If you spend a significant amount of time looking at the world and reflecting on its absurdities, as I do when I go through one of my periodic philosophical phases, you begin to reach a few broad conclusions about how the world works. Beneath the veneer of sophistication and rationality that appears to govern the behaviour of those with power and money, when you look a little closer there is actually profound irrationality and much in life can depend on simple good luck.
What I’m saying I suppose is that the dismissal of Sean O’Driscoll at Nottingham Forest, and the appointment of Alex McLeish in his stead, is ludicrous.
Nottingham Forest’s ‘ambitious’ Kuwaiti owners made a great decision when they appointed O’Driscoll in the summer and as a Birmingham City fan I was insanely jealous that we hadn’t been able to appoint someone like him. O’Driscoll is a practitioner of progressive, tactically aware and attacking football. His record at his previous club, Doncaster Rovers (they were relegated the season he was dismissed……), was extremely impressive on a very tight budget. He isn’t an overnight miracle worker and by no means a household name, but to my eyes he seemed a great fit for a re-building project at Forest, who had finished the previous season in 19th. O’Driscoll left the club in 8th place and clearly on an upward trajectory.
So the decision to dispense with him is bizarre indeed. The club’s owners have now stated they want immediate promotion (don’t we all, chaps…..) rather than the sensible ‘3-5 year plan’ they announced upon their arrival, and ‘someone with Premier League experience’ (why? Do they play with a different shaped ball in the Premier League? Is it really so utterly different to the Championship?) and so they have turned to McLeish, who has plenty of top-flight experience.
Yes indeed. He has loads of that.
Two Premier League relegations with a team averaging about a goal a game.
Taking another Premier League Club, Aston Villa, to within a whisker of relegation. If one measures the performance of a manager by win percentage, statistically he is the worst the Villa have ever had.
And meanwhile playing some of the most insipid, soulless football imaginable.
Notwithstanding a flukey 9th place finish with Birmingham in 2009-10, and the Carling Cup victory in 2011, the man’s career in the English top flight can only be realistically judged a failure, and the idea that he is a better bet than Sean O’Driscoll is patently absurd.
It also appears that the Al Hasawi family have learnt nothing from the people they succeeded at Forest, who foolishly appointed former England manager Steve McClaren at the start of the 2011-12 season. He lasted ten games………
Something happens to rich, successful people when they take over football clubs. They take leave of their senses and their judgment (normally selfish and often brutish but invariably rational on its own terms) appears to desert them. They resort to cliché, banality and notions that when closely examined for just a moment fall apart in front of your very eyes.
A concept as amorphous and essentially meaningless as ‘Premier League experience’ would be treated with derision and contempt in most other walks of life. And yet in football, it takes on a significance that means purveyors of listless dross like McLeish can walk into jobs on the strength of having failed with, but still actually managed, clubs at the highest level.
(It’s also telling that the hopeless Roy Keane appears to have been under consideration for the Forest job. Yet another example of one who has ‘top flight experience’ but only in so far as he presided over a complete and obscenely wasteful trainwreck at Sunderland, a job he secured purely on the strength of his playing career.)
The decision to sack Sean O’Driscoll is a disgraceful, but more importantly stupid one. I have a funny feeling that it is one that the Al Hasawi family and Nottingham Forest fans will come to regret. As a Birmingham City fan and one well acquainted with the situation at Aston Villa, I know what they are getting.