Full house: in defence of Fawaz
I am one of those people who will support what I truly believe in. After reading House of Cards written by my friend Alex Walker, I am grateful that he has given me the opportunity to respond to his article.
Cast your minds back to 1999. The club had been relegated from the Premiership, most of the board of Nottingham Forest PLC had resigned and the new board agreed to an investment of £6m from Nigel Doughty, directly into a subsidiary company Nottingham Forest Football Club. Doughty himself appointed Tim Farr and Neil Candeland as his representatives on the board, which in turn oversaw the appointment of a new manager in the form of David Platt.
With falling revenue, they supported a significant wage bill and approved transfers of around £6.5m. These being the three Italians, Stern John, Jim Brennan, Riccardo Scimeca, Jack Lester and Tony Vaughan, with the sale of Van Hooijdonk bringing a small return.
The following season the overdraft had risen to over £8.5m and further acquisitions were made in David Johnson and the net debt to the bank had increased from £5.4m to £17.9m. Eventually Platt was to depart the banks of the Trent, and Paul Hart was appointed. The sale of our talented midfielder Jenas to Newcastle for £5m in February 2002 was the start of things to come as Hart was told to reduce the wage bill in order to make savings to reduce the debt, which had now topped £18.7m with the notorious finance lease agreement in place.
So there we have the first two and a half years of the previous regime and the PLC before Nigel Doughty could take full control in 2003.
Once Doughty was in full control he sanctioned the sale of 13 players, raising over £8.5m in transfer fees, including the exit of Marlon Harewood to West Ham for £500,000 in return of the purchase of jailbird Marlon King for £950,000. Doughty later sanctioned the sales of the club’s Crown Jewels in Reid and Dawson to Spurs for £8m.
As the owner at the time was trying to service the debt created largely by his appointments, he could not sanction adequate replacements and, after a poor run of results, Paul Hart was duly dispatched, only to be replaced by Joe Kinnear and then subsequently Gary Megson, At the end of Doughty’s second full season in charge, Nottingham Forest became the first club to have won the European Cup and then be relegated to the third tier of their football league. Despite all the player sales, the club was still haemorrhaging money and would eventually run up debts of around £100m.
We now jump forward to the first two and a half years’ reign of Mr Fawaz Al-Hasawi. We have a very wealthy and enthusiastic owner that has taken one club to his heart and with the backing of his family invested circa £140m into this once great football club. He has sanctioned the purchases of a number of players, backed every manager that has walked through the door, improved the facilities in the stadium and is working hard to create a better atmosphere and match day experience for the fans.
The Lower Bridgford end relocation, which fans were continually told by the previous CEO was not possible, was achieved within his first season. The honest and openness with fans had returned and even season ticket prices were frozen. Then there is the club record TV deal with Al Jazeera and we are not a team struggling for relegation or money – we are team struggling for promotion and to spend the money we are lucky to have at our disposal. As the most recent transfer window closed, our best players remained at the club, despite offers totalling £9m received.
And despite this, despite all of this, in comparison to the first full two years of the previous regime, despite the fact he has two hands tied behind his back because of FFP (which was instigated by our ex CEO), despite that when transfers now happen, players agree a contract and sign it, rather than up sticks and run off to sign elsewhere, despite all of this, I continue to read how fans “don’t trust him” or say how he “should go back home”. He recently received a mountain of abuse on Twitter, most of which is condoned by grown men, and yet he still pushes forward. This abuse has been on and off for two years. Nigel Doughty did not receive this in his first two years – he started receiving it later on and after six months, dropped funding and put the club up for sale.
Fawaz’s reign has not gone as comfortably as he would like. He appointed a manager who did not match his own aspirations after a recommendation from the CEO and then took on another manager who was again recommended to him. Once he realised the mistake, the CEO was sacked for his part in the failure and he brought in someone the fans were crying out for, whom matched his ambitions and someone he was sure could deliver him premiership football. That turned sour, not for his own doing, but he made the necessary changes to ensure the club survived.
We sit now with another manager. Admittedly Stuart Pearce was a popular choice for many, but he was simply not the right choice for coach. Fawaz appreciates what Pearce put into the club and the good progress he has made and has subsequently made him an offer where he can continue that role. Hand on heart, the results and performances were not good enough and something needed to change.
So I sit here writing about a chairman, a man I know little about, but someone I would want to show my support and solidarity to. A man that will do everything to ensure this club does not end up in League One, that does not end up borrowing stupid sums of money off the bank or some dodgy lease finance agreements, a man that is not going to sell our best players, a man at worst who is guilty of listening and trusting the wrong people and does what it takes to put it right.
I ask now that the real fans of a Nottingham Forest, understand the facts and realise he is doing a job with two hands tied behind his back, realise he is clearing up a mess of 10 years and it’s not going to take two years to fix. They should also realise that without this benefactor, we would be a League One club playing Southend and Colchester rather than aspiring to play Chelsea and Manchester United.
What do you want? The choice is yours! Be careful what you wish for…