Thursday, 22 January 2009

Billy make yourself a hero.....

On Saturday Billy Davies made himself at home in his new surrounds and got off to the best possible start at the City Ground - securing a vital three points against Plymouth.

The win adds to the Reds' recent resurgence and ensured that Argyle now join a host of clubs that have become embroiled in the basement battle.

Billy's home curtain raiser wasn't the greatest of spectacles - but that wasn't help by a one-dimensional, lacklustre Plymouth side who were comfortably the worst to grace the City Ground in the games I've seen this season. In the first half their only outlet was the limited Rory Fallon and although in the second half they added Emile Mpenza to their striking options a commanding performance from Wes Morgan left the pair thoroughlly outclassed.

Forest's attacking play was encouraging and frustrating in equal measure, as so often has been the case this season. The likes of Anderson, Cohen and McGugan got into great positions but failed to deliver the extra goals which would have allowed us to relax a little and would have given us a scoreline our dominance (and Plymouth lack of ambition and dynamism) perhaps deseved. Towards the end McGugan in particular found himself in more and more space and began to control the game - but just couldn't quite find the telling pass/shot his stylish runs and intelligent play warranted.

The goals, when they did come, were testament to Earnie's predatory prowess and Tyson's increasing confidence - factors that have been key to our revival.

Davies instantly showed a contrast to Calderwood in his approach. CC was more softly spoken Scot wheras Davies is a snarling, growling Glaswegian who patrols his technical area with boundless energy and could regularly be seen cajoling the players into carrying out his instructions. Smith in particular seemed to be the recipient of a menacing stare and a few strong words when, as he does too often, he wasted the chance to launch a counter attack by dawdling on the ball.

Billy's more ruthless demeanour is needed in his players and was at least in part shown by the ability to get a result against a side who would've been happy to frustrate and take a point.

He got a rousing reception from the fans when he emerged from the tunnel and seemed to spark an instant rapport with a crowd perhaps even more keen than ever to show it isn't as negative as made out to be. The fact he has managed Derby was brought up in some circles as a problem but, if anything, his past seems to have endeared himself to us even more - he wants to get back at Derby and we simply want to get at them. The perfect match.

And speaking of Derby, we're now on the eve of the next trip to the home of the dirty sheep. With Davies, Clough, Commons and Earnshaw thrown into the equation and a contraversial end to the last visit to the wrong end of the A52 still fresh in the memory this promises to be another fiery encounter.

We're now 5 games without a win against Derby and it's not just Billy who will feel he has a point to prove in the FA Cup 4th round clash. Earnie had a barren time with the sheep, mainly due to a lack of games, and will want to showcase his famed goal celebration to the mutton botherers. McGugan will want to remove memories of his last trip - which ended in a red card - and the likes of Wilson, Chambers, Smith et al will all be playing for their places with the January transfer window nearing its end. This is a squad which can ill afford to rest on its laurels.

Billy's sensible and open approach to management has won over many of the doom and gloom merchants that made their grumbles heard at the time of his appointment. He now heads into a game where he has the chance to work his way firmly into fans' affections. Last time out at Prideless Park it was ex-sheep Lee Camp that became an instant hero with the Tricky Trees faithful. This time it can be Billy.....

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Promising signs to start '09

The dust has finally settled on a dramatic Christmas and New Year for Forest. In the last blog I described the unravelling story on Trentside as akin to a soap opera - but the weeks to follow have had more twists and turns than a detective drama.

The clun went for favourite (in the betting if not in fans estimations) Billy Davies as the man to step into CC's shoes but while still under the superb stewardship of reserve coach John Pemberton roundly trounced troubled billionaires Man City in the FA Cup 3rd round to earn national acclaim. As JP made way for BD the Reds were promptly drawn against The Enemy in the next round, his former employers of course, who then, to add further interest to that tantalising cup tie, went and appointed ex-Red and son of a certain someone Nigel Clough to replace the hapless Paul Jewell.

