Tuesday, 6 January 2015

It's time for a change; it's time for stability.

This is an open letter to every Forest fan - including Mr Fawaz Al Hasawi - about the importance of stability, at a time when this football club needs it the most.

Lets set aside for a moment Stuart Pearce's status, and whether because of his many years of loyalty and love for Nottingham Forest he deserves more time. The question is whether, in the cold light of day, Forest would be better placing emotion and attachment aside and making yet another change.

The likelihood of being under the FFP transfer embargo until the summer of 2016 makes promotion this season even more attractive - yet we are 9 points outside the playoff positions. Our season has stalled - but a change now would all but end our promotion chances this season.

Managers who come in part way through a season have not had the opportunity to form a truly winning formula, because much of the work towards this is done pre-season. They may be able to patch up some aspects of the team's play that are especially vulnerable, but against the best teams in the league, they are at too much of a disadvantage.

Of the 30 teams promoted from The Championship since it's inception, only 2 have changed their manager part way through a season. 93.3% of teams promoted from The Championship had the same manager throughout that campaign.

If we want to maintain any hope of promotion this season (just as I suggested last March) we need to stick with the current regime. Changing manager is catastrophic to short term promotion chances because promotion from The Championship is a building process.

This is reflected in the amount of time it takes. There have been 30 teams promoted from The Championship - only 9 on these teams have been led by managers in their first season at a club (see chart, right). The large majority of teams promoted have done so with a manager established for multiple seasons - by far the most common timetable is aiming for promotion at the second attempt.

We need to view Stuart Pearce's first season in charge - as with any other manager - as a bedding in period. It was always unlikely, that Forest would achieve promotion in this first year of his tenure.

So we can see clubs usually need stability to build up to a promotion. The average amount of time successful managers have needed to get their club promoted is 694 days (from appointment to end of season promoted). All that sacking a manager does is send the club back to the drawing board, in effect restarting the promotion clock.

This is reflected in the current Championship league table (see right, correct on 05/01/14*, showing teams position cross-referenced with manager's days in the job). Looking at the top ten clubs, we can see a strong correlation between teams doing well and the length of time their manager has been at the club.

Forest are 11th, with Pearce having been in charge 184 full days. We can see that nine out of the ten higher placed clubs have longer serving managers*, while conversely the majority of clubs below have new managers.

We have to take into account when considering this information that being lower in the league table is going to get managers sacked - which will mean many of those managers will naturally have less days in a job.

However, while this can account for more recently appointed managers (Brighton and Reading for example in 16th & 21st), in such an open league the majority of teams have had ample time to climb the table, especially if changing manager has such a positive effect on results, yet the top ten is still dominated by clubs with managerial stability.

It is no surprise, therefore, that the four strongest clubs (Bournemouth, Ipswich, Derby and Middlesbrough) all have firmly established managers in place.

Championship chairmen should look to Mick McCarthy when considering making a change. He has twice gained promotion in season three of his tenure; at Sunderland in 2004/05 and Wolves in 2008/09. Ominously, this is his third season in charge of Ipswich. The Tractor Boys have a great chance of top-flight football next season, because they've given their manager time.

All the evidence suggests - as well as plain common sense - that stability is important for a club to be successful in The Championship. Forest have been happy to juggle managers too freely since the glory days. Brian Clough was manager for 18 years and 4 months - in the 21 years and 7 months since his departure Forest have changed boss 17 times. The fortunes of this club are a compelling argument for stability.

But today we need stability even more. We are currently under a transfer embargo, and will be for the foreseeable future - a new manager will be severely handicapped when attempting to bring in his own players.

The difficulty in signing players during the FFP embargo has, in my opinion, been significantly downplayed. I have heard people suggest we will be paying players just under £12,000; this is unlikely. Forest can only spend £600,000 per annum on any new player - signing on fees, agents fees, insurance and any other expenses such as accommodation all have to come out of this total. Agents fees alone cost the club £1,199,442 last year.

We will barely be able to afford to offer players the average Championship wage (which in November 2014 was £9,347 and rising) - the players we are able to attract to Forest permanently will struggle to get in our side; they will be players nobody else wants.

Any new manager will have to manage, largely, with the players already here: a squad built largely by Pearce, to play to the strengths of Pearce's plan.

