MANAGERS – THERE’S BEEN A FEW…
With so many managers to talk about, there really wasn’t enough time to go into greater detail. I’d be sitting next to Chippers at Sydney Harbour if we went proper in-depth! I wasn’t even counting caretaker roles when it was quickly pointed out that they had lasted longer than some permanent appointments; ‘Gary Brazil lasted longer than Alex McLeish’. To avoid taking the interview across to Sydney, the idea was for Chippers to summarise each manager in as fewer words as possible. These were the results:
1. David Platt –’Aloof’
2. Paul Hart – ‘Brilliant’
3. Joe Kinnear – ‘Erratic’
4. Gary Megson – ‘Disastrous’
5. Colin Calderwood – ‘Lovely man (pleased he had success in the hand)’
6. Billy Part 1 – ‘Friendly (and absolutely brilliant)’
7. Steve McLaren – ‘Right man – wrong time’
8. Steve Cotterill – ‘A tough time (came in under very difficult circumstances)’
9. Sean O’Driscoll – ‘Brilliant’
10. Alex McLeish – ‘Respect’ McLeish stomached a trip to Birmingham (club he had formerly had left for Villa job) and knew he was going to get dogs abuse despite knowing his days at Forest were numbered.
11. Billy Part 2 – ‘No comment’
12. Stuart Pearce – ‘Inspirational’
13. Dougie Freedman – ‘Undervalued’
14. Philippe Montanier – ‘Director of Football’
15. Mark Warburton – ‘Business like’
16. Aitor Karanka – ‘Ruthless (knew what he wanted)’
17. Martin O’Neill – ‘Genial’
18. Sabri Lamouchi – ‘Genial’
In awe of Stuart Pearce and Martin O’Neill to begin with, there was a terrifying thought if questions went badly and things got off on the wrong foot. Thankfully, both managers who had big reputations were also good men that became quite prominent after the initial round of interviews. After a run of the more business-like approaches of Mark Warburton and Aitor Karanka; Martin O’Neill ‘gave a more interesting interview and brought more to the table. In terms of an interview, he was probably the best. If you asked about X- he would not only answer the question but then take the conversation in another direction.’
Stuart Pearce was a different personality to what he had been as a player at the club and some thought he should’ve been more ‘Psycho’ in his approach. After a few interviews, it dawned that Pearce was a ‘normal, decent bloke’.
‘Having started the season so well, he was really unlucky losing Chris Cohen, Jack Hobbs and Andy Reid against Derby, who were huge influences in the dressing room. It was if others were then getting away with more whilst they were injured.’
Frenchman Philippe Montanier, appointed by Forest in the midst of a takeover was a manager who Chippers had a degree of sympathy for; ‘a lovely guy and even had cheeses sent over from his parents fromagerie in France for a midweek press conference’. Although Montanier got off to a good start; asked about speculation linking Oliver Burke away from the club, Chippers was told ‘no’, he wasn’t leaving. The following day, Oliver Burke had signed for Red Bull Leipzig. There was a sense that Montanier was doomed from that point onwards with decisions being taken without his knowledge. As Forest continued to struggle amidst further takeover speculation, defeat against Wigan in the FA Cup was the writing on the wall after what Chippers had seen. It was clear that Dumitru was not providing any support to his left full back) who was being left exposed. As problems continued to occur down that side with no counter from Montanier, Eric Lichaj went on a one man mission to sort things out on the pitch; swapping position from right back and even taking a penalty (and missing it) later in the game. Watching things unfold, ‘his days were numbered as the players were sorting it out themselves on the pitch.’
Sean O’Driscoll was top of the pile when it came to working with ‘human beings’ managing the club, with Paul Hart and Colin Calderwood making up second and third place respectively. Chippers learnt more about the game of football under O’Driscoll than any other Forest manager. Following the pre-match interviews for radio during the week, Sean was happy to chat for an hour or so afterwards about the game in general. If Chippers wasn’t clear about something that had happened on the pitch (maybe a televised game the night before), ‘Sean would get the white board out and explain. He really enjoyed coaching and making players better but didn’t like the spotlight of being a manager.’ Interviews were not really O’Driscoll’s forte and he wouldn’t indulge reporters with the usual managerial clichés. The presenter would be told in no uncertain terms if he’d asked a ‘stupid question’ and whilst other journalist’s might have got the hump with that type of attitude, Chippers didn’t mind it and was accepting; ‘lesson learnt. Move on’.
Thinking about achievements on the pitch, Chippers top 3 Managers were:
1. Billy Davies (1st time)
2. Sabri Lamouchi
3. Paul Hart.
‘There was an extraordinary amount of emotion in Play-off games and it always surprised that once the game is lost; the season finishes immediately (despite having planned for the possibility of a trip Wembley)’. There is no wind down and so the final managerial interview of the season in those circumstances was not an easy one. The interview with Paul Hart after the second leg defeat against Sheffield United in 2003 was about ‘trying to get the tone right’ despite the massive disappointment. There was a job to do despite the emotions of the game but clearly having to bear in mind that ‘Paul was far more dejected’ than he holding the microphone. ‘There was a sense that Paul almost took the defeat personally because he was so desperate for success at Forest.’
Similarly, interviewing Colin Calderwood after the Play-off defeat at home to Yeovil in 2007 was equally as difficult. ‘Not only had Forest lost on the night and missed out on a trip to Wembley, there was a huge reality to face that Forest were going to have to spend another season in League One’. In the minutes waiting for Calderwood to be interviewed, reading the anger on social media about the defeat was enormous and reading through the criticism; ‘it was difficult then going onto interview the person that was hurting the most’. Given the circumstances, both managers came away with a lot of credit in Chippers’ eyes.
In nearly 21 years of working with the club there were a number of players that stood out, both in a playing and professional capacity. Off the pitch, Chris Cohen, Andy Reid and Luke Chambers were the immediate names that sprang to mind. The group of players that Billy Davies had assembled during his first period at the club were all excellent professionals to deal with and good talkers too for the pre and post-match interviews. ‘They knew their roles and understood how to talk to the media’. Praise was not only a reflection on those squad players but also on how the club was being ran at the time under Nigel Doughty.
In terms of the best footballers that Chippers had seen during his time covering Forest, it didn’t take too long for him to pull out Andy Reid ‘for his talent in both spells’ at Forest but also Chris Cohen. ‘Whilst Chris was a very different player to Reid; the sheer work-rate and desire of Cohen was most admirable.’