Kuwaiti owners are searching for Championship club's fourth manager in seven months since taking over at City Ground
Back in July, when the sun was shining and the City Ground seemed a much happier place to be, Nottingham Forest's new owners outlined "a three- to five-year business plan" aimed at restoring the club to the Premier League.
Seven months down the line and the al-Hasawi family are already looking for their fourth manager, Forest are drifting further away from the play-offs and a club with a rich history and proud tradition have become a laughing stock.
Alex McLeish's tenure as the Forest manager lasted 40 days before he decided enough was enough. In a statement confirming that he had departed by mutual consent, McLeish said there was "a difference of understanding of the development strategy", which in simple terms means that the manager and the owners were not singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to how they believe a football club should operate.
Strange, really, because only last week Fawaz al-Hasawi suggested the two of them were getting on famously, when the chairman denied reports of a rift and said he and McLeish were in regular dialogue. "We have a very good working relationship and it troubles me greatly that people think otherwise," Hasawi said.
The surprise in this latest Forest fiasco is not so much that McLeish has jumped ship so soon after replacing Sean O'Driscoll, but that he was naive enough to get on board in the first place. The alarm bells should have been ringing after other experienced managers gave Forest a wide berth in the summer, leaving the Kuwaiti owners looking rather foolish after they had talked about appointing an "iconic" manager. Another nice soundbite with no substance.
O'Driscoll took over from Steve Cotterill in July and, with his footballing principles, had Forest playing in the right way and heading in the right direction, only to be sacked on Boxing Day, a couple of hours after a 4-2 home win over Leeds that lifted the club to within a point of the play-offs. It was a brutal decision that was made all the more unfathomable when it emerged that McLeish, a man with a reputation for playing dour football, was O'Driscoll's successor.
A clear-out behind the scenes followed. Mark Arthur, the chief executive, Keith Burt, the head of recruitment, and Frank Clark, a former Forest chairman, manager and player who had been working in an ambassadorial role at the City Ground, were given their P45s. Maybe this is what the Hasawi family meant when they completed their takeover in the summer and said "we're here to reconstruct the club".
Hasawi tried to defend the decision to sack O'Driscoll by talking about the prospect of appointing a manager with Premier League experience and saying "with the January transfer window approaching, we feel it's the right time to make a change". All of which feels slightly ironic, given that McLeish's main grievance during the thoroughly underwhelming five-and-a-bit weeks he spent at the City Ground, during which he won one of his seven matches, concerned the lack of transfer activity.
McLeish failed to land several of his key targets, including Chris Burke, who scored both goals for Birmingham in the 2-1 win over Forest at St Andrew's on Saturday, although the straw that broke the camel's back proved to be the news that the owners had pulled the plug on a deal for Peterborough's George Boyd because of an alleged eye defect.
Signing Khaled al-Rashidi, a Kuwait international, was rather more straightforward. He was also not the only player Hasawi recommended to McLeish. "I've been offered some players and some players I have to say no to because I don't know much about them," McLeish said last week. It is tempting to wonder whether Brian Clough would have been quite so diplomatic if his time at the City Ground had coincided with foreign owners suggesting that he signed Kuwaiti goalkeepers.
Where Forest go from here is anyone's guess. Billy Davies, who was sacked as Forest manager in the summer of 2011 after two-and-a-half turbulent years at the City Ground, is the bookmakers' favourite. Nigel Adkins would be a popular choice, although it is understood that the 47-year-old is effectively on gardening leave because he has yet to reach a settlement with Southampton following his dismissal last month. Other names in the frame include Roy Keane, Paolo Di Canio and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
Whatever happens next, Forest's owners need to start delivering on a few promises. "It's pathetic what's been going on," said Garry Birtles, a former European Cup winner with Forest.
"It's so sad for the fans, they were euphoric in the summer when the al-Hasawis came over, they were all big smiles and there was happiness around the City Ground. There was so much optimism there. Now it's all gone again."