“The right club at the right time” – Robert Earnshaw on his move from Derby to Forest

Robert Earnshaw celebrates scoring a goal for Nottingham Forest

We all have our favourite players.

The ones we like watching, who seem to give an extra 10%, who score in the derby, or who feel like one of ‘us.’

Not being a Forest fan, and working in the media, I got a slightly different perspective – my affection for a player increased if they were a good talker, and friendly. 

I always got an impression of which of the players were thinkers about the game, and would potentially move into coaching or management. 

One of those was Robert Earnshaw, who quickly became a fans’ favourite because of the sheer number of goals he scored – and for the fact that he had such a good record against Derby.

After spells coaching in the magnificent city of Vancouver and in Fresno, California, Earnshaw is back in the UK doing his UEFA licences with the Welsh FA as he looks to move back into coaching.

He was one of the few players who has moved directly from Derby County to Nottingham Forest – doing so in a £2.65m move in the summer of 2008, after the Reds had won promotion to the Championship on a dramatic final day. LINK.

“When I was at Derby, there were a lot of players who were always going to move on – I was one of them,” Earnshaw told me. 

“There had been some interest from a few different clubs six months before, and I kept that at the back of my mind.

“I knew I wanted to leave, and I was going to leave.

“There were three clubs who seemed to be firmly interested that I knew of – Sheffield United and Forest were amongst them. They were the very keen ones, and put bids in. 

“It was then about which club to go to. When Forest came in, I was made up because I knew of the history and the top strikers who’d played for the club before.”

It’s worth remembering again that the Reds were going to be back playing in the division for the first time in three seasons after their dalliance with League One – and manager Colin Calderwood would be testing himself at that level for the first time in his career.

“Forest getting promoted was the absolute key. Had they stayed down, I probably wouldn’t have come – I wanted to play in the Premier League, and the Championship at worst. 

“They were very quick and keen to get the deal done.

“I took a few days to think about it – we had plenty of conversations about what the plan was. I felt good, but we still had to finalise a few things.

“Before I signed, I wanted to have a good long chat with Colin Calderwood – to find out what his ambitions were, and what he was like.

“When I sat down with Colin, it was probably the longest conversation and discussion I’ve ever had with a manager before signing. It was great actually.

“We both chatted about football for a few hours, and got completely carried away.

“I was pleased with how it had gone, and I signed pretty quickly after that.

“I knew it was the right club at the right time.”

But much of the euphoria about being back in the Championship evaporated pretty quickly. 

Forest made a poor start to the campaign, and won only four League games before Christmas – which led to Calderwood’s departure.

One of those wins came just before the festive period – when they won 2-0 against Southampton at St Mary’s.

Because it was a long journey, we’d stayed over the night before – and met up with some of the Forest hierarchy and the rest of the local media (there’s a surprisingly small amount of media that covers Forest, in my view) for a meal.

It was something we did on occasion at that time, probably once a season before a long away game. It was useful for both sides to touch base, I think, and get a feeling for where the club was heading.

I think the club found it useful too – to make improvements that may help the local media. It was just a very useful dialogue for both parties.

At that dinner, one official’s opening gambit was “Who do YOU think should be the next Forest manager?” At that point, it didn’t take a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist to know that Calderwood’s days were numbered.

As I write these words, I can still remember the very moment the penny dropped – I can remember where on the table I was sitting, what I was eating, and exactly what was said. 

We all liked the genial Scotsman, so as well as feeling incredibly privileged to know this information, it was also a sad moment.

The following day, however, Wes Morgan and Joe Garner scored and the inevitable was delayed. 

Earnshaw played in that game at St Mary’s, and reflected on a difficult first half of the season – “It was a tough time for Colin. The way we played was bright and enjoyable, but the problem was we were defensively naive as a team.

“We just needed to knit things together a bit better. But we all enjoyed working under Colin, and wanted it to work for him.

“But you have to remember we had a few players who’d not played in the Championship and were trying to establish themselves. There was the likes of McGugan, Cohen, Tyson, Chambers – they were all trying to make their names and make a mark.

“Later on, they found themselves and had good careers as they went on in the game. You could see us progressing, but we needed more time.”

NEXT BLOG – Earnshaw on re-uniting with Billy Davies, Derby games, and leaving Forest 

PICS – DAN WESTWELL

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