The Damned Forest: The ‘Real Story’ of Alex McLeish at Nottingham Forest

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Ahead of its serialisation in a national newspaper, we’re fortunate enough to be able to give you a sneak peek into the diary of Alex McLeish, who’s had an eventful few weeks…

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23rd December 2012

Watched Villa get tonked 8-0 by Chelsea this afternoon. Not so long ago that would have cheered me up no end, but just lately I’ve been having difficulty feeling the usual sense of joy. Perhaps it’s just becoming all too predictable. Perhaps it’s time I got back into work. I’ll shove Lambert’s “dole scum” texts back down his throat.

24th December 2012

Wrote my wishlist for Santa today – a bit short notice, admittedly, but he moves in mysterious ways. (Or is that God?) Kept it nice and simple (like God, he’s a busy man): “Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is a new job at a big club with plenty of money to spend. Is that too much to ask? Yours, Alex. PS I wouldn’t mind a four-pack of Tennents Super too.

Just in case that doesn’t work, though, I’ve also circulated my CV to every club in the top two divisions (you know – lots about the league titles, not so much about where they were won; lots about Premier League experience with Birmingham and Villa, not so much about league positions). Sent each copy off accompanied by a DVD of the 2011 League Cup final – so glad I stocked up before they sold out. That ought to do the trick.

26th December

Well, what do you know? We’re in business! Forest have sacked O’Driscoll. Quite right, too – far too quiet and sober for the job. Doesn’t seem to understand the art of football management is about shouting so loudly you make the veins in your neck pop. Brummie, too – probably a Villa fan, so he had it coming.

Anyway, the Forest chairman’s come out with some crap about O’Driscoll being “unlucky” – yeah, unlucky to be a turkey at Christmas. But, as the saying goes, one man’s loss is another man’s gain. This Al-Hasawi guy’s said he’s after “an ambitious manager with Premier League experience“. My ears are burning! Just waiting for the call. Christmas is a time for saviours, after all.

27th December 2012

So the call came, just as I knew it would, and it’s official: I’m the new Forest boss. Weighing up the pros and cons didn’t take long. Pros: big club, plenty of cash. Cons: interfering ex-players like Garry Birtles, moaning on about O’Driscoll’s sacking being “strange. Like I’m going to lose any sleep over that.

Accidentally let slip in the press conference that I felt “refreshed” – I’d had a few celebratory Tennents Supers by that point, in fairness. Now onto the Buckfast and listening to Mark Morrison’s ‘Return Of The Mack’. In your face, Lambert.

Just noticed on Sky Sports that Berg’s been sacked. Wouldn’t fancy working for that Venkys lot, though. Clueless imbeciles. Might know chicken, but don’t know football. If they wanted to appoint a no-nonsense Scot with zero interest in being popular, then why did they pick Steve Kean over me?

28th December 2012

Just texted my thanks to Wojciech Szczesny – second job he’s got me.

Had a bit of a hangover this morning, not helped by being woken up by a phone call from Steve McClaren, droning on in that ridiculous Dutch accent about the job being “a poishoned chalice“. Someone was obviously watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on ITV last night. “Lay off the Advocaat“, I told him, “and stop slurring your words like an effing stroke victim“.

There was some post, too: a note reading “YOU MAY HAVE WON THIS TIME, MCLIESH, BUT MARK MY WORDS – ONE DAY I’LL GET A JOB AHEAD OF YOU” – misspelt and written in dog muck, as usual. Classic Phil Brown. It’s got his fingerprints all over it – quite literally. You really must remember to let that spray tan dry, Phil. Anyway, you don’t get this kind of petty jealousy and bitterness from Curbishley – he just takes it like a man.

29th December 2012

First game in charge ends up a draw. Billy Sharp – now there’s a proper footballer’s name. Injury-time equaliser knock that bit of hay out of your mouth, did it, Holloway? I’d ask how you like them apples, but you’d probably launch into some tedious monologue about scrumping.

31st December 2012

Met the owners today. I talked at length about their plans to transform the club into the Man City of the East Midlands and how I wanted to emulate Sven Goran Eriksson and front a revolution on the banks of the Trent. They mainly nodded. Maybe something was lost in translation? Anyway, it’s just good not to be working for someone whose name sounds like a teenage schoolboy suffering from raging hormones. Sent Fawaz my transfer window shopping list afterwards. Staying realistic – don’t suppose we’re in a position to get Sergio Aguero just yet.

1st January 2013

3-0 to Blackburn. If only that halfwit Kean had still been in charge.

