A message to you, Billy
So, you’re back then!
I’m sure there are many Forest fans that will welcome your return with open arms. Those ‘Billy Lovers’ that worship you as ‘The Messiah’ will have been doing cartwheels at the announcement of your return – and they have a right to be pleased, based upon the upturn in fortunes when you last took on the job as the Manager of Nottingham Forest.
Now don’t get me wrong! I’m certainly not a Billy Lover, but I’m no Billy Hater either. I regard your last tenure with us as one of the most enjoyable periods in our recent history. The City Ground was almost a fortress. Defeats were few and far between and at times your team played some scintillating football. Away matches weren’t quite so scintillating, but you made your team resilient and most often came away with a point if not all three. Play-off appearances are not to be sniffed at either. You put us in those lofty positions twice; somewhere we had not been since Paul Hart’s surprising achievement in 2003.
So why am I not overjoyed at your return?
I’m not totally gutted. You have always been a manager that made an immediate impact and in our current mid-table position you could quite easily sweep us into the play-offs again. If you are allowed to bring loans in, I am confident you will quickly identify weaknesses and the right players to plug those gaps in our squad. You will certainly create a buzz around the City Ground that has been sadly lacking in recent match days.
On those grounds I am happy with your appointment as the man to put things right on the field of play. What really worries me is stuff off the field. In your last tenure there were endless barbed comments aimed at the club hierarchy. Your alleged constant run-ins with the Transfer Acquisitions Panel, who you would ‘Advise and Recommend’ signings to, are entwined in Forest folklore. Some of those comments and claims have since been proven to be untrue, to be propaganda for your cause. You sacked John Pemberton. You disbanded the reserve side. You blocked the route for youngsters to progress from our highly rated academy into the first team. Allegedly you put the development of our youngsters back three to five years – youngsters that could have either been a valuable source of income for Forest, or be making up the current first team and saving transfer fees on bringing players in.
Maybe we haven’t progressed on the field since you were sacked. But since your departure we have re-instated John Pemberton to bridge the gap between academy and first team. The academy itself is highly regarded and we have some talented youngsters that will play football at a high level over the next few years.
Maybe the leopard has changed its spots? Maybe in the 20 months or so since you were last here, you have had time to reflect on why you were sacked, despite getting Forest to the play-offs for two years running? Maybe you have been able to pick and choose your jobs since then? Maybe you just chose not to apply for or join Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Birmingham City and all those other clubs of a similar stature to Forest that have had managerial vacancies since your gardening leave came to an end? Or maybe the chairmen at those respective clubs wouldn’t touch you with the proverbial bargepole after your much publicised fall-outs and incessant demands for more signings at Forest?
It does seem ironic that your return to complete ‘Unfinished Business’ is following a manager who left because he wasn’t supported in the transfer window. Fawaz Al-Hasawi makes Nigel Doughty and the TAP’s spending appear lavish in comparison.
So excuse me for having reservations about your return. I think we now have a better manager for the short-term. But until you have proven you have learned from your mistakes, that you can work harmoniously with your employers on a constrained budget and that you can be a manager for the sustainable long-term too, I won’t get too excited.