Although speculation has been rife about Billy Davies’ position as manager, since the ‘Tricky Trees’ failed to gain promotion via the play-offs from the Championship for the second successive season, he seemed to have weathered the storm – but not so!
I was genuinely surprised to receive a text from Nicci, on this thoroughly wet and miserable Sunday afternoon: “just heard on Sky News Forest have sacked their manager!”
This extremely curt announcement was followed by a statement that they are currently engaged in negotiations with the former England boss Steve McClaren – universally known in the footballing world as ‘the wally with the brolly’, following his inept managerial performance from the touch-line as England slipped to defeat against Croatia in the Wembley rain, failing miserably to qualify for the Euro 2008 finals.
I’m sure it’s not the case but he did appear more concerned about protecting his boufant hair style and slick city suit from the elements than winning the game – an attitude not likely to go down too well on Trent-side!
I’ve never posted anything on Forest’s official club website before but immediately felt moved to do so – along the following lines:
I feel it is the wrong decision. Forest haven’t seen fit, so far, to clarify the circumstances surrounding Billy’s departure. Did he jump or was he pushed? I strongly suspect the latter and hope that in due course the club have the good grace to genuinely thank him for the outstanding job he has done over the last two and half years – firstly saving us from what seemed like certain relegation back to League 1 and then qualifying for the Championship play-offs in the following two full seasons. Football people have very short memories!
Yes, it is disappointing having come so close to promotion twice, only to falter at the final hurdle, but I believe there are few other managers who would have done any better with our current squad and such limited investment in new players over the last 12 months.
Billy had a three-year deal, with one year still left to run, and Forest obviously expected him to have gained promotion by the end of it. But he is only two thirds the way through a three year plan and had stated clearly, following defeat in this year’s play-offs, that he fully intended to see out his contract and finish the job off next season despite, it seems, frequently operating at complete loggerheads with the chairman and his acquisitions committee.
I’ve always said there is only one manager that I would be happy to see replacing Billy and that would be Martin O’Neil – a former player who has a strong emotional attachment to the club, an excellent managerial record wherever he has been, and is currently available.
When a club sacks a successful manager surely they must have a significantly better replacement lined up. I’m not convinced that Steve McClaren is that man but I’m sure Martin O’Neil would be.
Either Forest are short on real ambition, lack the financial wherewithal to attract him, or simply don’t fancy taking on another opinionated Celt who won’t suffer fools gladly. It is equally possible that Martin wouldn’t fancy stepping down into the Championship or more likely that the erudite and passionate Irishman would balk at working for a board that treats its managers in the tardy fashion that Billy has been dealt with.
If, as I suspect, Steve McClaren is appointed I’m sure it won’t be long before we see him adopting a similar pose to this, but I’m sure he realises he will be on a hiding to nothing. Obviously he should be given a fair chance but it will take time to win over sceptical and frustrated Forest fans with whom Billy had developed such a good rapport. It will help if Forest get off to a flyer at the beginning of next season!
McClaren has a curate’s egg of a cv, even allowing for a woeful performance as England manager where he was clearly out of his depth. He has recently been successful in Holland, winning the 2009-10 Eredivisie with unfashionable FC Twente, but then following a move into the German Bundesliga with Vfl Wolfsburg, he was fired mid-season having secured just five wins in 21 games.
In the UK he was eminently successful, as assistant to Alex Ferguson, at Manchester United (during the ‘99-01 period when the Mancs swept all before them, picking up 3 Premiership titles, the Champions League and the FA Cup) but only moderately so, as manager in his own right, at Middlesbrough where he only achieved a 38% win record, despite enjoying a 2003-04 League Cup Final success and a helter-skelter 2005-06 UEFA Cup run (eventually losing 4-0 to Sevilla in the final).
It is fair to say Billy has never managed at such high level as McClaren but his record in the Championship is second to none, with a 44.5% win record at Preston, 43.63% at Derby (which includes a disastrous couple of months in the Premiership where ‘the Sheep’ couldn’t buy a win) and 42.06% at Forest – consistently successful to say the least!
As a former ‘Sheep’ boss (McClaren also has history down the A52, as a player and assistant manager) Billy wasn’t everybody’s first choice when he joined the City Ground and there are those who constantly criticiesd his team selections and tactics (the joy of football is that everybody has an opinion) but he won most over with his enthusiastic, forthright manner and, above all, by nurturing a young team that have more often than not been worth the admission fee.
Most fans would now acknowledge that Billy deserves huge credit for what has been achieved at Forest over the last two years. I can’t see him being out of work for too long and I somehow think he might be back to haunt us. It would be ironic, should that be in next year’s play-offs!
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that and by next May, McClaren has secured automatic promotion. If so we’ll all join ‘the wally with the brolly’ in ‘singing in the rain’. Come to think of it, with tongues firmly wedged in cheeks, perhaps we should adopt it as a new club anthem for 2011-12.