In praise of Sean O’Driscoll

With a new era underway at Nottingham Forest, Peter Blackburn considers the stewardship of former Doncaster Rovers manager, Sean O-Driscoll.

Sean O’Driscoll’s tenure at Nottingham Forest has begun in the most bizarre of circumstances. Having been employed as an assistant to Steve Cotterill at the club during the second half of last season, O’Driscoll left the Reds to join ambitious Crawley Town at the close of the season, despite Forest fans and players alike being desperate to keep him on board. Since the sacking of Steve Cotterill, the club has been linked with a litany of new bosses, most with big names and big ego’s – O’Driscoll’s name came somewhat from the left-field, but will no doubt be welcomed by most.

Clearly, the new boss’ time at Crawley never really began, but in this instance, criticism or snipes about loyalty are way off the mark. In the same circumstances, the opportunity to move to a relatively big club where you have had a relative taste of success must be difficult to ignore. On top of this, which of us wouldn’t move jobs within a short-time frame if the offer was so tempting in so many ways? It is relatively accepted knowledge that should he have had the ‘ambition’, O’Driscoll could have left Doncaster for a relatively big-spending Sheffield United side that had designs on the Rovers boss several years ago. Despite the interest, O’Driscoll is said to have made it clear that he had a project from which he could not be moved.

O’Driscoll is something of a mystery. A shadowy persona with little time for wearing heart on sleeve, the man is quiet and reserved with the press, but disciplined and organised when it comes to returning to the training ground. The oft-quoted Goalfood interview, shows the thought processes that make the man – O Driscoll is a thinker, but not just gentle and kind, he will not suffer fools gladly.

British football has long placed too significant an emphasis on the sort of traits that while pleasant and stirring are ultimately secondary to more technical and thoughtful traits. Many managers, including a few in Nottingham Forest’s recent history behave almost literally in a lunatic fashion, screaming and shouting their way through their careers. Unlike many, O’Driscoll prefers a thoughtful approach – or rather is a more thoughtful character. The new Forest gaffer is a man of philosophy, of idealised pragmatism and a motivator who understands how to bring the brilliant out of an average player. On top of that, he applies the sort of football that embodies these characteristics. Remind you of anyone? I’m generally loathe to make Clough comparisons in Forest pieces, and I’m not really intending to here, simply to make the point that the great man had characteristics that made him so and O’Driscoll has some similarly worthy characteristics worthy of praise.

Football fans are unlikely to be happy for truly great periods – only silverware can have such an effect, but the brand of football that O’Driscoll is likely to bring to the City Ground should have a markedly positive effect – such philosophies having been seen only in patches since Brian Clough’s tenure. In this enlightening piece on The Two Unfortunates, Glen Wilson elegantly describes the uplifting effect that the man had while at Doncaster. Despite the recognition that lack of a Plan B can be criticised, if the brand of football in plan A is so impressive then fans should be willing to give the man time to find his Plan B, or trust that more often than not Plan A will work effectively enough to bring success.

But what are Forest fans to expect and anticipate during these times? Perhaps one of the most perfect aspects of the O’Driscoll appointment is that the media circus that accompanied the appointment of Steve McClaren, a year ago, will hopefully be relatively uninterested in the stirrings at the City Ground. In O’Driscoll Forest have a near perfect appointment for the times that the club face. The shadows lie long at the City Ground, a place that needs rebuilding from the very bottom up. There are many great things at this once great club, still remaining, but the stadium and the playing squad need a fundamental revamp. The academy must not be forgotten among the clamour for new players and with new investment and new sources of revenue, Forest have a dramatically fertile opening to build a new future based on stimulated growth of the club from within.

In terms of on the pitch success, Forest must not be over-ambitious. The best laid plans take time, and as such O’Driscoll must build a side in his image, hopefully using the still multiple talents of the remaining playing squad. Should the owners be as patient as is hoped, an initial three-year-plan (roughly) to successfully challenge for promotion would be more than enough success for this club.

The appointment of Sean O’Driscoll has the potential for great things. This might not be a big name manager, but this is a man of fortitude and philosophy – the right man for Nottingham Forest. 



You can follow Peter on Twitter: @petermblackburn

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