May 29 1999

Pierre Van Hooijdonk's agent believes that Nottingham Forest are in danger of pricing him out of a move from the club. Vitesse Arnhem, Kaiserslauten and Stuttgart are all interested in the Dutch striker but agent Rob Hansen believes the 4,000,000 asking price is too high. Jansen said the forward might be paying the price for his controversial walk out on the club at the start of  last season. This opinion was backed up in a scathing attack by ex-boss Dave Bassett.
"I don't know if what happened last season is working against Pierre, maybe it is," said Jansen. "but the main reason is the price. There is a lot of interest, yet nothing happens. That makes me question the price."

May 28 1999

After the Evening Post's talk of secret meetings in Barcelona yesterday the Leicester Mercury have responded with the following: 'NO SECRET TALKS'.

Leicester City manager Martin O'Neill has been quick to dismiss reports that he has been involved in talks with Nottingham Forest and that he was engaged in secret negotiations with Forest while in Barcelona for the European Cup Final. Reports in the Nottingham media even suggested City had given them unofficial permission to talk to O'Neill and added that a City Ground "source" had described the initial approach as "encouraging." But today O'Neill hit back strongly that not only is their no truth in these reports but also that, far from considering leaving Filbert Street, he is working hard towards next season's Premiership campaign which might also include Europe. He said: "I can happily, definitely say that this is all total nonsense. There is no truth in any of it whatsoever". "I was delighted to be able to go to Barcelona for the big game and I went there with our chairman John Elsom, secretary Andrew Neville and financial director Steve Kind. The four of us were in each other's company the whole time and we can all assure you nothing that has been reported has taken place. I can also confirm that no approach has yet been received by the chairman from Forest either. "Not only that but in the last few days I have been laying the groundwork for next season. After sorting out Pegguy Arphexad on a new contract, I am having talks with young Stef Oakes to improve his current deal and, before going to Barcelona, I went to London to the office of Neil Lennon's agent. "Neil has another year left on his contract and I am hoping to extend it further so, far from looking elsewhere, I am simply concentrating on our own business at the moment. "There is also the possibility of Europe to look forward to if we qualify through the Fair Play League and, although in principle I still believe that it should really be done on league position, I am sure there are not many who would begrudge us a place if we got it. "If Newcastle, who were below us in the Premiership, got a place for finishing runners-up in the FA Cup, there could not be many complaints about us because of our Worthington Cup exploits."

May 27 1999

Martin O'Neill is expected to hold secret talks in Barcelona today to tie up his future at Nottingham Forest. City Ground insiders believe the Leicester city boss, in Barcelona for last nights European Cup Final, will meet key people and could agree to join Forest in the next two weeks. It is against Premier League and Football League rules to approach another clubs manager without permission but a Forest source today hinted that Leicester have allowed Forest to talk to O'Neill "unofficially". The talks in Barcelona follow preliminary discussions last week in the UK, which a Forest source described as "encouraging". With regard to the legal implications of the approach a Forest source said "If Leicester have said we can talk to him unofficially and then, depending how those talks go, make an official approach, it can't be considered an illegal approach". It is thought that O'Neill was determined to return to Forest, but he does have some reservations about stepping down to the Nationwide League. Forest remain optimistic, however, although they do not expect the Barcelona talks to be the last or for the deal to be hammered out quickly. "This is a crucial, life changing decision for him and he's the only person who can make it" said the source. "Martin is a very intelligent, thoughtful man and he will make the right decision." "There are a lot of complexities to be considered - his relationship with Leicester, his love of Forest, so it's not  going to be done and dusted after just one meeting.""I think it will be resolved over the next two weeks though." Although desperate to land O'Neill Forest are anxious that the saga does not drag on through the summer, with the new season starting on August 7. Several players futures need to be resolved and while Atkinson is contracted until June 28, the board are eager to get a new man in to make those decisions.

May 25 1999

The Daily Mirror took up the case of Martin O'Neill today with the following article:

Martin O'Neill has dashed Nottingham Forest's hopes of making him their new manager. Relegated Forest hoped Leicester would give official permission to open talks with the highly-rated 47-year-old boss. They were ready to hand former City Ground favourite O'Neill a 500,000 salary plus a 250,000 bonus for promotion from the First Division. But O'Neill, who turned down the chance to become George Graham's successor at Leeds in October, said last night: "I won't be going to Forest - and that's definite. "I haven't heard a word from Forest and neither has my chairman John Elsom, so the possibility of moving simply doesn't exist. "I have worked far too hard to establish City as a Premiership club to consider turning the clock back on my career."

