Calderwood sees light in black Forest

FA Cup 3rd Round: Charlton tie provides incentive for student of the game at ease with the Clough burden
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The Independent Football

Sitting in the manager's office at the City Ground, pursuing a preview of Nottingham Forest's FA Cup-tie against Charlton next Saturday, I learn a couple of early birds have preceded me. Colin Calderwood pauses from opening his post to impart a homily on the risks of pre-planning, as well as the perils of jobs like his own.

"I've done a couple of interviews already, people trying to get stuff early for their weekend editions, but I'm afraid they are all up in the air now because I was talking about Les Reed and the problems he was having," Calderwood smiled, before venturing the opinion that it seemed safe to proceed with our chat "because I don't think [Charlton's managership] will change again before we play them."

Alan Pardew will certainly hope not. So does Calderwood, a 41-year-old former Scottish international making a fine fist of only his second job in the business, since not only Pardew but also Iain Dowie, the first of Charlton's three managers this season, were playing contemporaries in the 1990s. "I know Iain very well and was surprised he ended up going - the run of games he had before he left was not a case for anyone losing their job. Now Charlton have Pardew, and both of them have more managerial experience than me."

Having lifted Northampton from the doldrums in his first job after a playing career which included five years at the centre of Tottenham's defence, Calderwood became Forest's 12th manager in the 13 years since the close of Brian Clough's reign when he signed a three-year contract last May. Not quite so quickfire as Charlton, perhaps, but alarming enough for a newcomer.

"There has been a fairly big change round," he acknowledged, "hence the reason we're in League One. Whoever was in charge did not get the success that was craved." Manager No 12 in the post-Clough era has started brilliantly, driving Forest to the top of their League, which, he insists, is no more than they deserve.

"This is a fantastic club which is definitely in the wrong division. It is in the top dozen in the country. Take the Forest emblem. More people will recognise it than some of the clubs in the Premiership at the minute. That's why this is a great environment, and when you get 23,000 against Port Vale on Boxing Day you know you are capable of competing in the next division because of a support base like that. The infrastructure, the academy, nothing is done on a whim. I am enjoying the organisation of it as much as anything. For a young manager all that help is comforting."

He says the strategy for turning Forest's fortunes around was decided at his interview. "It's in place and we are gently going about our business. Strategies are fine, because they always come to a good conclusion. The hard bit is implementing them. To go from a scrap of paper to utopia needs a lot of effort, and that's what we are in the middle of. We are competitive in this League in terms of attracting and buying players, and I'm sure it would be the same in the Championship. And if you put the name of Forest into the Premiership it wouldn't look out of place."

Unlike some of his predecessors, Calderwood does not appear weighed down by the Clough legacy, claiming: "There is nothing to worry about, we are so far away right now from what happened in those times. Until you can compare yourself to the level they competed at, why worry? It's a war you can't win. If we get into the top League, then we can start to put our own mark on it, and by doing that we will hopefully build a new reputation for the club."

Calderwood's playing career took in Mansfield, Swindon, Spurs, Aston Villa, Forest, Notts County, and Euro 1996 and World Cup 1998 with Scotland. He is credited with 700 games, but thinks he may be one short on 699. "Perhaps someone will offer me one more game," he grins.

He was only 25 when he gained his first coaching badge, explaining: "Coaching was something I always wanted to be involved in. I try to be a student of the game, hence I took the coaching badges very early." Calderwood admires, and will always remain grateful to, Glenn Hoddle for making him Tottenham's reserve team manager.

He also praises David Moyes for setting the trend towards younger managers in his days at Preston, as well as Dowie with Oldham and Pardew at Reading. "The success they have gone on to has led chairmen to employ the likes of me".

Which doesn't mean he is thinking of reining in Forest's gallop when he and Pardew meet on Saturday. "We are the best team in our division so far, and higher quality opposition from the Premiership will freshen us up before the League. I would be prepared to accept defeat in exchange for winning the next 10 League games, but you can't say that too loudly because we could gain something out of a victory over Charlton, so there is even greater incentive. At this stage I don't think it would harm our League hopes at all to go another round in the FA Cup."

Or to slot another feather in the Calderwood cap.