Adrian Bevington opens up on his time at Nottingham Forest

He’s viewed by many Nottingham Forest fans as “the one that got away”.

Amidst all the perceived chaos and carnage of Fawaz Al-Hasawi’s reign at Forest, the absence of a permanent Chief Executive – rooted in the unique way of English football – was one thing that could have made a huge difference. 

Someone who knew how it worked in the English game – whose contacts could have saved the club money on deals.

Someone who wouldn’t have been taken to the cleaners by the agents of some players, whose heart was in earning the biggest wage packet they could, and not in earning promotion. 

There were two occasions in the Al-Hasawi era when I thought progress could be made and the club could be more professionally run.

Neither experiment lasted long enough. 

But the size, history and importance of Forest tempted two men to the Chief Executive role, even if the club was perceived to be a bit of a mess.

Paul Faulkner and Adrian Bevington both had spells as effective CEO, though Bevington, in truth, was always more of a consultant than full-time employee.

He’d come in from the FA, where he was a highly-respected figure – a former Managing Director of the England national football teams, and previously Director of Communications. 

Bevington actually held talks with Al-Hasawi before Faulkner became Chief Executive, after Mark Arthur had left the position.

It was in that brief spell when Alex McLeish was the manager, but nothing came of the talks.

In August 2015, the two men met again and Bevington agreed to take on a consultancy role, two days a week (plus matchdays) and they’d both assess how the arrangement was working a month later. 

By this time, the former FA man had commitments with the Welsh FA, so he couldn’t commit on a more permanent basis.

To be frank, it probably made sense to have a good look at what you might be walking into before you walked into it!

Al-Hasawi was keen for Bevington to take over on a full-time basis and asked him to be permanent Chief Executive after a month. 

Bevington told me: “I do have a pang of regret that I didn’t take the CEO job full-time, but they were difficult times.

“After Fawaz had invested so heavily, we were trying to bring the expenditure down and it wouldn’t have been an easy job. 

“It had been my aspiration (to take the job full-time), but something didn’t quite feel right.”

What Bevington noticed in his short time at the club was the way in which the people working at Forest cared so much for it. 

“I was surprised at how threadbare the club was with its staffing.

“Plenty of people had left in the year or two before and obviously hadn’t been replaced.

But the staff were so hard-working – they genuinely had such an affinity for the club – and the passion of the fans was so noticeable. It’s one of the things I’ll always remember about Nottingham Forest.”

Talking to Bevington, the one word that comes up again and again is ‘structure.’ 

He felt his job was to try and implement a structure around the club in many different departments. 

“I’m fully aware of the perception of Fawaz and the issues that surround him.

“But I fundamentally believe that his heart and intentions were absolutely in the right place.

“He’d invested huge amounts of money into Nottingham Forest to try and make it successful, but the way it operated was chaotic.”

Bevington tried to introduce structured board meetings, so that the people at the top of the club were all agreed on the direction the club was going in.

Manager Dougie Freedman (and his assistant Lennie Lawrence) were at some of these meetings – it seems amazing to me that these weren’t a regular feature throughout the Al-Hasawi era.

Bevington and Lawrence knew each other through their Middlesbrough connections, and he knew Freedman a little bit from meetings down the years.

At last there was a little bit of stability and consistency around the club.

But there were still problems – the 150th anniversary replica kit was late, because of delays in paying Adidas.

Some players’ bonuses were being paid late too. 

Another of the important roles Bevington performed in his time at the club was to add credibility to Forest on matchdays.

His face and voice in boardrooms up and down the country – alongside respected former captain John McGovern – must have been reassuring for other football clubs.

It added credence to Forest at a time when it was in danger of being something of a laughing stock in the game. 

Bevington left Nottingham Forest in the spring of 2016 and moved to Aston Villa to work alongside his former FA Chairman David Bernstein.

It wasn’t possible to remain in two jobs, even as a consultant.

You just wonder how different history may have been, had the calm and experienced Bevington run the club for a while longer. 

Stay tuned this week as I chat with Adrian Bevington about the day Forest sold Michail Antonio!

Photos: Dan Westwell

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