3rd January 2013

Trying to feel at home by immersing myself in Nottingham culture. I’ve always been a fan of Su Pollard and her work (who hasn’t?), but just discovering that Paper Lace are sadly underrated. Only a couple of hits, while those feckless hippies the Beatles became huge – where’s the justice? Having difficulty getting used to addressing people as “me duck“, though – what’s wrong with “pal” and a stern glare?

5th January 2013

His name’s Dickov and yet he dares to call himself Scottish? Sounds more like a dastardly Russian Bond villain. Didn’t appreciate his attempts to upstage me when it came to angriest face and bulgiest eyeballs, either. We were rotten in defeat, staggering around like Tennents-Supercharged toddlers in that second half, but there’s no disgrace in losing to a team who were FA Cup semi-finalists not so very long ago (what year are we in now?).

Another last-minute goal from Sharp but too little too late. Perhaps it was a mistake to have Paper Lace’s ‘Billy Don’t Be A Hero’ blaring out in the dressing room before kick-off.

8th January 2013

Re-sent Fawaz my shopping list, with a bit of added bold.

10th January 2013

We’re on a poor run of form but still have a good chance of pushing for promotion. This is a time for real men – real, butch, muscly men who are prepared to roll up their sleeves, fight for the cause and maybe enjoy a pint and a packet of pork scratchings afterwards. Which is why I can’t possibly carry on picking a goalkeeper called Lee Camp.

12th January 2013

Am I a genius? It’s not for me to say (and I don’t say it often – maybe that’s because I’m too hard on myself), but what other word is there for someone who brings in a defender on loan who then scores a winning goal? This calls for a celebratory can of Tennents Super, macaroni cheese pie and Billy Connolly DVD.

Liked the look of that Posh lad Boyd, incidentally. Good vision, and an eye for goal. Will have a word with Fawaz on Monday.

14th January 2013

Oh how the mighty have fallen: O’Driscoll’s washed up at bottom-of-the-league Bristol City. Sent him a congratulatory text: “Hello Sean, what’s it like all the way down there? Have fun facing the drop while I enjoy spending the January pocket money they wouldn’t give to you.

15th January 2013

Remembered I haven’t actually spent any of my January pocket money yet. Re-sent Fawaz my shopping list, this time with some underlining too.

16th January 2013

Team-building day organised by Fawaz and his mates. It started off with us all sat around in a circle introducing ourselves – them, me, Peter Grant, Frank Clark, Mark Arthur, Keith Burt. Reminded me of those meetings my mother used to take us to. Then we were split up into pairs and had to construct a bridge out of newspaper to support our own bodyweight. Peter and I couldn’t stop tittering at page 3 and ran out of time. Frank looked like a lost puppy. Then a presentation on the Al-Hasawi’s business model for the club. PowerPoint – very flash. I couldn’t quite follow it all, but did notice what looked like a Venkys logo in the bottom corner of each slide. Maybe something was lost in translation?

17th January 2013

Turned up for work this morning to find Frank, Mark and Keith all clearing their desks and muttering about a “sinking ship“. Before I could say “Ay up me ducks“, they’d gone. All very strange.

18th January 2013

Popped into HMV today to pick up the latest album by local lad Jake Bugg. What a fantastic shop – you can get all sorts in there these days, not just music. Fawaz was droning on about business models the other day – well, these guys really know what they’re doing.

Noticed in the window of Currys that Nigel Adkins has been sacked by Southampton. About time – no one should be that relentlessly cheerful, especially not a football manager. Said goodbye with a smiley face – what a clown. He should’ve known better than to trust a man called Nicola. That reminds me of that pre-season tour to Thailand a few years back. Worst £300 I ever spent.

19th January 2013

A draw against the sheepshaggers that Nigel Clough claimed his lot “fully deserved“. Been at the bottle again, Nige? Like father, like son.

22nd January 2013

Spent today scrutinising that PowerPoint presentation more closely, and now feeling a bit queasy. Either the Oxford English Dictionary is mistaken or the Al-Hasawis have got their own very unique definitions of the words “development” and “strategy“. Decided the best policy was just to re-send my shopping list to Fawaz, though, this time with caps lock stuck on and a bit of red font too.

24th January 2013

So I told them to get me that young, mobile, free-scoring Millwall striker. They’ve come back with Darius Henderson. Apparently, Chris Wood signed for those numpties down the road at the beginning of the month. Seriously, this is like online shopping. If I’ve ordered 24 cans of Tennents Super, then that’s what I want and 24 cans of Tesco Value Lager IS NOT AN “ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATIVE“.

25th January 2013

Bloody Garry Birtles, laying it on thick with the old pals’ act and flailing around like some kind of scarecrow, doing his best to make Forest seem an unattractive proposition for potential new signings. Judging by your mugshot in the paper, Garry, you know a thing or two about being an unattractive proposition.

