NOTTINGHAM Forest have spent the past few weeks trying to pick up the pieces after ‘King’ Billy Davies was finally dethroned as manager.
Davies and his entourage were run out of the City Ground following a turbulent 13 months, dogged by fallouts, sackings, media blackouts and conspiracy theories.
The fiery Scotsman was shown the door last month after several debilitating losses had seen Forest’s bid to return to the Premier League take a turn for the worse.
Under Davies, Forest looked set to mount a sustained challenge for automatic promotion, losing just four of their first 31 league games. Following a 3-0 win at Huddersfield on February 11, they were eight points clear in a play-off place and five behind second-placed Burnley.
However, the rot well and truly set in when a 3-1 defeat to Sheffield United in the fifth round of the FA Cup marked the start of a 13-match winless run. The 5-0 cuffing of West Ham in the third round had been but a distant memory.
Owner and chairman Fawaz Al-Hasawi finally lost patience with Davies following a 5-0 drubbing by arch-rivals Derby on March 22.
It was left to Gary Brazil, appointed Academy director at the City Ground in January, to try to start rebuilding both Forest’s reputation and their promotion challenge.
Following five games without a win, former Notts County boss Brazil presided over successive Easter victories against Birmingham (1-0) and Leeds (2-0), which have put Forest back in the hunt.
He put his faith in youth against Leeds with Ben Osborn and Stephen McLaughlin both coming up trumps in the high pressure environment of a must-win game at Elland Road.
Brazil said: “The young players have given it energy. Without being negative towards the boys who were in the side, they have given it an honesty as well. The fans can see that. They are good players, so they do not look out of place.
“We have a nice feeling in the dressing room. But we are keeping our feet on the ground. There is some real positivity in there. It is our job to keep that and take that to Bournemouth with us.”
Should Forest go on to clinch sixth place, their long-suffering supporters will be mindful of the fact the past 10 years have been a tale of play-off woe for the East Midlands outfit. Along with MK Dons, they boast the unwanted record of featuring in the most semi-finals without making the final.
The first of four appearances came in 2003 when Forest were eliminated by Sheffield United in the Championship play-offs. However, the most calamitous came four years later when they were within touching distance of progressing.
Having won 2-0 at Yeovil in the League One play-offs, Forest were leading 3-1 on aggregate in the second leg – with just eight minutes remaining. Alan Wright’s own goal and a Marcus Stewart header saw the Glovers force extra-time before they prevailed 5-4 after Forest’s David Prutton had been sent off.
Following automatic promotion, successive failures followed in the Championship play-offs with Forest conceding three times in seven minutes to lose their semi-final against Blackpool in 2010 before going down to Swansea 12 months later.