Owners have failed to put long-term plans in place
25 March ~ The first thing to stress about Billy Davies's departure from Nottingham Forest is that it is not about results. Performances have been in steep decline recently and Forest have fallen out of the play-off places, but it is the damaging wars that Davies wages and his relentless consumption of resources that were the real problem. The last time he was in charge at Forest, from 2009 to 2011, the wage bill doubled and it has rocketed again this time. He also drives players into the ground so that they go on great unbeaten runs only to run out of steam because their legs have gone.
In October Davies took to Twitter to talk about "payback". Concerns that were present for many as soon as he returned to the club in February 2013 crystallised and a sense of foreboding settled in.
As soon as Davies came back there was a feeling of vendetta against anyone perceived to have been allied to former owner Nigel Doughty, who died in 2012 (and had ended Davies's first spell at the club the previous year). Several staff were sacked on both the football and administration sides, Daniel Taylor of the Guardian, a lifelong Forest fan, was banned from the ground along with his papers, the local radio station was refused interviews, the Nottingham Post was similarly ostracised. Davies also had clashes with match photographers for daring to take pictures of him and has filmed journalists in press conferences, banning one for suggesting holding a post-match press conference before the game was strange.
It wasn't all bad: Davies has a history of reaching the play-offs, even if he has struggled to push on from there, and with a rich and supportive chairman the squad and the wage bill grew dramatically. Results followed a familiar pattern to previous seasons under his management and the traditional mid-season run put us once again in the hunt for promotion. Historically though those long unbeaten runs have been followed by a tailing off and it was the case again, albeit this time with an awful injury list being a significant factor; no win in seven games has made even the play-offs seem unlikely.
Forest's owner Fawaz Al-Hasawi is now facing little return on around £60 million of investment. That may have been playing on his mind when seeking a change after last weekend's 5-0 humiliation at Derby County, but the deeper problem is that we are once again left with no foundations on which to build a successful football club. Forest fans need the chairman to set that vision and to appoint a professional team of people to implement it, but his record so far does not fuel confidence.
It is now up to the owner to acknowledge the mistakes he has made over the past 20 months. These began with the sacking of Sean O'Driscoll, who was replaced with Alex McLeish. He was sacked in turn to be replaced by Davies, who was given him a new contract until 2017 and hailed as "our Alex Ferguson" only to be dismissed a few weeks later.
Al-Hasawi dismantled the football and administrative structures when he appointed Davies and has not properly replaced them. He has spent a fortune in signings but under three different managers and with no overall plan of how it was developing the team. In short he has demonstrated nothing in the way of a cohesive strategy for the club nor appointed anyone to help him define and deliver one. Forest are now faced with a crucial summer. Steve Wright