I would also draw your attention to our next away match. Our friends down the A52 would like nothing better than to be the club that dethrones Stuart Pearce - a quick read of Twitter or any of their forums will show you they are rubbing their hands together at the thought.

Prospects of a good result at Derby look poor - but we must stick together. If Derby contribute to the sacking of Pearce, we will be hearing about it for decades. A petty reason perhaps, but I can't bear the thoughts of sitting there at every Derby game for the foreseeable future, listening to them gleefully singing "where's your Psycho gone?"

And if logic isn't enough to convince you - if the knowledge that clubs need stability to succeed in this league, and that Forest need it now more than ever - and the recognition that the Sheep would love to see Pearce fail, we should remember who we're dealing with.

This isn't Billy Davies in charge of Forest, or even someone more likable like Colin Calderwood or Sean O'Driscoll.

I refute Stuart Pearce's legendary status - he is not a Forest legend, he is something more than that; he is one of us. He is a man we can trust to give everything for Nottingham Forest, someone who won't choose to fob us off or mislead, someone who will share our pain and our joy equally.

We've got a chance for something special here at Forest - a chance for success under a leader who actually cares as much for this club as me and you. It would be criminal to throw away this opportunity because we could not hold our nerve.

Not only do we owe Stuart Pearce our allegiance for all that he's done for Forest in the past, we owe it to ourselves to give our club a chance to build some stable foundations, rather than pressing the self-destruct button every season and having to start from scratch.

Make no mistake, if Pearce goes, we will not be promoted this season, and it would be miraculous for a new manager to get us up in 2015/16 - in his first season, shackled by the FFP embargo.

Whatever happens in the next few weeks - and I suspect we're in for one or two horrible moments, we need to stand together and get behind the manager. It is time for a change. It's time for Forest to abandon their habit of swapping managers every time they encounter tough times.

It's time for a change, it's time for stability.
Thanks for reading, and COYR!

* Norwich are in 7th - I have still included Neil Adams' in the table, despite his resignation yesterday, because Norwich's position has come under his tenure, so the information is still relevant.


  1. Replies
    1. Give Psycho more time. I fully agree with Boffin's article.

  2. As always, a very informative and thought provoking article, Boffin. Like many, I have my doubts about Pearce's talents as a manager in the long run, but I also don't underestimate the absolute mess that Billy left in his wake. I also think that some of that mess can be attributed to mistakes our dear Fawaz has made since taking over.

    Pearce has made massive improvements off the pitch, while also making a few decent signings for the squad. So long as relegation isn't looming, he deserves to see out his full contract and be given the opportunity to carry out his plan for the club.

    I remain in full support of Pearce.


    1. Agree with this, got to stick with him even more so, even though things are going poorly!

    2. That's my thoughts exactly Mr Champan. Pearce has everything to prove as a manager, but we shouldn't be bottling it at this stage, because it will only do the club harm. We've got to stick with somebody - all the better if it's one of our own.

  3. Brilliant article Boffy

  4. Good sensible post.

  5. That is the best, most articulate and well presented article I've read in a long time and I agree 100% with your sentiments. Very well done.

  6. What a truly well written article - I love the positivity of it and it is so right - WE MUST SUPPORT Stuart, the team and the board if we are to move out of the Championship within a couple of years - I agree with every comment 100% - Well done to the author

  7. Anyone want to email this to fawaz?

  8. I'm not on twitter, but can you post links and tag Fawaz in the post or something? Think he needs to be aware of what the majority of Forest fans want.

  9. The reason that 93.3% of teams who got promoted last year didn't change managers, is because they were at the top of the table, doing well, and there was no need to change managers.

    The teams at the top have the longest serving managers because they are good at their jobs, the clubs can see progress - they aren't doing well because they have long serving managers, they have long serving managers because they are doing well.

    The insinuation you are making is that time is the key element. Give a manager enough time and they will eventually do a fantastic job and get you promoted.

    It simply isn't true, otherwise no club would ever sack any manager.

    We are not doing well, we are not at the top we are getting worse and worse and heading for the bottom.

    Some managers are good, some are poor, the good ones stay in their jobs longer and their teams do well, hence top teams have longer serving managers.

    They aren't top teams BECAUSE they have longer serving managers.

    You've got it all back to front.

