“It was always my intention to stay here for a long period when I signed last year,” said Sabri Lamouchi after putting pen to paper on a new contract.
The fact that the genial Frenchman is extending his stay is great news for him, the club and supporters weary of constant change over the last 20 years.
He’s always talked about putting blocks in place – getting key players to sign deals at The City Ground – and he’s often seemed to be planning for the longer term, even if his own future wasn’t a certainty.
Every dealing I had with him was a pleasure – he seems a lovely, lovely man, who’s settled brilliantly into life in Nottingham.
His English is good and has improved noticeably since he arrived in the city. He’s very easy to talk to.
With another few months in England, he’ll be speaking absolutely fluently and understanding the nuances of our complicated language and his interviews will be even more of a joy.
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Only a few weeks into the season, he walked into the little room where we did our pre-match interview at The City Ground, took a seat, looked me in the eyes, and said “I have been listening to your station…”
Immediately, I was filled with a sense of dread. My heart sank.
I know, from experience, that that particular sentence is usually followed by the words… “and you said that…” and then the manager has a right go about something I’ve said on air.
Not Lamouchi. He said “it is ‘elping me with my English”. As he would say, “small de-tails”.
Philippe Montanier told me the same thing, so there we are – if you want to improve your English, BBC Radio Nottingham is for you!
One of the early – and key – things that Lamouchi did when he arrived was getting the players on his side very quickly.
He established in the first few weeks who would be in his squad – and importantly, who wouldn’t.
Any player he didn’t feel would be part of it this season was shunned very quickly – they wouldn’t be training with the rest of the first team.
He explained this by saying he didn’t want players, who would be naturally unhappy, influencing the rest of the squad.
Whether you agree with his judgment on certain players or not, he was clear in his own mind and Lamouchi had little to do with them.
So the likes of Jason Cummings, Jamie Ward, Gboly Aryibi, Costel Pantilimon and Zac Clough all knew where they stood.
They might not like the decision, but I’ve always been told that players prefer a manager to be honest with them, so they could have few complaints.
The other noticeable feature of the season has been a lack of grumbling.
I can’t think of another manager in my time covering Forest where there have been so few rumours about players being unhappy.
You’d be surprised how often you hear that “Bobby Smith” isn’t ‘having’ “Fred Bloggs” as manager, and how often it happens quite early in the reign of a new boss.
I always set a bar. If I heard that kind of thing about a manager supposedly from more than a couple of players a week, I’d give that manager about another month in the job!
It was a method that often served me well.
You might ask why it very rarely gets reported. Well, it’s very rarely cast-iron fact.
It’s all whisper and rumour, and a player is hugely unlikely to go ‘on the record’ criticising his current manager.
But there’s a lot of gossip around the game, and you pick up these nuggets, which gives you an insight into the way a squad is heading.
I can honestly say I’ve not heard any grumbling this season, so either everyone is on the same page, or there’s an understanding of Lamouchi’s role and he’s good with the man-management side of the game, as well as the tactical.
Lamouchi clearly loves football, enjoys the responsibility of being a head coach and relishes making a difference with players.
I always judge a manager by how many players, who were already at the club, he’s improved.
With Lamouchi, there have been plenty of examples – Matty Cash, Joe Worrall, Lewis Grabban, Tobias Figueiredo, and even the experienced Ben Watson.
Many of them have improved year-on-year.
He’s not necessarily one for the spotlight, though, and I think going under the radar suits his style.
While in Nottingham there is plenty of excitement about a promotion challenge, nationally, it seems that Leeds, West Brom, Fulham and even Brentford often monopolise the Championship headlines and garner more publicity.
I don’t think Lamouchi would complain about that.
Evidence of that has come on a couple of occasions.
We at the BBC were keen to do a TV piece with him away from The City Ground, with Lamouchi and I playing a bit of golf.
Just something a bit different early on in the season to try and show a TV audience what this largely unknown manager was like.
We were told Lamouchi wasn’t keen, as – despite a good start – he didn’t want the focus to be on him. We could do a feature like that when the club had achieved something.
Initially disappointed – I like my golf, you see – I admired his stance.
I know also of national publications who were keen to dig a little deeper and find out, from those that had worked with Lamouchi in the past, what it was that made him tick, what his strengths were etc.
The former France international declined the opportunity.
As a journalist, I should be disappointed, but I can’t help admiring the ethos behind his thinking.
Lamouchi has made quite an impact in his first season – even if promotion doesn’t happen this time around, imagine what it will be like next season.
Lamouchi has a more thorough knowledge of the craziness of the Championship, he has far more detail about his own squad.
He’ll have his own pre-season planned, and he’ll know exactly what new players he wants to make a difference.
Photos: Dan Westwell