Paul Taylor: Securing a place in Nottingham Forest’s record books could be a step towards promotion for Billy Davies
BILLY Davies has already won a place in the hearts of many Nottingham Forest fans.
But he could now also be poised to earn a place in the history books.
Depending on what happens at Hull this weekend, there is a danger that the international break could feel more like two years without a game, rather then just two weeks, for the Scotsman.
Because a win at the KC Stadium would take Forest’s recent run to six consecutive league victories – and the club record stands at seven league successes.
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The visit of Brighton on Saturday, March 30 already holds huge significance, given the fight the two sides are embroiled in for that final play-off place in the Championship.
A win for either side at the City Ground would give them a significant advantage, with the finishing line edging ever closer in the race for promotion.
But it could also see Forest equal a record that has stood since 1922, when over the course of two seasons, a Forest team managed by Bob Masters, won seven games in a row.
The simple priority for Davies will be making sure that, however they achieve it, Forest finish in the top six this season.
But, given that old fashioned momentum has carried them, in steam train fashion, back into the promotion race, when it seemed all hope had been lost prior to his appointment, breaking records and getting into the play-offs may yet go hand-in-hand.
One question asked more than any other over the last two days has been over whether Davies start in his second spell as manager is the best ever at Forest.
The short answer is no. Not yet.
But, depending on how you make that judgement, it still could be.
At the moment, that honour – including and since the Brian Clough era – belongs to the duo of Ian McParland and Frank Barlow.
After they had taken over from Gary Megson in February 2006, they steered Forest to eight wins and two draws from their first ten games in charge – including recording six league wins in a row for the first time since 1967, when Forest achieved that under Johnny Carey.
Davies has actually collected more points in his first six games in charge (16) than Charlie and Frank, who took 14 points from their initial six fixtures, before continuing their good form to notch up that remarkable run of six straight wins.
But their replacement, Colin Calderwood, also – like Davies – took 16 points from his first six games in charge in the 2006/07 season and ultimately only dropped only two points from his first seven games, before finally being beaten in his eighth game as Forest manager, when Oldham won 2-0 at the City Ground.
That season, of course, ended in a stunning play-off defeat against Yeovil Town, who notched up a 5-2 success on the Banks of the Trent.
And, regardless of any other entries into the record books, the only thing that would matter, if Davies were to carry Forest into the play-offs, would be over whether he could find a way to end their hoodoo in the end of season finale.
Forest have never once made it to the final of the play-offs, despite reaching them on four occasions, three times in the Championship and once in League One.
Given that he will have been personally wounded by semi-final defeats at the hands Blackpool and Swansea, that is another record Davies will want the chance to address – but he will also know as well as anyone that the first step has to be securing that top-six finish; to earn that opportunity.
Wins over two of their immediate rivals, Hull and Brighton, would certainly be a good start and, given the confidence and belief that Forest are playing with at the minute, you would be foolish to rule out the possibility of that club record being under threat.
Either way, what would it take for Forest to secure that all important top-six place?
Over the past ten seasons, the team finishing sixth has had an average of 73.4 points.
Blackpool and Watford have both sneaked in with 70 points – with Watford edging Wolves into seventh place in 2007/08 with a goal difference that was just one goal better.
But 75 points would have been enough to secure a play-off place for the past ten years.
Forest currently have 57 points, which means they still theoretically need another 18 from the 27 they still have to play for.
Regardless of what order they come in, Forest need six more wins from their remaining games to be confident of achieving their objective. Five and a draw might just be enough, given the tightness of the table.
When you analyse the remaining fixtures, that does not look to be an entirely straightforward task.
Beyond those difficult games against Hull and Brighton, Forest face away games at Burnley, Cardiff, Middlesbrough and Millwall.
Three of those sides will believe they still have a chance of playing a part in the promotion party.
Blackpool, Barnsley and Leicester are still to visit the City Ground. Again, all are sides with plenty still to play for, with Barnsley needing points to claw away from relegation trouble.
None will be easy games. But how many are in the Championship?
What is equally pertinent is that nobody, on current form, will relish the prospect of facing Forest.
And the longer their run is maintained, the more that will become a factor. The more Forest’s momentum builds, the closer they will get to achieving their objective.
If they slip up at any point, it will not be the end of the world.
But, if they can force their way into the record books, by securing seven or eight consecutive wins, their task would only start to look easier.
If Forest do find themselves in a position to break that record that has stood since the 1920s, the opportunity would come at Burnley on April Fools Day. Almost exactly four years ago, shortly after taking charge at Forest for the first time, Davies saw his side humbled 5-0 at Turf Moor.
This time he will be hoping that the fixture is memorable for entirely different reasons.