Martin Hardy: Returning Billy Davies driven to 'prove the doubters wrong'

Life Beyond the Premier League

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The Independent Football

On a Sunday, back at his Glasgow home, Billy Davies is locked away in his study surrounded by the latest video technology. For six hours he will pull out incidents from the weekend’s European football for a PowerPoint presentation to use in meetings with his players in the forthcoming week.

Sunday is supposed to be Davies’s day off. The fact he is working could explain the impact his second coming is having on Nottingham Forest.

Football moves quickly. At the beginning of February, Forest were a club in disarray. Alex McLeish had departed as manager after just 40 days in charge, relegation was  threatening, new owners were struggling to make themselves understood and long-serving staff had been dismissed. McLeish had succeeded Sean O’Driscoll, who in turn had succeeded Steve Cotterill. That much change inside a year is never good for a club. This was their hour of need.

So Fawaz Al-Hasawi, the owner and chairman, approached Davies, who had been sacked by Forest 19 months before McLeish left, after Forest had lost out in the Championship play-offs. Davies took the bait, saying his time had been cut short by the then owners.

The results have been dramatic: six wins (against Huddersfield, Charlton, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich, Wolves and Hull) and three draws (against Bolton, Brighton and Burnley) from the nine games. The new old manager has transformed belief and expectation. Almost from nowhere, Forest are in a play-off position with an outside chance of automatic promotion.

Thus far, Davies has held firm to his promise to reignite a football club. He also kept a promise to allow the BBC’s Late Kick Off to film him. The insight is revealing.

“Sunday, Monday and Tuesday is about reviewing what has taken place over the weekend” he says from his home editing suite. “The Wednesday, Thursday and Friday is about previewing the next opponent, then there is a huge analysis that takes place and then we put together the PowerPoint presentation for the players.

“Why do we need to work? We have a badge on our jersey that demands success, demands the tradition of where it’s been. Nottingham Forest is a great club and the players have to realise what they play for.

“There’s only one focus for me, with Fawaz, the board, with the players and the staff and the fans: to get this club to the Premier League. Everything else does not matter.”

The cameras catch him with his squad, before and after games. At one stage he warns them about blowing their play-off chances. “You’ve put yourself in a hell of a position,” he says. “All that will happen now is you will take the gun out, put it down your throat and pull the trigger. You will throw it away, not anyone else, you.

“It’ll only happen because of one or two becoming complacent. All of a sudden one or two will let us down at the wrong time. Don’t be the one who lets us down.”

Then there is self-analysis. “A lot of it is instinct, when you shout at people, when you put an arm around people and give them a nice word in their ear,” he says. “Against Huddersfield there was shouting and bawling and raised voices at half-time – that was purely so that complacency was removed in the second half. We were winning three-one.”

And there is self-mockery. “I take stick about the obsessive-compulsive disorder thing. I can’t help myself with the training and the paperwork, and that bottles of water have to be turned round the right way.”

And on the possibility of promotion? “To get this club to the Premier League is very personal,” he adds, “to prove all those doubters absolutely wrong.”