The Frank Clark Interview
Prior to taking up his role as Chairman of Nottingham Forest, Frank Clark was Vice-Chairman of the League Manager's Association. As a player with the Reds' from 1975-1979, he was an integral member of the side that won the League Championship in 1978, as well as being a member of the squad which won the European Cup in 1979. He spent 3 relatively successful years as manager of the club from 1993-1996, before going on to briefly manage Manchester City.
The appointment of Frank Clark as the successor to Nigel Doughty as Chairman of Nottingham Forest, was widely accepted at the time as a positive move by supporters of the club. Clark has done a lot in his short spell in charge to reinforce that view and has given the fans some honest and forthright answers to questions they have asked in this interview with Vital Forest.
KF: Do you actually have any power with regards to decision making, or are you just a figurehead?
FC: I'm no figurehead. I make all the decisions on the day to day running of the football club. When I was first approached, it was to help guide the club and advise best on how things could be done and improved. In some respects, it would have been similar to that of a football consultant. Nigel Doughty then decided to offer me the role of Chairman and I have to say I was slightly taken aback. I've always had a desire and willingness to help and have kept in contact with the people here over the years. I still live in the area and have always had a great affection for the club.
KF: What attributes does Mark Arthur have and should he still be employed by the club?
FC: Mark Arthur is a very experienced CEO. He comes in for alot of criticism and much of it unjustified. He has many contacts within the game, including players, agents, managers and Chairmen. He sits on many committees and is a widely respected figure within the game. He worked tirelessly on the World Cup bid on behalf of both the city of Nottingham and Nottingham Forest FC. I will be leaning on Mark Arthur and John Pelling, who are in charge of financial matters. I need them both and I need their experience. I have no control over what has happened in the past or the mistakes that have been made. I'm looking to the future and how I can affect that. If people think I'm going to sack Mark Arthur, they're wrong.
KF: Do you report directly back to ND or do you report to MA?
FC: I don't report back to anyone. I`m in charge of the day to day running of the football club. I know the parameters within which we have to operate and the objectives. I am in charge, but I'm sure Nigel will let me know if I`m doing it wrong.
KF: Can we know exactly how much physical cash ND has put in over the years so we can at least acknowledge his investment fairly . £65m, £75m, £100m? Figures all quoted by Mark Arthur and John Pelling.
FC: I can't give you the exact figure, but it's certainly close to the £75m. That`s a substantial sum. Nigel's initial investment when he took control was to stabilise the club. A lot of people forget the mess the club was in at that time and without his help, administration, or possibly even worse was only a matter of days away. Since then, he`s continued to invest with the aim of attaining and retaining Premiership status once again.
KF: Can we afford to renew the contracts of existing players on similar or improved terms? If not, do you expect them to leave?
FC: Nigel has pledged to honour existing contracts for the next two and a half years, as well as financing the day to day running of the club in that time. What we need in the immediate future is a little time and space to free up wages and generate funds. A lot was made about players not wanting to play for the previous manager. I can tell you that is not true. I don't believe players at any club decide not to play for a manager. They are professionals and know that at any time someone could be watching them from the stands with a view to buying them. Players just don't do that. Those we want to keep will be offered improved terms. They won't be silly deals, they will be sensible and in line with the parameters set out. I`m not expecting players to leave because we are offering less than other clubs. If you look at the players we signed in the summer, some of them were placed on very, very good deals. I don't want to talk about specific players, but we do have to reduce the wage bill to comply with the expected new rulings under Financial Fair Play.
KF: How can Nottingham Forest be successful again under ND`s revised financial strategy?
FC: Despite the fact that we face tough times ahead, we still have ambition and the goal of winning promotion. It may take a little longer, but we still want to reach the Premiership. In Steve Cotterill we have an experienced manager at this level. He's proved in the past that he can help, improve and develop young talent and is prepared to give the youngsters their chance when ready. Steve has an excellent record in bringing on emerging young talent. We are going to have to be clever and wheel and deal wherever we can. We will also be looking at alternative revenue streams and sources of funding. We need to expand on the corporate side and improve the marketing of the club. The club shop and catering has recently been outsourced and has shown a marked improvement with the sales they have generated. One area in which we are very fortunate, is the fact we have an excellent scouting network, headed by Keith Burt.
KF: Any plans to develop/buy the City Ground? Has the club had any recent meetings with the council over stadium matters?
FC: There are absolutely no plans at present to redevelop or expand the ground. Yes, we know it's looking tired and in need of some attention, but all funds at the moment and for the foreseeable future will be going on the team. There have been no recent discussions or meetings with the council to buy the ground. Things would be a lot better if we did own our own ground, but we missed the boat regarding that 30 years ago, when Brian Clough put an end to any plans of moving to a new stadium. That just shows you how much power he had back then.
KF: Will ND`s financial withdrawal have any impact on the future of the Academy?
FC: I hope not. As I've explained, Nigel has pledged to support the club for the next two and a half years and that includes the Academy. Budgets are in place and the desire is to ring fence funding for the Academy. We may have to reconsider things, but there is a strong will to develop this side of the club.
KF: Have any interested parties contacted Seymour Pierce about buying the club?
FC: No. These are difficult times and there isn't a queue of foreign billionaires lining up to take the club off Nigel Doughty and with the new rules on FFP expected to come into place, it could make football clubs a less attractive proposition for potential investors. People who are willing to throw large sums of cash at football clubs are very few and they expect a quick return on their investment. Nigel will want to ensure that whoever takes over from him, has the best interests of Nottingham Forest at heart.
KF: Do you still have any involvement with the League Managers Association?
FC: I resigned my position when I became Chairman. I had to, as there would have been a conflict of interests and I may even have had to sack Steve Cotterill one day! I enjoyed my work with the LMA and made many friends whilst there.
KF: Has the TAP ceased to exist? Who is now involved in the process of acquiring new players?
There is no longer a Transfer Acquisitions Panel. The final decision on player transfers lies entirely with the manager. Steve may have a player recommended to him by the scouts or coaching staff, but any decision will be his. Mark Arthur and John Pelling look after the finances. This is an area where the club has come in for criticism in the past. Some of it has been justified, but that hasn't always been the case. I can tell you that the club tried very hard to sign Nicky Shorey - Very hard. We originally agreed a deal with Aston Villa to take him on loan up until Christmas, with Villa paying the majority of his wages. Billy Davies said he wanted to keep Shorey for the rest of the season and Nigel agreed to pay his full wages, which believe me were substantial, to keep him at the City Ground until the end of the season. The deal was agreed by all parties, including Shorey who had expressed his desire to stay. At the last minute, Fulham from the Premiership came in with an offer and made it a no contest as far as the player staying here was concerned.
KF: Who was the better player....John Robertson or Stan Collymore?
FC: Is it OK for me to say that Robbo was the best player I played with and Stan was the best player I managed? Stan was a fantastic player who never fulfilled his potential. I always told him that he had more skill in his little toe than I had in my entire body. I don`t think it was a wasted talent, because he achieved some great things. Robbo definitely fulfilled his potential. He was a great player, who did it at the highest level possible.