A miserable week came to a miserable end for Steve McClaren, with the former England coach resigning as Nottingham Forest manager after his side contrived to throw away a 1-0 lead with 15 minutes to go and slipped to a spirit-sapping defeat by Birmingham City.
The club chairman, Nigel Doughty, the target for pre- and post-match protests, has announced his intention to step down at the end of the season and admitted the decision to appoint McClaren in the summer was "a very poor one". "We should have been more thorough when we appointed Steve," he told BBC Radio Nottingham. "I just felt it was a bad decision all round."
It says much for McClaren's determination to bring an end to his tenure at the City Ground that he chose to forgo any severance pay. "I resigned – they don't share the ambition that I came for," said McClaren.
After relaunching his career with FC Twente following failure with the national side, a harrowing nine‑month spell at Wolfsburg and now a disastrous 111-day reign at Forest mean McClaren's reputation is in need of resuscitation once more. He leaves Forest 21st in the Championship, without a home league win this season, and with the worst defensive record in the division.
"McClaren informed chairman Nigel Doughty of his decision after today's 3-1 home defeat by Birmingham," said a club statement. "He has left the club without compensation – nor will he be seeking any. The club can confirm that the search for a new manager will begin immediately."
In the wake of the 5-1 battering received at Burnley in midweek, Forest pledged to give the manager time to turn the club round and they played perfectly well, though not exactly inspiringly, for more than an hour here. But the manner of their late capitulation smacked of faltering confidence and brittle morale.
When, with two minutes to go, the Forest centre-halves, Wes Morgan and Luke Chambers, allowed a simple through-ball to pass between them, putting Chris Wood in for the third goal, the team's defenders decided it futile to give chase. The resignation was there on the pitch well before the announcement of those off it.
By leaving, McClaren removes himself from the middle of a maelstrom. The hammering at Turf Moor was followed by the departure of David Pleat from his part-time football consultant role – widely interpreted as a victory for McClaren – and the exit of Bill Beswick, who had worked with McClaren at Middlesbrough and England, as performance director – widely seen as a concession from the manager. Before kick-off around 150 supporters had staged a demonstration outside the ground in protest at Doughty's running of the club. After the match they gathered again in greater numbers to do the same at greater volume.
Three hours the fans had their wish. "Mr Doughty has also announced his intention to step down as chairman of the club at the end of the season after 10 years in the role," said the statement. "He will continue to support the club financially through the implementation of Financial Fair Play rules, which are expected to be introduced in the Championship next season. The search for a new chairman will commence immediately."
Doughty admitted his decision to appoint McClaren lay behind his exit. "It was my personal decision to appoint Steve McClaren and that's why I'm going. I don't want to compound the error, basically."
The job will be a tough sell to potential replacements. Roy Keane and Martin O'Neill would appease fans who want a manager with club connections but could well prove out of reach. Sean O'Driscoll, recently removed at Doncaster, or the former Cardiff manager Dave Jones would perhaps be a more realistic option.
It all might have been so different. Forest took the lead 10 minutes before the break. Lewis McGugan swirled in a corner, Matt Derbyshire flicked on and Ishmael Miller thumped a close-range header past Boaz Myhill. McClaren's side dominated early in the second half and Marcus Tudgay was inches away from poking home Robbie Findley's cross to make it 2-0 but, when it went sour, it went sour fast. With 15 minutes to go Forest squandered possession, Chris Burke scampered forward and lashed a drive past Lee Camp. Four minutes later Chris Wood scuffed in a second. Then came that telling third.
Birmingham's joy was tinged with relief – this is the first occasion they have won at the weekend following a Europa League excursion. Their manager, Chris Hughton, also had sympathy for his opposite number. "We've all been there," said Hughton. "When things aren't going for you these are the things that happen."
The Forest striker Dexter Blackstock tweeted: "I feel for Steve McClaren as us players have let him down badly." For McClaren it seems it never rains but it pours. Pass the brolly.
Short but not sweet
111 Days Steve McClaren spent as Nottingham Forest manager after succeeding Billy Davies in June
8 Points Forest won under McClaren from 10 Championship matches. They are fourth from bottom without a home victory
-11 The team's goal difference after a 3-1 defeat by Birmingham City. They lost their previous match 5-1 at Burnley
2 Successive jobs in which McClaren has lasted less than nine months. He was sacked by the German club Wolfsburg in February
23.08 McLaren's win percentage at Forest. It was 63.37 with FC Twente, whom he led to the Dutch title in 2010
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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