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Monday, 4 July 2016

the Fawaz Legacy

the al-Hasawi's


It’s safe to say things haven’t worked out just how Fawaz planned over his 4 year tenure as the Owner and Chairman of Nottingham Forest. The promises of a third star always seemed like pie in the sky and completely unlikely we’d even compete in the Champions League again.

As it seems more than likely he is on his way, even if you believe some conspiracy theories on the more ridiculous Forest forums that he really isn’t, then it draws a line under a tumultuous 4 years at Forest.

If this feels like somewhat of an obituary, then maybe it is.

2012 was a summer of great highs. With the Olympics making everything feel great again (and I think) it was one of those better summers weather wise. Forest after a season of struggle and financial pain found a buyer. One of apparently 4 buyers, the Doughty family deemed the Kuwaiti family to be the best offer and so in came a new regime.

Now remember for the first few months Fawaz took more of a back seat as a swathe of signings came in. Cousin Omar (remember him?) was the de facto Chairman and left in charge. The club appointed Sean O’Driscoll and signed a host of names. It felt like every time I read Twitter we were linked or signing a new name. Things felt great. This feels awfully similar to now.

That first few months felt wonderful as the team started to gel. Not exactly setting the division on fire, but still looking good and that if we made further January investment we could really push on for glory and promotion. A few dissenters were never happy with O’Driscoll but some fans never are happy regardless. However this minority was vocal and would constantly chime in on Social Media about what they felt wasn’t right. The experiment with trying to sign Kuwaiti and Middle Eastern players failed when none of them were granted work permits (though goal keeper al-Rashidi would later be granted one in January) and this attracted a lot of negative press and quite a bit of mocking.

Cousin Omar was initially Chairman
Then came December. You could argue December marked the starkest turning point in the regime. For the first time in a host of occasions the players were paid late, and a number of bills were also paid late. This was blamed on BACS payment system issues. Fair enough, a one off. However, then the staff were left stranded in Brighton the night before a game. The club credit card was refused and staff private credit cards had to be used. We were assured these were just administrative errors and everything was fine.

That said Fawaz took over from Cousin Omar, and it was assured because of the lack of professionalism and that this would assure that no future problems would surface.

A couple of bad results followed. Those dissenters chimed up more to the extremely Twitter-active chairman and ever eager to please it seemed Fawaz started sounding out new managers who were bigger names. Despite beating Leeds 4-2 on Boxing Day and the club sitting in 6th place, Fawaz made his first swing of his axe, and O’Driscoll was gone. The warm fuzzy feeling was fading.
In came Alex McLeish, who no-one ever warmed to, and in a short tenure it was also marked by the bizarre events over George Boyd’s potential transfer which Fawaz cancelled with the weird eye test excuse that’s become Meme legend amongst Forest fans. McLeish didn’t hang around much longer, and subsequently left, and was last heard of failing in the Egyptian league with Zamalek.

7-8 months in and two managers down, Fawaz again seemed to listen to fans rather than sense and brought back Billy Davies. Not only did he bring him back, he largely gave Davies whatever he wanted, which became pretty much free reign over the club with Jim price. Davies came back in and gave a weird video address to the fans (“Hellooooo Forest Fans”) the pair still smarting from Davies departure 18 months previous set about their own “Night of the Long Knives” and began culling members of staff they didn’t much like.

Such was the cult of personality around Davies he was moulding the club in his image, which was largely a paranoid entity. The media got banned or cut off, aside from hugely pro-Davies pieces by Natalie Jackson, and we got these bizarre interviews where Fawaz would try to show off how rich he was. It was extremely odd.

Fawaz liked to flash his wealth

Now I tend to be positive with Forest. But this started feeling a little weird. Propaganda being fed to us by the club through approved media sources.  Behind the scenes things were happening too. Price wouldn’t pass the “Fit and Proper” person test so the club gave him some obscure job title that meant although he was CEO; he was in fact listed as something else. Because of this he wasn’t able to conclude deals, so the club ran things through Davies mate Brian O’Neil. The Davies paranoia seemed to be running extremely high when a highly publicised tiff with a photographer happened at pitch side.

