Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Should he stay or should he go?

It might be a slight exaggeration to say that the wheels have fallen off Nottingham Forest's promotion push recently, but there does certainly seem to be a couple of slow punctures. Understandably, the team's current poor run of form has resulted in questions being asked of ever-controversial manager Billy Davies; and his current touchline ban and refusal to give interviews during this ban have exacerbated the matter, to the point that it's being suggested that Davies's time at Forest should be up. Davies is certainly a divisive figure but would sacking him really be the right thing to do?

A large number of Forest fans either worship Davies or despise him, with other 'floating voters' sitting in the middle. Personally I'm in the latter group. I appreciate some of the football that Forest have played during Davies's two tenures here. I don't appreciate the current situation as I don't think it does Davies or the club any favours. However, I don't think sacking Davies would be the right thing to do at the moment, and my reason for this can be found just up the road.

Our bitter local rivals fellow Championship club Leicester City were taken over some time before Forest and, after two relatively short-lasting managerial appointments in Paulo Sousa and Sven-Goran Eriksson, they reappointed their former manager Nigel Pearson. I can't speak for their fans but I wouldn't imagine this was a universally popular move, just as Davies's return to Forest wasn't, and at times of poor form for Leicester since Pearson's return there has been elements of their fanbase calling for his head. But the owners have stuck with him and are now reaping the benefits as it seems that, barring any catastrophic loss of form, Leicester will coast to promotion this season after missing out in the playoffs last term.

So, lets look closer to home again. After our own two short-lived managerial flirtations with Sean O'Driscoll and Alex McLeish we too ignored the old saying that you should never go back, by reappointing prickly Scotsman Billy Davies. In terms of results this seemed to be an inspired move as a run of wins took Forest to the fringes of the playoffs last season, only to miss out to Leicester on the last day. A summer of heavy investment from Forest owner Fawaz al Hasawi left the Reds with a squad that looked, on paper, more than capable of challenging at the top end of the table. And so it has proved, with Forest currently sitting in fifth place, ensconced in a playoff position. That doesn't tell the full story though.

I could spend days writing about the sideshow which has been associated with Davies during his current stint as manager, but I'm not going to, instead choosing to focus on the football side. And, at times, this has been very good. Confident wins over Bolton, Huddersfield, Blackburn and QPR have been highlights, as were a smash-and-grab 2-0 at Leicester and the derby-day victory over Derby County. But all too often we've found ourselves leading in games only to surrender late equalisers. Bolton, Reading and Blackpool away and Leicester at home all immediately spring to mind, leading to accusations that Davies is a negative manager and can't kill teams off. I'm not sure it's as simple as that though.

Opponents are always going to push forward when behind, as we've done many times ourselves this season. I don't think for one second that Davies tells his players to sit back intentionally. There are elements of over-caution in his management though: long drawn out substitutions and not leaving a player up when defending corners to name but two. But the number of chances our players have missed to put Forest further ahead when leading matches cannot be attributed to Davies.

Then, of course, there's the injuries. Those fans dead against Davies will argue that they can't be used as excuses, and to a point they're right. Our squad is strong enough that the teams we've put out recently should have secured better results than they have. However, any team which have effectively lost their entire first choice defence and midfield to injury is likely to feel the effect at some point. Though Davies might not have picked the same team for eight games in a row, I'm sure he'd have loved the luxury that Burnley manager Sean Dyche has enjoyed for the recent run of league matches.

Playing one up front at home is seen as negative. However, some of our best performances have been as a result of playing this formation. I guess where I'm going with all this is to say that the arguments for and against Davies are not black and white, but are as difficult to fathom as the man himself at times.

Anyway, whatever us fans say or think, the decision lies with Fawaz al Hasawi alone. He desperately wants Forest to succeed and return to the Premier League: I'd like to think we all do. Despite recent results the season is most definitely not over and we're still in with a better chance of achieving that aim than the majority of clubs in the Championship. There's no guarantee that changing the manager at this point in time will improve our chances of promotion this season so, unless Billy Davies does something which truly makes his position untenable (which, admittedly, is not impossible) then for now I think we should stick instead of twist.

I'm sure many will disagree though.

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