A fitter Nottingham Forest can shine, says Billy Davies
BILLY Davies believes Nottingham Forest can still launch a play-off push – but also warned his first priority is to get his players fit.
The Scotsman capped off his first week back in charge with a 1-1 draw against Bolton that left him frustrated, following a dominant performance at the City Ground that merited more.
It left Forest eight points off the top six with 14 games left to play.
But it is a gap Davies believes Forest can still close, even if he admits there are issues for him to address after making his return as manager – starting with the fitness level of his squad.
"If you go and put a good run together as we saw with Blackpool a few years back you just never know what can happen," said Davies. "Obviously we are coming in at a very late stage.
"On paper, it is a better squad than last time. On the pitch? It is too early to say.
"But certainly on paper we have a very good squad. If they do what they did on Saturday then the objective is for them to fulfil their potential.
"I said last week they are only firing at 80-85 per cent. They now need to prove on the grass they can win matches and compete with the best."
Davies says his players still have a lot to learn before they can compete at the top end of the Championship table – and also fears he may not get them to the peak level of condition he would hope for until next season.
"You are talking about a side that has won three out of 14 matches. They have a lot to do and a lot to learn," he said.
"I am not pleased with the fitness or the conditioning and we will continue to work between now and the end of the season on trying to improve them as best we can.
"I know and you know until I give them a pre-season and get them into my way of thinking only then we will start to accelerate forward.
"Maybe change the pace in training, the tempo at which we train, look at body shapes and percentages of what we have got and work a little bit harder Monday to Friday to get us better.
"It does happen in pre-season. Once you have got that base it happens. That's a criticism but there are an awful lot of positives.
"For a new manager to step in and get that type of performance (against Bolton) I have to say I'm delighted."
The returning manager says he will not make a decision about loan signings until he has taken charge of a few more games.
"The chairman has said to me the loan market is there if we want to use it," he added. "Obviously before we do we have to give people opportunities.
"There are a lot of people on the bench and in the stand that I'm still yet to see playing and what they can do for us. I think another three or four games will tell us what we need and where we are."