When Billy Davies returned to Nottingham Forest on 7th February 2013, it looked like a homecoming. Despite being just 20 months since his first tenure in the job ended in confusion, recrimination and ultimately the sack, “King” Billy was back. Things should have been different this time round, with new owner and Chairman in Kuwaiti businessman Fawaz Al-Hasawi, there would be no residue of the friction that existed between Davies and the previous board at Forest. New board, maybe; but was this a new Billy Davies?
Davies is an abrasive character and his behaviour could at best be described as quirky, although others would perhaps go further. Indeed his relationship with the media, in particular the local Nottingham press is strained to the point of non-existent. Suspicion, paranoia and an apparent fixation with settling scores appear to have germinated in Davies’ second coming at the City Ground where several of the club’s employees were sacked apparently on account of being associated with the previous regime. The seeds however, appear to have been sown during his first Forest spell which was punctuated with all too regularly confounding messages from Davies. Lines like “Vengeance is best served cold. Trust me, the innocent will not be harmed.”, are more the preserve of Hollywood leading men than Championship football managers, leaving doubt that Davies’ primary motivations are entirely centred on the business of winning football games.
However at one time Davies’ seemed more intent on settling football scores than misguided personal vendettas. He made his name in management by getting the best out of the teams he’s worked with. Davies’ debut managerial role at Motherwell came in 1998 and taking the job, initially as caretaker manager, he helped the club avoid relegation. The following year and in the role full time he took the Fir Park club to the brink of a return to European competition. What followed was a fire sale, a struggle and a sacking.
Move forward a couple of years and Davies had moved south to assist Craig Brown at Preston North End, where upon Brown’s departure in 2004, Davies again found himself in the role of caretaker manager. As at Motherwell he was given the job permanently and set about driving Preston to the cusp of England’s elite on two occasions, both times via the play offs. Although he was ultimately unable to grasp promotion with Preston’s whites, the white of Derby offered Davies an opportunity to better his previous play-off achievements.
Here Davies could finally boast a play-off triumph. Beating Southampton over 2 legs and then West Bromwich Albion at Wembley, his Derby team secured promotion to the Premier League. Despite the successes of that promotion, Davies found himself out of a job again in November 2007 following a poor run of results and his criticism of the board. It wouldn’t be the last time either.
A year on Davies accepted the Forest job, taking over from fellow Scot Colin Calderwood. What has happened since has been anything but plain sailing for Nottingham Forest. No less than four managers have swept into the City Ground only to be swept out of the club since Davies left in 2011 and retuned in 2013. The naivety of Al-Hasawi and Davies’ continued perplexing behaviour have served only to leave fans of the East Midland’s club searching for the wood between the trees.
What is not in doubt is that Forest have slumped in form and at the hands of Derby at the weekend, slipped out of the play-off places at what is a critical period of the season. The unbeaten run of games that straddled Christmas and then the following slump has been a feature of both of Davies’ tenures at Forest. More than ever football is about results and therefore Davies was always going to be under pressure, however his increasing isolation from and of the press and his creeping bewildering paranoia will have made Nottingham Forest’s decision to severe ties all the easier.