Martin O’Neill is the new man in charge of Nottingham Forest, but will he be more Frank Clark than Stuart Pearce?

The European Cup winner is not the first famous face to have returned to familiar surroundings at the City Ground.

He is not even the first member of a squad that conquered the continent to have taken the reins.

The Northern Irishman is, however, the most recent and therefore the most important.

His arrival has not been greeted with the universal acclaim that would have once been reserved for such an appointment.

O’Neill boasts goodwill aplenty, though, and could not be better placed to fill the hottest of seats.

He needs no reminding that a revolving door policy has been in operation for some time on Trentside.

Few tears have been shed for the vast majority of those to have been moved out, but some departures have stung more than others.


(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Take Pearce, for example.

Arguably the most iconic captain in Forest’s illustrious history (sorry Mr McGovern) and a man who had Garibaldi red running through his veins.

All of that counted for little, though, as he took in just seven months as permanent boss.

With his reign officially starting on July 1, 2014, by February 1, 2015 it had come to a close.

Pearce took in 32 games at the helm, winning 10, drawing 10 and losing 12.

With ‘Psycho’ dropping the baton – after making the most positive of starts with Michail Antonio, Britt Assombalonga and Co – it was immediately picked up by another former Red.

Dougie Freedman may not enjoy legend status on Trentside, but he still knew the inner workings of the club.

Not that such insight aided his cause much, with the Scot departing after 57 pretty forgettable fixtures (19 wins, 16 draws and 22 defeats) spread over the course of 13 months.

It is fair to say that the struggles of the more recent returning stars may have clouded the judgement of some.








Frank Clark






Paul Hart






Colin Calderwood






Stuart Pearce






Dougie Freedman






If the clock is turned back a little further, though, then there are positives to be found.

Colin Calderwood (who took over from Gary Megson, a man who made no appearances during a brief spell at the City Ground) spent two-and-a-half years in the Forest dugout – a lifetime compared to many that have followed.

He lifted the club from a League One pit before being found out in the Championship.

It took 136 games (57 wins, 42 draws and 37 losses) before the mask slipped – with a win ratio of 41.9% the best of any ex-Reds.

Before him, Paul Hart had carried Forest as close as anybody to a 21st century return to the Premier League.

A play-off berth was secured with an exciting side in 2002/03, but the former defender and academy boss was handed his P45 in February 2004 after 135 games (42 wins, 44 draws and 49 defeats).

Where Hart fell short, the final familiar face on this list got the job done.

Clark was handed the unenviable task of following in Brian Clough’s footsteps.

Forest sought to keep things in the family when appointing the European Cup hero and were richly rewarded for three-and-a-half years.



Within Clark’s 178 games were a number of notable wins, with promotion secured in 1993/94 at the first time of asking before then finishing third in the top tier.

A man who has retained close ties to the Reds since moving on in December 1996 tasted 73 successes in charge, along with 58 stalemates and 47 setbacks (a win ratio of 41%).

Clark, without question, sets the benchmark for former team-mate O’Neill.

He may have had the likes of Stan Collymore, Pearce, Colin Cooper and Bryan Roy at his disposal, but that is the standard Forest’s class of 2019 should be seeking to emulate.

Icon at the wheel? Check.

Money to spend? Check.

Big ambition? Check

Over to you, Martin.