    1. I can understand your point about the cause and effect being a particular way round, but surely you see that the point is that a club has to give a manager time to be successful. If has has that time and he's not successful then fine, sack him, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater by sacking him after such a short period.

      That's what got you (I'm a neutral) into the mess you're in in the first place, Fawaz's constant sacking of managers.

    2. This argument would work if we could quantify who is a "good" manager and who is a "bad" one. But we can't because things don't work like that. Football has a random aspect to it - something which 46 games only exacerbates. The fact remains that the chances of ANY manager getting you up in year 1 of his tenure is low. I'm sure if there was a guy who guaranteed success every club would want him. Such people do not exist though.

    3. Those are sensible counter arguments - thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      You say 93.3% stuck with the same manager because they were at the top doing well - but this doesn't take into account the topsy turvy nature of the Championship, not the playoff system. We would expect this stat to be a high proportion, but 93% is massive.

      SInce the 04/05 season, 30% of the teams finishing in the top two were not in these positions after 21 games (the 21 games may seem random, it's research I'd already done)- that's nearly a third who were NOT at the top of the table.

      And of all the 10 playoff winners, only 1 had changed manager (Crystal Palace) - despite the fact that there were quite a few clubs in there who could have pushed this figure up.

      What I'm saying it that we would expect that 93.3% to be lower were it as you say. Why is the "length of tenure" stat (93.3%) higher that the "in the top 2 after 21 games" stat (70%) - if what you say is true it would be the other way round.

      Between this and the playoffs not producing more new managers, in my opinion it's useful evidence that goes against your argument.

      I'm not saying you're talking rubbish, just that the 93% is too high not to be a factor.

  10. I'm all for stability but with Pearce it just feels like stability for the sake of being stable. You stick with something or someone when you've found what's worth sticking with.

    I fail to see what Stuart Pearce has ever done as a manager to prove this. Mccarthy, Howe, Pearson, McClaren... they all have. Yeah, they've all had failures but they came in and taken their clubs forward right from the off. Why would they get fired? We're even more dire than I ever feared we'd be under Pearce. It seems to me that we looked good until he'd had any real time to get his coaching methods across and we've got progressively worse as the season has gone on.

    That said, I wouldn't sack him this season. Why? Because I have even less faith in our owner picking a replacement of any reasonable competence than I have in Pearce's ability as a manager.

    1. McCarthy only got promotions because he was given 2 or 3 years to achieve them. Stability is often for stability's sake - that's EXACTLY the point. Being asked to get promotion to tough enough as it is. Being asked to get it in one year is, as the facts show, against the odds.

    2. Thanks for reading guys.

      The McCarthy/proven manager argument is interesting, but can I turn it around?

      People say you stick with McCarthy because he's proven and you know he'll do well, but I'd say, if it takes a proven manager like McCarthy several seasons to get a team up, why should we expect Pearce, an unproven manager, to do it quicker? If we're saying Pearce is worse than McCarthy, surely it ought to take him longer?

      Herr Absurd is right, we need that same stability to give SP a chance to succeed (or fail).

  11. Great article, I've been really disappointed this season but when it's put into perspective in such a way as this it makes real sense to stick with Pearce!

  12. This is a interesting and well written article but I think you're wrong. A lot of what you're saying is spin.
    The most important question is a simple one: Do Pearce seem to good manager?
    Taking everything into account i'd come to the conclusion - NO.
    I'm yet to see one good argument that suggests he is.

    1. You haven't had enough time/got enough data to make that judgement though. And if you're making it on his past managerial career, pre Forest, then why hire him in the first place...?

    2. I would ask Dj who he thinks is a good manager, preferably backed up with evidence of past successes. And, this being his approach, presumably he would never have chosen Pearce in the first place.

      People overate the the affect a manager can have. Sometimes, often, it is just the players not doing their job.

    3. I promise you it's not spin pal. I research every article with a clean page and to be fair I've probably criticised SP as much as anybody.

      Evidence of him being a good manager - well he got it right at the start of the season.

