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Fans’ Eye View From The Press Box

13 March 2013

Two football-lovers were given an amazing opportunity to shadow Billy Davies as he carried out his post-match media duties after Saturday’s win over Wolves.

The pair were given access to the press room, press box, pitchside, tunnel and sponsors lounges as they spent a day behind the scenes at The City Ground.
 
Here are their views on the day:

Barry Cooper

What a difference two years makes.

It was a tough night in Swansea when Forest exited the Championship playoffs following a cruel defeat in South-Wales. What happened later that night or the early hours of the following morning was to set the scene on a turbulent couple of years Trentside but little did we, as the paying public, know what was about to unfold before our very eyes.

When Billy Davies greeted supporters who travelled to Swansea upon their return to the City Ground, many felt that spelt the beginning of the end of Davies' tenure. A few weeks further down the line I was pleased that the club had dispensed with the services of the Scotsman. Why? Because I had grown tired of everything going on at the club seemingly being played out in front of the media, talk of Davies' refusal to talk to the press insisting they instead speak to his advisor Jim Price. Negative vibes about interest in other jobs and the amount of time the manager was spending at Forest. All these things and the failure in two consecutive playoff campaigns left me with the feeling that surely this was a relationship that needed to go its separate ways - for the sake of everyone.

Fast forward the best part of two years - a traumatic period that has seen the loss of the then owner Nigel Doughty, the resignation of a former England manager, two other managers and a former Scotland manager along with new owners from Kuwait - traumatic, chaotic and bizarre would be words attributed to the goings on. If Hollywood's finest scriptwriters penned a story similar to that at Forest, many would question their sanity.

So that brings me nicely to a day towards the end of last year when I struck up an interesting relationship with the infamous Jim Price. The man so many had heard of but knew little about. Via Twitter, myself and Jim had some rather heated but incredibly honest, frank and open debates about Billy Davies and his time at Nottingham Forest. At this point, Sean O'Driscoll was still the manager at Forest and our discussions centred around the whys and wherefores surrounding the club pre the Al-Hasawi regime.

We spent many an evening discussing a variety of matters, some of which had nothing to do with football and indeed the football club. But one thing that struck me more than anything was Jim's insistence that Davies was being portrayed wrongly in a variety of quarters. To his credit, Jim gave me a very different perspective to the one that had been built mainly on people who perhaps had some form of agenda against his client. I can hear many people now saying 'You've just been fed information from a script heavily weighted in favour of one man's client'. Not true I will add. Over time, I have built up a picture of Billy Davies especially after hearing similar stories from both sides of the divide.

Where am I going with all this? Well, during my extensive discussion, debate - call it what you will - Jim extended an invitation to myself and close friend Scott Smith (who happens to be a Wolves fan) to come and spend a day with the media team at Forest and get to see Davies in action for myself.  So upon arrival and having been met by Ben White, we were given free rein to enjoy the comforts of the press facilities. There seemed a real buzz around the place, expectant of what we were all about to watch - understandable given Forest's recent run.

We then had the pleasure of spending a good hour or so chatting with assistant journalist Nick Richardson - who in just eight months at the City Ground has seen quite a turnaround. Being a Darlington fan, he must be fairly used to upheaval. One thing that struck me about the whole thing pre-kick off was the openness and willingness to talk about the club. I was pleasantly surprised!

Naturally the game went off well, although for a staunch red, I found it personally difficult to not get too excited when Henri Lansbury and Lewis McGugan netted for Forest, but professionalism within the press box must come before personal delight and jumping around like a madman!

Post-match was when things really lifted off. We were greeted once again by Nick who took us pitch side just moments after the final whistle had sounded. Thankfully, given the weather Billy Davies kept us waiting only momentarily and when he emerged from the warmth of the dressing rooms, he took the time to introduce himself and ask how we were. His interview for the Forest website was engaging and thorough. One key thing for me was the reasons he gave for Billy Sharp not replacing Dexter Blackstock before half-time. I like many others probably thought it was a strange move, but within seconds he made it clear why that change didn't happen. Something the average fan wouldn't have known until that point.

Before I knew it, Davies was dragging us down the tunnel and into the myriad of corridors underneath the Main Stand. What fascinated me was that just minutes after the final whistle, the gaffer had spoken to his players, visited his chairman in the boardroom and was then whisking us off into the sponsors lounge. A duty he considers important, meeting the match day sponsors to ensure they feel valued.  While Davies was learning how to spell names such as 'Charlotte' for autographs, I stood and briefly discussed the game with former captain John McGovern, as you do!

Once again, like a whippet, Davies was off to spend a few minutes with his family while we found our way back to the press room for Dean Saunders to come and give his opinion on his team's performance.  Soon after that, Davies then scurried into the press conference and took a variety of questions. Throughout the 10 minutes or so he was in there, he never shirked a question and gave incredibly detailed responses. Even after press officer Ben White called time on proceedings, Davies still found time to give an answer to a question from the Nottingham Post's Paul Taylor.

