On Sunday night the internet played host to an intense Twitter storm speculating on the precarious future of divisive Nottingham Forest manager Billy Davies.
And many who felt the fiery Scotsman had fallen beyond the point of no return were proved right on Monday as the club released an abrupt statement confirming the termination of the manager’s long-term contract with immediate effect. But Davies’ swift and emphatic fall from grace is not simply a consequence of Nottingham Forest’s poor recent form, and exemplifies the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship between the manager and the fans in modern English football.
Saturday’s East Midland’s derby saw the Reds collapse in a humiliating 5-0 defeat to fierce rivals Derby County in a game that proved to be the final nail in the proverbial coffin. Indeed, a broader observation of their form reveals a more serious and pressing burden on their promotion hopes, having failed to secure a single win from their previous eight fixtures.
Fans and pundits alike had begun to question the tactical organisation of a Forest squad massively inhibited by the injuries of up to seven first team players. Saturday’s encounter saw a conservative midfield three of veteran Jonathan Greening, Guy Moussi and Radoslaw Majewski supporting lone striker Simon Cox: a tactical manoeuvre which many fans perceived to demonstrate a distinct lack of ambition given the ferocious historical nature of the derby.
Yet given the injury crisis, such a poor run of form and even the devastating loss to Derby are forgivable. What was truly unforgivable, however, and what fundamentally sealed Davies’ imminent departure, was the manner in which he dismissed the fans.
Billy Davies’ unwavering refusal to accept press commitments before and after games has long frustrated fans and the journalists alike. Many had farcically deemed the City Ground as the ‘North Korea’ of the Championship given its turbulent relationship with the local and national media. And particularly after the crushing weekend defeat to Derby, supporters felt severely and rightfully letdown by the lack of communication from a manager they had supported resolutely throughout his controversial tenure at Nottingham Forest.
His unwillingness to address the concerns of the crowd, take responsibility for poor results and justify his erratic tactical decisions led to the unsalvageable deterioration of his relationship with the fans.
2,700 of these Forest supporter’s had made the short trip to the iPro stadium on the weekend. And having paid £35 to watch their team get utterly dismantled, felt understandably dejected as they weren’t afforded as much as a wave or acknowledgement from the manager at the end. Such a toxic relationship can only have one plausible outcome, and sadly for Billy Davies, when one man becomes bigger than his club, his time becomes inescapably limited.
What must be taken from this unfortunate episode is the necessity for club stability both on and off the field. A manager must become an integral part of the club through complicity, and not as an abrasive, destabilising attachment or sideshow. And perhaps most importantly, it serves as a potent reminder to both owners and managers that it is the fans whom constitute the unerring heart and soul of a club.