Tuesday, 6 January 2015

It's time for a change; it's time for stability.

This is an open letter to every Forest fan - including Mr Fawaz Al Hasawi - about the importance of stability, at a time when this football club needs it the most.

Lets set aside for a moment Stuart Pearce's status, and whether because of his many years of loyalty and love for Nottingham Forest he deserves more time. The question is whether, in the cold light of day, Forest would be better placing emotion and attachment aside and making yet another change.

The likelihood of being under the FFP transfer embargo until the summer of 2016 makes promotion this season even more attractive - yet we are 9 points outside the playoff positions. Our season has stalled - but a change now would all but end our promotion chances this season.

Managers who come in part way through a season have not had the opportunity to form a truly winning formula, because much of the work towards this is done pre-season. They may be able to patch up some aspects of the team's play that are especially vulnerable, but against the best teams in the league, they are at too much of a disadvantage.

Of the 30 teams promoted from The Championship since it's inception, only 2 have changed their manager part way through a season. 93.3% of teams promoted from The Championship had the same manager throughout that campaign.

If we want to maintain any hope of promotion this season (just as I suggested last March) we need to stick with the current regime. Changing manager is catastrophic to short term promotion chances because promotion from The Championship is a building process.

This is reflected in the amount of time it takes. There have been 30 teams promoted from The Championship - only 9 on these teams have been led by managers in their first season at a club (see chart, right). The large majority of teams promoted have done so with a manager established for multiple seasons - by far the most common timetable is aiming for promotion at the second attempt.

We need to view Stuart Pearce's first season in charge - as with any other manager - as a bedding in period. It was always unlikely, that Forest would achieve promotion in this first year of his tenure.

So we can see clubs usually need stability to build up to a promotion. The average amount of time successful managers have needed to get their club promoted is 694 days (from appointment to end of season promoted). All that sacking a manager does is send the club back to the drawing board, in effect restarting the promotion clock.

This is reflected in the current Championship league table (see right, correct on 05/01/14*, showing teams position cross-referenced with manager's days in the job). Looking at the top ten clubs, we can see a strong correlation between teams doing well and the length of time their manager has been at the club.

Forest are 11th, with Pearce having been in charge 184 full days. We can see that nine out of the ten higher placed clubs have longer serving managers*, while conversely the majority of clubs below have new managers.

We have to take into account when considering this information that being lower in the league table is going to get managers sacked - which will mean many of those managers will naturally have less days in a job.

However, while this can account for more recently appointed managers (Brighton and Reading for example in 16th & 21st), in such an open league the majority of teams have had ample time to climb the table, especially if changing manager has such a positive effect on results, yet the top ten is still dominated by clubs with managerial stability.

It is no surprise, therefore, that the four strongest clubs (Bournemouth, Ipswich, Derby and Middlesbrough) all have firmly established managers in place.

Championship chairmen should look to Mick McCarthy when considering making a change. He has twice gained promotion in season three of his tenure; at Sunderland in 2004/05 and Wolves in 2008/09. Ominously, this is his third season in charge of Ipswich. The Tractor Boys have a great chance of top-flight football next season, because they've given their manager time.

All the evidence suggests - as well as plain common sense - that stability is important for a club to be successful in The Championship. Forest have been happy to juggle managers too freely since the glory days. Brian Clough was manager for 18 years and 4 months - in the 21 years and 7 months since his departure Forest have changed boss 17 times. The fortunes of this club are a compelling argument for stability.

But today we need stability even more. We are currently under a transfer embargo, and will be for the foreseeable future - a new manager will be severely handicapped when attempting to bring in his own players.

The difficulty in signing players during the FFP embargo has, in my opinion, been significantly downplayed. I have heard people suggest we will be paying players just under £12,000; this is unlikely. Forest can only spend £600,000 per annum on any new player - signing on fees, agents fees, insurance and any other expenses such as accommodation all have to come out of this total. Agents fees alone cost the club £1,199,442 last year.

We will barely be able to afford to offer players the average Championship wage (which in November 2014 was £9,347 and rising) - the players we are able to attract to Forest permanently will struggle to get in our side; they will be players nobody else wants.

Any new manager will have to manage, largely, with the players already here: a squad built largely by Pearce, to play to the strengths of Pearce's plan.

I would also draw your attention to our next away match. Our friends down the A52 would like nothing better than to be the club that dethrones Stuart Pearce - a quick read of Twitter or any of their forums will show you they are rubbing their hands together at the thought.

Prospects of a good result at Derby look poor - but we must stick together. If Derby contribute to the sacking of Pearce, we will be hearing about it for decades. A petty reason perhaps, but I can't bear the thoughts of sitting there at every Derby game for the foreseeable future, listening to them gleefully singing "where's your Psycho gone?"

And if logic isn't enough to convince you - if the knowledge that clubs need stability to succeed in this league, and that Forest need it now more than ever - and the recognition that the Sheep would love to see Pearce fail, we should remember who we're dealing with.

This isn't Billy Davies in charge of Forest, or even someone more likable like Colin Calderwood or Sean O'Driscoll.

I refute Stuart Pearce's legendary status - he is not a Forest legend, he is something more than that; he is one of us. He is a man we can trust to give everything for Nottingham Forest, someone who won't choose to fob us off or mislead, someone who will share our pain and our joy equally.

We've got a chance for something special here at Forest - a chance for success under a leader who actually cares as much for this club as me and you. It would be criminal to throw away this opportunity because we could not hold our nerve.

Not only do we owe Stuart Pearce our allegiance for all that he's done for Forest in the past, we owe it to ourselves to give our club a chance to build some stable foundations, rather than pressing the self-destruct button every season and having to start from scratch.

Make no mistake, if Pearce goes, we will not be promoted this season, and it would be miraculous for a new manager to get us up in 2015/16 - in his first season, shackled by the FFP embargo.

Whatever happens in the next few weeks - and I suspect we're in for one or two horrible moments, we need to stand together and get behind the manager. It is time for a change. It's time for Forest to abandon their habit of swapping managers every time they encounter tough times.

It's time for a change, it's time for stability.
 
Thanks for reading, and COYR!
 

* Norwich are in 7th - I have still included Neil Adams' in the table, despite his resignation yesterday, because Norwich's position has come under his tenure, so the information is still relevant.