By Paula Marcus
Nottingham Forest and Derby County share one of the fiercest rivalries in Football and, since 2007, the Brian Clough Trophy has been presented to the winner of each derby match, in memory of the man who famously managed both teams. But over the past few seasons, despite both teams having illustrious histories, that is the closest that either team has come to a trophy.
When the Brian Clough Trophy is contested this weekend, both teams will have new men at the helm after they each sacked their managers in the past week citing poor performances. What is more disturbing is that this is the fifth time in a row that both teams have had a new manager for the derby game. Just let that sink in. Since January 2015 there have been over ten different managers between the two clubs.
So what has gone wrong at these two clubs and who is to blame for the endless manager conveyer belt? For both these clubs, the issues seem to arise from a failure to make a quick return to the hallowed ground of the Premier League and, over the past few season, things just seem to be going from bad to worse.
Starting with Forest, it seems a lot of their issues started with the sudden death of previous owner Nigel Doughty. With the club suffering from severe financial uncertainly, the sale of the club to Fawaz Al-Hasawi was supposed to enable them to fight once again for promotion. However, things have so far not gone to plan and off field turmoil has been replaced by on field instability, with excessive manager changes and fan protests a sign of the times.
The fact that fans are disillusioned with how Al-Hasawi is running the club is hardly surprising. Since he purchased Forest, the team has faced winding up petitions and transfer embargoes for breaching the leagues Financial Fair Play rules, all while attempting to avoid relegation to League One. Things reached a peak in January when a proposed takeover deal fell through, despite months of negotiations.
Derby County’s problems are more to do with an owner who wants to micromanage the team. If you thought that hands on owners were going to end after Dave Whelan stepped down from Wigan Athletic, Mel Morris is here to make you think again. A poor performance in February 2016 led to Morris entering the dressing room to ‘rant’ at the players and clashed with managers have been common.
The fact that Morris is after immediate success is the number one issue, and it is also completely unrealistic. Whilst he might be quick to put all the blame on the manager, it might be time to start looking elsewhere. With four managers in a year and a half, something is obviously very wrong. Firstly he might want to have a quick look at his hiring process (something he might have finally done, but more on that later). Re-hiring a manager you sacked just over a year ago is beyond crazy.
Then there are the players. McClaren was apparently planning to overhaul the dressing room in the summer, aware that some players were maybe not committed to their manager. With so much instability at the club it’s hardly surprising the players are having some issues, but they still need to take some of the blame. It had been mentioned over the past few weeks that it appeared McClaren had lost the dressing room; this sacking seems to confirm it.
With so much managerial turnover at these clubs, it’s almost amazing they can find anyone willing (or desperate) enough to take the job. But both clubs will present their new men in the dugout Saturday. For Nottingham Forest, this new man is former Rangers manager Mark Warburton. More importantly, Warburton was also the man that masterminded Brentford’s rise from League One to Championship playoffs. He certainly has a good understanding of what is needed at this level and his appointment could be the spark Forest need to avoid relegation.
As for Derby County, their new appointment is equally astute. It seems Al-Hasawi might have finally found a manager that has a chance of making it to a full year in charge. Gary Rowett performed miracles at Birmingham City, and was unlucky to be sacked after a change in ownership. He also seems fully aware of what he has gotten himself into. It appears he has set some ground rules with Morris and made it clear he is the manager. Whether Morris will listen or not remains to be seen, but at least it is a good start.
Hopefully, for both Forest and County fans, their owners will finally realise one of the more important lessons in football; stability is key. Over the past few seasons, the clubs that have been the most successful have been the most stable. A different manager every week will always make it hard for you to do well, whether it’s trying to prevent relegation, like Forest, or Derby’s endless attempts to win promotion.
Finally both teams seem to have managers that are more than capable of achieving good things in this division. The big question is, will either of them get the time?