Nottingham Forest have risked an angry backlash from some of their supporters after the club's Kuwaiti owners appointed Alex McLeish as their new manager. The 53-year-old Scot, who has been out of work since he was sacked as Aston Villa manager in May, has taken over at the City Ground little more than 24 hours after Sean O'Driscoll was surprisingly sacked.
McLeish emerged as the clear frontrunner for the position earlier in the day when his odds tumbled on the betting markets, prompting a number of supporters to contact Fawaz Al-Hasawi, the club's chairman and co-owner, via Twitter, to express their displeasure at the possibility of the former Scotland manager replacing O'Driscoll. Hasawi responded to the messages he received from Forest supporters prior to McLeish's appointment, tweeting: "I'm grateful for the opinions of our fans. Please be assured I'm working hard to do the right thing for the club."
A few hours later McLeish was named Forest's 12th manager in less than a decade. He will be officially unveiled on Friday, after taking training, and will take charge of his first game as the club's manager when Crystal Palace visit the City Ground on Saturday. He inherits a side eighth in the Championship and a point outside the play-offs, following the 4-2 victory over Leeds United on Boxing Day that proved to be O'Driscoll's final game as manager.
Although McLeish won promotion from the Championship during his time in charge of Birmingham City and went on to secure a ninth-placed finish in the Premier League and win the League Cup, he also endured two relegations and has a reputation for playing dour and unattractive football, which is in sharp contrast to the style associated with O'Driscoll.
McLeish's decision to move across Birmingham and take the Villa job in the summer of 2011 was highly controversial and badly backfired when he was dismissed at the end of his first season in charge. Villa narrowly avoided relegation and McLeish's position became untenable.
He claimed, however, that he feels reinvigorated after a seven-month break from football. "I'm really looking forward to working with Nottingham Forest," McLeish said. "I've had time away from the game and now feel refreshed and ready to go. The fact that a club of Forest's magnitude has offered me a job excites me greatly – it's a wonderful opportunity. I can't wait to get started and I'm looking forward to meeting the players, talking to them and taking my first training session."
Forest's ambitious owners, who took control of the club in July, are desperate to win promotion to the Premier League this season and believe McLeish is the right man to deliver on that objective. They will make significant funds available to McLeish when the transfer window reopens next week.
"I'm delighted to welcome Alex to our club and look forward to working with him," Hasawi said. "Alex took Birmingham to promotion from the Championship and has great experience of working in the Premier League. He's hungry for more success and I believe he's the man who can help us fulfil our ambition of making it to the Premier League."
Earlier in the day Roy Keane, a former Forest player, had been strongly linked with the post, although Roberto Di Matteo was the supporters' favourite for the position. It always seemed unlikely, however, that Di Matteo, who won the FA Cup and European Cup with Chelsea only seven months ago, would be willing to drop into the Championship. McLeish had no qualms on that front and will immediately set about trying to win over the dissenting voices.