Billy, don’t be a hero

24 Mar

He came. He saw. He sacked left, right and centre. He spent. He moaned. He produced some good results. He produced some dire results. He got banned…lots.

He fell well short of conquering too.

Second comings are always a bit of an anti-climax though aren’t they? First comings are always going to hold the aces in these situations and wipe the floor with any Johnny-come-lately Second comings: that’s why they’re comings of the second rate, and not the first. With many fans still reeling in a world of pain and dark depression following Saturday’s events, emotions are still raw and anger is in abundance. The civil war that broke out amongst us in recent weeks turned out to be a one sided scuffle in the end as defections from the pro-Billy camp to the anti-Billy camp were numerous. He certainly made his mark since returning in February 2013.

Whole books could (and probably will be) written about Mr Davies’ stints at the helm. But let’s keep things on the pitch for now and reflect on what he did achieve and the happy times we all spent together for a moment. Long unbeaten runs seemed to be his forte and he enjoyed a few of these. At times we looked imperious and that away win at West Bromwich Albion is fondly remembered. Personally, the away win at Charlton Athletic on the occasion of his very first game in charge stands out for me as it gave hope that we could actually survive that season. Notable mentions too for the home win against Bristol City that virtually ensured survival that season and obviously, the emphatic home wins against Leicester City and Derby County – all in his first stint as manager. With Mr Davies in charge of your club in the Championship, you are virtually guaranteed a play-off place.

But there’s the rub….or at least, one of many rubs.

Whilst home games were always good value and at times, scintillating, away games were generally dour affairs in which we always seemed to play more reactionary than proactively. Although we got a draw, the goalless draw at Birmingham City just before Christmas springs readily to mind as a classic example of an away game in which a slither of adventure and positivity might well have yielded more than the away point and turgid performance that we got; I’m sure there are countless more. Of course, the man himself would argue that home wins and away draws get you promoted – I’ve got no truck with that but you also need a plan B for when you keep getting beaten away from home and for when your home form slips – which it inevitably will. This is when the manager really earns his corn in adapting tactics in order to stop the rot.

Speaking of tactics, the big occasion has arguably seen him left wanting. Blackpool outplayed us in both legs in that epic play-off semi-final; we all wondered whether the recall of a still clearly unfit Paul McKenna for the away leg was a key call in losing the tie up at Bloomfield Road. And then there’s the dreadful performance against Swansea City in the home leg of our other glorious play-off semi-final defeat: against 10 men for 85 minutes but unable to get any change out of a well drilled Swans defence. To be fair to Mr Davies, he came mighty close to overturning it in the second leg with the pace of Tyson deployed to hit City on the break which nearly yielded the opening goal. But within the blink of an eye, we were two down. His deployment of Majewski and Earnshaw from the bench so very nearly turned the game in our favour again. But alas, too little too late.

Or was he just a little unlucky in coming up against two quality teams in their prime? Certainly in the case of Swansea City lead by Brendan Rodgers, yes. But in the case of Ian Holloway’s Blackpool? Beatable.

Fair play to Mr Davies for coming so close at the start of his return too for turning in a stretch of victories that took us from flailing around in mid table to within a whisker of the play-offs. But again, the big occasion at home against Leicester City in a winner takes all game saw us once again, falling short and being tactically outmanoeuvred. Perhaps a pattern is developing here.

For me, the defining moment where he successfully alienated himself from the vast majority of fans was precisely 50 seconds after the half-time whistle at Turf Moor as he trudged towards the tunnel, handily located in the middle of the sizeable away support, having overseen a comprehensive spanking. With some wit, we sang, ‘It is what it is, it is what it is, we’re Nottingham Forest, it is what it is’ in reference to his repeated and nonsensical mutterings for the in house Forest You Tube press conferences.

He was not amused.

Of course, who would be as you prepare to enter a dressing room in an effort to turn around one hell of a mess? But all he needed to do was show us that he was on it and that he had a plan and that he was determined to do something about it. A brief applause? A brief wave to acknowledge that we were rubbish?

In turn, we were not amused.

In many ways, Darius Henderson seems to epitomise his second stint. On occasions, Henderson was incredibly effective in getting the job done as he’d come off the bench and make some sort of vital contribution to securing a point or even a win. At times, we’d pine for Henderson to start and think he was the answer to all our goal scoring problems. But when he did, we were reminded that actually, he was mostly just hot air and bluster. He’d give away needless free kicks, he’d get involved in long running arguments with opposition defenders and even go down needlessly in the box when it looked easier to score. He’d square up to anyone at the slightest provocation and get himself sent off just when we needed him at this best. Then he’d redeem himself and score a cracker. But the next week, he’d be useless and cumbersome and look like the last guy you’d want to bump into down at your local. Remind you of anyone?

And then there’s the off pitch shenanigans…

Again, plenty has been written already (least of all by me) regarding this matter but put simply, he managed to take our reputation as a lot of people’s favourite second clubs (largely thanks to the legacy of a certain Brian Clough), crumple it up into a tight ball and hurl it ominously towards the trash. This is going to take some retrieving, uncrumpling and even ironing to get it back to what it was.

Will we miss him? At some stage and on occasions, I guess we will. Should we manage to get ourselves in a mess at the foot of the table, no doubt we’ll remember how he rescued us from relegation to League 1. We might also just miss the familiarity of being challenging for the play-off places.

But I won’t miss much else about him. Life is too short to bear grudges and I wish him success in his next enterprise – whatever or wherever that will be since he has surely managed to besmirch his reputation for good now. I won’t miss the constant bleating about more signings and more players required: his policy on signings seems to have been more scattergun in approach with the policy being to dip a huge net into a pool and see what you come out with. Let’s hope Rafik Djebbour isn’t another Robbie Findley.

The past is very important to us Forest fans: we were very good and yes, we will keep bleating on about it, especially when we currently aren’t very good. It’s not that we expect to be that good again but that we, like other football fans, want an identity, something that makes us proud to be Forest fans. Under Billy Davies, especially towards the end, I didn’t feel much pride – in fact, I felt embarrassed about Darius Henderson’s (see what I mean??!!) handled goal against Middlesbrough. It would be nice to feel that pride again rather than feeling the need to defend or explain your manager’s rantings and downright odd behaviour. He recently claimed that, “the innocent will not be harmed.” Did he mean that all those who voiced an opinion against him were in some way guilty? Am I one of the guilty who, by logical extension, will be harmed?

Who knows? I do know that although it occasionally seemed right, we weren’t right for him…and he wasn’t right for us. It would be nice to think that he will reflect upon his time here, especially his second stint, as an opportunity missed to prove himself as a top manager. ‘If only I’d have got on with the job instead of spending all my energy picking fights and arguments with everyone around me.’

But he won’t. And that’s a shame. We’ll move on. He should too.

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One Response to “Billy, don’t be a hero”

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  1. Five things we like this month — March | Seat Pitch - April 1, 2014

    […] Billy, don’t be a hero – Forest Lookout “Again, plenty has been written already (least of all by me) regarding […]

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