They say never go back. I’m not sure who ‘they’ are but they are probably correct in saying so.
Billy Davies came back under a banner of ‘Unfinished Business’ and left once again into football obscurity. But did it have to be this way and what actually went wrong the second time around for the pint-size Glaswegian.
Coming back to the club for his second spell having been out of the game for 18 months following his previous termination at the club, Davies had some what of a chip on his shoulder, particularly regarding the media and their, in his opinion, unfair treatment of him during his original tenure. He also had a desire to see his doubters proved wrong and in my view, a genuine hunger for success. It should have been in tandem with our generous beneficiary Fawaz Al Hasawi, a match made in heaven.
Davies came into a team that had been morally sapped under the stewardship of Alex McLeish but immediately delivered a turnaround, one that was on a shorter time span than when he kept Forest in the same division three seasons previous. Although he couldn’t quite steer Forest towards the playoffs, losing on the final day to Leicester at home, there was a confidence about the team’s ability to not only match teams but out play them.
During the summer Fawaz backed Davies to the hilt and although Adlene Guedioura moved on to pastures new, there was a significant outlay on players in order to aid Davies in finishing his business. Jack Hobbs, Eric Lichaj, Jamie Mackie, Jamie Paterson, Darius Henderson, Gonzalo Jara, Kelvin Wilson and the enigma that is Djamel Abdoun joined Davies’ side. Forest flirted with signing Leadbitter and Sako as well but it was this first real foray that the first cracks for me began to emerge.
Forest showing interest in two Algerians of Olympiakos, Djamel Abdoun and Rafik Djebbour. They didn’t seem like usual Davies signings. Rafik Djebbour was perhaps a bad egg from the very start, refusing to complete a medical before coming to Forest and joining Sivasspor as well as being frozen out of the Olympiakos team for a bad attitude. It didn’t bode well. Abdoun cost a significant amount for the Championship and despite Davies initial giving him enough games to produce, Abdoun floundered in England’s second tier. Struggling with the cold weather (gloves) as well as complaining about the rough nature of English football didn’t help his cause.
Nevertheless, Forest started the season brightly and although there was a some what customary dip towards the end of the first third, Forest quickly picked up speed once again over the Christmas period and in January looked like real contenders to catch Burnley for Automatic Promotion. During this time Davies continued to distrust most of the media and on occasion, his behaviour was rash and in some contexts, almost certifiable. However, Forest played well and for the most part got good results. The wins against QPR, Blackburn and West Ham spring to mind.
Henri Lansbury and Jamie Paterson both grew in stature as the season progressed and both became essential parts of the team. The latter having a quiet 2013 but racing onto the scene after Christmas. The January transfer window came around and Forest had quite a few injuries piling up. Forest addressed the left back situation as Harding had been inconsistent and Cohen had been out since October, in the form of Danny Fox. Forest also brought in Kevin Gomis and Rafik Djebbour. Gomis played one game for Forest and Djebbour ended up being christened the Teflon Don, as the ball wouldn’t stick to him.
The additions of Gomis and Djebbour to me, are not Davies’ signings. Fox and Vaughan, I can buy that they were. Billy’s sort of players. There are however two issues which are tapers for the Davies Rocket. One is the media and the other is interfering with transfer policy. If anything is going to feed his bad behavior, it’s these two things and it showed. Forest at the time were in the top three and in the midst of an typical Davies unbeaten run. Once the window closed and the treatment room saw more and more bodies, Forest’s season became unsustainable.
Something I’d like to be pointed out is the four days between the Thursday and the Sunday that Davies was sacked. Thursday, Fawaz holds an open day event for fans to come and meet him and see the cups and the stadium which is a kind gesture and also, a pretty good PR move. Friday, he gives an interview to the Nottingham Post publicly discussing Billy’s employment and stating clearly that it would be up for review at the end of the season. Saturday, I don’t think there are many non-bias Forest fans that couldn’t see a Derby victory coming the way things were. Yes the manner of the defeat was humiliating but I think combined with the previous two months and the prior two days, Davies knew his time was up. Sunday, the inevitable happened and Billy didn’t have a single friend left in Nottingham as he joined the dole queue.
So why this article? Because honestly sometimes as football fans, we see situations in only black and white. I’ll make no secret of the fact that I felt confident with Davies as Forest manager. We played some impressive football at times and I always felt that we had a claim to at least some of the points. He didn’t kiss babies and shake hands and tick off the list of usual list cliches when a manager signs up for Forest. He was abrasive and at times, down right rude but was there for him, as a person, something in it? Football media can at times be a vicious, slanderous and cut throat. Were the agendas real?
We will unfortunately for legal reasons never truly know what went on last year. Billy Davies recieved his pay off and as a result won’t ever speak about what happened. Forest have since moved on to pastures new with club legend Stuart Pearce. It is however a little saddening that a club such as Nottingham Forest who have enjoyed success in the past and has a certain chip on it’s shoulder couldn’t make it work with a man who also had unfinished business when perhaps on paper, they were a decent match.