"...this is the most articulate and accurate piece written about the club for years!" - Tales from the Front, http://www.otib.co.uk/

Monday, 14 January 2013

A Forest view of Sean O'Driscoll

So, it's SOD.

The Bristol City board acted quickly today to snare their man and appointed Sean O'Driscoll to the position of head coach.  This new title befits a club with a new, you could say modern approach to squad building and transfer policy

Although he's a name known to many, I plan to offer some additional insight into our new gaffer (I'm sure he'll be called that, head coach or not!) on these pages over the next few days.

The first in a trumverate of posts on the appointment of Sean O'Driscoll on The Exiled Robin comes from a previous, and always welcome contributor to the site.  Steve Wright, from 'Mist Rolling in from the Trent' has been kind enough to pen (or key) his thoughts on City's latest appointment, reflecting on what O'Driscoll brought to Nottingham during his albeit brief, abruptly shortened, stay at the City Ground.

"The great thing about Sean O’Driscoll only being Nottingham Forest manager for 5 brief months is that you can basically say what you like about his tenure and claim some sort of basis for your argument. For some he was overly considerate of the strengths of opposition teams, lacked ambition and provided inconsistent results and performances on the pitch. For others he was the key to a long term building process that could provide success on the pitch, attractive football for the spectator and crucially would be underpinned by solid foundations that would sustain the club well beyond his own management.
We will never know which of these two opposing views would have proved correct in the end, or more likely where on the spectrum between them Forest would have ended up if they had only given him a sensible amount of time. As it is the owners despatched their manager with either inhuman or decisive haste, again depending on where you sit in the debate.
In hindsight it is difficult to believe that O’Driscoll was ever the man the new owners wanted to appoint and that he was probably seen right from day one as a stop gap until a preferred option became available. I would even go as far as to say that I would be surprised if they even knew anything meaningful about his managerial achievements before they offered him the job on the suggestion of the players.
When they arrived at the club in July they expressed a desire for an “iconic” manager, a term which has come back to haunt them but was probably just a case of trying to express enthusiasm in a second language. Various names were linked but we know that Mick McCarthy was courted strongly before turning them down and Alex McLeish, now installed, advised that it was too soon for him to return to the game.
Following those setbacks, possibly others as well, O’Driscoll was appointed on Thursday 19 July just 25 days before the club’s first competitive match of the season and having just sold the only remaining senior defender in the squad, Chris Gunter, to Reading. With the squad totally unbalanced and in need of major re-construction the agenda was set for the new man by the lack of any recognised first team defenders and he acted quickly to rectify that.
The rhetoric was all about long term building though so there was no reason for concern. A top half finish was generally considered a good target for the season and the owners were full of talk of consolidation and laying foundations. Surely we had just the right man for the job.
All that quickly changed and having spent some money, a substantial amount in itself but quite a bit less than some of our rivals and on a threadbare squad in a desperate last minute situation rather than over a number of seasons, it all became about this season. Blowing a large sum on Jermaine Jenas, a player the manager clearly didn’t feel he needed and who anyway was struggling with long term injury, just upped the expectation whilst disrupting the building process and suggested the owners wanted to be more involved than the manager might have liked.
After 157 days McLeish became available and the owners took the opportunity to ditch their quiet, understated manager for a high profile name and were no doubt surprised that many Forest fans and observers from the wider game considered them barking mad for doing so. For those of us bought into O’Driscoll’s methods it was a devastating blow.
So what did we see of him in his tragically brief tenure? An intelligent man who clearly loves his football and will explain in detail what he is trying to achieve and how. For some this was too many words and not enough jumping up and down on the touchline but for any student of the game it was fascinating.
O’Driscoll is a team guy who collaborates with the club’s other staff for the greater good rather than for his own publicity and ego development. He thinks about the future and tries to empower his players to make decisions on the pitch. He looks to instil a DNA into the club that will outlive his own role and serve as the basis for future development.
What all of this means is that he is not a quick fix. As players adjust to his methods they make mistakes and although sometimes it clicks and is a joy to watch at others it falls flat and is horrific. The question is do you trust him or not? I did and I was far from alone but there were plenty of others who didn’t and that included our owners.
Some fans jumped on the traditional Forest favourite of a manager with Doncaster and Bournemouth dominating his CV being unworthy of such a big club as ours, but whatever the scale of your ambitions the approach is sound and he is an ideal man to lay the groundwork for a strategy that focuses on player development and playing intelligent, possession football.
It is reported that City have told O’Driscoll he will be allowed to lead the club in his own way even if the club is relegated. If that level of trust and support are provided, alongside the relatively strong financial capability of the club, then you will have made a very good appointment in my view and I will be watching with interest and hoping that you reap rewards for bringing a good and talented man back into the game."

Thanks to Steve for this detailed description of O'Driscoll and what he will bring to BS3 - if we allow him time.  What is clear from the above is that this is a man built to last, someone who, to use modern football parlance, seems well suited to a 'project', and not one of those that means a rich oil tycoon throwing Arab dollars at a once-famous club in the hope they will one day again reach the top.

I've picked a few quotes out from the above that should fill all City fans with hope, promise and hopefully give us all a shot of patience - look at what we could have:

"he is an ideal man to lay the groundwork for a strategy that focuses on player development and playing intelligent, possession football"

"a team guy who collaborates with the club’s other staff for the greater good rather than for his own publicity and ego development"

"sometimes it clicks and is a joy to watch"

There are of course other quotes I could have pulled out. Those relating to the time it will take some players to adapt to his style, the lack of jumping up & down on the touchline (how long before an OTIB post that he's not passionate enough?) or the overly considerate approach to other teams strengths, something I alluded to as one of McInnes' failings in my weekend musings over his sacking (http://exiledrobin.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/its-not-all-about-results.html?showComment=1358203433664).

Whatever happens a critical 20 games lie ahead and we must all give our total support to everything the new man tries to do and the team he selects on the pitch.

We're all in this together, aren't we?

The Exiled Robin

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