Are Nottingham Forest right to make prudent plans?

After missing out in the play-offs for the second consecutive year, Nottingham Forest are taking a slightly different approach this time around. Steve Wright explains.


Over the last few days, Nottingham Forest chairman Nigel Doughty has been keen to impress upon fans the potential impact of financial fair play rules that could be brought into effect from the 2012-13 Championship season. These rules have not been finalised as yet, although the clubs have agreed that some sort of enforced framework will be implemented.

Doughty has explained that he believes that this will mean no more subsidies for clubs like Forest, who benefit from the financial assistance of a rich owner. He has therefore stressed that the way Forest structure their playing staff will need to change – with shorter contracts and fewer recognised first team squad members.

The obvious fallout from such a move, apart from saving Doughty a substantial amount of money each year, is that clubs relegated with parachute payments will be at an enormous advantage. Relegated clubs will receive £14million in each of years one and two after relegation and £8m in years three and four, assuming that they do not get promoted again in this period.

Given that Forest, who are a good-sized Championship club, have a total turnover (without the Doughty enhancement) of roughly £14.5m, it is easy to see the problems they will face competing. In order to level the playing field they will rely on the skills of their manager, the strength of their scouting network in spotting value for money and the ability of their academy to provide young, cheap and talented players to support a slimmed down first team squad.

Forest fans will stress at this point that the squad is already small. At the start of the 2010-11 season, however, the striker roster consisted of Robert Earnshaw, Dexter Blackstock, David McGoldrick, Joe Garner and Dele Adebola, as manager Billy Davies insisted he needed different types of forward for different situations. Adebola was signed on a free transfer but joined the club reportedly due to the offer of a substantial two-year contract, despite being essentially a bit-part option, while the others had all been bought by the club for substantial fees.

When Dexter Blackstock sustained a serious injury in a match against Cardiff City, the club went out and signed Marcus Tudgay – another established player at this level – and USA international Robbie Findley. Towards the end of the season, they also took on the enormous wage liability of Kris Boyd on loan from Middlesbrough. In a world of financial fair play it seems highly unlikely that Forest would seek to carry eight expensive first team strikers whilst allowing promising young forwards from the academy to rot with no hope of a run in the side – and it is difficult to argue that this is not sensible either.

Forest look like they are already trying to adapt to the potential new landscape by placing importance on the role of Development Coach, which has been combined with Assistant Manager and handed to former Leicester City manager Rob Kelly. While signings have been made in the midfield, a key area in McClaren’s style of play, it is clear that highly rated youngsters from the academy will be expected to fill in the squad this season and can expect to make appearances. Kieron Freeman, a 19-year-old left back who has represented Wales at under-19 level, has featured quite heavily in pre-season games and duly praised by the new manager. Fellow defenders Jamal Lascelles (17) and Karlton Watson (19) are also clearly being expected to develop into first-team players in the near future.

Already some Forest fans are seeing Doughty’s comments as another stick to beat him with and a sign of his own “lack of ambition”, that favourite phrase of the embittered fan. It is fair to say that a football club owner will offer more value in his ability to run a club than the size of his wealth, which will raise questions about the chairman’s achievements at Forest to date.

The mode of operating at which Doughty hints potentially offers a much more satisfying and edifying way to build a football club. The impact of parachute payments is a significant problem, as the Championship’s excellence owes much to its unpredictable nature, and this is something that the league will have to address. Nevertheless, the wider context of managing within your means and developing your own talent could be both sensible and exciting.

The likes of Leicester City continue to throw everything at breaking into the Premier League’s big money club while the doors are still reasonably ajar. While this approach is still being taken by other clubs, Doughty’s words will seem like just another excuse for not buying this or that player. But the financial landscape of the football league will have to change eventually and, although it is understandable that some fans will be sceptical, maybe Forest are sowing the seeds to adapt well to that new world.

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.

5 Comments

  1. Barry Birtles
    August 2, 2011

    At last, a rational analysis of NFFC. I personally believe this is why Billy was shown the door- lets hope Schtevie Mac can now utilise our resources.

    Reply
  2. Husky Red
    August 2, 2011

    The chairman’s approach is undetstandable but thr club still has NINE first teamers ebtering the last year of their contract this year. Where forest have been poor has been letting high
    Value assets leave for free due to poor contract management. Those fees would give the club more spending power even in the fair finances era. Few fans would argue with thinning the striker ranks but the current crop were a long way from the best in the championship with none scoring more than 1 goal per 3 games.

    If the club manage contracts poorly it leaves a need for investment that didnt need to have happened. Few other clubs lost 9 players for zero transfer revenue this summer

    Most fans agree we are nearly there but failing to get a left back for the third year runnin when this gap was so clearly exposed in successive play-off defeats is inexcusable.

    Reply
    • keith gordon
      August 3, 2011

      Let’s get a few facts straight about losing 9 players for nothing.Of those,only 5 could be said to be anywhere near first team status:Earnshaw,Tyson,Adebola ,Mckenna and Bennett.The other 4 were players who had come through the Academy set up and only ever been on the fringe of the team.Of those 5,Tyson had already been with us for over 5 seasons:apart from probably justifying the opportunity to move for free after such a long connection with the club,when a transfer fee would probably have limited the chance of him gaining a move ,we would have had to sign him up to a long and costly contract to give us the chance of POSSIBLY recouping some money via a fee
      Bennett was out of contract a year ago when still crippled by injury and was given a further year in recognition of his loyalty and representation of the club as a ‘community ambassador’ The club stated that they would help him find another club this summer and if he failed to do so would have given him another year -laudable loyalty to a player .
      Adebola and McKenna,at their age were never going to be able to move elsewhere if a fee was involved ,so to allow them to run down thei.r contract was sensibleSurely,noone would see them as being as good as,or better than,players like Greening, Boateng or Reid!.
      Earnshaw was our biggest earner by some margin and ,after his performances last season which saw him miss many games because of injury and score such a small number of goals,to have renewed his contract on the salary he expected would have been ridiculous,especially with the restrictions coming into operation next year where expenditure on wages is concerned.He WAS offered a new contract but at significantly less money.Cardiff,like Leicester,are ignoring future financial constrsaints and gambling big wages in an attempt to go up this year.
      At least the clearing out of players who were on big wages and preventing opportunities for the crop of youngsters we have coming through is a move in the right direction.
      When our U18’s can beat Chelsea 4-0 last night with a hat trick from Patrick Bamford,then the sooner some of our locally produced talent gets a chance the better-and McClaren,unlike BD,is a Manager who has always been prepared to give such players an opportunity..

      Reply
      • theseventytwo
        August 3, 2011

        Kelvin Wilson?

        Reply
  3. Nottingham Forest (since 1865) | Doughty v Davies: Nigel speaks out on Billy, money and the (lack of a) number 3
    August 2, 2011

    […] players may well be over as well, due to the financial fair play regulations, about which there is an excellent article (focusing on Forest) on the SeventyTwo […]

    Reply

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