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Matt Holland's Blog 26

13 February 2013

Last week's confirmation that Billy Davies was heading back to Nottingham Forest for a second stint as manager was one of the game's worst kept secrets and I think it will be fascinating to see how his working relationship with the new owners, the Al Hasawi family, develops.

It's only 20 months since Billy was sacked by Forest. Conventional wisdom suggests he's returning to a club he knows well after three years at the City Ground but I'd suggest a lot has changed since the Al Hasawis took control last summer. It won't be completely alien to him but the fact he's the club's fourth manager since June tells its own story.

The new owners have already shown they're not afraid to make bold, controversial decisions. Billy is a strong character who likes to be in control and how the dynamic between the two parties pans out will be pivotal to how Forest fare between now and the end of the season.

The owners have already made a public assurance they will not interfere and you have to take them at their word. It's been a turbulent few months for Forest but they're still only six points off the Play-Off places and if they can enjoy a period of stability, Billy might yet get them up there.

The big talking point this weekend was Watford after Ian Holloway had a dig at the club for the number of players they have on loan from Udinese and Granada. Ollie obviously wasn't too happy after Palace's 2-2 draw at Vicarage Road on Friday night and his comments have sparked a debate about Watford's recruitment policy.

I can see where Ollie is coming from. But I'm also torn because I've been impressed by the way Gianfranco Zola and his players have gone about their business this season and they're not breaking any rules.

The wider issue is the development of homegrown players. Parachuting in lots of on loan players from the continent probably will limit the opportunities for young English players in the long term but while it's not illegal, Watford are entitled to take advantage of the situation.

Watford are exploiting a tie-up with their sister clubs and another npower Championship club jumped on the bandwagon this week when Middlesbrough announced an official tie-up with Brazilian side Ituano. The connection is former Boro player Juninho, who is now the Ituano president, and Boro are obviously hoping to pick up a few young Brazilians players in the future.

Personally, I'm not a great fan of these kind of link-ups. I'd much rather see clubs having more formal relationships with lower league, or even non-league clubs, rather than looking abroad. There's already plenty of imported talent in the English game and I'd like to see more of a focus on nurturing homegrown players.

An interesting story about Leeds also emerged this week with rumours the new owners - the Bahraini GFH Capital group - had already received an offer to take a controlling stake in the club. That's just seven weeks after they bought Leeds.

The bidders are rumoured to be headed up by Adam Pearson, the former Derby County and Hull City chairman and an ex-Leeds director. The bid was rejected but it's fascinating development that I'm sure has split opinion amongst Leeds fans.

Obviously it's very early days for GFH at Elland Road but the Pearson consortium has a track record in football that the new owners do not and it begs the question whether club owners need an affinity with the sport and an understanding of the game to be successful.

I believe there does have to be at least one person connected with the owners who knows football. Until you're actually involved, it's impossible to understand what a complex business running a club actually is and it's a huge challenge for anyone to take control of a club without some football expertise to call on.

We'll see what happens at Leeds but for me the story encapsulates a lot of the questions we are increasingly asking about ownership in the modern game.

Finally this week, I'd like to wish Conor Wickham good luck after he agreed to go out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday from Sunderland. I'm sure he would have liked to stay at the Stadium of Light and play Premier League football but I think the switch to Hillsborough will ultimately benefit him.

The boy's still only 19. There's no reason he can't cut it in the top flight but a spell in the npower Championship is just what he needs at this stage of his career and hopefully he can recapture the form he showed at Ipswich Town a couple of seasons ago.

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