Date: 6th October 2006 at 10:35am
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Nurturing young talent is an essential skill for any football manager. PAUL TAYLOR talks to Colin Calderwood about who could soon make the grade for Forest

At 41, Colin Calderwood, is still a young man in the world of football management.

But, as he would tell you, age is not always an issue.

As one of the sport’s new breed of managers and an erudite figure in his own right, Calderwood would be unlikely to resort to such tired cliches as: ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.’

But it is an ethos on which he has built his early career.

At Northampton, as he cut his managerial teeth in League Two, Calderwood selected Luke Chambers, a composed, strong-minded, physically-imposing centre-half as his captain.

Not a surprise, perhaps – aside from the fact that Chambers was 20.

At Forest, he may have selected a more senior figure, in 31-year-old Ian Breckin as his skipper, but four of his key men are 21 and 22: Sammy Clingan, Julian Bennett, Wes Morgan and James Perch.

In addition, Calderwood has kept a careful eye on young talent coming through the ranks at the City Ground.

And there was another significant moment on Saturday, as Calderwood demonstrated that hard work and commitment will be rewarded, by handing Robert Hughes his senior debut as a substitute in the win over Swansea.

But he says the midfielder, who turned 20 at the weekend, is not the only one ready for a first-team call up.

‘There are some young lads coming through who have a great attitude,’ said Calderwood, who has singled out John Paul Pittman, Spencer Weir-Daley and Felix Bastians for praise.

‘Hughes, in particular, does. He has been unlucky not to have been on the bench more often.

‘But he has been involved with the first team because of his performances in the reserves. He has had a really good couple of months. He does very well in midfield and also when he goes up front – he has that flexibility.

‘He is clever enough to play as a striker and then to drop off and link in.’

Speculative reports have linked full-back or midfielder James Cullingworth with several Premiership clubs, most notably Aston Villa.

Calderwood says such talk is nothing more than the result of a slow news day, but admits Cullingworth is one of several young players he expects to see flourish in the reserves in the coming months – and who could take a step further in the future.

‘It is a bit too early for Premiership clubs to be looking at him, I don’t know where that has come from,’ he said.

Calderwood admits Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United will always be in the driving seat when it comes to snapping up the kids with the best ability.

But he believes that, while they may not boast the raw talent of some of their peers in the Premiership, some Forest youngsters have a more valuable commodity – the right attitude.

‘Young players can’t just be sitting in the youth set up until they are 21,’ he said. ‘They have to have something about them, to get into the reserves and first-team squad.

‘Otherwise you will carry people, you will have a big squad. They might be good players – but is it to the benefit of the club?’

Forest have players coming through at U-18 and U-19 level, who Calderwood says are close to reserve-team football.

‘Cullingworth is in his third year, Lewis McGugan is in his second year,’ he said. ‘Matt Thornhill is another one we like, Tom Sharp as well.’

The majority of the teenagers are from Nottingham, although Forest still retain strong links with Ireland.

And the promising central defender, Hamza Bencherif, is an Algerian U-20 international.

Although, as Calderwood observes, the language barrier is a slight problem.

‘Hamza does some things excellently, he just needs a bit of experience playing in England,’ he said.

‘He doesn’t speak very much English. He came over towards the end of last year for a trial and we brought him back in the summer.

‘Vincent Fernandez was the one person who spoke French, but he has gone out on loan.

‘It will be interesting to see how he shapes up now.’

Not all will make the grade at Forest. In fact, many will fall by the wayside over the next few years.

But one thing is certain: Calderwood will be there to watch them – and will aim to give them their best possible chance of success.


Spencer Weir-Daley

Born: Nottingham, September 5, 1985

Striker (On loan Macclesfield)

Debut: August 2005

Robert Hughes

Born: Nottingham, October 1, 1986


Debut: Sept 2006

Jon-Paul Pittman

Born: Nottingham, October 24, 1986


(On loan at Bury)

Debut: Oct 2005

Vincent Fernandez

Born: September 19, 1986

Central defence (On loan at Wycombe)

Debut: Sept 2005

James Cullingworth

Born: Nottingham, September 18, 1987.

Right wing, full back

Favourite players: Beckham, Andy Reid

Felix Bastiens

Born: Bochum, Germany, May 9, 1988

Left midfield

Debut: Oct 2005

Alan Power

Born: Dublin, Jan 23, 1988. Midfielder

Favourite player: Roy Keane

Hamza Bencherif

Born: Algeria, Feb 9, 1988. Central defender

Algerian U-20 int

Matt Thornhill

Born: Nottm, Octr 11, 1988. Central midfield

Favourite players: Lampard and Ballack

Paddy Gamble

Born: Nottm, Sept 1, 1988. Goalkeeper

Favourite player: Peter Schmeichel

Tom Sharpe

Born: Nottm, Oct 13, 1988. Central defence

Favourite player: Steve Stone


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