Paul Taylor: By saying nothing, Nottingham Forest boss Alex McLeish could not have voiced his message more clearly
IT is not often that the simple act of somebody turning up to do their job is greeted with such intrigue.
But, while Alex McLeish may have claimed it was 'business as usual' at Nottingham Forest yesterday, the fact several important questions remain unanswered would suggest that it is anything but.
The sight of the Scotsman turning up to take training as normal, does hold meaning.
But it should not be mistaken for confirmation that everything in the garden, or the Forest, more precisely, is suddenly rosy.
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Since Thursday evening, McLeish has spent much time seriously considering his future at the City Ground.
After barely a month in charge, an experienced manager gave considerable thought as to whether his job was still tenable; about whether he wanted to carry on.
On Sunday, he spent time with his family, discussing his options.
By turning up for work yesterday, the indications are he is not ready to walk away just yet.
But his mere presence alone does not mean the issues that have troubled McLeish have now suddenly dissipated.
Had the thought of resignation not crossed his mind, the Scotsman would have said as much on Saturday evening.
A man who harbours no doubts about his future would also have no qualms about saying as much.
McLeish, who has been a dignified and decent figure throughout a difficult month, will have known how big the ramifications would be when he refused to comment about questions over his future.
But saying nothing, he said so much more. Through his silence, his message was voiced loud and clear.
Was this your last game in charge of Forest?
Will you still be manager of the club next week?
There has been speculation that you are about to resign, can you comment?
All of these are questions that were fired, on Saturday evening, at McLeish, in the aftermath of a defeat that would have been particularly painful to him, given that it came at his former club.
The speculation could have been brought to a swift end with a short, blunt answer to any of those questions.
But it was not.
In the coming days, a PR machine may rumble into life; what was and wasn't said will be glossed over.
If he does ultimately stay, for however long that proves to be, efforts will be made to play the situation down; to dress it up as a storm in a tea cup.
But what is more important, for Nottingham Forest at least, is how the waters are calmed behind the scenes, rather than in public.
Because if McLeish is still to have a long-term future at Forest, if the events of the last few days are to be consigned to memory, rather than becoming a long-running saga, then something needs to change.
It may be that his future still depends on who the club are able to sign on loan, once the loan window opens.
From Friday, Forest can explore their options in the emergency loan market.
And, if two or three quality new faces can be brought in, the manager's very obvious frustrations could still be appeased.
But there are limitations involved in going down that route; it is a temporary fix rather than a long-term solution.
Dexter Blackstock spoke last week of the importance of having players tied to long-term deals and of the sense of unity and togetherness that can inspire.
And, to give credit to the club's owners, the Al Hasawi family, this is clearly something they embrace, given that they have tied Chris Cohen and Radi Majewski, along with Blackstock, to the club for the next three years or more.
McLeish's hope was to see George Boyd, Chris Burke and Stephen Ward added to the clutch of players who would be committed to the Forest cause for years to come.
Loan players, no matter how professional, are not the same as having players on board who know where their future lies.
Already, Forest have six players who, either through the fact they are on loan or that their contract runs out in the summer, are uncertain over where they will be next season.
Billy Sharp, Daniel Ayala, Elliott Ward and Gonzalo Jara are all on loan, while Lewis McGugan and Darius Henderson will be free agents in the summer.
You can hope that all of them will have a point to prove, between now and the end of the campaign. But adding another two or three loan players to the mix may not be the recipe for stability.
Not when you consider that, even if they do add three more loan signings, Forest's match day squad in the Championship can only include five loan signings among the 18 players involved.
If Forest end up with six or seven temporary additions, somebody is going to have to miss out on a Saturday afternoon. Forest will be paying fit players to sit in the stands and watch.
It is another headache to deal with at a time when they are not in short supply, with the structure of the club hierarchy still far from clear.
Nobody has been officially appointed to replace either chief executive Mark Arthur or head of recruitment Keith Burt – which may or may not have been a factor in another disappointing January window.
Although, being priced out of the market when it came to bids for Burke and Ward is just a fact of life, not just football.
It is also, if we are honest, nothing knew where Forest are concerned. January disappointment had become an annual event, long before the new owners arrived.
And, given they have signed 18 players since they took over the club in the summer, the Al Hasawis cannot be accused of failing to invest.
But the decision to pull out of the deal for Boyd, over allegations there is an issue with his eyesight, did leave Forest open to ridicule.
And, just as that furore – led by Peterborough chairman Darragh MacAnthony – died down, McLeish then had to watch as Burke struck twice to condemn his Forest side to a 2-1 defeat, at the last place where McLeish will have wanted to lose.
It was enough to prompt the manager to seriously debate his future.
In the end, he did turn up for work yesterday.
And Forest, for the time being at least, do not need to start the search for their fourth manager since July.
What Forest need now, more than ever, is stability.
Forest need to get into a position where, when McLeish announces that it is 'business as usual' you don't find yourself thinking that it is anything but.