Ask and you shall get (the sack)

Posted by on Jun 13, 2011 in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

In the wake of Billy Davies’ departure from Nottingham Forest, the BBC’s Midlands reporter Pat Murphy claimed a second play-off defeat in two years had brought an end to the “uneasy truce” between the manager and his chairman, Nigel Doughty. It’s a strange kind of truce where one of the warring factions regularly clambers out of the trenches and into no man’s land to fire pot-shots at the other.

Davies had become like a stuck record (and a stuck Krautrock record at that), so often did his post-match interviews consist of veiled and not-so-veiled demands for significant financial backing in the transfer market. The club’s hierarchy were always going to look less favourably on failure having been repeatedly needled, nudged and made to look tight-fisted in public. They might have struggled to muzzle the annoying Scottish terrier yapping and tearing at their trouser-leg, but they certainly had the power to put an end to the situation and sure enough Davies was duly escorted off the premises.

But did Davies have a point? I’d say so, yes. Chief executive Mark Arthur may have since countered that “I think it’s a bit of a fallacy to say that no money’s been made available, but other rival clubs towards the top end of the Championship have spent more (certainly since an initial £4m spree six months into his reign in summer 2009), and while Davies was canny enough to continually play down his side’s chances of promotion, pointing to youthfulness and inexperience (his other post-match mantra), he was right in feeling it wouldn’t have taken much investment to transform the current squad into title contenders.

So has he been harshly treated? Probably. As an ex-Derby manager, he was always going to have difficulty winning over the fans, and it doesn’t help that the board seems to share their general view that Forest have some kind of divine right to be in the top tier. A more realistic assessment of the last two seasons would point to the fact that they ran the two outstanding candidates for promotion Newcastle and West Brom – both freshly relegated and with plenty of Premier League players on Premier League salaries still on their books – admirably close in 2009/10, and then were unfortunate this campaign as newly promoted Norwich stormed to an improbable automatic ascent. Next season, with a few astute purchases, the title could well be theirs – but Davies has been dispensed with and won’t be around to see it.

Davies doesn’t come across as a very likeable character. Like Neil Warnock, he’s a firebrand and an irritant, susceptible to paranoia and adept at manufacturing a siege mentality – but like Neil Warnock, you suspect his players enjoy that “us against the world” feeling. Chairmen may reflect on Doughty’s experience and think twice about touching Davies now, but he’s clearly a decent manager – one who, absurdly, would never have been sacked by Derby if he hadn’t led them to an unlikely promotion. I’d expect to see him back at the helm of a Championship side before too long.

Forest, meanwhile, have plumped for Steve McLaren as Davies’ successor. Presumably they were able to overlook his status as another ex-Ram (in this instance as a player), the attraction lying in his having led not one but two unfancied provincial sides to major success and silverware. A similarly ruddy-faced predecessor at the City Ground did much the same for Forest…

After that disastrous time in charge of the national side, McLaren impressively resurrected his reputation in Holland – but, now back in Blighty after an ill-fated spell at Wolfsburg, he has it all to do again. He inherits a squad blessed with talented players – Lewis McGugan, Chris Gunter and player of the season Luke Chambers key among them – but one of his first tasks will be to do what Davies seemingly couldn’t and settle upon a preferred strikeforce, a decision that’s been made a little easier by Nathan Tyson’s defection across the East Midlands. No doubt Doughty’s chequebook will come out too – much to the chagrin of one embittered and unemployed Scot.

Ben is a long-suffering Newcastle Utd supporter (is there any other kind?) who co-founded and co-wrote Black & White & Read All Over, a blog that, over the course of a decade, chronicled the ups, downs, chaos and calamity of the club he has the misfortune to follow. Since the blog hung up its boots in May 2014 (note: not as a mark of respect for Shola Ameobi leaving St James’ Park), he has contented himself with sporadic, splenetic Twitter outbursts and shamefully rare contributions to The Two Unfortunates. He is currently haunted by visions of Joe Kinnear returning to the club for a third spell and pondering whether he’ll live to see another victory over the Mackems, but at least has a cardboard coathanger with Robert Lee’s head on it for consolation.


  1. Webbie - F&M
    June 14, 2011

    Good article.
    Sorry I have no more to add than that.
    Just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading.

  2. The A Block
    June 14, 2011

    Great article.

    We will probably never hear the real reason behind Billy's departure and I'm sad to see him leave but as always NFFC still remain.

    Come join the debate at the new forum for Forest fans

  3. Mistrollingin
    June 14, 2011

    I think it is a case of thanks billy for 2.5 excellent years that have re-built a shattered reputation for the club, but really no tears being shed.
    Billy's approach is divisive, he was always looking to create an atmosphere where fans were behind him and against the board. Tension can work for a while but it will always have a shelf life and Billy's time had come. A final season with him looking for a move and blaming everyone else for the fallout would have been disastrous.
    As for investment that first summer saw some big signings (Gunter, Blackstock and McGoldrick all had big fees)and since then Tudgay and Findley have been added alongside some high profile and expensive loan signings.
    Of course by ditching Davies on a relative high the board have taken a risk and set a high bar for the new manager – in a very competitive league – but I still believe it was the right decision at the right time. I hope Forest fans will unite behind McClaren and move forwards together.

  4. Scran
    June 14, 2011

    “but other rival clubs towards the top end of the Championship have spent more” ???

    QPR, Norwich and Swansea were promoted – perhaps QPR spent a bit, but who of the others? They did it on peanuts, so this article is partially flawed from that perspective!

    Forest spent more than most during Billy's tenure – it is irrelevent that more was spent at the beginning.

    Billy did a great job and for that I thank him, but his mouth is far too big and it's all about him (he's not a team player and never has been – just ask Preston and Derby fans) and ultimately that is why he will always get sacked – patience eventually runs out.

    I'd also question team selections, especially for both Blackpool and Swansea play-offs, that in the end cost us promotion – refusal to accept his mistakes; David McGoldrick being a prime example!

    Billy also tries to buy success and this is not the Forest way. We have always produced great players through the academy, but Billy had no interest in that.

    In summary…. thanks for saving us and bulding some decent foundations, but now it is time for a manager (that doesn't have a huge chip on their shoulder) to take us to the next level. Whether SM is the right man only time will tell, but his coaching credentials are certainly beyond reproach – just ask Fergie!

    I'll be renewing my season ticket, but hope we bring in some replacement players and also some additions; starting with a left back!

  5. Lanterne Rouge
    June 19, 2011

    Quite simply a brilliant piece of writing Ben. As a fan of Neu and Can, I don'd mind the odd Krautrock record, mind.

    A very hood point on Davies' absurd departure from Derby – he would never have faced the axe had they not been promoted.

  6. Ben
    June 20, 2011

    Cheers Lanterne Rouge. That Krautrock reference was more an allusion to Davies' penchant for repetition…

  7. Ben
    June 30, 2011

    But Derby's promotion came through the play-offs so hadn't looked that likely and was a bit of a bonus. If, like Davies' Forest, they'd looked like a good shout for an automatic spot two years in a row and then flunked the play-offs both times, then Davies might have been given the boot – but if his side had lost that play-off final I don't think that would have been curtains, I think he'd have got a pat on the back. Of course, if they'd then underachieved in the Championship the following season (rather than in the Premier League), then that would be a different matter.


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