  13. Pearce needs 2 seasons min

  14. The talking is over and so is PEARCE. 2 in 19 PEARCE OUT PEARCE OUT PEARCE OUT

  15. I loved Stuart Pearce as a player. Psycho on the pitch he will always be to me. Off it however, he is a quiet spoken well mannered individual that does not have the power over people that you need to succeed in management.
    Look at your own boss, is he a leader of men? Or a nice bloke you are mates with.
    I do not want to see our leader sacked, it would devastate me. I am sorry to say though, a great man he will always be, a strong leader of men, he will never be.
    Sorry Psycho, your nanny state style of management will end in an unruly, rabble of uncontrollable teenagers, just like the rest of the country now has to suffer. Man up and sort them out, now

    1. We just don't have any evidence one way or another on that though - unless you're sat in on the team-talks and training.

      Is that you again Reidy?

  16. Good article, I agree with it mainly however there is the question of capability. Time on it's own is not enough to secure promotion, the manager needs to be capable of managing a team to achieve this goal.

    At the moment I'm not sure if Pearce can do it but sacking him now proves nothing and if statistically managers will achieve success in 2 - 3 years then we must give him the time to achieve our goal.

    Pearce was my hero growing up and he has to be the best man for the job because no one else can give as much as he does. Also, as a player how can you not be moved by what Pearce says. They just need to realise that they have to deliver, they must give everything, drop their egos, play with confidence and think about what could be possible and not what might go wrong.


    1. Spot on Al, and thanks for reading.

      I'm not sure either - but as you say, sacking him now would achieve nothing.

  17. my sentiments exactly, its about time we stopped panicking and trying to achieve promotion with out building over a sustained period of stability,it has not worked over the years after Brian not all great managers started off flying look at sir Alex look what happened after he was given time!.
    If we don't get promotion this year we won't stop loving Forest so why not try and build for the future.

    1. This is exactly the point. All the managers we've had since Sir Brian left - it's no wander we're struggling to get in the country's top 30.

      Build build build! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  18. A club is more than it's successes. Do people really want to sacrifice Pearce for the chance to play a few seasons in the Premier League? Is that the end goal? For me the end goal is for the club I support to be one worth supporting - I could not stand another Billy Davies or even a Jose Mourinho. It needs to Pearce, because he's one of us, he does care, he's a class fucking act and doesn't bullshit anyone.

    Too many people play Football Manager and follow OPTA on Twitter, then think they're experts on tactics.

    The biggest culprits for our lack of success on the field have been a few players. We know who they are. Also, the lack of leadership on the field is terrifying - Hobbs, Cohen and Reid will remedy this.

    Don't be that club that has fucking plastic moaning fanbase, I've had enough of that. Cheer on the sodding club whether we're top or bottom, it doesn't matter, it should be the same.

    1. I love this comment - but I'm not sure how many other will because when I say 'there are more important things than winning' in the pub I get laughed at.

      But there are.

      Championship with Pearce or Champions League with Mourinho? I'd like to see the results of that poll...

    2. I think we know the answer to that poll.

      I got goosebumps when I hear the crowd singing and chanting players names when we're 3-0 down, not 3-0 up. There's got to be a reason for that.

  19. A superb blog based on facts and common sense. But your own figures seem to suggest that the time most managers are going to take their team up is in the first two years of management. Thereafter, the chances drop off steeply. I would give Stuart Pearce two years to achieve the promotion we all want so much in any case. This is STUART PEARCE we are talking about. He has earned the right to be given the chance because of all he sweated for Nottingham Forest in the red shirt with the tree on his left breast. The arguments Boffin brings up here only point out that this is eminently sensible from a practical point of view as well. Changing managers does not work if you want success. It is, as Boffin says, merely resetting the clock on your chances of achieving. The way forward for the foreseeable future should be with Pearce at the helm. He deserves that respect and Forest deserve to give themselves a chance for a change. But should he get 2 years and we are still a mid-table side well then it will be time to see what else is available out there again. Personally, I don't see Forest doing it this year. As to next year, who knows? But we will achieve nothing changing managers every year.

    1. Great post.

    2. Sensible post thanks for reading.

      I'd be happy if we followed your timetable - depending on how we did next season, personally I'd be inclined to give him another. Sacking SP would be a wrench at any stage - but I think when he realised he couldn't get the job done he'd go of his own accord.

      Someone asked at what stage I'd get rid THIS season? How bad would it have to be? Pearce is honest enough that he's go on his own - but as long as I thought he'd keep us up - as long as we're not bottom of the league or something like that, I think we should stick with him and try the stability route. This is a more difficult question though.

