Last night I watched a video clip on the internet. Rare for me, take a look if you don’t believe what I’m going to write.
Big deal, you say. It was a clip on the BBC sport football site, Yes, so? It was a clip of Nottingham Forest’s owner, Fawaz Al Hasawi, talking about, among other things, his relationship with manager Billy Davies. He’s just extended his contract to 7 and a half years in total. Get to the point. Well, the point is that this is football for fuck’s sake. I mean, come on, what’s the average life expectancy of a football manager? Two years or less. Statistically the chances of any manager lasting 7 + years, let alone Billy, are shall we say, or shall Blackadder say, as remote as Mr Remote from Remotenshire.
The Observer does this lovely column which is full of the type of quotes (I wish now that I’d saved some of the classics) where the owner / chairman says of the manager – ‘I love this man like a brother, he’s here for keeps’ – sacks him the following week or ‘we don’t change our managers just because of a few poor results, we’re not like other clubs’ – changes manager following week and so on. So, yes, the precedent is there and it may yet apply to Forest. Found one this week “29th September, Catania president Antonio Pulvienti on coach Rolando Maran – I firmly believe in Maran, we have a project and we work together, step by step, on the same road. I assure you, he’s at no risk – 20th October: sacks him.”
OK, Alec Ferguson managed it (longevity)but he was exceptional in many ways as his new biography reveals, just ask Roy Keane. And Arsene as well but he’s French so that’s different. The only other premiership example I can think of is Alan Pardew at Newcastle. That sensible and sensitive owner, Mike Ashley, gave him a 7 year contract because, he said, so I believe, that is how Manchester United had achieved success. Problem was / is he (Pardew) is doing very badly, agreed they didn’t sack him -yet, but they did something far, far worse, they brought in Joe Kinnear as his overseer. Forest fans will remember Joey with, what’s the word? Affection, no, that’s not the one. He got us relegated to division 3 when he was our manager. At least that’s how I see it.
But back to our current Forest set up, all I’m saying is that the precedent for a continuing positive relationship between owner and manager is not good. We’ve already seen clips of Billy and his team out in Kuwait spending time in the house of and with the family of Mr Fawaz Al Hasawi. They were saying wonderful things about each other. Now, that’s just not right. I have to say I found it a little bit creepy but that’s probably just me.
There was more of this last night this time with more of an emphasis / spotlight on Mrs Fawaz Al Hasawi (her first visit to a Forest game) who, incidentally, seemed like a genuinely nice person – she was even filmed reaching to take and then hold a child from an adoring mother in the crowd (presumably a Forest fan, either that or she, the mother, was saying ‘unemployment is terrible here in Nottingham, please take the child back with you’). But Mrs FAH looked genuinely pleased to hold the child, like the Queen (same headscarf) only with warmth and taller. Even Mr FAH had a go at holding the child although he was less convincing. He seems nice as well but then I guess you don’t get to be a multi-billionaire without upsetting a few people.
Which brings me back to Billy. Upsetting people has been seen to be a specialty of Billy’s. He has been described as a man who could start an argument in an empty room. Certainly relationships with his last owner were far from cordial leading to Billy’s departure. Billy has previous in abrasive relationships with owners. There was a hint of this in last night’s clip. Mr FAH diplomatically said, ‘some people they say things about Billy but I believe what I see not what I here’. Hmm. Has a hint of the familiar, maybe?
Incidentally, part of the clip showed Billy signing autographs through, appropriately painted, red metal bars. It looked like the children were the other side of a locked gate but the truth is that Billy was in a cage where they keep him and feed him raw meat. He’s that dangerous. In an effort, I guess, to soften this powerful image there was another section in the film with Billy having his photograph taken with the kids, same or different kids? a team shot, the kids who were what, 9, 10? hard to tell, were lined up as a team with Billy, optimistically, on the back row. As he was about the same size as the kids he was hard to spot. But there he was all smiles, looking like a Crankie (as Derby County fans lovingly describe him), doing his very best to exude harmony at all levels of our club. you can just imagine him when the cameras had stopped rolling saying to the kids, get out my fucking way, go on fuck off you little twats, I’m going for a fucking pint.
All I’m saying that whilst all in the garden seems fairly rosy – Mr FAH has invested plenty in the club and sensibly too, and I regard Billy as an excellent Championship manager – I was delighted when he came back – it just feels a bit unnatural. Yes, I suppose I am one of life’s born pessimists but, hey, we’ll see, I just hope I’m wrong but as I say statistically….
PS. Next time I’m going to write a blog about Brian Clough, now there was a manager who knew how to rub along with a chairman.