Have Forest turned a corner?
[image Tom Maddick]
I've always viewed the notion of 'investment' in football clubs suspiciously. I find it hard to think that someone would spend hundreds of millions of pounds, if not billions of pounds, on something that they're not passionate about unless they had an ulterior motive. In the case of Nigel Doughty, we had a fan who had money and was willing to invest it in his community. Can the same be said for Roman Abromavich or Sheikh Mansour?
The question of ‘fit and proper persons’ to run football clubs is not as cut-and-dried as the simple presentation of a healthy bank balance (recent history shows that wealth itself can vanish in the time it takes a bank to collapse). Not too long ago, Channel 4 showed a Dispatches documentary in which Bryan Robson was shown helping some Malaysian investors to find a club they could spin a profit from, while Birmingham's former owner, Carson Yeung, was arrested on suspicion of money laundering.
With the situation at Forest, it is easy to be suspicious of other investors and look upon big investment as the death of football. However, now that it's happened to us, sensible head is being turned by optimistic heart. I do want Forest to invest in youth, and I do get excited when I know we're on sure footing, spending sensibly and growing organically. But then again, I do want us to sign Lionel Messi.
Steve Cotterill has been relieved of his (long ball) duties at the club, and the speculation has shifted from who we're going to buy for the squad to who we're going to employ as manager. Discussions keep being preceded with the word 'realistic', before a list of names is reeled off that remind me of last time we needed a new manager – with only one or two exceptions. Darren Ferguson gives me memories of how those investors saw Bryan Robson as a vehicle to get to Alex Ferguson. Mick McCarthy, Roy Keane, Alex McCleish and a few others all just seem to lack the pizazz that I would expect to be in the list given our take over by Kuwaiti fridge magnates, the Al-Hasawi group.
If we're going to go down the route of foreign investment, let's do it properly – let's approach Mourinho, Wenger, or Capello and see which one of them can promise us an attacking foursome of Ronaldo, Fàbregas, Neymar and Messi. Imagine those four playing around the Moose!
We don't know how much money we will have to spend on footballers, but that won't stop the speculation. We can feasibly buy anyone we want now. We're back on the world stage, a regular fixture on Sky Sports News, and on the back pages of the tabloids rather than a 20-word paragraph sandwiched between news of Alloa Athletic and a premium rate phoneline advert.
Forest's next gaffer?
[illustration: Graeme Bandeira]
The multi-million dollar question is: who would you want to manage us and who would you have him (or her) sign? Stuart Pearce, Phil Scolari, David Beckham, Rafa Benítez, Pep Guardiola? Could a top manager be persuaded that, in order to go down as the best ever in his profession, taking a team from where we are to the very top is needed. After all, someone else – whose name temporarily escapes me – pulled it off for us in the late seventies. Anyone could manage Barcelona or Chelsea; they're already up there. Taking a team from where we are back up to European glory is what they need to do. I'm getting ready for a third star, and I think we'll have it within 5 years.
In one important move, the youth academy has been renamed the Nigel Doughty Youth Academy, a gesture that I, along with many others, championed back in February when Nigel sadly passed away. I think it's a wonderful tribute to a man who wanted the future of Nottingham Forest to be secured and successful.
Fawaz Al-Hasawi has shown us already that he's Twitter happy, announcing the takeover on there and catching the powers that be (should that be 'been'?) by surprise yet again, before issuing an open invite to the fans to nip down to the ground for a conference and kit launch this Saturday. Should be good fun, and a breath of fresh air from some of the secrecy that the club has shown over the last ten years.
I just can't shake the paradoxical feeling that all the openness is covering something up. I hope I'm wrong, I really do. I hope Fawaz is exactly how he presents himself. I hope he is genuine and I hope he has the best interests of the club at heart. I've enjoyed how he has publicised the journey to buying the club, and I enjoyed seeing him release a picture of his kids wearing the new shirt. I know I'll enjoy the next six weeks of player speculation and being linked to players we've all heard of. I just hope I enjoy the coming season. If everything goes well, we could be heading for a hell of a ride.