care any more. And that for the first time in nearly forty years of following Nottingham Forest, I want us to lose next Saturday. I found the sacking of O’Driscoll so distasteful, so unjustified, so wrong, that I would just love it (the full Keegan) if Bristol City stuck half a dozen past us next weekend. Because I like irony (Chris Burke! Ha!). And I need to believe in karma; that what goes around comes around. And that the ends don’t always justify the means. Even if it all clicked into place now, and victory at Ashton Gate became the catalyst for a successful promotion push, the Premier League, the Champions League, the Alex McLeish Stand… it would always feel a little bit dirty.