When going through takeover talks, every club is desperate for a Manchester City rather than a Portsmouth, an Abramovich type rather than a Venkys type but for every oil supported billionaire there’s your less-than-astute businessman with little funds or even an oil fuelled billionaire with simply no idea of the English game. Every fan dreams of splashing billions, changing fortunes like Manchester City but every club has that slight worry, safely hidden away in the dark shadows of the mind. That possible nightmare where your great football club is ruined by foreign ownership (Portsmouth and Blackburn fans know where I’m coming from). But as long as the fit and proper persons test continues to be almost impossible to fail that chilling nightmare could become a harsh reality.
During the summer, three clubs in the Championship were subject to a takeover; Watford, Leeds and Nottingham Forest. Being a Leeds fan, I was teased, flirted with and used by Fawaz Al-Hasawi who confirmed he was buying a “a big Championship club” leading to both Leeds fans and Nottingham Forest fans nervously breaking down on social networking sites. Fawaz was thought to have money, serious money, and many were excited by what he could potentially bring to the club. He chose Forest, promising them a return to the successes of the seventies rather than the turbulent times of the naughties with an “iconic” appointment at the top. I was gutted, it was as if I’d been flirted with by the gorgeous blonde at the bar to find out she was after my mate all along.
That iconic appointment didn’t come though, turned down by various big names including Mick McCarthy and potentially even Harry Redknapp, instead they appointed Sean O’ Driscoll. While incredibly embarrassing, Fawaz didn’t get off to the worst start by brining Sean in as manager, a manager with a decent record, a past experience at Nottingham Forest and a history of playing football on the deck (if you excuse the cliché). A cash injection of around £6million for transfers saw an influx of players, top Championship quality through the likes of Adlene Guedioura and Billy Sharp.
Forest’s start to the season was average. Like many Championship teams they struggled for consistency but O’ Driscoll was planning for the future, good football, young players, carefully biding his time for the big push next season. But amazingly, a 4-2 win over Leeds (this article makes life for a Leeds fan look very depressing, I can assure you that it’s much worse when you’re actually a Leeds fan) and a thoroughly impressive performance was the straw that broke Al-Hasawi’s back. Al-Hasawi said the club “wanted a manager with Premier League experience”. Ah, Premier League experience, which Championship club doesn’t want a manager whose Premier League experience is a relegation and a severely underperforming at Aston Villa?
And so it was, McLeish was brought in with the challenge of bringing them back to the Premier League, the challenge of winning back to back European titles to avoid the sack from Fawaz Al-Hasawi. Alex McLeish secured his obvious number one target by bringing in the unkown Kuwaiti goalkeeper Khalid Al-Rashidi to replace fans favourite Lee Camp. Who wouldn’t desperately want that? But McLeish managed, putting up with the signing of Al-Rashidi and getting none of his targets in the first thirty days in January. That is, until the George Boyd fiasco.
George Boyd very much a Peterborough legend, one of their best players ever, their key player in three Championship seasons agreed a terms with Nottingham Forest. Boyd, Peterborough’s very own trequartista, spent all afternoon at the Forest training ground after agreeing personal terms having his medical. George Boyd, failed “an eye test” (many footballers said they’d never been asked to do such a thing) leaving both Peterborough’s chairman and George Boyd furious at Nottingham Forest for ruining any move for him on deadline day. Al-Hasawi was once again embarrassed, clubs were put off doing business with Forest and McLeish resigned. Al-Hasawi faced pressure as the moronic ways of an ex-fridge retailer had led to McLeish leaving and the fans frantically panicking about the future. It seemed Al-Hasawi was simply looking for excuses not to buy George Boyd, showing the Nottingham Forest fans that a nightmare was potentially on the horizon.
But recently Al-Hasawi has taken a step in the right direction. He finally made the right appointment, brining in ex-manager and still fan’s favourite Billy Davies, distinguishing himself from the likes of the Venkys whose managerial appointments have left a lot to be desired. Their 6-1 battering of Huddersfield showed promise and a future for this Nottingham Forest team.
Fawaz has showed almost a bipolar personality, his actions in sacking O’ Driscoll were almost similar to the character that Sacha Baron Cohen portrayed in ‘The Dictator’ however his actions at times show promise, with potential to take Forest back to the big time. And even being a Leeds fan, still clinically bitter about conceding seven to you last season, I desperately hope that Al-Hasawi is more Abramovich than the Venky’s and that the reality of this takeover won’t in fact be the nightmare that I worried about this summer.
William Rose (@WillRose_)