O'Driscoll's common sense approach rarely appreciated in the modern game
Bristol City manager Seán O'Driscoll's side host his former club Nottingham Forest today: "What most clubs need is stability, organisation and a little bit of direction." Wes Hoolahan: has proven himself at the top level of English football
Soccer Angles: But Bristol City can benefit from the astute guidance of a patient manager
There’s more than one O’Driscoll. Admittedly there have been times this week and over many stretches covering the past 14 years when it has seemed otherwise, such has been the sustained brilliance of Brian.
But, working away over the same period – quiet, imaginative and effective – has been Sean O’Driscoll. If this weekend is a big one for Brian, it’s pretty significant for Sean too.
Sean O’Driscoll spent his 16-year playing career at two clubs, Fulham and Bournemouth. He earned his three Irish caps when at Craven Cottage – on a South American tour in 1982, when Liam Brady and Tony Grealish were alongside in midfield.
When he retired from playing at Bournemouth O’Driscoll stayed on first as a coach, then as manager for another 11 years. This would indicate he is a man who appreciates stability.
So the past 14 months may well have alarmed Sean O’Driscoll. In that time he has left Doncaster Rovers, where he had been for five years, lifting the small Yorkshire club into the Championship courtesy of a Wembley play-off victory against much richer rivals, Leeds United.
From Doncaster O’Driscoll went to Nottingham Forest as a coach, assisting manager Steve Cotterill.
O’Driscoll was then offered the Crawley Town manager’s job and saw enough potential in the League One club to take it. But without overseeing a game, O’Driscoll departed – he had been given the manager’s post at Forest once Cotterill was removed.
Forest and O’Driscoll seemed like a good fit. Here was a thinker-manager at a club where the ethos is all about progressive, feet-first football. O’Driscoll is not Brian Clough but there is enough single-mindedness for O’Driscoll to be different. And a readiness to be different is Clough-like.
O’Driscoll doesn’t play the media game.
Forest had just been the subject of a Kuwait-based takeover but the club has not enjoyed glory or stability for some time. O’Driscoll was asked to shape a new team but just as he was beginning to convince his players of his methods, he was sacked at Christmas. It followed a 4-2 win over Leeds United. We have yet to hear a full explanation for that decision.
O’Driscoll was immediately linked with vacancies at Huddersfield Town and his old club Doncaster, as well as his home town club, Wolves.
But last month he signed on at Bristol City, who narrowly avoided relegation to League One last season and who sit in the Championship relegation zone again, €16.5 million in debt. It’s been a strange old time for Sean O’Driscoll.
In four games at Bristol City, he has experienced two defeats and two victories – which isn’t bad considering City had won just three of their previous 21 games. They remain second bottom of the Championship, five points from safety, but things have definitely improved since O’Driscoll arrived and you can imagine he will have his team prepared today – because the opposition are Nottingham Forest.
Had they persevered with O’Driscoll it is not difficult to imagine Forest in the Championship play-offs heading south-west to Bristol with a tailwind. As it is, Forest appointed Alex McLeish after O’Driscoll. He lasted all of 40 days; Forest have won one of the seven post-O’Driscoll matches.