And so, what many Nottingham Forest fans suspected might happen, has finally come to pass. Possibly sooner than was expected, but it's happened nonetheless. The return of Billy Davies was always likely to end either in the triumph of promotion or the bitter acrimony of a controversial departure. It doesn't give me any pleasure to be writing this blog as it ultimately means that the team is not currently performing. However, even though we may never know the full story behind the reasons for the sacking, it's pretty clear that there's more to it than the recent poor results alone.
Around this time last year the risky move of Fawaz al Hasawi in tempting Davies to return to Forest seemed like a masterstroke. A run of wins had Forest knocking on the door of the playoffs - a situation which looked impossible following the ill-fated tenure of Alex McLeish as manager and, even though we ultimately fell short last season, a summer of squad strengthening looked to have put the club in a great position to challenge for the prize of promotion this season. Early results backed this up, as three straight wins put Forest top of the early table. Further moves to strengthen the squad on transfer deadline day were ultimately thwarted but even after that disappointment and the shock move of Adlene Guedioura to Crystal Palace, the outlook for the season looked bright. So, what went wrong?
There's no doubt that the misfortune that Forest have suffered with injuries has severely affected their chances, with the likes of Chris Cohen, Kelvin Wilson, Andy Reid, Henri Lansbury and David Vaughan - among others - being unavailable for selection for extended periods of time. Absentees of that quality would hamper any team in the division without a doubt. However, the players that were available for selection should have been able to perform better than they have of late. Then we come to the off-the-field situation.
Again, none of us know the true story behind Davies' tenures at Forest, and I say tenures because of the acrimonious nature of his previous departure, but it seems that the relationship between Davies and al Hasawi has fractured beyond any hope of repair. We can only speculate why that has happened. What we know for sure is that Davies' handling of the media (or, rather, non-handling) appears to have damaged the club's reputation; and we also know that al Hasawi is keen for Forest not just to be successful, but to be respected. Those facts alone would've put manager and owner on a collision course. Then there's the more salacious rumours of certain players not being played because they weren't the manager's choice, or signings not being made because they weren't represented by a certain agent. How much truth there is in these rumours we'll probably never know.
Is sacking Davies so late in the season the right move? If you'd have asked me a few weeks ago I'd have said no. Indeed I did say no in one of my previous posts. So, what's changed my mind? The team selection, substitutions and performance against Doncaster for one thing. Yes, we still had injuries for that game but the situation of Greg Halford playing wide right while the in-form Djamal Abdoun was sitting on the bench made no sense, particularly as we desperately needed to win the match. Then, of course, we have the East Midlands Derby. I don't really feel I need to add anything else.
The season is definitely not over yet and a run of wins would still probably see Forest reach the playoffs. However, in my opinion, Davies no longer seemed able to inspire the team to achieve that run. Therefore there was nothing to lose - apart from the compensation of course - by replacing him to try and salvage what's left of the season. And so that task falls to Neil Warnock.
Some might think that Forest are jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire with this appointment and while Warnock is not without critics or controversy, he has an excellent record of getting teams promoted. Whether he'll be able to galvanise this bunch of players to do that remains to be seen, but there's no doubt he'll give it a go. I'm not sure if, long term, he's the right man for the job but hopefully he'll be able to give Fawaz the benefit of his experience and help him to make the right appointment for whoever that ends up being.
Fawaz and Forest face a massive few weeks and indeed months now. Regardless of whether Warnock can somehow inspire a miraculous turnabout in form and lead Forest to the playoffs and promotion or not, Fawaz's next few decisions - namely appointing a CEO and long-term manager - are critical to the future of the club. I feel for Fawaz in a way as, whatever he does, he can't please everyone. Perhaps he needs to stop trying, get the best advice he can, and make the right calls to take our beloved club forward.