Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What's the problem? Really?

What is the real problem at Forest? The man behind ‘Through the seasons before us’ is right to sit on the fence about Colin Calderwood’s fate.

For those of you who aren’t Forest fans, here’s the background:We are were (until last night) bottom of the Championship. On paper, it’s been a terrible start to the season, though the consensus is that – apart from a deserved drubbing at Wolves, we’ve not deserved to lose some of the games we have done. The old ‘too good to go down’ curse that has haunted Forest in the past.

Our manager has been with us for two seasons and this is the start of his third. He failed to get us promoted once, the critics say that he fluked it the second time and has had a terrible start this term. So, the predictable chorus is demanding his sacking, and the armchair tacticians are moaning about his choice of formations. I’m generally almost always against sacking football managers for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the tosser (taking an example at random) that hired Juande Ramos (sacking Martin Jol!) is the same one that has now hired Harry Redknapp. Rather unusually, the people who made the last mistake have a monopoly on the next decision.

Secondly, some of the great managers have had bad starts. Brian Clough had an unimpressive start at Forest – half a very poor season followed by a middling one before ... well, you know the rest don’t you?

Continuing the City Ground theme, it was widely understood that Alex Ferguson would have been fired back in 1989 if United had lost at Forest in the FA Cup 3rd Round as everyone expected them to. A 1-0 shock win at ours (those were the days!) kept Alex in the job, and again, the rest is history.

It can take a good few years for a manager to get a handle on a club, and there is a reasonable chance that you are cutting them off on the verge of something worthwhile if you sack them at all in the first three years. Of course, you are also postponing any stability for a further couple of years as well, because it can take managers a couple of years to get the club to a point at which it can provide judgement on their management.

And this will nearly always happen a few months after the stands have echoed to the chorus of demands for their sacking.

There is, I’m sure, much more analytically-framed evidence to support these first two contentions. I'm pretty sure I've read some of it, but you'll have to find it yourself, because I’m really writing this post to make a third point. It’s this:

You know how astrologers know that planets exist even when they haven’t ever seen them? They know they are there because calculations show that they are. The orbits of other planets are altered by ... something .... so we call it a planet or a moon or something.

There are a few of these in politics: Why are successive British governments uniformly Atlanticist? Why is the UK a fairly slavish supporter of US foreign policy? Is it because politicians all become Yankee bastards the moment they get a whiff of the Cabinet Room? Is it because the Illuminati, P2 and the Bilderberg Group have done their evil worst?

Or is it because there is a gap between what politicians feel that they can explain to the public, and what they have to do in order to avoid the kind of disasters that end political careers? Harold Wilson's need to quietly do as he was told by the US in 1964 is the nearest concrete example I've read, but I'm sure that a year or so doing an MA in Anglo-American Studies would yield up a half-decent answer.

Ditto The Big Brother State. (There is a concluding point about football here, I promise.) I know a couple of Senior Labour Politicians – and I knew them before they were SLPs. There wasn’t much by way of authoritarianism beating in any of their breasts at the time, and Labour isn’t really – at bottom – an authoritarian party. Now I doubt if anyone believes that – whatever the Hon. Member for Magnercarter and Howden* would tell you – that the Tories would be planning anything less intrusive than Labour’s current plans to kit us all out with compulsory transponder-suppositories.

So what is this gap between what they think they need to do in government to avoid being blamed for all sorts of shit, and what they feel able to explain to the public on individual policy areas?

Similarly, at Forest, there is something we don’t know about. We’ve sacked Gary Megson and Joe Kinnear because they weren’t up to getting us out of the Third Division. They are both managing Premiership Clubs now. If we sack Colin Calderwood (and I’d expect very long odds now on him lasting until Xmas, whatever reprieve he got tonight at Crystal Palace), I doubt if there is a manager in the country who will look at the job as anything other than a couple of years at a higher rate than you would expect when there is an absolute certainty of failure.

Because there is something wrong at Forest. The simplistic explanations point to the weight of expectation, the oppressive ghost of Brian, the snarky fans, and so on. But it’s something more complicated than that. When it happens in politics, a reasonably astute spectator can usually – at least – work out what the questions are. But I’ve no idea what the questions that need to be asked at The City Ground are - and I’ve not read anyone who has hinted that they know either.

One thing is for certain: If Colin Calderwood is sacked in the next few weeks, his successor will not be .... er.... a success.

*Nicked from Sadie


Rish said...

Took a while to get there, but an excellent post. Nice one.

nffc said...

Love the analogies; and I agree completely. There is something wrong; which I suspect is why so many fans are so quick to point the finger at Nigel Doughty.

I suppose they could be right, for all I know!

Paulie said...

Something I meant to add: In the same way that political insiders aren't surprised at governments being pro-US/pro-ID cards, football insiders know that Megson's 'failure' at Forest didn't disqualify him from managing Bolton.

This is because football insiders know that there is a big problem at Forest. I know one of these football insiders, by the way. A bloke who knows everyone in Football - the agents, the owners, the managers, etc on a professional basis.

He says that everyone knows that there is a big problem at Forest. He just doesn't know what it is.....

CharlieMcMenamin said...

"You know how astrologers know that planets exist even when they haven’t ever seen them?"

Just a wild shot in the dark, but I suspect you mean astronomers....
Though, then again, since you're talking about Forest's inexplicable fortunes, perhaps the analogy with Russell Grant and co might be more apt.

Paulie said...

Yes Charlie. Just testing - glad *someone* picked up on it.

I suspect that - the further you get from scientific prediction, the closer you can get to being optimistic about Forest at the moment....

TRENTEND said...

Good post

Cliffhanger hmmmm....I reckon you know the problem