Left Brian: January

Words: Richard Crouch
Tuesday 03 January 2017
reading time: min, words

Our Nottingham Forest columnist Richard Crouch takes a different tact for his first column of 2017 and writes an open letter to outgoing Chairman Fawaz Al Hawasi...


Dearest Fawaz,

Let’s start at the beginning. Before you came along, I considered myself to be an avid supporter of Nottingham Forest. I rarely missed a game, I built my social calendar around our fixture list, and I genuinely used to enjoy the weekends.

When you appeared, seemingly from nowhere, we were in turmoil. The spiral toward the bottom had begun with the appointment of Steve McClaren, the ill-advised attempt at gearing us up for Premiership survival, a season before we expected to be promoted. A gamble taken by Nigel Doughty that simply didn’t pay off, and kick- started a series of events that have shaped not only this football club, but an entire generation of supporters. You see, as people began to protest at Nigel, and he eventually stepped back from the club the relationship had soured. For some reason, people could not see the good that was within our former owner. He didn’t fit the profile of the 21st century footballing sugar daddy. He was a man who once stated that financial fair play was the right thing to do, and even if the authorities weren’t planning on carrying it out, we should seek to get there ourselves.

The reason I bring up Nigel Doughty is that I need to contrast what he did for this club to what you have done to this club. When you came along, you promised big things. You hoodwinked a fan base into buying into the myth that you had untold wealth accompanying your lifelong support for Nottingham Forest. You were the secret billionaire supporter that all football fans pray their club has; the man who would guarantee this club a seat at the top table. You made it seem like you rubbed shoulders with the owners of clubs like Chelsea, Man City, and PSG. You teased us with hints at bringing to Trentside the glory that every fan craves, something that replaced what this football club really stood for.

You see, for 150 years we have been a provincial club with some outrageous success, but at the heart we were a community club. It mattered more that the club existed, and was a place for the people of this city to get together and watch some football. We have suffered relegations and enjoyed promotions in the past, but ultimately they are essentially meaningless. A football fan enjoys the hunt, not the victory. We look forward to what can be achieved, and at Nottingham Forest we especially like to think that when we do achieve it, we will have done it the right way. This was why the sale of Oliver Burke hurt us so much. Not because it wasn’t good money for an unproven teenager, but because he represented what we want from our football club – one of our own doing things that defy belief. We buy into the Miracle Men mantra more than we buy into the vast money and gambles at success. We have a different definition of success to you. Unfortunately, because you were never really a fan, you could never understand that.

When you first arrived, I remember you and your family telling us how you were a big Forest fan, hiding away in far reaches of the globe, realising a lifelong dream just to set foot in the City Ground, let alone own the club. That was a lie – you know it was, and we know it was. Some fans reconciled the purchase in their own minds, suggesting that we had become a rich man’s play thing. We were to be a club that had to achieve success for you to keep face in your homeland. The ugly truth, however, was silently washed away, hidden by the desire of the Forest faithful to believe in the impossible. We have believed in the impossible before and achieved the unachievable.

It’s often said that to be a Forest fan is to be a pessimist, but I firmly believe in quite the opposite. The eternal optimism that envelopes the City Ground was taken advantage of by you and your family. When you promised us big things, no one wanted to check to see if you could deliver on what you promised. It’s fair to say that the media must take some responsibility here, as it is their job and their duty to report on these things. You made it difficult for them to be objective when you lauded access to the club over them. You made it impossible for the media to accurately report what was going on as they ran scared that you would drop the axe on their ability to deliver commentary to the fans. What sort of person would do that? What sort of person would buy a football club and not encourage the media to delve into the details behind the takeover?

It’s clear you do not have the financial power you wanted us to believe. The front you put on was clearly for the benefit of the banks you were borrowing from. When you told Natalie Jackson to tell us that you could have bought Barcelona if you so desired, what she meant was that you could probably stretch to buying a Barca shirt, and even then you’d likely have bought it on credit.

Questions around your ownership are twofold for me: Why did you buy us? How wealthy are you?

The first question is the most important to me. When you told us you were a Forest fan, that was the first in a web of lies that you've spun for the last four years. It’s clear you are not, and never have been, a Forest fan, so what is the reason for buying us? You’re not the rich man who wants a play thing, you’re not the egotist wanting to prove to his home country that he can win the Premier League, and so what are you? Are you just someone taking advantage of the fact that if you appear from the Middle East you won’t be asked too many questions when you try and buy a football club? The accounts clearly show that you haven’t sunk millions into the club as you claim. They show that you have immersed us into a debt that we will be lucky to ever come out of. This isn’t the same sort of debt that Nigel Doughty brought to the club. Debt to him, which was written off. This is a business proposition for you, and one you clearly still intend to make pay.

The second question does feed into the first. If we believed you were as wealthy as you made out, then it would be easier to think that you were someone just after a play thing. If you actually had the money, we could believe that your heart was in the right place and that you were merely a misguided fool, wanting the best for us and clumsily managing to make a well-intentioned cock-up every now and then. When you first came, it was claimed you were a Fridge Magnate, but that wasn’t entirely true. Your Fawaz Fridges website wasn’t that of a multimillion pound operation. It looks more like something knocked up quickly to give that pretence. It used to offer online purchases, but when I tried to buy a fridge from you, your online portal had no option to pay – quite a flaw for an ecommerce business. Your redesign isn’t much better.

I’ve talked at length in the past about how little I trust you. I struggle to believe a single word that comes from your mouth, and I’m perhaps more incredulous about how no one else seemed to challenge it. There have been a few dissenting voices over the years, but mainly these were closed down with shouts of support for you. People warmed to what you promised and, now they’ve woken up, it is definitely time to go. No more photos outside the pub with fans, no more childish Twitter jibes at Derby, and no more false promises. It’s unfortunate that the fan base took so long to wise up to you but, now they have, it is time for you to disappear as gracefully as possible.

When the sale, supposedly to the American John Jay Moores, hopefully goes through, I hope we can draw a line under your tenure and consign you to that place in history where Irving Scholar and Kris Commons live. I won’t miss you, and I doubt many other will either.


Left Brian

Now that’s off my chest, I’ve got one eye on the future. I’ll admit I know little about John Jay Moores, but will make it my business to know who he is. I hope those at the Post and Radio Nottingham will do likewise, and perhaps this mess of a season will begin to improve.

I read a stat yesterday that between us and those over the Trent, we’ve taken 1 point from a possible 45. That’s quite abysmal for both clubs and surely relegation form. Personally, I've enjoyed Montanier’s philosophy of attacking football, but he surely needs to work on our defence. As we’re under embargo, that needs to be done with what we have, along with increasing our discipline. It’s really quite shocking how many red cards we’ve had this season.

Hopefully 2017 can be a brighter year down Trentside – as it stands, I’ll take comfortably staying in the Championship as a success we struggle to deserve.

Nottingham Forest FC website

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