New Forest owners keen on McCarthy
Kuwaitis seek a manager with Championship pedigree as they flesh out future plans for club
Nottingham Forest's new owners appear ready to buck the trend by plotting a gradual ascent back towards the club's former heights.
Despite sparking speculation surrounding Harry Redknapp and Glenn Hoddle by declaring they were seeking an "iconic figure" as successor to the sacked Steve Cotterill, the Al-Hasawi family are homing in on a manager with a track record of winning promotion to the Premier League.
Mick McCarthy, sacked by Wolves in February but a winner of the Championship at Sunderland as well as Molineux, is considered the leading contender and has confirmed that he is interrupting a holiday in Portugal to fly back this weekend for an interview.
Given that the straight-talking Yorkshireman has no obvious profile in the Gulf region, the first Kuwaiti owners of an English football club can hardly be accused of letting their hearts rule their heads with a celebrity appointment.
The family's language throughout their formal unveiling yesterday lunchtime was measured, even cautious. Only once did their guard slip – when Abdul Aziz Al-Hasawi exclaimed: "We are making sure we take it [the club] back to where it should be, so look out everyone!"
It was a moment of bravado that drew applause from club staff in the City Ground's Robin Hood Suite. But the man who has taken control with his brother, Fawaz, and cousin, Omar, was soon promising a course of steady progress again despite suggestions that the manager will have a £20m transfer budget for the coming season.
The financial fair-play regulations see to it that money doesn't talk quite as loudly as it once did and, asked whether promotion at the first attempt was demanded, Abdul Aziz said: "We wouldn't want to go that fast. I wouldn't consider it healthy. We are on a long-term plan over three to five years." More a case, then, of: "Look out everyone, we'll be coming – eventually."
So much is there to do in so short a time with a squad who narrowly avoided relegation last season that the club's pre-season trip to the US, due to start on Monday, was hastily postponed. No-one is in any doubt as to what the top priority is, nor that McCarthy is in pole position.
Abdul Aziz said no contact had been made with Hoddle or his camp but declined to confirm or deny whether there had been any approach for Redknapp, who has distanced himself from the post. Roy Keane, a Forest icon, is likely to attract consideration and Sir Alex Ferguson's son, Darren, is another in the picture. But the latter is manager of Peterborough United, who would insist on a formal approach and huge compensation being paid.
When pushed further regarding the four or five men – some of them in work – who are booked in for interviews this weekend and tomorrow, Abdul Aziz said: "Mick is only one of them. If he meets our requirements, we would be honoured to work with him. It is very important for the manager to have good knowledge of this league and the teams involved in it. They must also have an understanding when it comes to working with a club and developing it.
"We must have somebody with that experience, for sure; somebody with a strong CV who can inspire the players. It could be Mick, it could be someone else. We are looking at other big names."
The trio of new joint-owners have roots in England from their upbringing and education and have accumulated their massive wealth through a variety of businesses, including top-end refrigeration and air-conditioning facilities and property.
Fawaz has a strong football background, having served on the board and as coach of Qadsia, the Kuwaiti champions for the last two years. He has spent more than a decade and a half in the game and will bring six or seven players from the region, including the Syria goalkeeper Al Rashadi and the Kuwaiti international forward Al Mutawa, to the City Ground for trials.
"We are not the ones who are going to choose," Fawaz said. "The manager will decide whether they sign. It might be that we recommend players but he will have the final say. On Sunday [today], there are two players coming. Then, within the next week, there are another two. Beyond that, there is another."
As a bizarre sideshow, a Kuwaiti player sitting in the audience was introduced and invited to say a few words. The Forest players, plus their caretaker manager, Rob Kelly, who were sat at the back of the room, weren't the only ones to raise an eyebrow.
There is every likelihood that Forest will make a mid-season trip to Kuwait to play a game and the family – who have insisted Mark Arthur will remain as chief executive and chairman Frank Clark in an ambassadorial role – have ambitions off the field as well.
Having honoured their late predcessor with the naming of the Nigel Doughty Youth Academy, they will turn their thoughts to stadium improvements during the season and to the building of a new ground in the medium to long term.
Passion is clearly there in abundance. Pride, too. Success overseas is something Kuwaitis love to announce to their people back home.
"This is the first opportunity for anyone to come in from our country and do this," Fawaz said. "Everyone is asking me for a shirt."
Mmmmm... the Al-Hasawi City Ground, anyone?
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