Half a decade of Billy Davies
One thing that is not up for debate is that Davies never really left Forest the first time. His bootroom popularity, siege mentality and his being the pointy end of a five or six-man managerial package meant that the gap left when he departed was not easily filled by his successor. Nor his successor, nor his successor, nor his successor…
Nor is it reasonable to pretend that the timing of the ‘Great suit cull of January 2013’ was much other than the detonation of a long-fused bomb he forgot to take with him the first time he packed his bags. The flame was burning its way through the fanbase the whole time.
Davies arrived at the City Ground on January 1, 2009, having been out of gainful employment for a while since guiding Derby to play-off victory in spite of themselves, picking fights within the club before the final whistle had stopped ringing round Wembley.
A controversial appointment, then, but for Forest chairman Nigel Doughty and his long suffering CEO (or long suffered – the debate eternal) Mark Arthur, it was an appointment they might as well have made. Somewhere between the healing days of Frank Clark’s resurgent Forest and the arse end of 2008, it had become entirely impossible to make an appointment that brought anything close to fan consensus. Damned if you get whoever, damned if you don’t.
So sod it, in he comes… and away we go – a roller-coaster of survival, revival, disappointment, murmurings, and repeat again the second full season of Davies’ tenure. Again with the murmurings. All clubs have dirty laundry, and while it was never really put right out on public display, everyone could smell it.
But what was at most an aspect of Davies’ initial tenure and departure became the basis of his entire second stint. Fawaz Al-Hasawi’s statement and the sudden appearance of the latest face from the glory days at his side has shown that this fundamentally ruthless owner has learned another important lesson: you can’t let your cousin run the club, you can’t get the trust of the fans just by asking for it and you can’t let your manager’s cousin run the club, either.
He’ll figure it all out eventually, but what Al-Hasawi has done this week is probably the most important thing he’s done for the club since buying it and stopping it winking out of existence.
For half a decade, whether he’s had his name on the manager’s door or not, Davies has been the dominant figure at Forest. He would have continued to be so for many years to come, were it not for Fawaz bringing him back. For a while there this season, we were looking good enough that his bullshit wouldn’t matter, not this season.
Obviously that’s a distant memory now, but until Monday Davies was never in any danger of being a distant memory himself. In his half-decade, Davies has turned round a stinker of a season on one occasion and provided two entirely flat play-off semi-final showings. We also have to credit him with blowing the whistle on the transfer problems at the club, which McLaren after him also experienced. Ultimately that can all be boiled down to the suits’ rigid commitment to FFP and the incumbent manager’s insistence that you can work to FFP or you can get promoted, but not both. It’s probably true.
So there we are – five years, one looming relegation deftly avoided, two play-offs capitulated and one important point made. In footballing terms, it’s the least worst half-decade we’ve had in a while. But while he’s been here (and while he has not) the biggest issue around Forest has always been Davies.
Today is the first day in half a decade that that’s not the case, the first day a writer will have to find some other hook for their story, the first time we’ll be able to notice an actual reduction in the Davies-based debate online.
He will diminish and fade, and it will be healthy. Whatever you think of him, it will be healthy. He’s not working here any more, and he won’t be haunting us any more either.