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Stability the key for any chance of success for Nottingham Forest

Martin O'Neill is set to become the new Nottingham Forest manager
Martin O'Neill is set to become the new Nottingham Forest manager

The managerial merry-go-round at the City Ground appears to be coming to a halt again, and this time it's Martin O'Neill's turn to take up the empty space in the home dugout.

The cycle has gone back to club legends, after those with experience, then those with a track record and also virtual unknowns proved unable in their turn to fulfil the desire of a return to the top-flight of English football.

Forest sit ninth in the Sky Bet Championship standings, just four points off the play-off positions. It's hardly a bad place to be at this point in the season as a two-win swing changes the picture completely.

Aitor Karanka's style might have divided opinion, but the fact is that, to some extent, it produced results. Forest have lost just six of their 27 league games this season - only Leeds, Norwich and Middlesbrough can boast a better record in that department.

At times, the football wasn't pretty on the eye. There was games where the team lacked direction and I've watched them aimlessly lump the ball forward, rarely a tactic which produced a positive outcome.

Come May though, if the team in red are lifting the trophy on the balcony at Wembley and celebrating promotion to the Premier League, I don't think too many people will care about the football they played to get there.

Aitor Karanka has left Nottingham Forest
Aitor Karanka is the latest to leave Nottingham Forest

The outrage about Karanka's departure largely comes down to one issue though. Forest are firmly in the cycle of chopping and changing managers every year, giving themselves little to no chance of prosperity at this level.

Stability is an absolute necessity at an outfit like Forest. The club has gone through managers with little concern to the long-standing consequences this can have and it's largely the reason why they've struggled to come within touching distance of escaping this division the right way.

The club have sacked ten (yes, ten) permanent managers since June 2011. They've seen a variety of characters come in, but the best finish they have been able to post in that time is eighth.

They've diced with relegation more often than they've threatened the promotion pack, never more so than in 2017, when a two-goal swing in their favour meant it was Blackburn, not Forest, who dropped down to League One.


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Listen to our latest Sky Bet Championship Podcast, where the team discuss whether Martin O'Neill is the right man for Forest.


Ultimately they've been on something of a downward spiral since they made the play-offs in 2011, during which time their search for the promised land via the promised man has been unsuccessful.

We've seen a range of faces come through the door and all have ended with the same outcome.

Steve McClaren was the man tasked with trying to go one better in 2011. A manager with international pedigree, regardless of what happened during that infamous spell in charge of England, his appointment was a fairly exciting one.

He lasted 112 days, earning just eight points from a possible 30 before resigning. It was a total failure.

That spell, little more than three months, represented a shift from his predecessors. Apart from Joe Kinnear, every manager at the club since 1999 had enjoyed multiple years in the hot seat.

Steve McClaren during his time at the City Ground
Steve McClaren during his time at the City Ground

It perhaps didn't seem overly obvious at the time, but that McClaren stint was an alarming insight into the years to come.

The well-known had failed, and the club went back to look forward by bringing in Billy Davies, whose 2013 return came just 20 months after he'd been sacked from the same job.

Davies tenure started well enough for a four-year contract extension, owner Fawaz Al-Hasawi stating at the time that "this is a fantastic day for Nottingham Forest. I look forward with great excitement to working alongside him for many years to come as we aim to bring success back to this magnificent club."

Regardless of results on the pitch, Davies' second spell at the club was one filled with controversy. Members of staff, photographers and the press fell out with the Forest boss and that ultimately led to his downfall.

Five months into his fresh deal, Davies was sacked. Forest were hammered 5-0 by fierce rivals Derby and the good work of the first-half of the season had quickly been undone. They fell into the abyss of mid-table and Davies, for the second time, was no longer required.

Billy Davies watches on as Forest are hammered 5-0 by Derby
Billy Davies watches on as Forest are hammered 5-0 by Derby

His successor saw the club legend card come into play. It was obvious that relations weren't at their best between various aspects of the club and Stuart Pearce's arrival was intended to bridge the divides that were present.

They flew in the early part of the season with an unbeaten start, sitting top of the table at the end of August. Things did look pretty and it appeared as if they'd finally stumbled across the right combination.

The outcome, though, ended up being the same. Poor form saw Forest free-falling down the standings and, once again, the club were on the lookout for another new face - this time after just eight months.

You can add the likes of Steve Cotterill, Sean O'Driscoll, Alex McLeish and Dougie Freedman to those who have sipped from the poisoned chalice. Their CVs may boast various successes in football, but little from their respective spells at Forest was added.

These men may have been able to lay the foundations and build a winning team elsewhere, but when they arrived at the City Ground, they were met by an attitude that demands an instant impact - or else you're out.

