Billy Davies on Forest, Derby and the price of success
Clough's wife and son Nigel both made contact with Davies ahead of Derby's successful Championship play-off campaign in 2007.
Davies was Derby manager then and told me that "they were very supportive and wished me well. They made phone calls and did things that were very pleasing to me".
Derby won promotion back to the Premier League at the end of Davies's first season in charge but he had been sacked by the end of November with the club struggling to come to terms with top-flight football.
Fast forward 14 months and the Scot has followed Brian Clough's path in winding up at Forest after an uneasy departure from Derby.
The parallels have led to plenty of comparisons but Davies is very much his own man. Every time I have interviewed the 44-year-old I have been impressed by the clarity of purpose in his answers. He is crisp, concise and to the point. He speaks quickly but articulately. It is as if he is a man who knows where he wants to go and does not want to waste a single second in getting there.
Davies is also a very good football manager with a superb record at Championship level. He took Preston to the play-offs twice, reaching the final in 2005, before going one better at Derby.
Watching him on the touchline, constantly imploring his players, shouting and pointing in this direction and that, he can give off the impression of a manager from the old school. And he definitely knows how to deliver a good old fashioned dressing down. A steward at one Championship club told me that after a shoddy first-half performance from his charges, Davies delivered a half-time lecture of a volume and anger unparalleled in the stadium's admittedly short history.
He has also gathered something of a reputation as someone who is prone to clash with the men in the boardroom. It might explain why a manager with such a good record at Championship level was out of work for so long during a period when clubs were shedding managers more often than a snake its skin. For the record, Davies is currently nothing but positive about the board at Forest.
"The board want to see the club move forward," said Davies. "I have always been very impressed with Nigel Doughty the chairman - he is a first-class human being."
Davies is certainly a fiery Glaswegian who faces a challenge head on but don't be fooled - he is also a progressive thinker and extremely practical.
During his time at Preston he built an editing suite in his house and spent his Sundays compiling individual DVDs for his players, analysing their performances and looking ahead to future games. He knew that players quickly became bored when confronted with too much dry analysis and attempted to enliven his DVDs with the use of customised soundtracks.
He spent several months travelling with his family after leaving Derby but during his trip across America he called in at MLS side Houston Dynamo to see how they work and, later, visited Juventus. Davies is keen to learn and constantly searching out anything that might give his team an edge.
"I had an excellent holiday but from June onwards I decided it was time to come back in to management," said Davies. "Managing in modern football is very difficult but it is in the blood."
At Preston he developed a team that was attractive to watch yet difficult to beat (PNE went a club-record equalling 22 games unbeaten during the 2005-06 season), but at Derby he showed his ability to adapt to the situation confronting him.
He became the eighth manager in five years and wanted to introduce a sense of stability. He talked of a three-year plan that was to start with a period of consolidation. The attractive football would not happen over night but he had an experienced squad with the likes of Darren Moore, Michael Johnson, Paul Peschisolido and Marc Edworthy. Davies focused on making Derby hard to beat and it worked.
Prior to Davies's appointment at the City Ground, Forest fans had concerns about the style of play their team would play if the Scot was appointed.
In time Davies is confident Forest will play an exciting brand of football. He told me: "We will eventually have a squad of players that we feel can play an attacking style that includes lots of movement and passing."
But having taken over in early January and with Forest towards the foot of the Championship table, he makes no bones about his initial assignment. The plan is to "keep above water and get to the summer transfer window so we can start from day one like everyone else". Forest are in a "needs must scenario".
Davies carried out what he describes as a thorough period of due diligence before accepting the job and knows the squad boasts plenty of talented young players. But he claims "the table does not lie" and in the long term wants to "get them into a way of thinking where they can compete at the top end". This will involve bringing in new players, though Davies is keen to describe them as "wise signings", not necessarily older and more experienced faces as many have suggested.
This Friday evening Davies takes them to Derby for an FA Cup tie. It is one of those quirks of the draw and Davies says it is a game he is immensely looking forward to.
Nonetheless, there is a hint of unfinished business, perhaps even bitterness, when Davies talks about Derby. A sense that some people did not appreciate what he achieved.
"Doing things on the right timescales is crucial," he said. "When you do it quickly you create a rod for your own back and ultimately end up losing your job.
"At Derby we won promotion after 11 months but some people weren't happy with that. We couldn't win games 1-0, we had to win by five or six and play 20 or 30 passes together but that takes years to develop.
"The message is some people are not happy unless they're not happy."
The hotel Davies is currently staying at is in Derby and he has been astounded by the amount of people who have stopped and thanked him for what he did. He expects the majority of the Derby fans to "remember the achievements" when he takes his new team to Pride Park. Then there are the others. Davies rarely halts mid-sentence but he does when he searches for a word to describe the minority who will not be so welcoming. He settles on short-sighted.
Davies sounds extremely sincere when he says that he wants Nigel Clough to succeed as Rams manager. "My first job was to ring Nigel and wish him all the best. I think he is a fantastic lad," said the Scot.
But when Davies gets on the coach and heads to the ground all the poignancy and history surrounding the fixture will be cast aside. "It will be another game that has to be won and we will do our best for Forest."
Because when it comes to a game of football nothing distracts Davies from the business of winning. It might just be that Derby's loss will eventually become Forest's gain.