Former Forest manager Paul Hart on his youth players, play-off heartache and change

Video: Paul Hart on what could have happened if Forest achieved promotion in 2002/03

Former Nottingham Forest manager Paul Hart has spoken on Team Talk about his time managing the Reds bringing through youth players, play-off heartache and how it then all changed.

Paul Hart managed and played for both Nottingham Forest and Notts County and took the Reds to within a game of the Premier League 14 years ago.

He played for Nottingham Forest from 1983 to 1985, making 70 appearances and scoring one goal.

Hart then finished his playing career at Notts County in the 1987/88 season making 23 appearances before moving into management.

He returned to the City Ground in 2001 until he was sacked in 2004; in 2015 he managed Notts in a caretaker role.

This is what he said speaking to Iain Chambers and Charlie McParland on Team Talk about his time managing Nottingham Forest.


“Taking over from David Platt in 2001 wasn’t tricky apart from the fact we hadn’t got any money at that point.

I was given a brief that I had to reduce the wage bill and bring in £4m because that Christmas we were looking at administration.

I remember us having auditors in and we sold Jermaine Jenas that Christmas.

Bobby Robson came in and offered £1m for him and the board said we should take it and I said no, we’re not taking that, we can get more.

Eventually, when he moved to Spurs, we got a total of £6m for a 17-year-old but that staved off administration – that’s how close we were.

In that first season, we had to be clever with the way we brought players on and we knew what we wanted to do.

We had a lot of older, experienced players there earning good salaries which my brief said I almost had to dispose of.

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Paul Hart speaking on Team Talk

Charlie and I had worked with the players we brought through for four or five years before going into the first team and the bulk of the side was born out of that work.

They knew what we wanted – we played the same way at each age level so whatever was coming on wasn’t new to them.

Every move forward they got, they had seen it all before and all they had to do was deal with it mentally when they got there.

It was a really enjoyable time playing great football which even I enjoyed, it was fantastic.

If we hadn’t have had a change to the wage structure, maybe after the game at Sheffield United [Forest lost 4-3 on aggregate in a play-off semi-final in the 2002/03 season], we probably would have gone again I’d imagine.

We adopted a different style when we went to Sheffield United and we went 2-0 up, got onto the front foot.

We thought they would expect us to play them off the pitch so we decided to go up and over them – we went very direct and got to the second balls very quickly.

We just couldn’t hang on at crucial moments.

There was then big changes that summer and I think the first two people we signed were two people we’d identified to boost the squad as free signings on the back of selling three multi-million pound players.

After that, the writing was on the wall and we didn’t impress in the division that year.

If we had achieved promotion, we would have had to have kept them – they would have only got better.

I’m not saying we would have won the Premier League or anything like that but I think we would have coped and it would have encouraged the club to spread their wings and bring in experienced players.”

For more from Paul, watch the June 14 episode of Team Talk on our catch-up service by clicking here.

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