Transfer deadline day probably wasn’t supposed to work out like this for the Nottingham Forest manager Alex McLeish. His appointment into the position at The City Ground hadn’t been met with universal acclaim, and it had been suggested for a couple of weeks that there had been tensions between the manager and the club’s owners following the dismissal of chief executive Mark Arthur and Keith Burt, the club’s head of recruitment, and suggestions that he was being railroaded into signing specific players. Whatever tensions there were seem to have come to a head following the farcical-sounding attempt to bring the Peterborough United midfielder George Boyd to The City Ground which ended in strong rumours that McLeish had resigned his position at the end of last month.
McLeish has won just one of his six matches in charge of the club so far, not the sort of form that seems likely to get Nottingham Forest into the Premier League, which is quite clearly where the Al-Hasawi family, who bought the club last summer, see as their ultimate aim for the club. Boyd is clearly a talented player and has played almost three hundred and seventy games for Stevenage and Peterborough United and even spent six games on loan at The City Ground during the latter part of the 2009/10 season, but at the end of his medical yesterday Forest called off the transfer move because of reported problems with the player’s eyesight, although the owners, who refused to sanction the transfer, did agree – quite possibly to pacify the manager – to take him on loan for the remainder of the season. Darragh McAnthony, the Peterborough United chairman and not a man known for keeping his feelings close to his chest, issued a statement described what had happened as a “Total disgrace, the whole thing,” but what will be troubling Forest supporters most were the subsequent rumours that McLeish might even have resigned over the matter.
At the time of writing, there has been a stony silence from the The City Ground on the matter since last night, all of which means that no-one at this precise moment in time knows for certain how McLeish’s future at the club could possibly play out from here. It would certainly not be too surprising if he had been pushed close to the edge by this. When he took the job at the end of December and with the transfer window just around the corner, it would have been likely that certain assurances regard to transfer policy and available funds would have been discussed and agreed between the owners and the manager. Football club managers tend to take such assurances very seriously. After all, it is their reputations that will stand or fall on results on the pitch and all managers, when new into a job, want to build the team that they want to build, will see shortcomings in the squads that they take over and will want to make changes to what they inherit. Even if McLeish hasn’t actually quit, the new manager’s authority within the club has clearly been damaged, destabilising the manager at a time when the often fragile psychology of a professional football squad can ill-afford to be disturbed.
Even if McLeish does stay at the club, yesterday evening’s circus raises further questions about the Hasawi family, whose take-over of Nottingham Forest has been treated with increasing scepticism by Forest supporters since it was first confirmed last summer. There has been criticism of the club’s communication with supporters and the way that some associated with the club – especially club ambassador and former manager Frank Clark, who was released at the same time as Mark Arthur and Keith Burt – and yesterday’s events, in particularly the way in which the owners seem to have treated the manager of the club as well as reneging on the apparently agreed deal with Peterborough United on an apparent technicality. Of course, it is possible that the Forest owners genuinely do believe that not having perfect eyesight is a good enough reason to not sign a player – although this doesn’t sit particularly well with their apparent agreement to loaning Boyd for the rest of the season. With this in mind, we have compiled a quick squad of players that the current Nottingham Forest owners would also have only wanted to take on loan until the end of the season. The Al-Hasawi family, one rather feels, have some bridge-building to do if they are to rebuild their damaged reputations after yesterday’s events.
The Squad That The Al-Hasawi Family Would Only Take On Loan
David De Gea: It was reported at the start of last year that the Manchester United goalkeeper suffered from a condition that affects his long-range vision in one eye and which would need laser surgery to correct.
Defence: Nobby Stiles: The former Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Preston North End and England defender was famously short-sighted at the height of his career (in his autobiography “Banksy”, former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks, one would hope with a degree of irony, described him as “half-blind”), but played wearing contact lenses – no mean achievement, when we consider what the technology behind them might have been like almost fifty years ago. Joop Van Daele & Rinus Israel: Well, you may laugh at their ophthalmic sartorial inelegance, but Joop Van Daele and Rinus Israel were both top-class players for a great Feyenoord side in the late 1960s and Israel was the captain of the team that won the European Cup against Celtic in 1970, although he didn’t, we should add, wear his glasses in the final of that match. Lilian Thuram: After the fall-out which followed France’s dismal performance at the 2010 World Cup finals, Thuram was particularly scathing in his comments regarding the Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, who responded by saying, “Walking round with books on slavery in glasses and a hat does not turn you into Malcolm X.” Well. That told him.
Midfield: Kaka: In a 2008 interview, the Brazilian midfielder said that, “Until I got contact lenses at age 13 I always wore glasses. I really couldn’t see without them.” With his career at Real Madrid stalling, he had been linked with a loan move back to Milan. With nothing having reported as of close of business yesterday, it seems likely that he will be squinting at the rest of Real’s season from the substitutes bench. David Beckham: Of course, with this being David Beckham you can never be certain that there is actually a prescription lens in those glasses at all – you wouldn’t put it past him to wear a frame containing plain glass, would you? Still, though, he carries them off quite well, even if the Joe 90 look can be a little overbearing. Michael Ballack: The former Chelsea and Bayern Munich midfielder is understood to have a prescription of around -3.00, which would – if true, and we have no way of knowing this with any degree of certainty short of strapping him into gurney and force-testing him – make him moderately short-sighted. Paul Scholes: Although a quick search doesn’t reveal any pictures of the Manchester United midfielder wearing glasses, it is widely reported that he does wear contact lenses. Still not good enough for Nottingham Forest’s owners, mind. Bastian Schweinsteiger: Again, it’s not known – by us, at least – whether Schweinsteiger’s glasses have plain lenses in them or whether he actually needs them in order to be able to fully function, but there is certainly more than one photograph of him wearing glasses available online.
The Lone Striker:
George Weah: The former Monaco, PSG and Milan striker was the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1995, scorer of one of the finest individual goals that the game has ever seen and even ended up running to be the president of Liberia in 2005. He leads the forward line of this team, however, for his dedication to the spectacled cause.
The Bench: Kasey Keller, William Gallas, Darren Anderton, Edgar Davids, Marek Hamsik, Mario Ballotelli and, umm, Kevin Mouse. Of course, the point at which you start adding footballers that were actually cartoon characters rather than actually existing to your substitutes bench for a team made up of players who wear glasses is the point at which you should stop. And no, I’m not talking about Mario Ballotelli, there.
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