Billy Davies’ second spell at Nottingham Forest – when he shunned the vast majority of the media, both local and national – was in stark contrast to his first period in charge, when I can’t think of too many journalists who didn’t respect him.
There were plenty who liked him, and I think the feeling was mutual. He was, as they say, ‘good copy.’
By the end of his first spell, I’ll confess that I was worn out by the politics that came along with his tenure and I felt it was time for a change at the club. There was a huge gulf between the manager and board, and it couldn’t carry on.
Trying to plot a neutral course between the two sides (of the same club) was wearing – but I’m pleased with the way we at BBC Radio Nottingham did our jobs.
As I mentioned in the previous blog, I got on well with Billy in his first spell – and I’m pretty sure he’d say the same. We’d speak regularly face to face, as well as on the phone, and exchange text messages.
Davies’ battles at the time were with other people, and the Transfer Acquisition Panel that he made famous – or infamous.
The outstanding journalist Danny Taylor was at The Guardian at the time, and wrote in September 2010 – nine months after the Scotsman had taken over – that “most clubs have a similar operation, but Davies has issues with David Pleat and Mark Arthur (Football Consultant and Chief Executive), and has taken just about every opportunity – using an obliging local media – to argue that the manager should be given more authority when it comes to transfer business.”
Obliging local media. Bearing in mind what happened with his treatment of the ‘obliging local media,’ in his second spell as manager, it makes me chuckle now.
At some point in Davies’ managerial reign, I remember securing an interview with Pleat for our Friday night sports programme – this was a bit of a ‘scoop,’ as Pleat hadn’t spoken about his role and what it entailed.
As Danny suggests, Pleat’s presence was controversial – though I don’t think the former Tottenham manager understood why. The interview was around ten minutes long as I recall, and was conducted ‘down the line’ – ie. He was in a studio elsewhere in the country.
It was a fair interview, and he explained the role well – but it’s fair to say, it was quite robust. There was a lot of huffing in the interview, he was clearly unimpressed, and there wasn’t any small talk when we finished.
From memory, we recorded the interview in the middle of the week, ahead of the Friday programme.
Within hours of completing the interview, my mobile rang – it was Billy. I still don’t know how, but he’d found out that I’d interviewed Pleat, and he wanted to hear it before it went out on the radio.
This was quite unusual, but Billy had explained that he was driving back to Scotland on the Friday evening (it was international weekend, from memory) so wouldn’t be able to hear the interview.
He requested a CD of the interview, suggesting that he’d get calls from journalists asking him about it.
I discussed his request with the Editor at BBC Radio Nottingham, who agreed that it was fair to Davies that he should have the interview – so I called the manager back.
We agreed that the best way of doing this was for me to drop the CD into him on my way home that evening – I often used to walk home from the BBC to my house in West Bridgford. So it wasn’t a problem to meet him at The City Ground, and hand over the CD.
As I came over Trent Bridge on a mild early evening, the mobile rang again – Billy was wondering where I was. I explained that I wasn’t far away from the ground – he explained he was sitting in his car outside the club shop and I was to meet him there.
Very odd, I thought – why doesn’t he just wait in his office at the ground?
But as I turned into Pavilion Road, sure enough, there was the manager sitting in his black Range Rover outside of the ground, waiting for me. I handed over the CD, he thanked me, and he sped off – presumably heading up the motorway to Glasgow.
I explain this, because it exemplifies how we had a good relationship first time around, and further underlines the madness of what happened when he returned as manager. He didn’t exactly show a lot of gratitude!
The reason I was walking to and from work was because I was trying to get fitter, and lose a bit of weight after a small health scare.
I’d been out with friends in Northampton on a Wednesday evening – it was a Fantasy Football dinner between the three of us, where the winner of our mini-league had dinner bought for him by the person that finished third. The guy that finished second in the league bought his own dinner.
I’d come last, so it was already an expensive evening for me!
Basically, it was an excuse to make sure that the three of us got together for a catch-up at least once a season, and didn’t let time drift without seeing each other.
But I was shattered, and had the meal not been planned for so long, I’d have postponed.
Having made our way through the meal, I was tucking into dessert when I felt rough – I needed some fresh air.
But when I got outside, I fainted. My friends called an ambulance, which came very quickly and gave me a quick check.
I was fine. But the ambulancewoman explained that I was tired, and had had a lot to eat without getting up – well, it was a beautiful Thai meal, and I didn’t want to miss out!
I didn’t realise, but she explained that means that the blood moves to your stomach to break down the food, and drains away from other areas – such as the head, and you faint.
I never eat a lot any more, without going for a walk between courses. Lesson learned!
So that explains why I was walking to and from work, and the incident also highlighted another example of the relationship between Billy and I at the time.
We were due to chat again (with the rest of the media) the morning after my collapse outside a Northampton Thai restaurant – my plan had been to drive straight there from Northampton on the Thursday morning.
But the ambulancewoman had suggested a day of rest, so I couldn’t make the press call. I asked whether I alone could reschedule to the Friday, something which was very unusual.
Davies readily agreed, so I recorded an interview with him on the Friday instead – we met in a small office at what became the Nigel Doughty Academy, and conducted a pre-match interview.
Beforehand, he’d asked in great depth about what had happened, and seemed genuinely concerned.
He then gave me a huge lecture about how it was a warning, that I should see it as such, and I should look to get fitter. It’s the closest I got to a Billy Davies team-talk, but he was right.
So you can understand my bemusement at his treatment of me second time around.
- Billy Davies, press conferences, FFP, social media abuse and a Perth beach…
- When things got personal at Forest
- When I couldn’t talk to Billy Davies – the most difficult year of my career!
- Why always Nottingham Forest?
- Making history at Elland Road
- A suit, a shave and the sack
Photos: Dan Westwell