LATE last year, I asked Crewe boss Steve Davis whether he’d tried to get Nick Powell back on loan.
“Of course,” he said. “But the message we got from Man United was that Alex Ferguson thought he was too close to the first team.”
Clearly, David Moyes isn’t so convinced, which is why he has allowed the 19-year-old to join Wigan on a season-long loan.
Me, I’m more inclined to trust Fergie, which is why the signing of Powell could be the best bit of business done all summer.
OK, so the kid is untested outside League Two, but he’s also a wonderful technician. How many teenagers would even have the gall to attempt Powell’s match-winning strike for Crewe in the 2012 play-off final?
And after a year stagnating in the United reserves, he will be absolutely desperate to get back out and play proper football.
The Latics may have lost James McCarthy but with £14m in the bank and Powell on the pitch, they’ve emerged from the window in far better shape than they entered it.
WHY I HOPE DAVIES’ SILENT PROTEST FAILS
BILLY Davies isn’t the first Nottingham Forest manager to banish the Press. He isn’t even the best. After writing a critical match report, Duncan Hamilton was famously summoned by Brian Clough, who pointed to a cutting of the offending article on a wall.
Clough told Hamilton he hadn’t needed to give a team talk – he just showed his players the cutting.
Then, says Hamilton: “He told me I could stick my typewriter where the sun doesn’t shine and banned me from the City Ground.”
Clough being Clough, of course, called Hamilton a few days later to invite him back.
Hamilton’s reply – “provided you don’t kiss me” – became the title of his award-winning portrait of Clough in 2007.
Alas, it seems the current media blackout at the City Ground will not have an avuncular ending. Because, unlike Clough’s reaction, it is not motivated by outrage but has been calmly calculated.
Davies is famously analytical and prides himself on attention to detail. So when he was sacked by Forest in May 2011, he asked himself: What went wrong? What would he change?
And to Davies, the answer was the media. Though his team had performed, his final two years were benighted by a bitter public battle with the board.
Davies felt Forest needed new recruits. The infamous transfer panel – late owner Nigel Doughty, chief executive Mark Arthur, finance director John Pelling and director David Pleat – disagreed.
So Davies took clumsy swipes at the board in almost every interview: ‘The squad isn’t strong enough’, ‘We aren’t good enough to go up’ etc, etc.
The men upstairs said very little, but you wonder where the stories about Davies working a three-day week came from. By the end, Davies provided more than enough rope for the board to hang him. Which, after a play-off defeat to Swansea,they did.
In Davies’s eyes, if he hadn’t been goaded into attacking his employers through the Press, he would still be in a job.
Now the transfer panel is gone, Davies is back and in total control. So the players are off limits to all media, while Davies hasn’t given a single pre-match briefing this season. Even his post-match Pressers (which he’s contractually obliged to attend) are brief, like last week’s antagonistic ‘no-comment’ laden affair at Wigan.
Times have changed. Clough couldn’t use the club website to make party political broadcasts. He couldn’t use Twitter to talk to fans. Davies can. And like a little Kremlin-on-Trent, he wants to control every word that emanates from the City Ground.
It is perfectly logical that he tries to avoid talking himself into trouble again. But that rather misses the point. I’m pretty sure David Cameron and local councillors would also like to go about their business unscrutinised. But as public figures, they must be accountable. And as someone whose wages are paid in part by fans, Davies is a public figure.
Right now, those fans won’t care. Forest are winning. But what about when things go wrong and they want answers? Davies can talk to the club website, but the in-house media are hardly going to come over all Sherlock Holmes when the going gets rough.
I sympathise with Davies. But I hope with all my heart that he fails.
Not because I am a miffed journalist, but because I believe in a free Press and accountability.
The Premier League wouldn’t stand for players being off limits. Nor should the Football League. Not unless they want other managers to follow and turn the com- petition into a sanitised snoozefest.
UNSUNG KEM’S A GEM OF A PLAYER
FOR a man who has given a decade of service to his club, Kem Izzet’s departure from Colchester was remarkably low key.
A brief statement, a message on Twitter. “Kem has today ended his twelve-year association with the club, parting by mutual consent”. And just like that, the U’s fifth-highest appearance maker was gone.
In a sense, though, it was perfectly in keeping. Izzet was never spectacular, never showbiz. He tackled, he passed, he chased and harried. He let everybody else grab the headlines. But without his quiet authority in the middle of the park, the U’s might never have won promotion in 2006, nor stayed in the Championship.
He will rightly be remembered as a legend by the U’s. But at 32, there’s a fine free agent for somebody out there.