Ouch. Forest forced to concede that the future is the Derby way

Local rivals meet on Sunday with the Rams' form and finances in far better shape

This time last year, on the back of their first "double" over neighbours Derby County in more than two decades, Nottingham Forest were fourth in the Championship, at shorter odds than Norwich and Swansea to begin this season in the Premier League.

Derby, who had been fourth in November, were in the middle of a long slide that would see them finish 19th, their gloom eased only when Forest came a cropper in the play-offs.

Forest return to Pride Park on Sunday in somewhat different shape. Where their fans last year wore T-shirts celebrating a 5-2 romp at the City Ground, they will arrive instead reflecting on one win from 11 matches, in nine of which Forest have failed even to score. They are 23rd, five points from safety. Derby, who had lost only one in eight before Tuesday's slip-up at Barnsley, sit comfortably mid-table.

Winners in Nottingham in August, despite losing their goalkeeper to a second-minute red card, Derby are strong favourites to exact double revenge. Yet this potential embarrassment is the least of Forest's worries.

For the last two years they have been losing £1m per month and their disenchanted former chairman, Nigel Doughty, whose personal fortune kept them afloat for more than a decade, has said he will not fork out beyond existing commitments. Relegation to League One for the second time in seven years might plunge the twice European champions into long-term decline.

"Financially, it would a massive blow," Doughty's successor, the former Forest player and manager, Frank Clark, said. "The owner has been bankrolling a wage bill the club cannot afford and we have to reduce that. But if we are relegated, all our revenues would go down. We are desperate to stay up."

Doughty withdrew his support after his decision to replace the successful but truculent Billy Davies with former England coach Steve McClaren failed miserably. Doughty no longer even attends matches and does not welcome attempts to change his mind. Technically, Forest owe him £75m and while it is a sum he is unlikely to want repaid, at least until the club is sold, the picture is bleak, nonetheless.

Taking a lead from Europe's governing body, Uefa, the Championship is drawing up its own rules for financial fair play (FFP). Clubs will spend only what they can afford, particularly in terms of wages, the consensus being that 60 per cent of turnover is a sensible ceiling. Forest's wage bill for 2010-11 was 109 per cent.

"The game cannot carry on paying the salaries it has been doing, certainly below the Premier League," Clark said. "This will force clubs to address that. And it will force agents and players to become more realistic, to bring some sanity into negotiations."

The irony is that one of the Football League's key FFP strategists is the chief executive of Derby, the American Tom Glick. Under his stewardship on behalf of Derby's transatlantic owners, Derby's debts have fallen from £30m to half that and a wage bill that stood at £16m when Nigel Clough became manager three years ago has been cut by 40 per cent. Of more than 40 players on his original roster, only two remain.

Derby's six major investors – all franchise owners in the profit-making world of American sport – at first saw Derby as a brand with which they could profit from the Premier League's global popularity. Relegation in 2008 with a record low points tally kicked that idea into the long grass but they have stood by the club, funded their shortfalls and Glick has executed their drive towards self-sufficiency so effectively that Derby's operating loss last year was a mere £2.16m.

"We did underestimate how difficult it would be to get back to the Premier League," Glick said. "We thought that with the benefit of parachute payments it would be easier.

"When Nigel arrived it was clear that if we did not go straight back up we would need to cut our cloth accordingly. Now the owners just want a sustainable model they can enjoy. We are all hooked on English football. Nigel has done a fantastic job. We have a similar outlook for creating long-term success. His focus is on more than just this week, this month, this season."

Derby's form under Clough has not always been impressive. Despite his name and heritage, his popularity – and that of the owners – has fluctuated. Speculation over his future gathered pace, in particular, with McClaren's resignation at Forest, when many at the Trent end of the A52 hoped their former striker might restore his old allegiance. Glick admits the football played by Clough's transitional team has been "mediocre" at times. Yet they tied him to a new contract in October, in the same week Forest appointed Steve Cotterill.

"We have had our ups and downs but, luckily, we have held our nerve and made decisions that turned out to be the right ones," Glick said. "We were convinced that Nigel had the attributes to take the club forward and we have been increasingly confident in him even during the tough times."

The idea of looking to Derby's example would stick in the craw for most Forest fans and, sensibly, Glick does not presume to offer advice. "If our model is right for others is for them to judge," he said. "All I can say is it works for us. Financial fair play will lead clubs to change their behaviour. It will place a premium on making good decisions rather than having the biggest wallet, and that is not a bad thing."

But Clark, who says there is "no chance" of Davies returning to the club and that Cotterill has his full confidence, concedes that Forest will have to follow Derby's path.

"We will comply with the fair play rules in the format they are likely to take and the way Nigel Clough has reshaped the Derby squad within financial constraints would be the way we are looking to go," he says. "But we want to do it in the Championship and the players will have to go to Derby believing they can get a result and get from it the momentum to stay in this division."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future