It's all change at Nottingham Forest, but that change is still yet to happen
Nigel Pearson and Chris Powell spoke to BBC Radio Derby last week, discussing their new club, Derby County, and how they are finding preparation for the new season. Pearson, as manager, sounded calm, composed and in control. He was beginning to form an idea of how he wanted his Derby to look like – all before meeting his players.
But it was his assistant Chris Powell who, poignantly, described being able to get a feel for the club as a “head start”.
Indeed, having been appointed at the beginning of this month, the two new figures at the helm at the iPro will have had almost a month of getting used to their new club, learning how the club operates, and meeting with club staff – assessing what needs to continue, and more importantly, what needs to change.
But the term ‘head start’ really will grate on rivals Nottingham Forest. Derby began their preparations for the new season weeks ago, when on May 27, they appointed a new manager. Just 10 days after they missed out on a place in the play-off final under temporary manager Darren Wassall.
Nigel Pearson is the new manager at Derby County
Forest by contrast do not know who will manage the team, nor who will control the club, despite it being 38 days since Forest’s Championships campaign ended, and 92 days since Dougie Freedman was dismissed.
And to underline the shambles at the City Ground, the club announced their pre-season schedule yesterday, a schedule devised by Paul Williams, who left the club less than a week after the season ended. A month ago.
This was the only break from the painful silence held at the club, as fans wait on tenterhooks for any kind of development, whether that be on the managerial front, or more importantly, on who is calling the shots.
In over three months since Freedman’s questionable dismissal, Forest fans have seen an endless stream of managers linked with the club. Some of them have been fruitful, others have been borderline ridiculous. But the sheer number of those speculated is a damning reflection on the way the new search for a manager was, and is, being conducted by those at the top at the City Ground.
Managers have come and gone of truly high calibre; from Garry Monk to Roberto Di Matteo to Pearson, none were sold the idea, or more worryingly even offered the idea, of managing one of England’s greatest traditional clubs.
Pearson, for one, spoke briefly about the role in April, but was not contacted again.
Forest fans also await news of the Marinakis takeover, or potential investment. Fans don’t actually know the extent of his expected input into their club, because Forest haven’t confirmed anything; the only news of developments has come through newspapers and speculation.
Of course, such investments take time, and as such, other important club decision are put on hold until the club’s ownership has been resolved. But Marinakis was first linked to the club over two months ago, and the decision to drag this deal out over the summer while refusing to appoint a manager, means the entire club community, from the fans to the playing squad, are left in limbo whilst an agreement is sought.
The ownership question should have been resolved by the start of the summer – and should have begun back in march when Freedman was dismissed, to avoid affecting preparations for the new season. A managerial appointment should have been made after the final ball was kicked in the Championship season. With Forest’s Championship status safely secured, the players could look forward to their rests and beyond, and begin to know where they would stand going into next season, all before they jet off from East Midlands airport on their holidays.
Instead, Williams was given the axe, with no one ushered in as replacement, and now the team is rudderless, with players departing without the discretion of a manager.
Will Lansbury stay at Forest?
Players futures hang in the balance. The club chose to release Chris Burke, Robert Tesche and Kelvin Wilson. Whilst for many, it can be seen as reasonable that these players were allowed to leave, for some, like Wilson have underperformed, and others like Burke and Tesche, have struggled to cement themselves a position into the Forest side.
But, especially with regards to Tesche, these are players who can and will find another Championship club. Tesche was excellent during a loan spell to Birmingham City, and showed the qualities that made him a Bundesliga player just a couple of seasons ago.
The truly worrying aspect is that these players were released without the discretion of next season’s manager, who as of today, does not exist yet.
This is also the case for key players yet remaining in the squad. Henri Lansbury typifies this. The Forest captain has been linked with moves away from the City Ground for the second successive season, with Burnley eyeing up the former Arsenal man as a potential replacement for the outgoing Joey Barton.
Right now, the appeal of an unstable, insecure and managerless club is hardly going to convince Lansbury to stay another season.
Forest need an appointment, and there are options, and good ones. Look at Neil Warnock. He is the standout candidate, with an exemplary track record for getting clubs promoted, and it’s even been reported that he wants the job, despite a lack of discussions.
Should Warnock be given the Forest job?
This ‘lack of discussions’ is the most worrying part for Forest fans. If the club continue to edge towards July and pre-season without a new manager, there will come a point when whoever is appointed will not have had a full say over who is staying and going, will not have decided a pre-season schedule, arguably one of the most important parts of any season, and will have had barely a month to prepare a team for the rigours of the Championship.
The stability that Derby now have, a far cry from the bizarre dismissal of Paul Clement at the turn of the year, bodes very well for the new campaign. They will be ready, will have had time to prepare, and improve on a squad that came close last season.
Chris Powell was clearly right when he said that he and Nigel Pearson had a ‘head start’ with their early appointments. But make no mistake, that ‘head start’ is very much over Nottingham Forest.