LTLF meets… Craig Armstrong
Born in South Shields, Craig Armstrong graduated from the Forest youth set up in 1992 and remained at the club until 1999, albeit with several loans out to other clubs. He made 40 league starts before moving on to Huddersfield Town and a string of other clubs. After his playing career finished, he started his own coaching business and recently re-joined Forest as U15s coach.
Questions for Craig were submitted by LTLF Forum members and posed by ‘Porks’. See the forum for your chance to contribute to future interviews with Forest figures…
Who are the best and worst players you played with?
The best players were Scott Gemmill – always wanted the ball and used it well –and Marcus Stewart at Huddersfield. His movement, touch and his ability to hold the ball up and bring people into the game was brilliant. Could finish as well.
Who did you socialise most with at Forest? Do you still socialise with them now?
I socialised in my younger days with Steve Guinan and John Finnigan who moved to Lincoln. I still see them now but also I roomed with Alan Rogers and went out with the team. There was great team spirit under Harry [Bassett].
Who was the most unusual personality you have come across in football?
That’s difficult for me as there’s a lot of players with so many different personalities. Alan Rogers was a little crazy, always doing stupid things first then realising afterwards he shouldn’t have done them.
Did you ever come across Brian Clough? If so what memories do you have of him?
Yeah I’ve come across Brian Clough, he signed me when I was 13. There are lots of stories I could mention but I suppose before I signed for the club I came to meet him before a game and at the time I had a lot of clubs chasing my signature. I was with my family when I was introduced to Brian and his first words to me as I was shaking his hand were ‘So you’re the lad who’s going to sign for me’. I nodded and said, ‘Yes Gaffa.’
What did you and the other players think when Pierre Van Hooijdonk went on strike?
I got on with Pierre very well. I was disappointed with him. He explained why he went on strike and I told him that he could have made his protests felt more by playing and going on the transfer list. I felt it was forgotten quick enough when he started scoring though, but maybe if he had started the season then things might have been different. However with Colin Cooper getting injured before the first game of the season, Scott Gemmill not being allowed to play as he hadn’t signed a new deal and Kevin Campbell being sold, I don’t think that helped the cause.
Who was your favourite and least favourite managers and why?
Dave Bassett was my favourite. He installed a lot of belief into the squad and the team spirit was brilliant. I didn’t have a least favourite at the club but the manager I hated was Mark Stimson. He was my manager for brief spell at Gillingham. What an absolute knob and the worst man manager I’ve ever come across.
What affect will the Forest Academy’s Category 2 status and the new rules have on the club?
The Category 2 status is good but I’m sure the club hopefully will aim for Cat 1. We can take players from lower clubs but it always boils down to finances anyway and at the moment the main priority is the first team. I’m sure the gaffa, if he has players capable of playing in the first team, they will get their chance. Karl Darlow is a great example so the boys within the academy have to aim to become involved with the first team.
Which Under-21s do you think are closest to the first team?
I’m not sure there are many players close to the first team at the moment. The game is about opinions and I do feel we have one or two U21s that are very good players, but the first team squad is so strong it’s going to be difficult for any to break through.
Which age group is our strongest?
My personal opinion feel that there are one or two in the U16s at present that are strong and capable of playing in the youth team now. When they were U15s last year a couple played in the youth team.
Do you expect to see more Forest players representing England at youth level in the near future?
It would be nice for players to represent their country but we do have a few that are already and not just England. Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and England are a few countries our academy kids represent. Long may it continue.