IF KNOWING ONE`S PAST is the key to future success, then the Nottingham Forest manager, Colin Calderwood, may succeed where so many recent predecessors have failed. Standing against the wall in his office is a painting, depicting the moment in the 1979 European Cup final when Trevor Francis connected with John Robertson`s looping cross to win the trophy for Forest.
Calderwood, the former Tottenham Hotspur and Scotland defender, was appointed to the City Ground hot seat at the end of May but the announcement was obscured by World Cup fever. A few days before, Ipswich Town had invited him for an interview, seeking a replacement for Joe Royle, but while they deliberated at Portman Road, Forest pounced and Calderwood took what he describes as “the job of the summer”.
Unlike Joe Kinnear, who famously moaned that “you can`t fart round here without Birtles` or Clough`s names being mentioned”, he relishes the club`s past. “I enjoy looking at the pictures and going back through the history books,” he said. But what about the pressure of working in Brian Clough`s shadow? “That`s what makes it such a good job. The trophies in the cabinet, the ground and the large support base are why the players and I want to work here, and those things are largely a result of Clough`s time here.”
After only 2½ years at Northampton Town and a stint as reserve coach at Tottenham, the 41-year-old admits that he is still learning. His Northampton side were known for being tight at the back and trying to play an attractive passing game, but it is the collective ethos that Calderwood highlights above all. “We had huge team spirit and will to win, with everyone working their socks off for each other,” he said. “Forging that unit, getting them to believe that whatever happens in the game they won`t get beat ? for me that`s as important as anything you do tactically or physically.”
Unusually for someone with 36 international caps, he says that he does not miss playing. There were moments to treasure, such as marking Ronaldo in the opening game of the 1998 World Cup. “Marking is one way of putting it ? he was a striker and I was a defender and that`s as close as it gets,” he said, laughing.
Calderwood`s playing career brought him into contact with a wide array of managerial eccentrics, including Lou Macari, Glenn Hoddle and John Gregory, but it is the brilliant but doomed style of play that Ossie Ardiles piloted at Tottenham that seems to haunt him. By then in his mid-twenties, Calderwood was already taking his coaching badges and absorbed everything around him. “A small adjustment in Ossie`s team would have had completely different results,” he said.
“We had such good footballers in that side, like (Nick) Barmby and (Jürgen) Klinsmann. But we needed to guard the back door instead of trying to knock down the front door all the time. Sometimes we committed suicide.”
He ended his playing career at Forest, with a handful of games at the heart of defence with a young, on-loan John Terry, before an ankle fracture brought it to a premature end. That frustrating time during the dismal David Platt era means he experienced at first hand the club`s gradual decline. Aside from Platt there was Ron Atkinson, Paul Hart, Joe Kinnear and Gary Megson, all of whom failed to turn the club around, leaving them where they are today ? heavily in debt and in the third tier of English football for a second successive season.
Calderwood offers mitigating factors for Hart, before adding: “I`ve just got to do better than the other managers who`ve been here. If I`m honest, we`ve really got to look to win the league and be bullish about it and accept the pressure of being favourites, of other teams wanting to visit the City Ground.”
He is happy with the squad of 34 and with strikers such as Jack Lester, Nathan Tyson and Neil Harris feels he has the necessary firepower. But what excites Calderwood most is Forest`s midfield flair player, Kris Commons, now rumoured to be wanted by Birmingham City. “I hadn`t seen him in action much before I joined but straight away you could see he`s a talented boy,” he said. Calderwood is confident that Commons will remain a Forest player but admits that in football “everyone`s for sale” at the right price.
Calderwood is courteous and charming but never attempts to hide his ambition. “I want to be a Premiership manager,” he said. “And if I`m successful here I have the opportunity to realise that goal without moving to another club.”
Forest for the Premiership? “There`s a long way to go. At the moment we`re a million miles away from what Brian Clough achieved, but he did take them out of the second division.”