Since taking over Nottingham Forest in July, chairman Fawaz Al-Hasawi has had four managers serving under him, and the latest of these for only 40 days and seven games.

"Mac the Knifed" | Nottingham Forest manager Alex McLeish left the club by mutual consent after 40 days in charge. (Image | The Times)

Turmoil | Nottingham Forest manager Alex McLeish left the club by mutual consent after 40 days in charge. (Image | The Times)

When the news that former Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish had departed by mutual consent emerged last week, the footballing world let out a collective groan as it became clear that yet another club was in the throes of what might be called “toxic ownership”.

Trigger-happy owners are no longer rare in the game, nor are they a new commodity. However, the latest example from Qatar affects a club that many people feel a particular affinity to, and is therefore attracting a greater level of interest.

Examples of managers moving on after such a short period in charge are extremely hard to find. Indeed, both a novel and film were made about one of the more famous cases: the 44 days Brian Clough spent at Leeds United in 1974.

This reference is also particularly pertinent in the case of Al-Hasawi and Forest, for Clough won the Division One title with the club in 1978, plus consecutive European Cups and domestic cup trophies.

Such glories could not be further away now for the Reds, who lie six points off the Championship play-off places in 13th, with 41 points. While still not impossible that Forest could make a late charge for the top six, such managerial instability makes this unlikely.

It was perhaps understandable that the new Kuwaiti owner wanted to install his “own man” after arriving in the summer, hence the departure of Steve Cotterill.

However, the sacking of Sean O’Driscoll on Boxing Day last year after five months at the helm, and a matter of hours on from a 4-2 victory over Leeds United, set alarm bells ringing and was the first indicator that all might not be well.

As O’Driscoll publicly stated, expectations were raised to unreasonable levels following the arrival of 12 new signings before the season began, and there was no acknowledgement that progress might not be immediate, or could take time.

Outburst | Former Forest boss Sean O'Driscoll was "unmoved" by events at the City Ground last week. (Image | Daily Express)

Outburst | Former Forest boss Sean O’Driscoll was “unmoved” by events at the City Ground last week. (Image | Daily Express)

He told the BBC: “I’m no idiot, you go into a club as big as Forest with foreign owners with your eyes wide open. Look at QPR – they went through four managers before they realised you can’t run a football club like that.”

The fact that Forest were a single point away from the play-off places under his tenure did not go unnoticed by O’Driscoll, who added: “What did they want, 10 points clear at the top?

“You can’t totally change a team that just avoided relegation one year and then expect that. It’s not going to happen in the Championship.

“I knew the sort of thing that happened at QPR could happen to Forest. It’s a shame because it’s a fantastic club with fantastic supporters and a really talented group of players.”

With Billy Davies having been re-appointed Forest gaffer last Thursday, having previously spent two and a half years at the club and twice reached the Championship play-offs, this may now be a watershed moment for the East Midlands side.

Davies, who said that he was “delighted to be coming back to finish the task” started in 2009, during his first spell in charge, will be hoping that Al-Hasawi has learned a valuable lesson from his short time at Forest and realised that things had to change.

Many will fear, however, that the worst may be yet to come, with O’Driscoll’s reference to a former Championship club perhaps an indicator of what could lay in store.


Back in August 2007, Queens Park Rangers were facing financial ruin after years of mismanagement and appeared to be on the brink of collapse.

In stepped Formula 1 kingpin Bernie Ecclestone and Renault team principal Flavio Briatore, who promised to turn the West London outfit into a “boutique club”, and end the years of struggle and heartache at Loftus Road.

Although their financial muscle most likely saved the club, as one commentator put it: “You cannot live off the honour of having saved a person’s life if you spend the next few years trying to kill them at every opportunity.”

For this was essentially what the new owners did, as the dream of Premier League football, new horizons and a bright future quickly turned into a nightmare and a farce for all to see and deride.

Seven managers in three and a half years followed, along with countless caretakers, and Rangers became a laughing stock for their continued instability and the owners’ failure to allow the man in the dugout to actually do his job properly.

Indeed, the season QPR won the Championship title under Neil Warnock, nearly four years after Ecclestone and Briatore arrived, has been immortalised in the Four Year Plan documentary, a disturbing and true-to-life look at a snippet of the pair’s disastrous reign.

Meddling | Formula 1 money men Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone went through seven permanent managers at QPR. (Image | Daily Mail)

Meddling | Formula 1 money men Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone went through seven permanent managers at Queens Park Rangers. (Image | Daily Mail)

Rangers are now in the Premier League, albeit not for much longer, and both the F1 meddlers have departed, but the wounds they created still hurt the club even now, and had straight-talking Neil Warnock not been hired, they could have dropped into League One.

Perhaps Davies is the man to reign in Al-Hasawi and take charge: he certainly cuts a similar figure to Yorkshireman Warnock, and is most definitely “his own man”.

Yet once a culture of sackings and interference is started it can be extremely difficult to shake off, and Al-Hasawi could easily go down the same route as his counterparts at QPR of hiring manager after manager and not allowing them sufficient time or breathing space.

The Championship is arguably one of the most difficult divisions to succeed in throughout European football. Handled properly, Davies could be the man to lead Forest back to where many believe the club belongs.

If suffocated, deprived of autonomy in transfer dealings, undermined and subjected to dictatorial whim, all that will happen is another opportunity for redemption will go begging, and it will be the long-suffering supporters that lose out in the end.

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