Billy Davies has the chance to prove he is Nottingham Forest's messiah after all
DURING the final days of his previous tenure at Nottingham Forest, one media colleague, at every mention of his name, developed a habit of squeaking 'he's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy'.
In the present day, to Reds chairman and owner, Fawaz Al Hasawi, he is simply described as a club 'legend'.
To be fair, both opinions are a too extreme. But Billy Davies is a man who has always inspired strong opinions – largely because of his habit of voicing a few of his own.
On Trentside, a reference to 'The Life of Brian' is more likely to be about a certain Mr Clough than anything from the Monty Python back catalogue.
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But, while the man fond of a grey jumper and blazer may not have secured the legendary status of the man who famously favoured green, there may still be time yet for him to increase his standing considerably.
Because Davies is back and, as he has repeatedly stated, he has unfinished business.
And, while he may have left under a cloud last time, as his relationship with the club hierarchy became increasingly fractious, his return has unquestionably inspired a fresh wave of optimism at the City Ground.
The dark clouds have parted, with fans generally welcoming back Davies with open arms, following a remarkable spell in the club's history.
And even those with lingering skepticism are looking on with a sense of intrigue and hope. That hope, of course, is inspired by the fact that, above anything else, the Scotsman is a very good football manager.
What has never been in doubt is that in the dressing room and in the dugout, Davies is an inspirational figure. Players want to play for him. He brings the best out of individuals and makes them into a team.
He has the track record to prove it. At Preston, at Derby and at Forest, success has followed behind him.
Had he taken that extra step; had he managed to steer Forest over the finishing line in the play-offs, he may have secured legendary status now.
But that is the goal in front of him now – to achieve what he and 13 other managers have failed to do since the turn of the millennium, by steering the club back into the top flight.
Is Davies equipped to do it?
There is a very simple answer to that question: Yes he absolutely is.
He has the experience, the tactical knowledge and the judgement to build a team capable of challenging for promotion from the Championship.
He has done it before. The Forest team he assembled during his first spell in charge was capable of competing with the division.
They might have been better than their rivals, had he been backed, with new signings, at crucial stages.
The breakdown in Davies' relationship with the club hierarchy was not one-way traffic. Because there were times when Forest could have been one or two signings away from success.
But Davies' greatest strength is also his weakness. His combative, confrontational, battling nature inspires a 'them-against-us' attitude in the dressing room.
The public battles he fought took the pressure off the players. You got the impression that it was all pre-planned, preordained to be a distraction.
Whether it was him refusing to rule himself out of the running for other jobs or 'advising and recommending' new signings, it focused the attention on him and away from the team.
Much of the time, it worked. While he was collecting headlines, Forest were collecting points.
But, by the time it got to the Swansea play-off semi-final, the sideshow turned into a circus, as the media were issued, via his legal representatives, with a list of subjects that they could not talk about during the pre-match press conference.
It was a memorable final act from Davies. So much so that it almost overshadowed one important thing – he had still achieved the goal for the season. He had still got Forest into the play-off places.
Davies' return has appeased a lot of supporters; transforming the mood at a club that had been battered by the shock departure of Alex McLeish.
And, when he returns to the dugout next weekend, the roof will be lifted off the City Ground.
With 16 games left to play, there is still time for Davies to steer Forest into the top six. It will require a huge turnaround in form, from a side that has not won three games on the bounce this season and, more recently, has won only one in seven.
But Davies is capable of inspiring that. Anything could happen between now and the end of the season.
And you can absolutely guarantee that the journey is going to be interesting. It is also one that could still culminate in promotion.
And, if it does, then, perhaps Davies will prove to be the messiah after all.