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Man Utd rue failure to land Kompany

Manchester derby about an hour ago
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Dec 18, 2012

Forest fear being cut down to size

Taken in isolation, the failure of Nottingham Forest's club credit card when trying to settle the bill at their Brighton hotel last week can be viewed as an unfortunate accounting error. Plenty of individuals have face-reddening memories of public, plastic rejection.

Many workers can also point to the painful and worrying experience of having their monthly salary turn up a day late in their bank account, because of Bank Holidays, or a glitch with the employers' BACS system. One such incident occurred for the City Ground playing staff recently, with a 24-hour delay over payment. Another isolated incident, so nothing to worry about, apparently.

Heavyweight agents the Wasserman Media Group issued Forest with a winding-up order last month for unpaid fees, for work carried out in the summer, though the payments were eventually wired over from Kuwait within 24 hours. Relax. How many big companies pay their bills on time?

Total the three incidents together and throw in the decision of Omar Al-Hasawi to stand down as club chairman for "personal reasons" five months after the fanfare which greeted the family takeover at the Championship club and perhaps there is more cause for concern, especially when you consider one more crucial factor, which is the movement of the goalposts for manager Sean O'Driscoll.

On July 14, Abdulaziz Al-Hasawi proudly addressed the media as the club's saviours, following the completion of their buy-out of the club from the estate of the deceased former owner Nigel Doughty, saying: "We are proud to be here. We have come here with a three- to five-year business plan to take the club forward." There was apparently no rush to restore top-flight football to a club last seen in the Premier League in 1999.

Fast-forward five months, after an estimated £6 million investment and the arrival of 14 players, and O'Driscoll has been told in no uncertain terms that the target for this season is promotion. It may well be promotion or bust for the likeable manager, who is doing all he can to maintain a sense of perspective and patience against a backdrop of financial bloopers and knee-jerk reactions of owners who are sending out increasingly contradictory signals.

O'Driscoll's mantra is keep calm and carry on. He was the unanimous choice of everyone consulted at the City Ground by the new owners when they were searching for a replacement for Steve Cotterill in the summer, but there are fears even the man who takes phlegmatic to new levels is becoming irritated.

He has been dragged into meetings in the aftermath of defeats and had his managerial decisions and team selections questioned openly. Jermaine Jenas was signed on loan from Tottenham without O'Driscoll even mentioning the name of the former England international to his bosses. It is understood the owners have acted unilaterally in trying to sign other players.

There is nothing concrete to suggest the Al-Hasawis are any less committed emotionally and financially to the club, especially as new chairman Fawaz Al-Hasawi has been tweeting excitedly this weekend about installing two new giant electronic screens at the City Ground ahead of the Boxing Day visit of Leeds United and the need to remember the tradition and proud history of the club catapulted to worldwide attention by Brian Clough over 30 years ago.

Yet the family is reputed to be worth between £200 million and £1 billion from their refrigeration and air conditioning business in the Middle East, so financial embarrassments - as well as the hastily revised target of promotion - mean concerns among supporters are understandable.

As yet O'Driscoll has no idea whether he will get more financial assistance to help him achieve his revised target for this season. If he asks for £10 million in January, will he be told to keep the change? Next month will certainly give a clearer indication on the validity of the Al-Hasawis' July statement that claimed their entrance into English football was about "passion, not profit".

Investment will reduce doubts. No new arrivals will effectively mean the owners believe their £6 million spending is sufficient to buy a ticket to sit alongside Manchester City and Manchester United at the top table next season and will raise concerns that they have taken a speculative punt to make it into the Premier League and have miscalculated the costs and time required to build a squad capable of being promoted from arguably the most competitive league in world football.

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