What should we do with the sulking failure?
When first-team coach Julian Darby said he was urging Forest’s players to go and make history on Saturday, I don’t think giving Derby their biggest win over us since 1898 was what he had in mind.
Of course, when Derby beat the Victorian Reds by five goals on April 11 that year, Forest had the last laugh when the two sides met again at the Crystal Palace Stadium in the FA Cup Final four days later as Steve Bloomer saw his team beaten 3-1 by the Foresters.
There is still a chance that 116 years later history could repeat itself, this time with Forest getting their revenge in the play-offs. But let’s face it, it’s not looking likely – even if we can scrape back into the top six, confidant Derby would probably prove stronger over two legs against our current team.
Saturday’s drubbing was, given our recent form, not particularly surprising – Wigan and Burnley had dished out similarly ruthless lessons to Forest’s depleted squad in recent weeks – but the inevitability is the reason why many Forest fans are now losing patience with the manager.
For the last month or so, Davies has persisted in playing exactly the same system that has seen lone striker Simon Cox isolated up front (with the exception of Burnley where the ineffectual Djebbour had that honour) and the makeshift midfield out-muscled and out-played in every single game of this seven-match winless streak in the league. In this time, we’ve scored only five goals, of which four were by midfielders and one went in off a striker’s arm.
No wonder Derby came out of the blocks so fiercely – say what you like about Steve McClaren, even the Wally with the Brolly could anticipate how to set his team up against this predictably lame Forest side. Davies’ stubborn refusal to alter his system in the face of continued failure reminds me of General Melchett telling Blackadder: ‘Doing precisely what we have done eighteen times before is exactly the last thing they’ll expect us to do this time!’
Except, unlike General Melchett, Billy Davies hasn’t even tried to justify his approach, instead sending Ned Kelly to face the media after recent matches. As has already been pointed out, the least Davies could do after such a humiliation is offer his apologies to the fans. With Fawaz Al-Hasawi on a charm offensive, Davies ought to be smart enough to know he can’t hope to strengthen his position by sulking in the shadows.
A few years ago Billy was nearly coming to blows with Derby’s manager after a defeat, now he won’t even speak to his own club’s official website, let alone outside media. No wonder his detractors are saying he doesn’t care about the club and his long-suffering supporters are struggling to defend him – how can you defend someone who is too cowardly to defend themselves with a few words to the press? A cheeky photo caption I came up with in February 2013 is starting to seem grimly prescient.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote in support of Davies in a general call for pragmatism. I still believe that next season Forest could, under Billy Davies, be favourites for automatic promotion providing our star players can get back to full fitness. The difference now is that while I still think sacking Billy might be throwing away that potential, I don’t think I’d be upset if he was giving his marching orders tomorrow.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more furious at my club than when Billy was sacked last time, but while ‘dark forces’ might have been blamed then, the dark forces at work this time around are all in Billy’s head. The disregard for the media has been a frustration all season, but with his refusal to comment on the Derby demolition, Billy is now showing a blatant disregard for the fans.
If it wasn’t for fans, Billy would never have got the chance to finish his unfinished business. After the Alex McLeish debacle, appointing Davies was the only way Fawaz could win back some friends. Right now Fawaz has plenty of friends and he will lose few if he sacks Davies, partly because of Billy’s own neglect of the very fans he has to thank for his job.
If Billy doesn’t care about this, then neither should we care about him getting the sack. I still don’t expect our injury-ridden squad to make the play-offs, let alone enact revenge over Derby this season, but the very least I expect is the manager to have the guts to speak to the fan base – whose vocal support on Saturday was the club’s one source of pride – after overseeing such a catastrophic afternoon. If Billy Davies hasn’t got the guts, it’s time, even if it is done with heavy hearts, to find someone who has.