‘Nottingham Forest are an oil tanker, not a Mini Cooper – it will take time to turn around’, says Mark Warburton


There have been a few Nottingham Forest strikers, over the years, who could have been fairly described as having the turning circle of an oil tanker.

But, as Mark Warburton assesses the challenge of reviving the Reds’ fortunes, it may well be the first time that analogy has been used to describe the club as a whole.

When he arrived at the City Ground, Warburton was under no illusions when it came to the size of the challenge he had taken on.

Steering the club away from the stormy waters of relegation was just the starting point. The second was to plot a course to the Premier League.

But, 10 games into the new campaign and, more tellingly within a run of five defeats in six Championship games, it should not, perhaps, come as a surprise that Warburton feels the need to reinforce the message that Forest are still at the start of their journey; the turnaround is only just beginning.

As in-form Sheffield United prepare to visit the City Ground this weekend, there is an unmistakable mood of frustration and disappointment around Forest. But Warburton remains hopeful that he will be afforded just a little longer yet at the wheel.

“Somebody said to me the other day that Forest ‘deserve’ to be up there,” said the Forest manager.

“We know where the club belongs, because of the history here. But it has not been there for 19 years. And there is no divine right for any club in any division to be up there.

Mark Warburton

“What you have to do is build those foundations, to make sure that when you do get there, you do stay there. We want to make sure this club is in a position to savour the history and tradition, to excite the fan base and attract new fans.

“But I compare it, in my mind, to a tanker turning. It is not a quick u-turn in a Mini Cooper.

“It is a tanker turning. For 19 years we have not been in the top flight and our job is to get the club back there.

“Be it over one, two or three windows, you make the small alterations that you need to the squad and the staff and keep pushing. You have to keep pushing.”

It seems ridiculous to be even contemplating the notion that a manager could be under pressure after 10 games of a new season. But such is modern football. Just ask Harry Redknapp and the others who have already found themselves cast onto the managerial scrapheap this season.

And Warburton is acutely aware of the industry he is in – and the demands of it.

“I read much and I hear much but the fact is you can’t change things quickly. Philosophy, ethos – whatever word you want to use, it takes time to implement. You have to establish it, develop it and keep building on it,” he said.

Rams boss Gary Rowett took over at Pride Park in March
Rams boss Gary Rowett took over at Pride Park in March

“If you speak to other managers they will all tell you the same thing. Whether it is Gary Rowett at Derby or Simon Grayson (Sunderland), they will all say the same thing – it is about the commodity of time.

“The other factor is impatience. Fans pay really good money to watch their team and they want to see them win. So how long is the patience there for?

“Every manager will tell you; every coach will tell you – give me the time to do my job and, if I am unsuccessful, you will face the consequences.

“I read a lot about Forest’s style of play – but it is important that fans want a particular style. We have had some very positive comments about that – but it is about winning games of football.

“To establish a particular style and an ethos at the club, to show what you stand for on and off the pitch, does take time.

“We have to be strong with it. Which is why going back to Tuesday night, you will have sensed my frustration. Because there were lots of positive moments through the game where, on another day, we would have won by three or four. That didn’t happen and that is my frustration.”

When asked if he thinks he will be given time at Forest, Warburton is, understandably, not keen to “speak on behalf of the club’s owners”.

But he does believe everyone remains on the same page at the City Ground when it comes to their desire to see the club flourish.

“The CEO here, Ioannis Vrentzos, has been superb with his communication. We have Frank McParland who has been outstanding and the chairman who has been outstanding. The level of support and communication is there, along with the desire to take the club forward,” said Warburton.

New Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis
New Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis

“I met some fans yesterday who were outstanding people, I met some ex-players as well, who were the same – and all of them want the same thing.

“They all just want the club back where it belongs. We know where it belongs. But it has not been there for 19 years. It is not as if the club was there three years ago and had been recently relegated. No, no – it has not been there for 19 years.

“What we have to do is make sure the foundations are in place. Their (the Forest’s hierarchy’s) communication is very good and their desire is clear for all to see.

“They know what they want to do and where they want the club to be. I hope very much that we can play a pivotal part in that.

“I am very aware that you have owners and boards at every club up and down the land and time is the one commodity that is very often not afforded.

“You look at other businesses… I worked in the city and I started one job – they told me to take the first year to settle in. There is the difference.

“You inherit squads of players, you inherit staffs and you inherit philosophies and mindsets.”

Warburton talks frequently about belief, about environment and, most of all, about ensuring the players feel they are on the right path.

And he is confident that remains the case at Forest.

“You want an environment where players and staff enjoy coming to work. The environment is conducive to work. That is what you want,” he said.

“You want young players like Ben Brereton, Jason Cummings, Barrie McKay and Ben Osborn to develop as professionals and players for the good of Nottingham Forest and for the good of the players themselves.

Gary Cahill and Jason Cummings in the Carabao Cup tie at Stamford Bridge

“That is the job. I hear people talk about the philosophy we have put in place – philosophy takes months and years to develop. It is about, we hope, building blocks and firm foundations. It is about getting the club on the right track to be successful.

“(As a manager) you get on with it, you have to be seen to be consistent in your behaviour and manner. Your organisation and man management skills have to remain the same. Be consistent in your approach – because players want consistency.

“If you are not, they will see through you in a heartbeat. So you have to be yourself. The rewards will come.

“The frustration for me is that the players need to think to themselves ‘if this is what we do, they get their rewards’. When they do not get those rewards, then comes the frustration.

“They are competitive people who want to win. It is about producing a consistently high level of performance, creating chances and maximising our chances of winning.”

Warburton’s words make a lot of sense. But, at the same time, as he will know himself, a win over Sheffield United this weekend would only help make it easier for people to have faith in what he is saying; to believe that the tanker is at full-rudder in the right direction.



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