Arguably the best Nottingham Forest manager this century, Billy Davies has been dividing opinion with his latest antics. But would the club be a better place without him? Or should he be given more time? Ash Dybala and Liam Harrison argue the case
Fact. Billy’s Nottingham Forest teams have performed overall better than any other Forest team of the past 15 years, aside from that solo effort from Paul Hart. However, it is also a fact that on three separate occasions, we have not gotten the job done. Two play-off semi-finals and a seventh place finish in total. Which begs the question, he has brought us to the dance but can he actually get the job done?
Last year, I think the season was a write-off following the appointment of Alex McLeish. Billy’s return was too little, too late after stuttering along for most of that season under O’Driscoll and McLeish. Fawaz learned patience and I think in Billy found someone as passionate about getting the club back to the Promised Land.
This season Billy has been backed quite significantly and yet, for all that investment, the jury’s still out. Wilson has been injured for most of the season, Abdoun has struggled with the English game and Djebbour looks he’s playing in a different team. That’s roughly £6.5m worth of talent that hasn’t been deployed. You would however argue that Paterson has been the breakout performer and Hobbs has shown that he’s one of the best in the league. Forest’s first choice XI would match any in the league, including the relegated Premier League teams. However, their second string, made up of some of the players they’ve failed to shift, is now having to play us through the injury crisis. Teams win you games, squads win you promotion and Forest are still a little short.
Billy’s relationship with the media is strained to say the least but, considering their reliability and track record of printing non-stories, understandable. Our squad, beyond the obvious quality, is unbalanced and substandard for our ambitions and it’s definitely something we need to look at if we’re unsuccessful this summer, which it seems that again we might be.
The question remains, is Billy the right man to continue with? His tactics are as Jekyll and Hyde as the man himself. Sometimes they work, sometimes they backfire. But that can be said with almost all managers. Burnley and Leicester are at the top because they are consistent, both in results and in their line-ups. We were also successful when that was an option for us as well. But at the moment, Billy is having to juggle plates and I think a lot of the criticism falling on him is unfair.
MORE FOREST STORIES
The stark truth for me is that Nottingham Forest have failed to perform in areas both off and on the pitch and while Billy has to share the blame, he cannot take it entirely should we fail. He’s proved in the past he’s capable of putting a good Championship team together and I still believe that even if this year is a miss, we have a good shot next year; proved we learn from our mistakes.
Billy Davies is the football Marmite; you either love or loathe him and it’s very rare you see someone on the fence. I’m not on the fence. I believe Davies is holding us back.
During his reign as Nottingham Forest manager Davies has provided some truly entertaining performances that live long in the memory and has shown he can be a very shrewd tactician, especially when you least expect it, but they overlook his very obvious shortcomings.
Davies has talked his way into a precarious position where he simply has no excuses should he not deliver promotion. The pragmatic would highlight the depleted squad at present.
This season Davies has been backed both in the summer and January transfer windows and assembled a squad of players that are more than capable of achieving promotion.
We still remain fifth in the table and surely there would be no need to want the manager to go? Wrong. We have now entered the business end of the season and Billy’s bottle has gone missing again. His tactics and team selection in the last four games suggest as much. He’s blown a golden opportunity to go to Wembley in the FA Cup, lost ground on the automatic places after being humbled by Burnley, destroyed by Wigan and now humiliated by Barnsley. Failure to take points from the next four games he’s banned from the touchline will leave us looking over our shoulders and potentially dropping out of the play-offs.
Moving away from the recent run of results, I’d like to cast your mind back to the early part of the season. How many points have we dropped from winning positions? There are no excuses. Controversially, I don’t disagree with the ‘win at home, draw away’ mentality that Davies seems hell bent on sticking too; but it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth when you come away with another point after dominating because we sat back to early and invited pressure on.
Injuries is the word of our season and to some an excuse to hide away from the realities that Davies has cost us points this season and on more than one occasion. Birmingham away was for me the final straw, the squad he selected coupled with the tactics employed made a strong squad look devoid of creativity and passion. I wouldn’t have been saddened to learn that Davies had been sacked that evening.
To him and his team’s credit we went on an unbeaten run which at this level is difficult. But walking out of the game after Wigan, I questioned Davies’ sanity. Is he losing the plot? Simon Gillet, a capable midfielder, is being farmed out on loan at Bristol City while we suffer a midfield crisis, and instead of using youth players he uses the youth team coach.
Ultimately, football is a results business and that is what he should be judged on. Performances are advantageous but not essential in a promotion push. However, if Davies fails to deliver this season, his third full season in which he has fell short, it is surely time to wave him goodbye?