Warburton's Forest rising from ashes of disastrous ownership - Interview
Thursday, 2nd Nov 2017 17:07 by Clive Whittingham
After five years of decline under lunatic Kuwaiti owners, Nottingham Forest are showing signs of recovery under Mark Warburton's management according to Jack McCormick.
Very inconsistent so far this season, one thing or the other and no draws - what have you made of Forest so far?
JM: Like you say, very inconsistent. We look brilliant in patches but absolutely awful in others. Reading on Tuesday was a prime example - how we can go from such a positive performance and result at Hull on a Saturday to putting in a frankly abysmal display at the Madjeski is beyond me. I said before the match I wouldn't be surprised if we won 4-0 or lost by the same scoreline, and the same is true for this weekend.
One thing's for certain, it's much more fun being a Forest fan this season - there's a genuinely good feeling about the club for the first time in five years and, regardless of the results, I think I speak for most fans when I say we're finally enjoying ourselves again.
And Mark Warburton - big reputation, speaks well, but is he any good?
JM: I really rate him. He did a fantastic job at Brentford, who destroyed us under his guidance on several occasions. You can see shoots of that beginning to form at Forest, where he's staunchly implementing his brand of possession football. That word 'brand' is key - under Warburton we have an identity and a way of playing that we can all get behind.
We've desperately lacked that in recent years, rattling through at least two playing styles per season thanks to our trigger-happy Kuwaiti friends. We can see what Warburton's trying to do and we feel that, once he's had a few transfer windows to properly shape his squad and clear out the deadwood, we might just be a decent side.
He has his shortcomings, of course, but try naming a manager who doesn't. I think the majority of fans are behind him and want him to be given the time he needs to pick this wreck of a team back up. There's an undercurrent of morons on Twitter, as I'm sure there is for every club, but I'm confident we now have owners who won't make decisions based on social media abuse.
The disastrous previous owners have been shifted on, who's bought it, how they doing, what grand promises are being made?
JM:I won't bore you with all the details, but the purchase was spearheaded by Evangelos Marinakis, who also owns Champions League mainstays Olympiacos. He's put real structure in place and is slowly rebuilding a club decimated by years of chronic mismanagement. Would you believe we now have a capable CEO and are no longer leaving important financial matters (you know, things like players actually getting paid) to the tea lady?
He's made no grand promises - no ridiculous assertions of adding a 'third star' to our shirts - and has done relatively little press. What he has done is restored our pride in Nottingham Forest, through everything from resurrecting relationships with the local community and running fan engagement programmes to just being open and honest with us.
In summary, they're doing an excellent job at reviving a club our new chairman described as being 'in intensive care' when they arrived.
Having lost Assombalonga, admittedly for big money, how tough has it been to find a replacement? Successful loan forays seems to be one strategy...
JM:The £15m we got for Assombalonga was brilliant - he wanted the move so it worked for all parties. That we spent just £2m on his replacement, Daryl Murphy, shows we're no longer a club that throws money around and the owners clearly want us to live within our means. You can sit and ask 'what happened to the other £13m', but the answer is probably that we'd already spent it over the last few years. I imagine Warburton will also be given a few million to spend in January - though nothing outrageous. It's all about working towards sustainability, something we're miles away from (just look at the latest commercial revenue figures that had us as the worst performing in the entire division).
Back to Britt's replacement. Murphy has been a revelation, netting (I think) as many goals as Assombalonga so far this season. Even at 34 he signed a three-year deal (no doubt what persuaded him to join Forest over others) and there's certainly life in the old dog. Assuming we're in the Championship, there's no reason he shouldn't see out his contract playing every week.
We've also brought in Jason Cummings from Hibernian who has shown flashes of what he can offer but needs some time to get up to speed with a much more demanding league, and Tyler Walker (son of Des) is pushing for a first start of the season after some promising appearances from the bench. There's also highly rated England U19 international Ben Brereton who has fallen down the pecking order a little.
Loans-wise I think we've only got Kieran Dowell, the 20-year-old attacking midfielder from Everton, who has looked very good at times (hat trick versus Hull) and a little raw and naive at others. He'll play for England one day I'm sure, but he's still working on his game.
Our most successful strategy for replacing players we've sold on in recent years (Michail Antonio, Jamaal Lascelles, Henri Lansbury etc.) has been to promote our promising youth team players. Saturday's matchday squad is likely to have at least five homegrown players in it, all of whom will be pushing for a start. Personally I'd much rather we gave the youngsters a chance than bring in someone new - especially if, judging by other transfers over the summer, a half-decent (but never tested above Championship level) striker will now set you back £15m.
Stand out players and weak links in the side?
JM: Barrie McKay has been a revelation after signing for peanuts from Rangers in the summer. He's an incredibly talented, tricky winger and tends to do particularly well at home - no player has been involved in more goals than him so far. When he has an off game, though, he's anonymous.
Murphy, if he's back from the injury that's kept him out of the past couple of games, is on fire. If he's not, we have a remarkably short starting 11 and as such continue to struggle from set pieces. Holloway would be wise to give Matt Smith a start, that's for sure.
Possibly our biggest weakness is that the players we have currently simply are not good enough to play the style of football Warburton demands. So we'll pass it around our back line, someone will shank the ball out for a corner or we'll gift you an opportunity clean through on goal. If it works, we pass our way around your entire team and score (or miss, usually). If it doesn't, we concede - as we have done more times than any other Championship side this season.
As I said earlier, given the opportunity to bring more of his own players in, we will flourish playing Warburton's style. Right now, however, the current 'win one, lose one' pattern is about the best we can hope for.
As an aside, we also seem to have a bizarrely left-footed squad. Off the top of my head, no fewer than SEVEN of the 14 that played on Tuesday were left-footers (two came off the bench). I haven't seen anyone else mention this. I don't know if it's a strength or a weakness, I just can't remember so many left-footed players in a Forest team. I think this is probably irrelevant. Or is it?
How do you see this season going and what's the ambition beyond that?
JM: I have one expectation for this season: finish higher than we did last time. Considering we stayed up, on goal difference, on the last game of the season, that doesn't seem too much to ask. We regressed every season under our previous owners, finishing on a lower points total every year for five years, so any sort of progression this time would be a breath of fresh air.
My bet is that we'll finish mid-table, possibly threatening to break into the playoffs at one point and teetering dangerously close to the drop zone at another. But we'll be OK, we'll be enjoyable to watch, we'll score goals and we'll continue to blood some of the best young players in the country.
Beyond that, I'd like to see Warburton given the chance to properly make this team his own, over at least two or three seasons. None of this 'sack the manager after ten games' malarkey that seems to have somehow become the norm. Next season, perhaps with a bit of luck we'll have a decent shot at the playoffs, and the season after I'd like to think we might challenge for promotion. In the meantime I'm just relieved to have my club back.
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