Have we Forest fans become addicted to drama in recent years? Do we need to be weaned off the controversy heroin that was Billy Davies with a carefully prescribed programme of football methadone – Dream Team and Footballers’ Wives re-runs – and then spend the rest of our lives avoiding Roy of the Rovers in case it re-awakens our football drama daemons?
In the space of a few days, Forest fans went from talk of us becoming the next Man City with the Kuwaiti government pouring their entire gross national product into our transfer kitty, to worrying that Fawaz was asset-stripping with the sale of Darlow and Lascelles to Newcastle. Then there was the “fall-out” between Fawaz and Stuart Pearce over that deal and fears of a fire-sale with Lansbury, Paterson and Mackie linked with moves away from the City Ground. All it’s taken to calm everyone down is the club smashing its transfer fee record to sign Britt Assombalonga (who let’s not forget is our eighth permanent signing of the summer), but was there really any need for all the panic in the first place?
I’m not saying fans shouldn’t keep a watchful eye on what our affable dictator of a chairman is up to – in fact I’m all for scepticism and cynicism, but flying off the handle every time we sell a player is not going to be good for our collective health. We’re a Championship club and we just sold two of our better players to a Premier League club. It happens all the time. Even if you’re in the top flight, you can’t stop the bigger boys pinching your sweets – just ask Southampton. In the week before the season starts, you are inevitably going to have players sold and bought – it isn’t a crisis, its just a transfer window.
It’s not like Fawaz sold the wavy lines from our crest or one of our European Cups. He has sold two very promising players, something we can replace in time. It’s a shame that we won’t see them reach their undoubtedly huge potential in Forest shirts and perhaps the fee is a bargain for Newcastle, but we do at least get to retain their services for another year. This kind of deal is increasingly common in modern football and the way some supporters reacted to it, as if Fawaz had just pocketed £7 million for flogging their own grandmas, was embarrassing – it was almost as if they had been waiting all summer for something get irate about.
In a way, I find the sale encouraging rather than alarming. We’ve immediately seen that money spent on a new star striker, exactly what we were missing last season, which shows that whoever is pulling the transfer strings has a plan, an overall vision. If we need to sell in order to buy, it probably suggests that we’re not about to receive £500 million in sponsorship money, but who believed that anyway? At least it shows we’re attempting to comply with Financial Fair Play this season.
Then there’s the issue of whether Pearce knew about the sale before it went through, but we already know that Fawaz is the boss when it comes to buying and selling – again, it is increasingly common in modern football for chairmen to take charge of transfers with the head coach only consulted for his opinion, to ‘advise and recommend’ as someone once said. Pearce should have been better informed before going on the radio, but he and Fawaz have only had a few weeks to form a working relationship. And apparently they’ve already had a tete-a-tete to patch things up, so no harm done really.
History suggests Fawaz Al-Hasawi isn’t the easiest guy to work for, but Pearce has a unique advantage that even King Billy didn’t have – it will take a hell of a lot to go wrong before the fans turn on him. Fawaz must recognise that he won’t outmanoeuvre Pearce in a charm offensive the way he did Davies in the run-up to the latter’s sacking.
Before the curtain went up on this melodrama, I was planning to write about Pearce’s managerial career to date. I wanted to see if anything suggested he would bring more than just his unquestioned passion and love for Forest to the job. Some understandably doubt his abilities – head over heart for a moment, without his Forest connection, Pearce would not be a particularly inspiring managerial appointment.
But I would say that Stuart Pearce is a deceptively astute man – I remember hearing he secured the Man City job by asking for high wages but a short-term contract, knowing full well that a takeover was on the horizon and the new owners would probably favour their own man. By making himself an appealing short-term option, he secured a high-profile job that he would never otherwise have been given. Whether he was ready for that job is another debate, but Pearce isn’t the kind of man to shirk a challenge.
He’s got a challenge on his hands now, staking his reputation at the club dearest to his heart, as well as his reputation in wider game, on a promotion bid with a club that has destroyed plenty of reputations in recent years. It’s going to be hard enough without drama-addicted fans creating turmoil out of nothing.
While Billy Davies could start a fight in an empty room, Pearce’s more laconic, down-to-earth style should bring a more stable feel to the City Ground. If Fawaz daren’t swing his axe against the fans’ all-time hero for fear of ruining his own popularity, Pearce’s reign could be a long one – without a relapse into the farce and tragedy of last season, it might also be a happy one.
As our homepage graphic suggests, ‘Never mind the bollocks’. Never mind the shit-stirring. Never mind the fuck-ups. The real drama starts on the City Ground pitch this Saturday.