On the road: O'Driscoll is quickly forgotten as McLeish checks in
22:34 GMT, 30 December 2012
The accusation levelled so often at Nottingham Forest this last decade and more is that the club have taken up residence in their past.
As they sang of the old mist rolling in from the Trent on Saturday, pre-match screening of goals from the likes of Martin O’Neill and John Robertson only lent weight to that impression. The City Ground can look worn on bleak days like this, not quite Ashton Gate, but not quite Old Trafford either.
And yet in another way Forest are thoroughly modern. Now foreign-owned, they are ambitious, fast-moving, scything down managers.
New man in the dugout: Alex McLeish is presented to the Nottingham Forest fans
Ask Sean O’Driscoll. A week ago O’Driscoll was preparing Forest to defeat Leeds 4-2 on Boxing Day; on Saturday Alex McLeish was introduced as the 12th Forest manager since Pierre van Hooijdonk went on strike and they were last in the Premier League, in 1999.
McLeish waved, 23,000 applauded, for this was a more than cordial welcome, unrecognisable from the hostility that greeted McLeish at Aston Villa.
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Leveling up: Billy Sharp scores the equaliser for Forest
The club will have, in that tedious phrase, moved on. As soon as the football starts rolling this is what can happen, the present scurries by and demands attention.
On Saturday, as Crystal Palace swept the ball around having taken a ninth-minute lead through the lithe Glenn Murray, home thoughts turned not to whether the new manager was up to it but to whether the Forest players would get the ball back.
McLeish was in the directors’ box, having agreed that coach Rob Kelly would pick the team.
It was a good Championship game between two sides committed to passing the ball and Billy ‘Razor-sharp’ Sharp, as Ian Holloway called him, hit the post with a header on the half-hour.
Forgotten man: Sean O'Driscoll was sacked after Forest's win over Leeds
In first-half injury time Forest’s Andy Reid, who outshone substituted Palace forward Wilfried Zaha, delivered a bullet of an equaliser.
That teed up an ebb-and-flow second half and Murray looked to have nicked it for the visitors nine minutes from time with an improvised header that again demonstrated what a striker the 29-year-old has become — a Rickie Lambert level of development.
Imagine what a late Palace winner would have done for McLeish. No manager needs to begin on the back foot, so when Reid’s persistence yielded one last chance, and Sharp took it, the City Ground roared and McLeish sighed with relief.
He was able to discuss the ‘brilliant reception’ he received and his new players’ ‘great character’, though he was irritated by a question about maintaining Forest’s traditional style.
Holloway was also irritated — by speculation about Zaha that the manager himself brought up.
Stop the speculation: Palace boss Ian Hollowat is annoyed with the talk linking Wifred Zaha with a move away from the club
‘We almost won a game without him, that would have been a shock to you lot, wouldn’t it’ Holloway said of Zaha in response to a question about Murray.
No-one mentioned Sean O’Driscoll. The Forest owners felt no need to offer an explanation for his departure in the match programme. The present was scurrying by.
So has just over half a season. That becomes the preoccupation: Forest are one place and three points off the play-offs, Palace are two places and four points off automatic promotion.
Thick and fast: tomorrow Palace host tumbling Wolves and Forest travel to managerless Blackburn Rovers.
Leaders Cardiff, meanwhile, are at Birmingham City.
Cardiff’s relentlessness — they have won eight of their last 10 games — is giving the others jitters. Holloway made the telling comment about squad strength and referred to Leicester’s new signing Chris Wood.
‘Look at Leicester, I think they’ve already secured two signings,’ Holloway said.
‘Their owners have got more money than other owners.’
How much Forest’s new owners possess will help dictate whether McLeish is regarded as a success or not.
Assessing that, though, is not straightforward.
‘Should I really talk about owners and their aspirations’ Holloway said. ‘Not really, not if you can win 4-2 and lose your job.
‘Even if you win these days, you don’t keep your job.’
McCarthy has last laugh
Winning return: Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy won at his old club Wolves
What Wolverhampton Wanderers didn’t need was Mick McCarthy.
That is the conclusion the Wolves board reached in February, when the team were 18th in the Premier League.
Wolves had won five games last season until that stage; they did not win one once McCarthy had gone.
They finished 20th and were relegated.
What Wolves’ new manager Stale Solbakken did not need on Saturday was McCarthy returning with his new club Ipswich Town and winning 2-0.
The result left Wolves 17th with three wins from their last 15 matches, and nine defeats. Ipswich are now one point behind.
Wolves are at Selhurst Park tomorrow. They are then at Luton Town in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.
Where will Solbakken be next Monday