Frank Clark, Stuart Pearce, Dave Bassett, Micky Adams, Ron Atkinson, David Platt, Paul Hart, Joe Kinnear, Mick Harford, Gary Megson, Frank Barlow, Ian McParland, Colin Calderwood, John Pemberton, Billy Davies, Steve McLaren, Rob Kelly, Steve Cotterill, Sean O’Driscoll, Alex McLeish, Rob Kelly, Billy Davies, Gary Brazil, Stuart Pearce, Dougie Freedman, Paul Williams, Philippe Montanier, Gary Brazil, Mark Warburton, Gary Brazil, Aitor Karanka, Simon Ireland, Martin O’Neill… and then came Sabri…
Since the great Brian Clough called it a day in 1993 (little over 27 years ago) following the most successful era in Nottingham Forest Football Clubs rich history. I cannot count how many different managers we’ve had?
To put it in comparison, prior to Brian Clough, and for the first 107 years of the club’s existence, Nottingham Forest had 14 different Managers in total.
Now I’m not going to harp on (like we all have in the past) about the clubs despicable hiring and firing record post ‘OBE’ but instead congratulate Sabri Lamouchi, on becoming only the fourth man in the last ten years to celebrate one whole year in charge at the City Ground (Billy Davies, Dougie Freedman & Aitor Karanka the other three).
Cast mind back to 28th June 2019 when Martin O’Neill was still in charge. He had just (four days earlier) ‘underwhelmingly’ made his first summer transfer, a free signing of Sammy Ameobi from relegated Bolton. The fans weren’t happy.
‘Dinosaur’ was what many labelled O’Neill. A man that if he took charge 20 years earlier (instead of David Platt) the city (the red side at least) would have been positively ‘united’ by his capture. There is a significance to being the right man at the right time.
Let’s face it O’Neill’s football was drab. But it always was!!! He won his last three games in charge of the Reds. He certainly wasn’t sacked on results. At least his parting gift Ameobi came good.
366 days ago O’Neill was sacked, no quicker we hear cheers of ‘the evil witch is dead’ than do we hear that some French bloke (oh not again) is now in charge. 15 minutes was the gap between announcement of firing and hiring Managers… Surely a record even for Nottingham Forest.
“Sabri Who”…. Many said… But I remembered Sabri as a player, a silky midfielder with a touch of guile playing for Auxerre, Monaco, Parma & Inter Milan to name a few. A cultured footballer with a bit of swagger, I looked up his managerial record at Rennes in France when he was touted for the Reds job, no doubt he did well with them? But then so did Philippe Montanier?
I wasn’t about to get excited by this one, I’d seen it all before… But from the day he sat in the stand at Alfreton to the day he took us top of the Championship (all be it for a night) after beating Stoke back in September, you could see that this man was something else.
His infectious character and style soon rubbed off on me. All dressed in black whether it be roll neck and suit jacket, trench coat and scarf or just a simple cotton jumper and trousers, Sabri seemed to carry himself on the touchline better than any Manager we’d previously had in recent years… That Gaelic/Arabian swagger perhaps? But the focus was there, not too carried away with results and performances, but passion underneath for all to see… And that must have rubbed off on the players too?
I remember the first match of the season and being beaten by West Bromwich Albion at home… Fans going home ‘happy’ with the way we played. It just felt different under Sabri.
By Stoke he not only had fans singing ‘what is love’ but chanting in unity under the stands the fact ‘he hates the Leicester, he hates the Derby but Forest are magic’…. By Stoke we had a new hero and we as fans were going to do everything we could to make sure we keep this one.
Sabri’s philosophy is actually not too dis-similar to that of O’Neill, built on strong defence he sets up his side to work incredibly efficient without the ball, whilst trumping O’Neill for actually wanting to play a bit with it.
Lamouchi liked what he saw of Matty Cash as a right sided defender to trust him enough to make him into the Divisions best. He didn’t complicate things with his centre halves, simply playing the best two we had. He was quick to bring in Tiago Silva (his first signing) and Bruno Ribeiro who has made the left back spot his own. In Ben Watson a player that often-frustrated fans the season before, he got the very best out of his ageing legs. In Lewis Grabban he gave him the confidence to simply go out and do what he does best. Much of it is uncomplicated football. He signed a new Goalkeeper knowing the one we had wasn’t good enough… It really is that simple, almost Clough-esque?
So as we stand today, a year in charge of the club we can now reflect on what the Lyon born 48-year-old has done Trentside. Do we have a better team than we did at this stage of last year? Yes!!!! Do we have a better manager than we did at this stage of last year? Yes!!! Do we have a chance of gaining promotion after twenty-one years of absence from the Premier League? Yes!!! Three very big ticks in the box of Lamouchi.
It’s not all been perfect. Walloping’s by Sheffield Wednesday and Millwall at the City Ground will vouch for that, the night against Charlton Athletic will also come back to haunt me (after the joys of Leeds)… But we need to remember this is Sabri’s first year in English football, he will make mistakes, although it seems to me that he is a man that learns from them too. Forest have resilience under Sabri. They can go away and beat the best, they can play at home and break teams down, they can play badly and win, we have ingredients in our makeup that only the best teams have, and this is certainly one of the best teams I have watched since Paul Hart ‘almost’ gave us playoff joy in 2003.
It may still all fall flat but with seven games to go of the extended season and Forest sitting in fourth position in the Championship there’s a strong belief that ‘this’ side is good enough to be the first in twenty one years capable of taking us back to the Premier League. And this is the side that Sabri built and nurtured, the team put into place by a man one year ago today, we didn’t know anything about…. Well we certainly do now, and we feel he’s the right man at the right time to do it.
*Article provided by Daniel Peacock (Editor).
*Main image @NFFC Lamouchi has made significant strides with the Forest team in his year at the club.