26th January 2013

Lost 3-0 at home to that grinning chimp Zola’s Watford – “a ‘brain dead’ performance“, I told the press. “Rammel” was the shout from the stands. Interesting – I wonder what Andy’s up to these days. He was a useful player for Barnsley. Had no idea he was so revered in these parts, but perhaps I should listen to the fans and add his name to the shopping list.

Had a word with Zola afterwards over a cup of PG Tips. Must remember to find out if the Al-Hasawis own any other football clubs and, if so, arrange to borrow half their squads.

27th January 2013

I’ve now pinned my shopping list to Al-Hasawi’s door, but still no response. Who does he think he’s dealing with – some kind of cretin? Well, the feeling’s increasingly mutual, pal.

28th January 2013

Another phone call from Schteve McClaren. The usual: no greeting, just a low, mocking chuckle. I find singing ‘Umbrella’ by Rihanna soon shuts him up – either that, or ‘Singing in the Rain’.

29th January 2013

This is getting ridiculous. My shopping list essentially said “Milk” and yet the Al-Hasawis are coming back and saying they can’t find any anywhere. It’s not like there’s been a nuclear apocalypse, or I’m asking for a pound of powdered unicorn horn or a sackful of hens’ teeth.

30th January 2013

Sprayed my shopping list onto Al-Hasawi’s car. Simple: “BURKE” and “BOYD“. Try ignoring that, you pillock.

31st January 2013

Inconclusive eye test? “Inconclusive eye test“?!! I’ll give you an inconclusive eye test, Al-Hasawi – with a broken effing pint glass.

1st February 2013

Oh the press are absolutely loving this, aren’t they? Can’t stop chuntering on about the club’s short-sightedness and chuckling at their own joke. And all the time I have to play along, pretenting not to be irked. “Fawaz is a strong individual, he is the owner and isn’t a successful businessman for no reason“, I found myself saying today. “But he knows about as much about running a football club as Wayne Rooney does about quantum physics“, I so desperately wanted to add. I was biting my tongue so hard it’s a wonder I didn’t chomp straight through.

3rd February 2013

Just when I thought I’d hit rock bottom, along come my old club to make things worse – and of course it would be Chris effing Burke who scored both goals, wouldn’t it? Lee Clark thought it would be funny to come up to me afterwards, put on his best Jim Bowen voice and say “Here’s what you could have won“. He was lucky I didn’t lamp him.

On the way back down the M42, it occurred to me that Al-Hasawi justified sacking O’Driscoll by saying he was “still searching for consistency in terms of team performance“. Today made it one win in seven for me – so he should be delighted I’m fulfilling my remit.

4th February 2013

Some good news at last! Tennents Super is on special offer in West Bridgford Co-op.

5th February 2013

Right, that’s it – I’m off. But first, the transparently euphemistic guff that I’m contractually obliged to deliver: “Both parties entered into the relationship in good faith, but there was a difference in the understanding of the development strategy of the club and it was felt by both parties we should part company.” Can I have my pay-off now?

6th February 2013

41 days and 41 nights, eh? So I held out longer than Jesus. I was a bit like Jesus, really – called upon to perform miracles but not given enough time to do so before being crucified by an uncomprehending mob.

Another way of looking at it is that I lasted less time than Cloughie did at Leeds – which presumably makes it an even more memorable reign. Big Eck 1 – 0 Big ‘Ead. Wonder if they’ll make a book and film out of it?

7th February 2013

Apparently Billy Davies is the favourite to be my successor for the “poishoned chalice“. Remind me – didn’t he leave Forest last time after falling out with the board over transfer targets and budgets?

8th February 2013

Pondering going on the next series of I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! – spending time eating kangaroo bollocks in the company of shrieking airheads from Hollyoaks would be infinitely preferable to working with Al-Hasawi and that lot again.

9th February 2013

Actually, scratch that – are Blackburn hiring again yet?

is the co-founder and co-author of Newcastle United blog Black & White & Read All Over. Since its inception in 2004, he's never been short of things to write about, be they messiahs returning, messiahs walking out, expletive-riddled press conferences or team-mates indulging in fisticuffs. He is the slightly shameful owner of a cardboard coathanger with Robert Lee's head on it, and is currently in search of a new lucky pub for watching televised games. Perhaps a new lucky team would be an easier option.

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4 Comments on "The Damned Forest: The ‘Real Story’ of Alex McLeish at Nottingham Forest"

  1. sean says:

    Very funny mcleish bit. Up the villa

  2. Fange says:

    Birmingham fan here… just like to say, absolute top draw. Made me chuckle for hours.

  3. Simon says:

    Really good piece of work. I have posted a link onto our Forest forum LTLF
    Cheers

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