“Don’t drive to Leicester, you’re going to Nottingham” – the story of Cohen and Davies’ move to Forest

“Pack a bag, get in the car and drive to Leicester tomorrow morning.”

Arron Davies ended the phone call with his agent, and went to sleep thinking he – and Chris Cohen – would be Leicester City players by the following evening.

It was the first that the Welshman knew about a definite move away from Yeovil, though he’d heard of interest before the League One play-off final, which his team had reached at the expense of Nottingham Forest.

Davies had dazzled in that second leg at The City Ground, as the Glovers overturned a 2-0 deficit by winning 5-2 in Nottingham.

He scored twice in an extraordinary game that saw Forest hearts broken, with Cohen also impressing in midfield. 

At that point, Davies knew nothing of interest in him from other clubs. But between that City Ground night and the Wembley play-off final (which Yeovil lost to Blackpool), his agent told him that bigger clubs would be looking on.

He tells me: “My agent, who I wasn’t especially close to, rang me before the final to tell me that clubs would be monitoring me at Wembley, but that Forest would definitely bid.

“I didn’t know at that stage that Chris (Cohen) would also be involved in a deal, and the agent also mentioned that Forest had bid for me in the previous January. But nothing came of it.”

Davies woke up the morning after his agent called with news of the move, ready to make the journey up from the south-west to Leicester. 

The Foxes had agreed a fee for Davies and Cohen, but there was to be a change of plan.

“My agent rang me the following morning and said ‘Don’t drive to Leicester, you’re heading to Nottingham instead’.”

Davies continued to have conversations with people on the journey up to Nottingham with his Dad, and said that “it just felt right”, and he had a “gut feeling to move to Forest.”

A move for both players had been agreed, and Davies was put up by the club in the Jury’s Inn – about a mile from the ground.

A medical and contractual details would be sorted the following day.

“I met (manager) Colin Calderwood for the first time over breakfast at 5am,” Davies reveals. 

“The rest of the squad was flying out to Austria for pre-season that day, so we chatted over a very early feed.”

The Welshman had a medical later in the morning, but then had a day to kill, because Cohen wouldn’t arrive in Nottingham until the early evening – and the deal was a joint one for around £1 million. 

“I was up before 5am,” says Davies, “so I was completely knackered, but my Dad and I went on a tour of the City Ground and all of the offices to get a real feel for the club, before we signed the deal in the evening.

“We were having to kill so much time.

“I actually didn’t know what money I’d be on before signing the contract, I was just so pleased that I’d play for a club like Forest.

“It’s a cliche, but it was such a dream move.”

“The thing I remembered before I signed was the away fans that I’d seen at Huish Park for the first leg, and even for the league game earlier in the season.

“I remember thinking ‘this is a proper club’, as there were so many fans crammed into the away terrace. Not many clubs did that, as it was such a long way to go!”

Cohen duly arrived around 5pm, and the contracts were signed – both players then headed to Stansted, ready to join up with the rest of the squad in Austria for the pre-season tour.

The deal with Yeovil was structured in a unique way, which still makes me smile years later.

The joint fee for both players was around £1m, but West Ham had a sell-on clause with Cohen, whereby they would claim 30% of any transfer fee that Yeovil received for their midfielder.

Because of that, Yeovil insisted that the deal for both players was structured in such a way that they’d have to pay the Hammers a smaller amount.

So Forest agreed to pay £900,000 for Davies, and £100,000 for Cohen.

Had it been the other way around, Yeovil would have had to fork out £300,000 to West Ham, rather than the £30,000 they did. Canny.

The two players were close at Yeovil, and they’re still good friends today – “one of my best mates,” says Davies. 

“We became mates at Yeovil. I can still remember the day he turned up at Macclesfield for his first Yeovil game, in one of his over-sized suits. But we always got on.”

Davies is now an agent and recently helped friend and former team-mate Joe Garner sign a new contract at Wigan – just a few days before the Latics hit their well-publicised troubles.

In the end, the careers of Davies and Cohen turned out quite differently at The City Ground.

Davies made just 40 appearances, while Cohen went on to make more than 300.

“It was still the right move,” says Davies, who still lives with his young family in Ruddington.

“I broke my leg in pre-season at Motherwell in the summer of 2007, and I really couldn’t get fit again. Something wasn’t right from then.

“In that Yeovil semi-final (against Forest), I was flying with confidence. But at Forest, I broke my leg, and then did my hamstring at Crewe (in March 2008). It was a nightmare.

“I then had a great pre-season, and forced my way into the team, but then suffered a calf injury against Morecambe (in August 2008). I just couldn’t get going.

“It was frustrating because I know I could have done well.

“It wasn’t until I got to Exeter much later in my career, where I had acupuncture, I finally got myself fit and played.

“But, I’m very proud to say that I played for Nottingham Forest.”

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Pics – Dan Westwell

3 thoughts on ““Don’t drive to Leicester, you’re going to Nottingham” – the story of Cohen and Davies’ move to Forest

  1. Remember being so excited about both of these players. Shame for Davies but Cohen has gone on to be one of my favourite ever players. Would be interested to hear you speak to some ex Forest players about the truth about playing for a provincial 2nd tier club. How the moves come about, how the training regimes differ under different managers, at what they think about changing squads and maybe even about personal issues being in that environment. A bit like the underthecosh podcasts but with your lens of the club at that particular time If that makes sense

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