Time for an end to the rash decisions at Nottingham Forest, as search for Alex McLeish's replacement begins
AFTER Omar Al Hasawi was replaced as Nottingham Forest chairman in December there was, for a short time, a blank space on the wall in the foyer of the training ground.
The picture that had once hung there, of Omar, Abdulaziz and Fawaz Al Hasawi, on the day they had been unveiled as the new owners of the club, had been taken down.
It returned, a few days later, with a subtle, but significant change.
Omar, the cousin of Fawaz – now the chairman and main shareholder – and Abdulaziz had been erased from the image.
The three men proudly clutching Forest shirts with their names upon them had been reduced to two, when the frame was returned to the same spot.
With hindsight, the Al Hasawi family probably wish they could take an airbrush to Alex McLeish in the same way; to erase his appointment from the history books in the same way as they had the club's short-lived chairman.
That is not, in any way, a reflection on the Scotsman, who conducted himself with dignity throughout the 40-odd days of his remarkable tenure, before deciding it was time for him to walk away.
But it is a reflection of another embarrassing chapter in the tenure of the club's owners, whose next major decision needs to be a vast improvement on the last few they have made.
The decision to sack Sean O'Driscoll on Boxing Day seemed bizarre at the time. Now it looks positively farcical.
A point off the play-off places and with a sense that things were coming together slowly, Forest were hardly a club in crisis.
Now, in the early stages of February, it is hard to argue that they are not.
This weekend, Forest travel to Bristol City – where O'Driscoll has already started to bring a sense of stability to a club that had previously looked doomed to relegation to League One.
And, while he is unlikely to admit it, O'Driscoll would be justified in feeling a slight sense of satisfaction.
At Christmas, after taking the decision to replace O'Driscoll, Forest's owners were driven by a desire to appoint a Premier League manager, a man with experience and, more importantly, a big reputation.
Those requirements led them to McLeish, a man who had steered Birmingham City to promotion and to Wembley and who had enjoyed plenty of success in the high-pressure environment of Glasgow Rangers.
But, as they begin their search for their fourth manager in just over seven months, they may find themselves shopping in a different marketplace. Not by choice, but through circumstance.
Because, while ambitious targets like Nigel Adkins, Roy Keane, Mark Hughes and Roberto Di Matteo will be banded around hopefully, is the Forest job as enticing as it was back in the summer, when O'Driscoll was appointed?
In terms of the club's proud history and the kudos connected with being Forest manager, yes it is.
Otherwise, it almost certainly isn't.
And there are also several key questions that every potential candidate for the role will ask themselves.
Back in the summer, O'Driscoll was not the first choice for the job.
The first man to be offered the chance to pick up where Steve Cotterill had left off was Mick McCarthy.
But then the unemployed former Wolves manager pulled out at the last minute, citing fears over potential interference from the club hierarchy. Now manager of Ipswich, McCarthy may feel that those fears were justified.
And, if Forest are to make a strong appointment; if they are to stop their very own in-house managerial merry-go-round from spinning like a whirlwind, by landing somebody who can take the club forward in the long term, this is the biggest hurdle for them to overcome.
Because, as he hurried himself through the exit, McLeish's carefully worded statement, issued via the League Manager's Association, basically sent out the same message.
"Both parties entered into the relationship in good faith, however, there was a difference in the understanding of the development strategy of the football club," he said.
To fans looking from the outside in, the difficulty might come in understanding what the development strategy of the football club actually is?
Along with the sacking of two managers and the 'mutual' departure of another, Forest have shed themselves of a chief executive, in Mark Arthur, their head of recruitment, in Keith Burt, and club stalwart and favourite Frank Clark, who had held an ambassadorial role.
Whether those decisions were a factor in a January transfer window that ultimately became the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back, for McLeish, is hard to say.
It is hard to criticise a club for failing to agree a price for a player, as was the case with Stephen Ward of Wolves and Birmingham winger Chris Burke – who was to return to haunt them last weekend.
But the much publicised collapse of the George Boyd transfer from Peterborough had the whiff about it of being a transfer the manager desperately wanted to get done – and the club hierarchy didn't.
Whether an issue with his eyes was found in the medical or not, it has hardly hampered his career so far.
But the ridicule that moment exposed Forest to may still have ramifications, as they look to persuade potential managerial candidates they will be allowed to make the big decisions without influence from above.
This would be particularly important in the case of Billy Davies, if the club do make an approach to bring him back to the City Ground, given his previously fractious relationship with a hierarchy, led by Nigel Doughty, that could hardly have interfered less. The same would also apply to the fiery Paolo Di Canio – if he were to come in.
That newly edited picture of the Al Hasawi's on the wall of the academy building sits just a few feet down the corridor from the manager's office.
But, whoever the next man is to occupy the hotseat within must be allowed to do his job without feeling the club's owners are perpetually looking over his shoulder.
While you can take an airbrush to the past, if Forest's future is to be more stable, then they need to find a face who can be a more permanent fixture.