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Stop me if you've heard this one before - Interview
Thursday, 3rd Nov 2016 23:50 by Clive Whittingham

One of those all-too-frequent weeks where we get to speak to somebody else seeing his historic, British football club turned into a laughing stock by its owners. Jack McCormick is our man at Nottingham Forest.

Protests against your Kuwaiti chairman Fawaz Al-Hasawi — what's he done wrong?

JM: A shorter answer would be to explain what he’s done right. But in summary: he’s turned a once great, respected club into a laughing stock.

Countless sackings; sales of best players behind the back of various managers and CEOs; failure to pay money owed to local businesses; numerous winding up orders… Listening to a couple of hundred ‘fans’ on Twitter over the thousands that (used to) turn up at games. It’s a struggle to remember all of the embarrassments, to be honest.

And now he’s selling. Great, no? Not quite. He’s allegedly trying to squirm his way out with all sorts of unrealistic packages - including 20% of the club, a salaried position, and a percentage of all future profits should the new owners somehow gain promotion one day.

After years of talking about his ‘love’ for the club (this is a man who first failed to buy Leeds and others) he’s now bleating on about being owed the £100m or so he’s ‘invested’ up to this point. A sum that would no doubt be half as much if his reign hadn’t been such an unmitigated disaster.

Since reports of his demands hit the national press he appears to have toned things down, however, and it looks like he’s selling 100% to an American consortium in the next few weeks.

There’s a fantastic piece of writing here that captures the way most of us are feeling at the moment. As far as dodgy owners go, I imagine you lot can sympathise somewhat.

Manager Philippe Montanier under pressure — what's he done wrong? Seemed a leftfield appointment to start with…

JM: I actually really like him and what he’s trying to do, as do many others. He wants to play good football, on the grass - the Forest way. We made a good start, scoring lots of goals to hide the number we were leaking, and it was all a lot of fun.

We had this kid Ollie Burke - the next Gareth Bale, they said. Unfortunately Fawaz overheard and, licking his lips, sold to the first bidder that would give him cash up front. Another short-sighted decision, considering Burke would have been worth twice the £13m we got for him had we held on until January or even the summer, and you never know where we might have ended up.

Since having the rug pulled from under him, and having to replace the league’s hottest young talent with a couple of loans nobody had ever heard of and who have barely set foot on the pitch, we’ve only won once. Montanier had done good business and was building something exciting, but had all his plans dashed and it’s no surprise things have fallen apart.

We still look good going forward and have Britt Assombalonga nearly back to fitness - he may even start at the weekend. The manager has made a few other astute signings, too, namely Apostolos Vellios and Nicklas Bendtner up front. Say what you like, the latter has looked a cut above when he’s played, but suffered an injury that’s keeping him out for a few weeks. Just our luck.

We will score on Saturday, and we won’t keep a clean sheet. In fact, you’ll most likely score two or more. The question is simply whether we can outscore you or not.

In terms of the pressure Montanier is under, it’s more a fear that the owner will continue in a similar vein to the past four years by sacking a manager after a Fawaz-induced poor run of form. I think most fans would be happy to give him more time.

Team struggling for results, just a point above the drop zone, what they doing wrong?

JM: Selling your best player is a bad start. But beyond that we seem utterly incapable of keeping a clean sheet - we haven’t had one all season. You can’t go around conceding two goals a game and expect to win many games.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact problem, however. Ironically, one of our best players this season (in my opinion) has been centre half Damien Perquis, a free signing from the MLS and an underwhelming one on paper. He’s been out injured at times which hasn’t help us field a settled back four (or three as it could be again at the weekend), but hopefully that will change if we can keep people fit. More on a certain left back later.

The goals seem to have dried up in the past few games, which means rather than going two down and storming back to grab a draw, we’re limping to defeat. Having Britt back should help, though.

What's the root cause of all this?
JM: There’s a big black cloud over the City Ground, and it’s coming from the chairman’s office. Every time things are looking up he spoils everyone’s fun with another utterly ridiculous, completely bemusing decision.
The sooner he’s gone, the better. Of course there’s the old ‘better the devil you know’ argument, but it can’t be any worse. Can it?

How will it be solved? Any light at the end of the tunnel?

JM: I think I’ve already answered this - it can only be solved by Fawaz going. No 80-20 split. No salaried position. 100% gone. And perhaps we can start rebuilding our club.

Any potential replacement managers being mentioned, peaking your interest?

JM: None whatsoever. Apparently Zola has met with Fawaz a few times, which doesn’t exactly fill me with excitement. He’d be mad to sack the manager and install his own bloke before selling, though. Just can’t see it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the new owners wanted to bring in someone new, though. I’ve heard Brad Friedel will be given some sort of role at the club, but nothing like manager and he seems like a decent guy. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Stand out players and weak links in the side?

JM: Assombalonga has been out for ages, having picked up another niggle after coming back from his year-long knee injury. Having him almost fit could make a huge difference to our season. Hildeberto Pereira at right back (or right wing, or centre mid, depending on Montanier’s mood) is outrageously talented - have a watch of his goal against Brum in our last win (final goal in video below). He’s back from suspension for the weekend and I’d expect him to start. I’m also a big fan of academy graduate Ben Osborn who could play left wing or just off the striker - a clever, tidy, grafter of a player.

Weak link is the defence. Thomas Lam, also back from suspension, is a liability and never a centre half in a million years. Goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic seems to be error prone, too. No Rob Green, mind.

How's our old mate Armband doing? Saw him costing you a goal against Cardiff last week...

He’s not really played much, to be honest (well knock me down with a feather — ed) - as you warned me in the summer. He doesn’t seem to be able to last 90 minutes and then can’t play in the next match either.

He does look like he has potential, but is perpetually ring-rusty as he can’t put a run of games together. Clearly better going forward than defending, but could slot in nicely at left wing-back if Montanier persists with a 3-5-2 style, and if he can find any sort of fitness.

The Twitter - @jack_mccormick, @loftforwords

Pictures — Action Images

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OldPedro added 09:32 - Nov 4
We all know what is coming this weekend - clean sheet for Forest!

qprninja added 10:27 - Nov 4
"We will score on Saturday, and we won’t keep a clean sheet" - Yes, you will and yes, you will.

TacticalR added 19:40 - Nov 4
Thanks to Jack.

Unfortunately football attracts all sorts of owners, including the grossly incompetent. It sounds like Al-Hasawi has had problems raising the money to keep things ticking over.

I thought it was interesting that Warnock (a man who had been able to handle working with Briatore and Ecclestone) wouldn't take the job there a couple of years ago.

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