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Saturday 17 August 2019

Player power forces 'old-school' O'Neill out at Forest as Sabri Lamouchi immediately installed as successor


Martin O'Neill. Photo: PA
Martin O'Neill. Photo: PA

John Percy and Aidan Fitzmaurice

Martin O'Neill was sacked as Nottingham Forest manager after a player revolt left the club with no option but to act.

Forest moved swiftly to appoint a replacement by naming Sabri Lamouchi, a former Rennes manager, as his successor 18 minutes later on their official website.

O'Neill's brief return to the City Ground lasted just five months. Forest took drastic action over a growing mutiny in the squad, which hit crisis point over the past 48 hours.

But the blow from his sudden exit will be softened by a pay-off for the 12 months remaining on his contract there, the Derry man picking up a severance package of around £500,000 (€560,000), to add to the estimated lump sum of €1 million which he received from the FAI when they dismissed him last year.

It is understood many senior Forest players expressed doubts over O'Neill's methods and training regime and Forest decided to end his tenure in pre-season, rather than risk further damaging morale. O'Neill even took training yesterday morning before given the news.

Sources claimed O'Neill's perceived "old-school" approach left players confused and underwhelmed. One alleged that training was flat with no clear pattern, and little focus on the opposition.

Roy Keane, O'Neill's assistant, had left the club last Sunday, which was seen as a significant blow to the manager's authority.

Forest were aware of issues towards the end of last season, but opted to keep O'Neill as there was reluctance to bow to "player power".

But the situation deteriorated to such an extent they dismissed the former Ireland manager. It now remains to be seen whether O'Neill will return to management, after turning 67 in March.

Lamouchi (47) left Rennes last December. The former midfielder was due to arrive in the East Midlands last night and watch the friendly against Alfreton Town today. A club statement said: "Nottingham Forest are delighted to announce that Sabri Lamouchi has been appointed as the club's new head coach.

"The Frenchman will be assisted at Forest by six new members of staff, who will support the first team."

O'Neill's departure has polarised opinion among supporters. The club has now appointed 13 managers in just eight years.

The Derry man is one of the club's famed "miracle men" from his time as a player, winning two European Cups under Brian Clough.

His return as manager in January was expected to deliver a play-off charge, but results tailed off towards the end of the campaign as Forest finished ninth, eight points adrift of rivals Derby County in the final play-off spot.

Irish Independent

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