Holden A Minute
In his weekly column, Mike Holden urges those Championship clubs seeking success to pursue football's forgotten manager, Billy Davies...
High time for Billy's return
When Billy Davies was sacked by Nottingham Forest the summer before last, I would have wagered good money that he'd be back in employment before the year was out. Had somebody set the spread on his return at 7-8 months, I'd have been selling at seven without hesitation.
I presumed that he would find a job at least equal to the one he left behind at the City Ground, another Championship club unable to shake off mediocrity, with a budget that was slightly below average, a club that needed to overachieve in order to compete for promotion to the Premier League.
That said, I wouldn't have ruled out the possibility that Davies would land a top job, a relegated side with all the might of the new parachute payments or one of the handful of clubs now boosted by foreign investment. If new owners were looking for a safe bet, the Glaswegian would surely deliver a top-six finish as a minimum return on their initial investment.
What I didn't expect for one moment was that Davies would become the forgotten man of the managerial merry-go-round, still seeking work 16 months later. When Owen Coyle was handed his P45 by Bolton this week, it was the 13th Championship vacancy to open up since Davies became available and it's measure of his dwindling association with such opportunities that he could be backed at 25/1 for the Reebok post the following day.
All of which begs the question: what on earth is going on?
Is there something we don't know, something that hasn't been made public? Is Davies bound by the terms of his severance package with Forest, choosing to keep his options open for the right opportunity? Is he even applying for any of these jobs? Or are those responsible for hiring and firing simply looking for an easy life? Are they too cowardly to take on the baggage that comes with Davies' incredible record on the pitch?
Because let's not be under any illusions, when you take everything into account, from budgets to the quality of inherited personnel to the length of transition period, Billy Davies is virtually unrivalled when it comes to control over results week in, week out at Championship level. He is arguably the best game-by-game tactical strategist the division has known.
Of all the managers who have managed in the Championship for any significant period over the past decade, only Chris Hughton boasts a better points-per-game record than Davies and though Hughton deserves huge credit for his achievements, not least his excellent crisis-management skills, it's fair to say he started from a much more favourable position in terms of the squad he inherited, especially at Newcastle.
Besides, the Hughton sample is only two seasons. Davies has done just short of six seasons at this level, resulting in five top-six finishes and a successful survival bid. Forest were sat above the relegation zone only on goal difference when Davies arrived 26 games into the 2008/09 campaign. Meanwhile, Preston and Derby had finished 15th and 20th respectively in the seasons prior to him picking up the reins.
Beyond that, we only know that Davies is high-maintenance, a right royal pain in the arse when it comes to club politics. If his time at Forest tells us anything, it's that he's always out to protect his own back. And if that means shafting those above him through the media in order to do so, he won't think twice. But it never comes at the expense of results.
So if Davies is applying for these jobs, why isn't he getting them? And if he's not applying for them, why isn't he being head-hunted? Somewhere down the line, a chairman or chief executive has to grow some balls and show that they really do have their fans' interests at heart, rather than their own. Davies is a manager that needs to be managed. But when the prize up for grabs is £90m, he is worth all the headaches.
Read Mike Holden's weekly column every Wednesday at Best of the Bets.
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