  20. PS I forgot to add that there is one other analysis of the facts I would like to see. Add in an analysis of transfer funds in relation to teams who go up. Longevity of managership alone cannot be the only relevant factor. I bet those going up had the best budgets too. And now Forest are under a transfer ban. Hmmmm.

    1. I'd love to do this but the information just isn't attainable.

      It's a struggle to get transfer fees at all - often they are just guesses - and then there are signing on fees and agents fees.

      I wouldn't feel comfortable using this data in a proper assessment. But it's something that I would do if I could.

  21. If you win matches and are in the play offs, sure you wont be sacked. the statistics used here are bollocks, but I agree with the principle on stability. BUT, you have to have stability with the right manager in place. So the question is really if Stuart Pearce is the manager we want to try and build a long time strategy with, His football is awful. Just not with us but also with Man City and England. His teams, at least up til now, do not score enough goals. There is nothing in his past that suggests that he is the right candidate for the manager job. Exept that he is a Forest boy, he loves the club and has got a real standing with the fans. But those are all secondary to the fact that he does not seem to get teams to play and win.

    1. Which manager, in your view, guarantees success? Back it up with factual evidence. I'm sure every club in the league wants to know who that might be.

    2. Everyone will bum of this article because they are desperate for Pearce to do well but looking at it logically you've hit the nail on the head.

    3. Thanks for reading!

      I refer you to the answer I made above. Someone pointed out that, for example, the 93.3% was high for the exact reason you said, because these were at the top already.

      I do address this in the article, and soften the statistics - but I also point out that they would not be THAT conclusive, were what you say correct.

      For example, someone above poo pooed the 93.3% statistic, saying these teams are already at the top. BUT our previous research (from another article on Dec 21st) has shown that the eventual to 2 teams were only there 70% of the time.

      Why is the teams position on the "21st of December" stat (70%), less then the "stability" stat (93%), if what you say is true?

      Teams that do well have good managers agreed, but good managers need time. You completely ignore all those managers who have proven their worth at this level but are sacked early because they've not got it right instantly.

      But thanks for reading and every criticism is valued positive or negative.

  22. Top article. Couldn't have put it better myself.

  23. Totally agree, so much so I wrote my own blog on it :)

    1. I like your blog Iain, I'll add it to my links when I get around to updating them - which is long overdue.

  24. I agree that stability is needed and it's refreshing to read something that doesn't come down to blind faith or 'he's one of us'. However whilst I too, wish for a long term and stable manager, every week becomes another example of why that man should not be Stuart Pearce.
    2 wins in 19 has been been used more than Danny Fox's long balls, and with good reason. The idea that if he has enough time in the job, he will one day wake up competent and tactically aware is nonsensical. He hasn't shown in the time he's had that he has any idea what his best side is, and what his best formation is.
    Constant squad changes are not stable, different formations every game are not stable.
    I could accept the league position and losing to Rochdale if there were indications that the team were getting there, but those indications simply don't exist.
    Like everyone else who shares my opinion, I wish my doubts could be proved wrong, but they won't be.

    1. Besides Forest, I have reason to support Bayern Munich. Pep Guardiola changes his team every game. He changes formations not just every game but often several times in the same game. Are these signs that Guardiola is no good as a manager? Football is about more than tactics and managerial decisions. Something often overlooked is that only a very few clubs in a season can ever win anything. If the good managers win and the bad ones never do then the various football leagues are full of a lot of dross. Personally, I would be looking at a lot of the players that Pearce has put out this season. If they look in the mirror you would hope many of them realise that they haven't put a proper shift in.

  25. Australian view point. The most amazing thing about this article is the 52 comments. That is more than Boffin has had in the last two years. What an emotional subject. Everyone knows that stability is important. But a club up high is less likely to sack it's manager. So there is some element of chicken and egg. Is it the stability, the players or the managerial ability that gets you there? It's a bit of each. I think Boffins numbers are important although not the whole story (as he would be the first to admit). At what stage does the quest for stability get overtaken by the poor results of what may be "average" managerial performance? And how do you judge if you are looking at "average managerial" performance rather someone being new in a job.