During the summer, as well as a number of Davies signings (Kelvin Wilson came home for instance) the club signed Djamel Abdoun. It turned out Davies had nothing to do with this deal. The French Algerian was on huge wages. This was followed up by the singing in January of Rafik Djebbour, who scored with his arse on his debut and then did nothing else. Again a Fawaz signing on huge wages, fans were beginning to become impatient with the chairman’s interfering nature. There had already been strong suggestions of Fawaz interfering with team selection.

But under Davies things on the pitch were going well. Going well till half time against Sheffield United in the cup. At half time the cup draw was made, the winner would play Sheffield Wednesday in an FA Cup Quarter Final. United came roaring back, won the game, and dumped Forest out the cup. Our form never recovered. We would only win twice more that season. In the middle of this run Derby beat us 5-0 and Davies was axed. The season was all but over, and we limped to a mid-table finish under caretaker boss Gary Brazil.

In came Stuart Pearce. Huge investment in playing staff was made despite the FFP rules being tightened. Churlish with hindsight. At the time exciting. These purchases were partly offset by the sales of Darlow and Lascelles which no look like incredible business. Wages had grown out of control. The wage bill was starting to dwarf the income, which is completely unsustainable.

But there came a boost. In came Psycho. And despite the rumour he’d threatened to quit within weeks, Pearce started brilliantly. Antonio and Assombalonga looked like world beaters. We’d signed promising raw youngsters (Riera, Laing, Veldwijk) and installed a CEO in Paul Faulkner. But then results started going badly, and Fawaz’s sharpened the axe again. Aside from the last minute at Derby, things were sliding, and citing relegation fears Fawaz removed Pearce from duties and installed Dougie Freedman.

At this time we had entered a transfer embargo, because frankly we overspent on crap players. I do wonder how much price negotiation used to go on. Freedman was adept at handling budget restrictions and as he came in, form improved to the point up till March the playoffs were vaguely possible but never likely. The fans never took to Dougie. Following on from Pearce would always be a hard act to follow especially if you weren’t outstripping his performance.

Fawaz seemed less and less enthused.

So a season of treading water occurred. But with more winding up orders, more unpaid bills, and just general apathy from everyone. When form started dipping again in its annual manner it did, Dougie was dismissed. Paul Williams came in and oversaw more of the same, and we finished lower than at any point over the al-Hasawi regime. Instead of going forwards, a gradual decline saw finish in the lower half seemingly further from promotion than at any time before.

At this point, I think most fans minds were made up. This was only going to end up one way. Sooner or later we’d be relegated with these guys in charge. Luckily it seems Fawaz had had enough and moves were made to start selling up, which leads to us to the point we are at now.

This however doesn’t quite justify the open season that ensued on Fawaz on Social media, with people openly wanting personal harm and suffering to Fawaz. To a man that courted Twitter’s fans, and basked in the adulation he got, it has ultimately come full circle on him and being used to lambast him.  Truly living and dying by the sword. Instead of the retweets and the love, he gets people angrily pointing out very problem, of which there are many.

Fawaz will, if as likely he goes, be regarded as a failure. Some will point out he is retaining 20% as a stake so isn’t gone but this will be a token amount, in the hopes Marinakis succeeds and he can sell if we get promoted to recoup their losses. 20% of the Premier league win fall will cover this amount, minus of course the 80% sold to Marinakis. He isn’t clinging on to retain a fans interest, merely to make sure this whole sorry escapade hasn’t lost him fortunes. Sound financial management from a man who his synonymous with financial mishandlings.

I always hoped he’d succeed if not because that's Forest succeeding, but also because he genuinely seemed to care. No the exit strategy has been worked out I expect to see a slight turn in his views. I believe at some point fan expectations will be blamed. But he created those expectations with his actions.

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