…shows what they know, O'Neill didn't turn down Leeds at all. He wanted to talk to them but the Leicester board refused him permission. O'Neill, being a man of integrity (a rare commodity in Football these days) then decided not to pursue the deal any further. Though this incident and City's refusal to include a clause in his new contract allowing him to talk to other clubs has caused some ill feeling between O'Neill and the board at City.

The Nottingham Evening Post responded to the Daily Mirror article this evening with the following:

O'Neill Switch 'still on' Nottingham Forest remain confident of luring Martin O'Neill back to the City Ground as manager. The Leicester City boss was quoted in national newspapers this morning as committing himself to his current club. But a source close to O'Neill today said "Martin didn't even say that. I'm not saying that means he will definitely be coming, but he didn't say those things." Forest representatives were hoping for a decision from O'Neill yesterday. But a club source said, "Martin was supposed to give an answer yesterday and that didn't happen. But Martin is a man of integrity and would not let us know by talking to the papers. Those quotes were certainly at odds with what we were expecting to hear. We're still confident he'll be coming here."

Also reported in the Evening Post was news linking defender Des Lyttle with a possible move to Wolves. But Lyttle said he has heard nothing from Wolves and is awaiting "concrete" offers.

May 23 1999

 

Yet again no mention of O'Neill in the papers today (at least not with a Forest link). This time the speculation has turned to Des Walker. The Sunday People are speculating that Des is about to leave Sheffield Wednesday. Sources could not confirm where Des wants to go but the popular consensus seems to be he is heading home - to the City Ground. This is most likely to happen if the managers job falls to one of his ex-colleagues and close friends. The papers did not name names, but it doesn't take a genius to work out they must be talking about Psycho and/or Nigel Clough.

 

May 21 1999

 

Strangely quiet on the O'Neill front today. No mention of him in the local papers at all. Instead the speculation has turned towards Pierre Van Hooijdonk. The evening Post reports that he could be heading home to Holland after Vitesse Arnham joined the race for his signature. Three German clubs, FC Schalke 04, Kaiserslauten and Stuttgart are also interested in the Dutch striker. The clubs will have to wait until mid-June before taking their interest any further as Pierre has been called up by the Dutch squad for two friendlies in Brazil. In an interview with Century 106 just before he left to join up with the Dutch squad Pierre told Darren Fletcher that he was in no rush to join the first club that came in for him. The deal had to be right for Pierre as well as Forest. It is believed that Pierre himself would prefer to move back to Holland, and Vitesse Arnham's bid may be of  greater interest to him than the German clubs.

 

May 20 1999

Surprise, surprise! It's that man again. This time the players are discussing their desire to see O'Neill in charge at the City ground for the new season.

Andy Johnson, who has played for O'Neill before at Norwich City, said that he will stay at the City ground if O'Neill comes. (so the rumours of him looking to leave must have been true). Johnson is quoted in the Evening Post, saying; "Martin is the ideal man for the job. He would definitely be up for it." " Obviously everybody wants to play in the Premier League and I'm no different. I'm very disappointed about going down." "But if Martin came, it would be the best thing that could happen for the club and I would want to stay." "We have got to bounce back at the first attempt - not get stuck in a rut - and appointing Martin would be the best way of doing that." "It would be the best move the club have made in a long, long time."

Dougie freedman was also quoted as saying; "It should be done quickly, but they have to make sure it is the right person." "Whoever comes in will have to keep all the first team players. They've already made a mistake by losing Richard Gough, who had offered to stay." "It's up to the club to persuade everyone to stay. That's the only way to do it." "A few fringe players might leave over the summer, but we mustn't sell people with Premiership experience."



May 19 1999

The talk in the papers today is all about Martin O'Neill again. The Evening Post again telling us that the Forest board will make a formal approach to Leicester, asking their permission to speak to O'Neill, before the end of the week.

The Evening Post also carried a quote from O'Neill regarding his disappointment at not being allowed to talk to Leeds. He said "The previous time the chairman wouldn't allow me to speak to Leeds."
"I don't know if Forest have made an offer to the club. He said he would let me know if anything comes up. I honestly couldn't comment any more on the subject."