    Forest started well and were consistent, and have gradually got worse and less consistent-the opposite to what you would expect under a new manager. The tactics have appeared increasingly desperate. Injuries to Cohen, Reid and Hobbs certainly didn't help but you still have a strong squad on paper. No-one denies that Pearce the player, and Pearce the person is a Forest legend. But tactics and team motivation appear "average". Clough and Taylor's first full season at Derby they finished 5th from bottom in the second division!!

    What a great article and what great passion from the Forest faithful.

  26. I'm not advocating for Pearce to be fired but at what point do you ignore the stability argument and worry about relegation? obviously we are not there yet but given that the current run shows no signs of improving do we stick with Pearce even if it means potentially going down?

  27. After a week of Marks kebab diet, I am even more convinced that Pearce is the right man. How I put the two together I agree is puzzling but it works for boffin with his stats


  28. The whole Pearce debate is coloured by emotion which was largely the reason for the appointment.
    On the basis of stability we should have stuck with Big eck and Mclaren.
    Both of them went in no time on the basis of results.
    Sean O driscoll also went on the basis of results apparently but would along with John Pemberton and the rest of the club infrastructure and collective knowledge - that was literally destroyed by Billy Davies - have provided long term stability and vision without grauitous spending. Football with a midfield and players coached from an early age to make the right decisions on the pitch.
    I thought Fawaz was a man of wisdom when he appointed Sean but bent to the usual vocal minority who now crave stability, but the evidence on the pitch reminiscent of Platt and Megson in their different ways, point to the fact that he is sticking with the wrong management team.
    The best feelgood factor i ve felt about Forest in recent years was postmatch Boxing day 2012 in the Navigation after we d dismantled a then half decent Leeds team on television in a similar way to which SOD s Doncaster had done to us on the same date a few years before(0-4 i believe) to bring about Calderwoods sacking immediately postmatch. That feelgood factor lasted about 3hrs until the news filtered though of Seans sacking. He d had no summer to prepare, picked up remnents on the whole player wise, certainly nowhere near the ability we now have at our disposal but had us 7th and a few days later before Big Eck arrived his team matched runaway leaders Crystal palace on our pitch.
    So compare the evidence and is there any sense in stability with the present management.
    My fear now is that we will continue to drift down the table and Fawaz will indeed pull the trigger (he didnt spend 5 million on a striker for lower mid table mediocrity} and we will have another poor appointment and spending that could well cause him to throw in the towel.
    It would be best to keep the staus quo to the end of the season and then make an appointment based on the Swansea / O Driscoll / and yes Clough at Derby model - long term plan built on strong footballing and development foundations not marquee signings and and cerebral rather than blood and guts philosophy.
    My suggestion Paul Tisdale (Google him)with a like minded coaching team of the likes of Pemberton, Hart, Mcparland etc but i doubt whether the vocal / emotional / we want our Billy back brigade would be any more patient with them than they were with O Driscoll
    If Fawaz is swayed by the fans and emotion again i m afraid for the future.

  29. Clearly, Fawaz didn't listen to any of us

    1. I'm still not over it Jon. Mrs told me on Tuesday "Take that look off you're face, you're getting on my tits now. Man up it's only bloody football!" See what sympathy I get haha.

  30. Well all the doubters have got their wish!
    What we have just done is destroyed our season completely.
    Stuart Pearce was and is a good manager. He was not given time to prove this. We have had some very good managers over the years that have not been given the time (or money, when we had none) to be successful.
    Stuart Pearce will always be our "Psycho!" and I for one will always respect him for what he has bought to our club over the years.
    What we need to remember is we are screwed now, we have no chance to whatsoever of getting any more decent players, but he was bringing our youths through.
    On this note all I can say is Good luck Dougie your going to need it!!

    1. I don't know if we've destroyed our season - I don't think promotion was on the agenda (realistically) this year.

      But this makes it even worse in my opinion. SP and Faulkner, and all the other staff, were clearly building for the future, not that's all been ripped out. We are starting from scratch. It's not destroyed our season (unless it causes relegation), but it's destroyed the last 7 months worth of building.

      We will indeed need to bring through the youth - who would have been better than Pearce for that?

      I too think SP could have turned into a good manager - sad times. Thanks for the comment.

  31. Wow 58 comments! Thanks for reading everyone. Would have gotten around to replying to all individually but it's a bit of a mute point now he's gone.