Rod Petrie, the Hibernian chairman, has criticised Nottingham Forest for their public pursuit of Colin Calderwood, and has warned that he will fight to keep the manager at Easter Road.
In a strongly-worded statement, Petrie also condemned the work of John Hughes, who was replaced by Calderwood last October.
Petrie’s comments came after Steve McClaren, the Nottingham Forest manager, was reported as saying that the club were negotiating with Hibs to secure Calderwood’s release, so that he could return as assistant manager.
He also said in an interview with BBC Radio Nottingham that: “This is the only place he wants to come”. Calderwood, a former Forest manager, has also been linked with Birmingham City, where he would work alongside Chris Hughton, with the pair having previously worked together at Newcastle United.
Petrie is adamant Calderwood will stay, however, even though his family continue to live in England. Calderwood who married for a second time during the summer, drove down to Northampton after matches last season. He has so far remained non-committal on his future, and Petrie’s comments are either an attempt to pressure him into staying or, more likely, to drive up any compensation fee.
“Hibernian wants Colin Calderwood as its manager. Hibernian has Colin Calderwood as its manager,” Petrie said. “Steve McClaren is quoted in the Nottingham Post as saying: ‘We are trying to negotiate with Hibs but they do not want to lose him. We are trying to get Colin out of Hibs and it is very difficult’. Mr McClaren is in dangerous territory. Nottingham Forest knows that their only official approach to Hibernian -- a phone call on Friday 24 June -- was rejected. There is nothing to negotiate. They do not have permission to speak to the Hibernian manager. No club has permission to speak to the Hibernian manager.”
Petrie also questioned the role of an agent -- thought to be Colin Gordon -- who represents both Calderwood and McClaren and who was pictured at a meeting the two held last month. Despite the Hibs manager admitting two weeks ago that “if someone offers you two bags of sweets, you look in both before you choose”, Petrie praised his manager for his professional approach despite rumours.
“McClaren’s words were probably spoken, not by him but by his agent.” Petrie said. “The same agent who represents Colin Calderwood. The mysterious ‘third man’ in the picture taken in a hotel lobby over three weeks ago.
“Colin Calderwood continues to discharge his duties in a professional and thoughtful manner. The speculation is frustrating, but I know every Hibernian supporter will be right behind the team and right behind the Hibernian manager.”
In assessing Calderwood’s impact on the Easter Road club, Petrie highlighted the team’s results following the January transfer window: played 10, won six, drawn two, lost two. The upturn in form moved Hibs away from the relegation zone, and the summer has seen the squad reduced to a more manageable size with the contracts of several players ending.
Although Petrie, as chief executive and then chairman, would have authorised these contracts, he implicitly criticised Hughes, who declined to comment last night, for building such a large squad.
“We have now stripped away the unworkable legacy saddled upon the club by the previous incumbent,” Petrie said. “Colin has added to the core of the team he signed in January. Like every manager, he wants to continually adjust his squad -- and the work goes on with seven weeks still to the end of the summer transfer window.
“Hibernian signed six players in January for Colin Calderwood to provide the nucleus of the team that he wanted. And he achieved the results we all wanted. Was that a surprise, was he just lucky? After an initial season of consolidation, Colin’s [Nottingham Forest] team won 22 out of 46 matches in 2007-08 and promotion to the Championship. And at his previous club [Northampton] after an initial season of consolidation Colin’s team won 20 out of 46 matches in 2004-05, narrowly missing out on promotion. But he followed that up with promotion in the next season on the back of 22 wins from 46 matches. Colin Calderwood is a talented manager.”