A New Era Needs A New Approach
After a summer of biting my tongue I'm back on the blog again and it's a familiar theme at Forest at the moment isn't it? We're in a transfer window and we're not really signing anyone... Shouldn't be surprised really should we? In fact I'm sure I've posted on this before - I could just copy and paste. We've still not even got a left back.
It's a pretty important summer on Trentside. The board took the decision to remove Billy Davies from the helm and install Steve McClaren and I shouldn't really let this moment pass by remarking on the excellent job the fiery Scot did at the City Ground.
Under Colin Calderwood we came up from League One and played some pretty football, but lacked nous and bite and were bullied into the relegation positions. Billy made us much more streetwise and built the framework for a top six side/squad and for that we should be eternally grateful. His home record was nothing short of astounding and the football we played at times was very good, especially in his first full season.
I feared when he arrived that Billy was the type of character that would find it all too easy to fall out with anyone and everyone he came into contact with. To an extent that was true, but not until he'd galvanised the club and made it back into a Championship outfit.
I liked Billy. He was cheeky, aggressive (you can't be a shrinking violet in this league), canny and passionate. Perhaps he sometimes didn't affect games enough with substitutions (there were often three used and not often enough a game changing outcome from that) and perhaps he was too confrontational in his attitude to signings. Still, I'm grateful for the job he did here and several games (West Brom away, Newcastle at home, Leicester at home from last season and Derby at home this year in particular) will live a long while in the memory.
He's replaced with Steve McClaren, a manager who has almost as much baggage as this club. The thing is while people from afar just associate us with the European Cups, Brian Clough and nothing else, people also somewhat unfairly only focus on Steve's England reign and dodgy Dutch accent.
The fact is I reckon any English born manager you'd care to name would struggle in the national hotseat. Yeah McClaren didn't cover himself in glory but you reckon Allardyce, Redknapp, Pulis for example would do better? I'm not saying he's necessarily better than those three, simply that I don't think they'd have done much better. It' too easy to blame a hapless manager for England's woes at a national level but then again that's another blog.
When it comes to our new gaffer we should focus on his successful stint as assistant manager of 'them', Man Utd and as boss at Middlesbrough and Fc Twente. He went to Wolfsburg at the wrong time - just after they surprisingly won the title.
People in the game seem able to look beyond the 'Wally with the Brolly' headlines and reckon he's a good coach and manager. He should be a good capture at this level.
The club has been decisive and bold by making his appointment, but they must follow that up with similar intent in the transfer market.
From the squad that went into the run-in last time around we're short of Kelvin Wilson (who was, albeit, mysteriously injured), Nathan Tyson, Robert Earnshaw, Paul McKenna, Dele Adebola, Julian Bennett and loanees Paul Konchesky and Kris Boyd. Other than Earnshaw (who struggled with injury last season) I can't say as though I'm particularly gutted at any of those going but the fact remains that we're now down to the bare bones when it comes to squad numbers. The still-trying-to-be-positive side of me suggests that the decks have been cleared and wage bill freed for some good McClaren signings, the cynic says we've left ourselves an awful lot to do to plug the gaps.
Th sole capture so far has, at least, been encouraging. I always loved watching Andy Reid play for us, he was absolutely superb in the Paul Hart play-off side and, when I've seen him, hasn't exactly disgraced himself in the division above. If we've replaced Tyson with Reid then surely that's an improvement? He's also a free transfer so an absolute bargain.
The question now is who/what next? There were lots of positive noises when McClaren first came, but last week that gave way to the first signs of frustration.
As far as I'm aware he still hasn't been able to get his backroom team in place (the Calderwood saga rumbles on) and seems acutely aware of the need to get at least a couple more in place before we begin playing pre-season friendlies.
There have been lots of names flying around the internet rumour mill, and some of those are exactly the sort of quality you'd hope McClaren can attract. The trouble is if we follow the blueprint of previous summers and allow Wayne Routledge, Nicky Maynard and Nicky Shorey to be the new Darren Pratley, Peter Whittingham and, well, Nicky Shorey, then we're stuffed.
From a business point of view I can see the point of our transfer panel. We don't want a manager to go crazy and waste big money on players that really aren't worth it. We want the club to make investments into good players that will flourish for years to come ala Lee Camp, Chris Gunter, Dexter Blackstock etc. But doesn't there come a point where you have to take a punt? Maybe say someone is your number one target and make sure you get them. Even if you then have to look at loans and frees for non-priority positions (Norwich and Swansea used the loan market much better than we did last year). If you appoint someone of McClaren's ability he really needs the tools at his disposal to forge a successful side. Why be decisive about a manager but not his playing staff?
I know it's easy for me to say this. It's not my money that could be wasted. But the implied mistrust of the panel fostered resentment under Davies and that cannot be allowed to take hold again. With teams in the Championship spending more on managers and players than ever it has become a super competitive market. The advantage we have over West Ham and Birmingham is that we have a settled spine that should, hopefully stay together. Leicester may be distorting the market a little with their blank chequebook but that just means we'll have to be cleverer and pick our targets wisely. The simple fact is we have to spend to just stand still, that's the way the league is now.
Much has been made of our failure to start well in the last few seasons. It's not really a surprise given the fact that two summers ago we had a lot of players to gel together and last summer we were still waiting for the missing pieces to the puzzle. Unless we give Steve some new faces soon we'll have exactly the same thing again.
I'm refusing to get too gloomy just yet. I've surprised myself at how happy I am at the McClaren appointment and Reid's return is fantastic. Once again we're in a position with Forest where we have the opportunity to build something really exciting. Too many time sin the past we've thrown those chances away. I'm desperate for it not to happen again...
You can check out more of what t10red has to say on NFFC at his very own Mist Rolling In From The Trent blogspot.