The twin cults of loyalty and personality……
I would like to start this short blog by making an important statement and scotching some ugly rumours. Whilst it is true that I resigned as Chair of the Crawley Town Supporters Alliance last night, there is no truth in the speculation that I’m about to take up an offer to become Chair of the Nottingham Forest Supporters Trust. I believe that to be no more than a silly story concocted by greedy bookmakers.
There have been two strands to the supporters reaction since the news broke last night that our manager, Sean O’Driscoll, was leaving us after not one single competitive game in charge to take over at the City Ground. The first has been bemoaning his lack of loyalty. The second has been attacking the club for misleading the supporters. One of these strands is unfair, the other understandable- if seemingly far more coloured by personality issues than fact.
Last week I wrote a blog which centred around Robin Van Persie and his “open letter” to Arsenal supporters in which he bemoaned the clubs financial strategy and attempted to open a route out of the club without its supporters questioning his loyalty. I’ve never been one to worry to much about plagiarism, and on this occasion I’m lucky that I’m able to steal from myself;
“Footballers have relatively short careers, and as a top footballer it is quite understandable that he wants to maximise his medal winning opportunities. He’s a player in demand. If he ends up in Manchester or Madrid and next season has a League Title or a Champions League winners medal to show for his endeavours, who will say he was wrong to move on? Not many of us could honestly say we’d turn down that kind of opportunity”.
For footballers, read football managers. For Manchester or Madrid, read Nottingham. Forest are about to be awash with funds. They are, as the media would put it, a “sleeping giant”. The potential is massive. When you have only one career and such opportunities come along rarely, what do you do? Most of us, in the same position, would do just what O’Driscoll has done. Loyalty is all well and good, but it doesn’t necessarily give you personal glory or satisfaction, nor put money in the bank. The only loyalty in football is between supporters and their club- and that’s about the entity, not the individuals. Employees come and go.
On the subject of employees, the Chief Executive has come in for enormous criticism overnight. It must be said that he has delivered an enormous foot-in-mouth moment by telling us there was no truth in the story of O’Driscoll’s departure on Wednesday only to speak of “lengthy and intensive” negotiations a day later. I think, however, the confusion here depends on the interpretation of what constitutes “lengthy and intensive”. What the conflicting statements do demand is clarification, yet the final line of yesterday’s announcement states, “The club will not be making any further comment on this matter”. Well if they want to limit the damage, this would be entirely the wrong move. Yesterday’s statement was very badly written. If individuals at the club want our loyalty they need to be up front and honest. Did they never consider that issuing two entirely contradictory statements within 24 hours and then telling us that they were going to make no further comment leaves us with more questions than it does answers?
What I would take issue with, however, is the level of personal and occasionally downright nasty criticism levelled at the Chief Executive. This is not a personality crisis. It is a breakdown in communications. Whose fault that is we cannot be sure. The Chief Executive is an employee of the football club. He may have a high level of influence, but he has to follow instructions. We don’t know how decisions were made, or by whom. That they have been poorly communicated is not in question. But making entirely unconnected personal attacks is ridiculous. We expect our club to behave in a professional manner, and rightly so, but we need to do the same.
What happens today is enormously important. If the club stick to their statement of last night and say no more then the damage will only increase. Damage limitation and a little honesty and openness is surely the order of the day. And that means a public statement and perhaps a Fans Forum, not more words that leave us with more questions than answers.
New manager? At this point, my money is on Travel Ken.