As if all that wasn't enough excitement there was the little matter of a relegation six-pointer at the Valley as Billy's first game at the helm. It was a game in which, by all accounts, Charlton did their best 'Forest from a few weeks ago' impression and did all the running with no cutting edge. The Tricky Trees duly emerged victorious thanks to goals from in-form pair Nathan Tyson and Rob Earnshaw.

That vital win marked an excellent end to a busy few weeks but what now for Billy and the boys? 2009 does bring a lot of promise. Forget about the negativity surrounding Davies' appointment - that was harsh and at times embarrasing. He may not be the most 'sexy' of candidates on the list but he has an excellent track record at this level. Nigel may have been the romantic choice but he would've been a risk we couldn't afford to take while at the jaws of the League One trapdoor. It was right to bring in a man that knows the league and looks to have the bit between his teeth following a sour end to his time with the sheep botherers. Anyone who is uneasy about the Derby connection should remember that like all of us, he will be desperate to get one over on them.

So why should Forest fans feel positive for 2009?

*Firstly Billy's record at this level should give fans confidence in knowing that we have a man who has the type of toughness and know-how needed to succeed at this level. Those are hopefully characteristics he can transfer to his players.

*Secondly people should put aside any concerns about the style of play the Reds will adopt under Davies. Our game may turn out to be less stylish than the classy interplay seen at times under CC but lets be honest most of us forgot the pretty passing as we trudged back over Trent Bridge having been beaten by Burnley and Palace sides that we should've beaten. Billy is cleverer than some give him credit for and is a man who, in absences from the managerial scene, has taken himself off to footballing giants such as Juventus to further his knowledge. He's no mug and cerainly won't just churn out a side of lump-it cloggers.

*Also the transfer window remains open until the end of the month. Billy will hopefully by now have seen the strengths and weaknesses of the squad and has the chance to spend the next couple of weeks snapping up new recruits. I'd love to see a pair of full backs and experienced leader in centre midfield brought in, as well as perhaps another option up front after the failure of the Andy Cole experiment.

*January could also be significant in that it brings two (hopefully) winnable home games against Plymouth and Sheffield Wednesday. The home form must be put right under Billy if we are to survive and coupled with our current away results an improvement to results at the City Ground would see us climb the table. February meanwhile contains tricky looking trips to Ipswich, Birmingham and Reading so it will be important to get points in the bag this month.

*After half a season at this level the likes of Thornhill, Mcgugan, Anderson and Cohen will now be able to draw on some experience at this level and that does appear to start to be paying dividends with recent performances, especially away from home.

*The signs are also there that the strikers are starting to come good. Earnshaw is starting to show his pedigree and yesterday's classy finish proved he is getting close to his sharp-shooting best. Earnie's form is backed up by Tyson, who is finally starting to look at home at this level, and Garner, who looks hungry for goals and capable of getting them.

*Finally key rivals appear to be in freefall. Norwich for one look to be spiralling down the division and are now without loan striker Leroy Lita. Charlton are without a win for a long while, Southampton are as inept at home as we are, Doncaster look to be getting the hang of the league but lack a prolific striker, Watford are struggling to stop the goals going in, Blackpool must make do with the inspirational Simon Grayson and the Sheep are just 2 points ahead! Amongst that lot there needs to be 3 teams worse than us and current form suggest that is be possible.

There are therefore positives but of course it would be blinkered of me to say everything is rosy. It won't be easy for Billy to get who he wants in a competitive window and it would be foolish to think he'll be able to toughen us up over night. At the moment we are on a roll away from home but if and when that run dries up we will need to have rectified the naive soft centre that saw Calderwood's side captulate on too many occasions.

Billy has a good chance to build on CC's work and lead us to safety. We can all be optimistic that he will as the year begins and that the Davies era will not be the next in a long line of false dawns at the City Ground.