At least he hasn't said he's not interested then....

May 18 1999

The rumour mill really sprang into action today with the Evening Post headline "O'Neill to sign as new tycoon seizes power". The essence of the story being that Nigel Doughty is to plough 12m into the club. 5m of which is being made available immediately to buy new players. The first major signing would be Martin O'Neill. Club insiders were quoted as saying they hope to get O'Neill by the 20th anniversary of Forest's first European
Cup win later this month (30th May for the Anoraks).

Leicester City's chairman John Elsom was quoted in the Evening Post as follows: "I haven't heard anything from Forest and it's a totally hypothetical situation. Of Course I expect Martin to be here next season. I don't want say anything more on that."

Martin O'Neill's relationship with the Leicester board has been strained since last Autumn, when he was refused permission to speak to Leeds United at the time of George Graham's departure. This and the lack of a clause allowing him to talk to other clubs are thought to be the main reasons for Martin not signing a new contract. His current contract has 12 months to run.

May 17 1999

As usual speculation has been mounting over the past few weeks over just who is going to come and go at the club this summer. Most speculation regards those who will leave. Some of the rats did manage to desert the sinking ship just before deadline day with Stoney going to Villa for 5.5 million and Scott Gemmill going to Everton for 250,000 which wasn't bad business as he would have got a free under the Bosman ruling this summer.

Andy Johnson has been the subject of several rumours over the past few weeks all linking him with a possible move to Leicester. Neither City nor Forest have issued any statement on this subject.

The player most likely to leave is Pierre Van Hooijdonk, he rates himself very highly and is just waiting for the right team to come and get him. He is a player of great diplomacy and tact and has been the model professional in his dealings with the club throughout the season. He is renowned for being able to get on well with Managers and Directors and should fit in well wherever he goes. Forest reportedly turned down a bid of 4,000,000 earlier in the season from Leeds. This appeared to be on the grounds that we needed Pierre's goals to keep us in the Premiership. On realising this Pierre went for it with all he had, cracking in a stunning 5 goals in 19 starts and 2 appearences as a sub. This gave him an astonishing goal ratio of 0.24 per game, a ratio vastly superior to Mark Crossley's, eat your heart out Dwight Yorke. Sadly for Forest, Pierre has had to miss the last three games of the season due to a reoccurrence of a rib injury. But, such is the great man's influence at this level of the game his fellow team mates found themselves so devastated by his absence they completely lost the plot and won all three games. Recently it has been rumoured that Kaiserslauten tabled a 2,000,000 bid which was rejected  by the Forest board as grossly inadequate. Pierre, suffering with his rib injury, decided to relax on Sunday morning (the day of the Leicester game) by playing a round of golf at the Riverside course. He was spotted by a golfing partner of mine who was playing in front of him on the course. Pierre was accompanied on the course by Hugo Porfiro and two unknowns. Now,  I'm no Doctor, but anyone who has ever swung a golf club will probably agree, the last thing you want to do with a rib injury is swing a golf club...

May 15 1999

There are lots of comings and goings at any Football club throughout the year. Nottingham Forest are no different and with relegation and the impending departure of 'Big' Ron bringing about the arrival of a new manager this summer it looks as if things it could get very interesting.

The most eagerly awaited news in the transfer market is definitely that of the new manager. The vast majority of supporters (as was demonstrated very audibly at the final game against Leicester) want Martin O'Neill and John Robertson to take charge. Martin is at the moment keeping tight lipped about the whole thing, but he has still refused to sign an extension to his current contract with City, and until he does, or signs for another club (Liverpool seems to be another popular destination for him) then the speculation will go on and on.

The problem for Forest is that while the manager's chair remains vacant the press and media are having a field day linking anyone they can think of with the job. So just to keep you up to date with the speculation here is the roll call of all the people we can find who have been linked with the job since Ron announced his retirement.

Stuart Pearce, Nigel Clough (these two might make a good partnership), Trevor Francis, Brian Laws, Roy Evans, Paul Hart, Tony Woodcock, Martin O'Niell and John Robertson, Graham Souness (no thanks), Mark McGee (please God, NO!), Brian Little, Sammy McIlroy, Lou Macari, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all.....


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