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Waterfront Festival

Interview: Stuart Pearce

19 August 14 interview: Daniel Storey

Brought to the City Ground by Cloughie, Stuart Pearce played for Forest for twelve years, becoming their most capped international player and a stone cold cult favourite as he earned his ‘Psycho’ moniker. Ending his time here as a caretaker player-manager in 1997, he is now back as manager after proving his mettle with Manchester City, England under-21s and the 2012 Olympic Great Britain team. As the club prepares for an assault on promotion to the Premier League, we had a chat with the man himself…

After last season, when relations between the club and media became strained, it’s refreshing to now have access to Forest…

What has gone on before at this football club is not for me to comment on. But I know that I have a vision for this football club and I think I’ve got a lot of good people around me who want to pull the club in the right direction. I’m not suggesting that you go away and write nice things about me; in fact I’d be very distrusting if you did write nice things about me.

You’ve been very loyal to your staff…
Steve Wigley is a far better coach than I, and I’ve got Brian Eastick who is not only a good coach but also a great manager‑type. I’m not one of those people that thinks he can be all things to all people. I want to have people round me who I know are better than me at the things that aren’t my forte. But I don’t think there is anyone on my staff who is better than me at motivation.

Looking at the squad you’ve inherited, there was a long sick list when you arrived…
The club suffered a huge amount with injuries at the back end of last season and we still have a few recovering. So they might either just make the start of the season or just miss the it, as long as they don’t suffer any setbacks.

And of course you’ll be bringing in new faces…
There is no secret to the fact that I would like to bring in players. Every time I speak with the chairman he says “I’m ready, I’m ready”, which is great. I’ve had to keep him patient, in fairness.

With the Financial Fair Play regulations, you can’t simply bankroll your way to promotion…
I don’t want to just come in and spend the chairman’s money willy-nilly. I’d rather promote good quality youngsters coming through and then look for good value for money in the transfer market. We’ve bought two strikers [Lars Veldwijk and Matty Fryatt], one cost £500,000 and the other was on a free transfer.

I guess the loan system will also be important for that…
They have to be good enough, though. I would personally not like to bring in players that are just going to sit around. If they come in, they’ve got to play, they’ve got to help us make an assault on the Premier League.

Presumably that means opportunities for the young players, as well as hanging on to the likes of Lascelles?
I’ve come to this club to help build it, not dismantle it. The only way we will accept offers for our best young players is if they are sensational ones that allow me to spend that money in a way that makes me confident that by the end of the negotiations we are stronger than when we started. The bottom line is that we don’t want to sell our young players, and the owner has enough financial clout to trust my judgment on that. The best young players are a commodity in football nowadays, and I actually think we can help to improve them as footballers by staying at this club. The education for every footballer is helped by playing ninety minutes on a Saturday, every Saturday that they can.

What about the place those young players are cultivated: the academy?
We are behind Leicester in this part of the world in terms of recruitment. We have to be better at getting the young players in our catchment area, but something like that is more the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff that people don’t see. It’s crucial that we have players coming through our academy and getting in to the first team. It’s big for me ever since my time at Manchester City. There we had the likes of Micah Richards, Nedum Onuoha, Stephen Ireland, Kasper Schmeichel and others that came through the academy and were the lifeblood of the club before the money came in. Nottingham Forest has to be that as well. We need to make sure that they are cared for and loved by a senior manager like myself.

What else is high on the agenda, short-term?
Galvanising the supporters and making sure there is that real feel-good factor around the place that I was fortunate to enjoy here as a player.

The club has been a bit success-starved of late. Can that successful past be a burden?
We’re a Championship club aiming to move up a league, and whatever this club has achieved, all those former glories and the two stars on the shirt, it’s all irrelevant. That’s one of the things I stressed to the players and staff when I arrived: this game owes us nothing. The past can inspire you, but that’s all it can do, inspire you. This club must look to make history, not harp on about it.

Does your iconic status at the club bring with it a certain pressure on you to succeed?
I’ve never been the sort of person that has worried about pressure. Someone asked me the question the other day “Are you worried about coming back to Nottingham?” But no, that’s not me. The only worry I would have is if I hadn’t taken the opportunity. I stepped up to take penalties but I wasn’t worried about them. The only worry would be if I didn’t have the arsehole to stand up and do it.

I don’t think I could have finished my life without managing Nottingham Forest. I’ve played, I’ve been a player-manager, I’ve been a manager and I’ve been around the world to educate myself. But when I finished with England, I knew I needed to go somewhere where I would really be inspired and it all meant a lot to me. Forest does that.

Your first competitive fixture is against Blackpool. What are you most looking forward to?
When the final whistle goes and we’ve won. That’s when you get a bit of relief as a manager.

But there’ll be excitement too, right?
I’d be lying to you if I said that my first day and my first competitive game won’t be special for me. I just want it to be special for the players, though. I want anyone that represents Forest to create their own history at this club. I’m not the type of man that enjoys the pats on the back. I’d rather step back and let the players get the plaudits.


We went to the great dugout in the sky to get Brian Clough’s take on the new season...

What sort of state are Forest in heading into the new campaign?
After years of pissing about, the club have finally got a proper Forest man in charge. A man they should be proud and respectful of. Stuart is a fine young man, now stop meddling and let him run the show.

What's the best case scenario for the season?
Too much gets said about getting clubs “where they belong.” The only place you belong is where you end up. That’s decided by hard work, dedication and professionalism. Getting those three right would be a start.

And the worst-case scenario?
The owners make the mistake of thinking they have the answers, or even the brains. If they sack another manager they should go as well.

Which player is being wrapped in cotton wool?
That Paterson lad on the wing is a gem. Fast, hard-working, skilful and likes to keep it on the floor, exactly where it should be kept. He’s an attractive lad too—that’ll be his undoing.

Whose breakout season will this be?
This Dutch lad looks a prospect—he’s 6’5”! They won’t know whether to start him up front or sell tickets on the touchline to climb his neck.

Where are you looking thin?
Around the waist—Barbara’s got me on one of her bloody diets. Anything to keep her sweet.

Which great from your era would you like to back-to-the-future in to the current squad?
Kids are only as good as their teachers and an army as strong as their sergeant major. I’d honour Stuart by lending him Peter Taylor. He was the only man I met who could make me better—so he could make everyone else better too.

Advice for the gaffer?
Be your own man and stay true to your principles. Once you lose respect for yourself, you can’t look anyone in the eye and ask them to respect you.

Nottingham Forest website

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