Should he stay or should he go?

By Daniel Mounser
Last updated : 06 November 2003
Paul Hart is Nottingham Forest through and through. He's been a player at the club and was top of the Youth Academy tree for a number of years before his appointment as first-team boss in July 2001.

With the managers' desk came lots of baggage. His first job as boss was to get rid of the dead wood and cut the wage bill significantly otherwise the Reds faced an uncertain future in administration. Players were shipped out such as Chris Bart-Williams, Andy Johnson, Alan Rogers and Stern John - for only nominal fees.

The previous manager (who won't be named for swearing reasons) wasted shedloads of cash in a bid to make a swift return to the illusive Premiership so what did Mr Hart have when he took over? Nothing. The club invested what little money they had in the youth system and decided to rely on future starlets.

The gamble paid off. Players including Jermaine Jenas, David Prutton, Andy Reid and Michael Dawson are just some of the household names to have come through the Wilford Lane goldmine.

But the youth conveyer-belt is not ever-lasting. Many more players have come through more recently but not to the exceptionally high standard as the previously mentioned stars.

When then chairman Eric Barnes appointed Paul Hart as manager, the press and anyone not really associated with Nottingham Forest (or Leeds I suppose) were asking "Paul who?". I bet anyone who is above average in their football knowledge could now tell you! Between them they set up a '5-year-plan' to gun towards Premiership football once more.

Hart finished 16th in his first (2001-2002) season which in all honesty was a 'stablising' year not only for the '5-year-plan' but for everybody surrounding the club as the they aimed to put the 'Nottingham' back into Nottingham Forest.

As a lifelong Forest supporter, I have a number of opinions regarding NFFC. Too many to bore you with in fact but I will say that the '5-year-plan' is a load of rubbish. I agree with setting so-called targets but to suggest that five years of gradual improvement will bring Premiership football back to Nottingham is simply incorrect.

You've got to look at the long term, don't get me wrong, but I think setting a '5-year-plan' gives supporters the wrong message and can in fact help fuel excuses from chairmen and managers alike.

However, Hart's second season in charge (2002-2003) with his mixture of youth and experience, managed to secure a top-six spot for the Reds and into the gambling pot of Nationwide Division One's Playoffs. We all know what happened on 15 May 2003 at Bramall Lane but the fact of the matter was that we over-achieved that season.

Yes, you heard me - we over-achieved. Some fans will disagree and a small minority of those people still believe we have some divine right to be in the Premiership but the fact of the matter is that we're some way off being a Premiership club again in terms of squad AND finances.

One of the main reasons for us finishing in the playoffs that season was the manager Mr Paul Hart. For the first time since the days under Bassett's promotion chasing side and Frank Clark's Uefa Cup gatecrashers, the players actually WANTED to play for the club and indeed their manager. Hart had brought many of the players up - like a father figure to most in fact. This showed in the team's performance, especially at home. He had no funds to play with (with the exception of Darren Huckerby's loan fee) and still managed to get results.

Hart's overall record as Forest manager isn't great (Played 121 Won 41 Drawn 41 Lost 39) but you can exclude his first season in fairness to him and if you want an overall picture.

He has performed wonders for the club really considering their financial plight when he took over and the amount of players he's had to lose. So why are people calling for his head? Poor results stemming from the Derby draw at The City Ground are to blame really which coincided with David Johnson's leg break a couple of weeks before against Sheffield United.

Personally I believe he IS the right man for the job. He proved last season how good he and Nottingham Forest can be. I agree he hasn't proved anything in the transfer market as yet, and maybe he is unlikely to given the finances of the majority of the football league. But most importantly he has the respect from the players who HE knows inside-out which makes me believe he can take us forward.

I know it's all 'ifs and buts' but if the current chairman Nigel Doughty had gambled in the summer when we needed to build on what we had then it could well be a different story. Its common knowledge we tried to sign David Connolly, Shaun Goater, Paul Merson and Danny Webber in the summer but the wage cap Forest set in June could simply have been our downfall.

Jim Brennan and Jack Lester both wanted to stay at the club. The fact of their wage demands (if any) and indeed whether Paul Hart actually wanted them at the club is still open to debate and is maybe the only downfall to Hart's management. Does he let personal vendettas get in the way? Jack Lester, Darren Huckerby and Andy Johnson - enough said. Those in the know will understand where I'm coming from.

If Hart was to go for whatever reason, there would only ever be three possible appointments:

1. Martin O'Neill - never going to happen unless we were a top five Premiership side.

2. Stuart Pearce - would be the fans choice but has little managerial experience like Mr Platt had.

3. Nigel Clough - has the experience at lower level but would he always be living in the shadow of his dad?

Hart still has lots to offer Nottingham Forest Football Club so whilst he's manager of the club lets get behind him, give him the backing he needs and most importantly - keep the faith!!!

You Reds

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