Resignation of Kinnear leaves Forest future dark

Joe Kinnear resigned as the manager of Nottingham Forest yesterday, leaving the struggling Championship club seeking a 10th manager in a post-Brian Clough decade that has been marked by decline, on and off the pitch.

Joe Kinnear resigned as the manager of Nottingham Forest yesterday, leaving the struggling Championship club seeking a 10th manager in a post-Brian Clough decade that has been marked by decline, on and off the pitch.

Kinnear took over at the City Ground in February and guided Forest clear of relegation, but they have won just four league games from 23 this season and lie third from bottom of the table.

Mick Harford, who joined Forest recently as Kinnear's deputy, will take caretaker control for tonight's match against Leicester. There had been reports that Kinnear would be targeted by a fans' demonstration ahead of the game. He recently described some supporters as having "short memories" for criticising the work he has done at the club.

"We were on the way to being relegated when I came in last season," he said. "I have got the club's debt down from £40m to £15m but I have got to get it down to scratch. But people don't really care. They just want to see what the results are. They do not know what stress and strain I have to work under."

After stepping down yesterday, he added: "It is in the best interests of the club that I resign and give my successor the chance to turn things around. I've no regrets about joining Forest. It's the best club I've had the privilege to manage. I've had the wholehearted support of the chairman and my staff, and marvellous backing from the supporters, which I will always be grateful for. Unfortunately, things have conspired against us this season. We have had horrendous injuries and I haven't once been able to put out my strongest team. I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone connected with the club all the very best for the future."

Kinnear, who became the 22nd manager in England to part company with his club this season, was appointed after Forest's board lost patience with Paul Hart. Hart had developed a good reputation working with young players at the Leeds United academy before Peter Ridsdale's "dream" collapsed, but was permanently undermined at Forest by a dire financial situation.

Hart's predecessor, David Platt, had spent two years - and no small amount of money - trying unsuccessfully to regain a place in the Premiership, in which Forest last competed in 1999. Platt's own predecessors, including Ron Atkinson, the caretaker Micky Adams, Dave Bassett and Stuart Pearce, had largely fruitless reigns. Clough's successor, Frank Clark, was the last Forest manager to enjoy as many as two consecutive seasons in the top division.

Kinnear made a bright start at Forest, with his side losing only twice between his arrival and May, making a winless nine-game run at the start of this season seem all the worse. Even two wins from three before last weekend were spoilt with a 3-0 defeat at one of their rivals, Derby. Kinnear knew that he faced a tough festive season on the pitch, with games against promotion-chasing West Ham, Sunderland and Stoke following tonight's match with Leicester. He was also aware that at least two of Forest's brightest young talents, the midfielder Andy Reid and the defender Michael Dawson, will probably be sold during the transfer window. Injury problems have also marred the season. Kinnear's departure comes in the week that the striker Jack Lester was ruled out for the rest of the season with cruciate ligament damage. Harford said at the weekend that Forest have been "taking one step forward and three steps back". For now, it is up to him to change that.

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