And with that, Davies was once again on the move to enjoy a well-earned beverage. That just left time to discuss the day's events with Ben and Jim. Nothing was off limits again, even still I was quizzing Jim on a variety of different topics relating to his employer but everything was answered honestly and openly. These people welcome good, objective open debate and in fact, encourage it.
Has my opinion of Davies changed? Yes, I think it has. It may well be an old cliche but there really are two sides to every story and, until you get to meet the people that matter, you will never know quite how they operate.

I can now honestly say that Billy Davies is a red!

Scott Smith

The game was seemingly going to be like many others this season, Nottingham Forest v Wolves would see two teams coming together to induce a rivalry between two friends for one day only.

This fixture had been pencilled into the diary for months and would seemingly have been like any other except for a phone call which I received just a few short weeks before the game. My good friend Barry Cooper had been speaking at length with Billy Davies advisor Jim Price via the medium of twitter and in turn had been invited to experience a behind the scenes view at Nottingham Forest on matchday.

From a Wolves fan looking from the outside in, it appears that at the time of Billy Davies re-appointment at the City Ground there had been some murmurings from Forest supporters as to a) what was going on at their club, with two managers leaving in quick succession and b) why Davies had come back to the club after departing nearly two years ago.

The day had started with me making the drive from Staffordshire up to the East Midlands still somewhat sceptical of what lay ahead. However any fears were soon put at ease as after entering through the Main Reception, Press Officer Ben White greeted us and showed us where to pick our press and access all area passes - a great start.

Leaving us to our own devices whilst in the assembled press area it was interesting to see how this family of reporters, radio presenters and ex-professionals mingle before kickoff exchanging views on what lies ahead in today's game, whilst also indulging in what is on offer from the host club.

After a short while we were met by the extremely welcoming Nick Richardson, Ben's right-hand man, who proceeded to take us onto the press box. Many could have just left us there, however Nick took it upon himself to spend a good half an hour with ourselves asking about our experiences and we heard how he himself had got involved with Forest. I was impressed with how the day was going so far.

Now as a Wolves fan, the less said about the game the better. I thought although it was pretty closely fought game we were always one mistake away from giving everything away, as was proved when Matt Doherty equalised and the team backed off and backed off allowing Henri Lansbury time and space to curl home a delightful second just minutes later.

On the blowing of the fulltime whistle, Nick was with us within seconds to help us make the way down to pitchside. As we awaited Davies arrival for his exclusive post-match interview for Forest Player we were treated to the players we had just been watching, walking within inches of us as they came out for their post match warm-down.

The thing that stood out for me was that throughout the whole day, most of the top people seemed to know who we were and why we were in attendance. As Davies appeared from the tunnel, he was quickly introduced to us and made time out of his busy schedule to meet and great. However it was soon on with the interview, and following a couple of minutes of questions the immortal shout which stands out for me on the day came from Davies; "Come on boys, come with me." Did he mean us, was this really happening, were we really being shown around the City Ground by the manager of the football club (and Ben), you bet we were!

Many supporters must wonder what goes on after a game, well I can tell you it's like the maze of a rabbit warren as managers go from one interview to another. In-between this though Davies makes time first to speak with the owners of the club before moving onto the matchday sponsors, he could of course leave this to the man-of-the-match, but from speaking to him and Ben he feels that this is not just another duty but something that should be done as sponsors have spent money with the football club and should be rewarded as such.

After numerous photos with sponsors, it was onto BBC Sport and Sky Sports interviews. So let's recap, just 25 minutes after the final whistle blowing Davies has given his post-match briefing to his team, conducted three separate interviews, spoke with the owners and met the sponsors - still plenty more to do yet though.

For the first time since before the match, Davies has a chance to sit back and relax with his family for ten minutes. We leave him to set-up in the press area for the managers' press conferences. First in is Wolves manager Dean Saunders, obviously he is disappointed with how the day has gone and rues some missed chances from his side. He is somewhat taken aback when one journalist suggests that relegation could be on the cards, asking instead where do his club currently lie in the table and stating how important the forthcoming game against Bristol City is.

Now it was time for the main man from the day, Davies, to enter the fray. Despite some probing questions, he is clearly delighted with how the game has gone and what the team have achieved since he returned to the club. The question about the potential of gaining a place in the top two, after making up nine points on rivals in recent weeks, is somewhat flat-batted back as the Scotsman aims to not look too far into the future and instead concentrate on staying in the top six.

One thing that is evident is that Davies is clearly happy to take time to answer all of the questions coming his way. Even when Ben steps in to end the press conference, he makes sure there is time for one last question from Paul Taylor of the Nottingham Evening Post despite it now being time up.

As the day drew to a close and despite it now nearly being 6pm there was still time for Jim to fill us in with some finer details of Davies and the man who he is. It's fascinating to be shared with this information as at the end of the day we are just strangers to these people. Ben meanwhile could well have shot off to complete other tasks, however for 15 minutes or more we spoke all things football and where Forest are potentially looking to head in the future.

Walking back to the car and on the journey home all we spoke about was the day which we had just experienced. I don't know if as many Football League clubs are as open as Forest are, however from just my experience it seems that this could be the way forward in order to see that at the end of the day everyone is just human and there isn't any underlying secrets within the football club - a club which I can honestly say I have no connections to.

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