Roy Keane’s hopes of becoming Nottingham Forest’s next manager were dashed last night as the City Ground club appointed Alex McLeish instead — yet Blackburn remains another alternative destination for the Corkman.
Having been spotted in the stands for his former club’s St Stephen’s Day 4-2 win over Leeds United, Keane had been the early frontrunner for the City Ground post following Sean O’Driscoll’s sacking just hours later.
However, in a whirlwind 24 hours, Forest moved to appoint McLeish after the Scot had earlier become odds-on favourite to replace O’Driscoll.
Another opportunity potentially remains, though, for Keane at Ewood Park following Henning Berg’s sacking after just 57 days in charge.
Still based in the English north-west, Keane was interested in the post last time around but missed out to his former Old Trafford team-mate.
It is understood he would be eager to take up the position despite the uncertainty surrounding Rovers and their Indian owners Venkys.
Forest opted to move for former Aston Villa, Birmingham and Rangers manager McLeish despite unrest from supporters.
McLeish polled 0% in a local newspaper poll with early favourites Keane and former Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo favoured amongst the City Ground faithful.
McLeish won just 21% of games while Villa manager last term and was public enemy number one around Villa Park until he left the club in May.
Owner and chairman Fawaz Al Hasawi moved to reassure supporters they were doing the right thing on Twitter saying: “I’m grateful for the opinions of our fans. Please be assured I’m working hard to do the right thing for our club.”
With former manager O’Driscoll having restored Forest’s footballing traditions with his attractive style of play, Forest supporters are also likely to have reservations about McLeish’s reputation for being more defensively-minded.
But McLeish enjoyed success at Birmingham where he led them to the Premier League and also won the League Cup in 2011, after a career spent in Scotland at Motherwell, Hibernian, Rangers and the Scottish national side.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Nottingham Forest,” he said.
“I’ve had time away from the game and now feel refreshed and ready to go. The fact that a club of Forest’s magnitude has offered me a job excites me greatly — it’s a wonderful opportunity. I can’t wait to get started and I’m looking forward to meeting the players, talking to them and taking my first training session.”
O’Driscoll was sacked despite Forest sitting just one point from the Championship top six. However, Al Hasawi wanted a man with Premier League experience and McLeish fits his bill.
“Alex took Birmingham to promotion from the Championship and has great experience of working in the Premier League. He’s hungry for more success and I believe he’s the man who can help us fulfil our ambition of making it to the Premier League.”
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