Much-maligned in the recent history of Nottingham Forest, Colin Calderwood still remains the only manager this century to have achieved promotion with the Reds — albeit from League One. Michael Evans think it’s time we reconsider his record…
The defeat of Tottenham on Sunday may buy him some time but Chris Hughton has probably already updated his LinkedIn profile — while Delia starts to sharpen her knives. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before the most inoffensively nice man in football will lose his job.
However, wherever Hughton ends up next (my guess would be Bolton), I’m much more intrigued by what his second-in-command will do next. Colin Calderwood has worked with Hughton at Newcastle, Birmingham and Norwich; but I wonder whether he’ll get a chance to manage a Premier League side, if only for a game or so. And this got me thinking more about Calderwood’s time as manager at Forest… so indulge me in this rose-tinted romp down suppressed-memory lane.
Around the City Ground, even now, Calderwood’s name is synonymous with mediocrity, underperformance and bizarre tactics. However, he is also statistically better than God.
Yep, you read that right.
Brian Clough (win percentage of 46.2%) is, statistically, not as good as ‘Smoulders’ (win percentage of 47.7%). Of course, that just shows that stats can prove anything — both Clough’s and Calders’ records pale in comparison to John ‘Unbeatable’ Pemberton’s — but it demonstrates the odd relationship between the fans and Calderwood.
I’m struggling to think of another club where a manager gets a team promoted and yet is treated with, at best, apathy (except possibly William Davies and our friends down the A52, although I think you’d struggle to find any of them who feel fond enough about Billy to describe themselves as apathetic). I mean, even after promotion, the perma-tanned one was hailed by a banner that stated that he ‘does know what he’s doing’; hardly a ringing endorsement.
Now, it’s fairly easy to see why he’s anything but a fans’ favourite. His tactical decisions were, let’s say, not always the wisest. I don’t want to rush to any conclusions however, as Grant Holt may still turn out to be a scintillating left-winger at Villa Park. His casual and measured appearance in interviews infuriated many fans, especially those who prefer a manager to lambast poor performances with fiery rhetoric and hyperbole. And he certainly had experience with poor performances. Just the mention of a small West Country town can reduce fully grown men to tears.
Considering he had one of the biggest budgets in League One, the haphazard way in which Forest made two of the most unconvincing promotion pushes ever certainly cast a lot of doubt on his ability to manage a team with such ambition. However, despite all that, I can’t dislike the guy. Even if just because of one moment.
The last game of the 2007/08 season is still one of my absolute highlights as a football fan. The May sun, blazing down on the City Ground pitch as myself and about 30,000 others celebrated finally escaping League One. This wasn’t a meaningless celebration, like ‘having a good old go at the play-offs’ or ‘we weren’t quite as poor as we were last season’; this was something to really relish.
At that moment, it didn’t matter that we’d looked like messing it up for much of the season. It didn’t matter that the football hadn’t been great. It didn’t matter that in a few short weeks we would lose a few of our best players and sell a future Premier League striker for £100k. It didn’t matter that we’d end up battling against relegation in a few months. It didn’t matter that despite being a league higher, we’d still eventually find ourselves playing against Yeovil. Everything was forgotten, and forgiven, in that day in the sun.
Looking back with a level head, a lot of what Calderwood did as a manager sits firmly in the ‘could do better’ column. His stint at Hibs confirms that he still has a lot to learn about management. Yet he is still the last manager at Forest to achieve something tangible. Promotion from League One, as laboured as it was, was still the first step on the (long) road to the Premier League. Would I have him back as manager? Never. But maybe it’s time to rehabilitate the memory of Colin Calderwood.