Date: 3rd December 2007 at 9:37am
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Rams View – Christie’s Confidential

Farewell Billy and thanks for the memories

Many Rams fans were disappointed with the departure of Billy Davies from Pride Park, Nick Christie has his say on the issue, over to you Nick.

Thanks Pete, They say that a week is a long time in politics, and if you were John Howard or one of his supporters last week here in Australia, that would be an accurate statement to say the least. But as we all know, football is far more important than politics, and this week has been even longer at Pride Park, and quite surreal – in a bad way. Or was it?

I was woken up twice during the night on Monday, by text messages from England. The subject was Billy Davies leaving Pride Park, which of course meant that there was no way I was going to get back to sleep. My support for Billy Davies is well documented, and I would not change anything I have said about him. Neither would I change, if I could rewrite history, anything about the eighteen (almost) months he spent with us.

Billy Davies will be remembered for getting Derby County back into the Premier League, on the back of a previous couple of managers and a crooked administration (back in court 14 February 2008) just avoiding relegation the season before. This was all done without a proper supporting staff behind him, and with a fairly meagre squad when all was said and done. He should also be remembered for personifying the slogan for the 2006-07 season: Pride, Passion, Belief.

I would not like to hazard a guess at just how many blood vessels he popped during his time in our dugout, but one thing is for sure – his attitude rubbed off on our players last season, culminating in an underdog`s victory in the play-off final. Apart from the odd blip, our team never gave up when they went to work, and that was Billy Davies – he never gave up.

Billy Davies knew what he wanted when he arrived at Pride Park. He said that he took the job on because the man who takes Derby back to where we think they belong will always be remembered (and I think that somewhere in that interview was a veiled reference to Brian Clough). He spent a million quid on Stevie Howard, and brought in Matt Oakley, Dean Leacock, Steven Bywater. Given that he was a month behind when he arrived, and still had to evaluate what was available to him, I think he did outstandingly well to get the balance right after just six games.

Getting rid of the crowd favourites, being Tommy Smith and Inigo Idiakez, was a bold move, but very definitely the right one (don`t you just love 20/20 hindsight) to take Derby forwards and upwards. Poor work ethic and bad attitudes were not tolerated – just ask Lee Camp. There were some mistakes along the way, in a few players who just did not make the grade, but overall we arrived into the Premier League with the right attitude.

What a pity we did not arrive with the right players! The Premier League is a massive step up from The Championship, and very quickly Derby County have become the whipping boys for most teams who play them. I think this is where our problems have started between Billy Davies and the new chairman, Adam Pearson, and if I had to identify a specific starting point of their fallout, it would be the 5-0 defeat at home to West Ham.

Although the scoreline was disastrous by anybody`s standards, it was the way and manner in which our team conducted themselves on the pitch, as though the fight had gone from them. Last season would have seen Billy Davies apoplectic with rage on his touchline, and that would only be if he hadn`t been sent to the stands for foul language. There is no way he would have tolerated the distinct lack of spirit which we all saw for public viewing.

After the West Ham match Billy Davies made it well known that he needed more players, and more money to be spent in January. He said that he had a list of six players, and whether that was six specific players with names or six positions he needed to cover is now irrelevant. But quite honestly, I don`t think that six players arriving from the first team at Old Trafford would make much difference if the manager is saying in public that what he has is not good enough.

To my mind, that really is not the way to motivate what is already a struggling team. I have to say, that apart from Kenny Miller, the arrivals this season are distinctly average, and probably not good enough for the Premier League. Which is why I honestly thought that Derby County were planning ahead for The Championship next season, to make a really good go of the next time around. I thought that was the sensible strategy for the next few years until we could sustain ourselves financially.

But of course, I did not take into consideration the Derby County factor – which goes along the lines of asking if the troops are happy, and if they are, then ordering them to be stuffed around some more until they are not happy. I refer here to Peter Gadsby selling a stake of the club to Adam Pearson, and stepping down as chairman in the process. This would probably explain why Trevor Birch only lasted a short time as the CEO – surplus to requirements with a new chairman imminent.

Don`t get me wrong about Peter Gadsby. If anybody knows what he`s doing, it is without question Peter Gadsby. A man who has the interests of Derby County at heart, and who did put his money where his mouth was, and did the right thing by all of us. I can understand why he would want to step down if he has other business interests which need his time, because being at the helm of Derby County surely cannot be an easy job. But I refuse to believe that Peter Gadsby would ever have contemplated such a move if he felt that his successor was not right for Derby County, in taking the club forwards.

So Adam Pearson took on the job of chairman some five weeks ago, after paying approximately £3.5M to buy in, and has probably seen five defeats and one draw, with three of those defeats at home. Adam Pearson has had ample opportunity to witness the fact that we have tremendous fans, and the club honestly does have Premier League potential – in terms of set-up, resources, and support. Adam Pearson has probably worked out that the only way that we will realise this potential is with external investment on a major scale.

To attract that kind of investment needs patience and delicate negotiation, and what Adam Pearson does not need is a manager who continually speaks in public about wanting this, that, and the other, who criticises in public the very product he is trying to promote overseas, and who apparently is consistently stating that what he has to work with is not good enough.

The very last and most important piece of the jigsaw is the fact that Adam Pearson is in charge at Derby County, and when Billy Davies aired his views on Radio Derby after the Chelsea game about his chairman being too busy to talk to him, something had to give. Outspoken negative comments in public do not win friends and influence people. In fact, as we have witnessed this week, what it does do is really piss people off, to the extent that Adam Pearson had to deal with Billy Davies in what was probably the only realistic way possible last Monday morning.

Whatever individual thoughts we all have, credit is due to Adam Pearson for acting very quickly to bring in Paul Jewell. Or did he act quickly? Is there a conspiracy theory to be had out of this round of events at Pride Park? If you read The Ram from the Chelsea game, Adam Pearson writes that he is under no illusions about the fact that this would be a difficult season, but ‘in adversity we will find the strength to regroup, rebuild and move forward`. I think Adam Pearson had already assessed that his management team was not up to the job of keeping Derby County in the Premier League, and what happened last Monday was going to be on the agenda anyway.

Much as it really hurts me to say this, I am now coming around to the fact that Adam Pearson has probably done the right thing for Derby County. It was quite apparent that Billy Davies was struggling at this level (maybe even out of his depth?), and to bring in somebody who is proven at this level, used to working with limited resources, and no stranger to relegation battles in the top flight, is the right thing to do for Derby County. It does seem terribly unjust to shaft the one bloke who put his heart and soul into getting us into the Premier League, and this goes a long way to explaining why I could never be the chairman of Derby County!

I was horrified and devastated to hear about Billy Davies being sacked, and this week has been difficult to come to terms with. But I think it was the right thing to do for Derby County. Notwithstanding any of the above, Billy Davies will always be remembered for the right reasons at Pride Park. He had what it took to turn us around, and more besides. He delivered the Premier League via one of the greatest days in our history, and that fact can never be changed.

Billy Davies – good luck and very best wishes for the future, and thank you for everything – especially the best awayday ever.

Yours in Football



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