Stuart Pearce was unable to maintain Forest's early season form
Stuart Pearce was unable to maintain Forest's early season form

You could argue that some managers did little to inspire, to truly stamp their authority and shape their futures, during those spells in charge. Time and again, results plateaued and change was required; something, anything, to try and get things moving back in the right direction.

Of course, no manager deserves time in a job for the sake of it - the sport is ruthless. If you're sitting bottom of the table without a win after 15 games then it's clear you maybe aren't the required fit.

However, you do have to sometimes suffer to reap the rewards. It does take a manager some time to learn about the squad he is working with and that includes areas that need strengthening. Patience and discretion can be invaluable.

Look at Norwich this season. They struggled under Daniel Farke last term, finishing 14th in the Championship and exiting the FA Cup at the very first hurdle. They even started slowly in the current campaign, calls for the manager's head arriving after a 3-0 defeat at home to Leeds in September.

It was a long-term project, though, and the club were invested in it. Now, following a string of positive results, the Canaries are strong contenders for automatic promotion back to the Premier League.

This is likely to have to be the case for Forest. At some point, you are going to have to accept that a project starts now and a manager needs more than one season to create a winning environment. Invest in an idea and give it time to flourish.

It's extremely hard to dictate change and fundamental improvement in just eight months at any football club, let alone one in the relentlessly competitive Sky Bet Championship. Setbacks are part and parcel of the process and it takes absolute faith in that process for the establishment of long-term success.

Marco Stiepermann celebrates after scoring against Bristol City
Norwich City are sitting high up in the Sky Bet Championship table

In this division, patience is often the key to promotion. Very rarely does a manager come along and have an instant impact without needing significant funds. Marcelo Bielsa's table-topping Leeds side might suggest otherwise, but such instances are rare and Bielsa is a manager with unquestionable credentials.

Forest, a club with obvious similarities to Leeds, have looked to every corner in search of answers.

Club legends have failed to give them what they want, managers of an international level have failed to give them what they want and so to have those who have already made their name for their efforts in this division and those below it.

Without the time they'd likely get elsewhere, none have been able to walk in, immediately change the path of the football club and conjure the magic spells it seems the owner is searching for.

The squad is in a decent place now, a balance of ability in a variety of positions alongside some big-money names that can be the difference between a promotion-chasing side like Forest and those around them.

But while the window of patience is so narrow, it matters little whether it's O'Neill, Gareth Southgate or Pep Guardiola - success is going to prove hard to come by.

Much of the appeal of the Championship is that any side can harbour dreams, and for some they will become reality.

Forest, though, are different. Their expectations are higher and they are not playing with house money - every season outside the top flight hurts them, and it's this, perhaps, which has meant the panic button has been pressed when there's been nothing to panic about.

O'Neill must be given the chance to establish himself. Only then will we know whether his blend of history at the City Ground and a breadth of high-class management experience is the right one for Nottingham Forest. It's time for the club to invest - if not money, then certainly time.



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Most Read Football

Saturday's best bets1

Saturday's bets of the day

Our team unveil their fancies for Saturday's sport, including Matt Brocklebank's best bet at Ascot and a speculative 66/1 chance from the world of golf.

Check out this weekend's Sporting Life Accumulator
2

Sporting Life Accumulator

Our Sporting Life Accumulator for Saturday's football involves four EFL teams, enhanced to 20/1 with Sky Bet.

Our best bets for Norwich v Birmingham3

Expect fireworks at Carrow Road

With 6/1, 9/1 and 11/1 winners among others in 2019 already, Tom Carnduff picks out three best bets for Friday night's game.

Sporting Life's Premier League preview package
4

Saturday's Premier League tips

Mark your card for Saturday's 3pm kick-offs in the Premier League with the best bets, Super 6 predictions and top stats for each game.

Get all the latest football gossip from the day's back pages5

Paper Talk: Rashford's big pay day

Marcus Rashford is set to see his wages double with a new Manchester United deal as Gonzalo Higuain jets in for Chelsea move.

Football Tips

Our best bets for Norwich v Birmingham

Expect fireworks at Carrow Road

With 6/1, 9/1 and 11/1 winners among others in 2019 already, Tom Carnduff picks out three best bets for Friday night's game.

Check out this weekend's Sporting Life Accumulator

Sporting Life Accumulator

Our Sporting Life Accumulator for Saturday's football involves four EFL teams, enhanced to 20/1 with Sky Bet.

Sporting Life's Premier League preview package

Saturday's Premier League tips

Mark your card for Saturday's 3pm kick-offs in the Premier League with the best bets, Super 6 predictions and top stats for each game.