A hearty round of applause greets him as his Mercedes pulls up outside The City Ground. There is no fanfare and it’s certainly not a grand entrance, but Fawaz Al-Hasawi is a humble man. Decked in a black jacket and a pair of grey jogging bottoms, he gives a warm smile and quick wave to the several hundred fans who are queuing patiently outside before entering the reception of the main stand.
Not every chairman would open the doors of his football club to the public, for free, on a blustery Thursday afternoon. But then again the Nottingham Forest owner is no ordinary chairman.
The Al-Hasawi family took over a football club on the slide. A football club with trophies to their name, yet a football club that didn’t have much to brag or cheer about over the past few years.
A 19th placed finish in the Championship the previous season, compounded by the tragic death of then owner and chairman Nigel Doughty, had left a somber and discouraging atmosphere hanging over the club.
But in the summer of 2012 a passionate man made a decision to buy this football club, and in the process became an heroic figure to many of the club’s supporters.
And this passion is plainly evident on his face as he greets each and every fan with the same enthusiasm, never turning down a handshake, a photo or even just a quick chat.
“I still think we can do it this year and win promotion to the Premier League” he tells an elderly couple in front of me, “and if not, then we just accept it and start preparing for next season.”
An exchange of pleasantries is followed by a questionably blurry photo taken by his friend. Then it’s a handshake and a pat on the back and we’re ushered away, but you can’t criticise him – after all he’s got a lot of hands to shake and a lot of backs to pat today.
After a quick photo in front of the European Cup with club legend John McGovern (who will he be supporting this Saturday I wonder?), it’s on to the pitch for the unique chance to sit in the dugout and throw your arms in the air and do your best impersonation of Forest manager Billy Davis in the technical area.
You can even sit in the director’s box and have a wonder down the tunnel, although there are no referees in sight, just in case you were inclined to continue your managerial impersonations.
It is every football fans’ dream to walk onto the hallowed turf of their home ground, browse the silverware and absorb their beloved club’s history, and across the country you’d probably pay good money to achieve these very things.
Yet at this particular football club supporters have been presented with the incredibly generous opportunity to meet the man many of them admire and also to revere in the long history of a club doing their best to get back to where they belong.
No matter what else is happening behind the scenes at Nottingham Forest currently, all Reds fans can be certain of one thing, Fawaz is here to stay.