There are few better sights in football than to see a home grown player succeeding in the professional world – especially if it’s with the club they have been nurtured through.
It is fair to say that the Nigel Doughty Academy has been the jewel in the crown of Nottingham Forest’s reputation over the last two decades.
Bringing bright sparks to some of the clubs darkest moments, the work of the academy has often been a lifeline for the club – providing mature, skilled and well-trained young players to the first team when needed.
Since its official opening in 1997, the likes of Paul Hart and Gary Brazil have overseen the progress of some of the games most recognised names.
Brazil and his staff look to be continuing their great work with the likes of Arvin Appiah and Alex Iacovitti, emerging from the U23 squad and knocking on the doors of Karanka’s first team plans.
So to look back on the success of the academy and their resultant graduates, here is @The92Blog‘s best Forest graduate XI since 1997.
As a comparison and to add a little competition, we have also taken the liberty of comparing the clubs best international players, who joined the club post ’97.
Academy XI (4-3-2-1):
Karl Darlow – Darlow was hurriedly entered into the Forest first team after Lee Camp’s departure in 2013. The then 22-year-old however, quickly matured and established himself as Billy Davies’ number one, before being transferred to Newcastle for an undisclosed fee.
James Perch – The versatile defender graduated from Forest’s academy in 2004 and was immediately plunged in at the deep end, with his first season being Forest’s relegation to the third tier. Perch went on to establish himself as one of the club’s most reliable players, before his departure in 2010.
Michael Dawson – Arriving shortly after brother, Andy, Dawson junior signed a professional contract with the Reds in 2000. Making his senior debut in 2002, the centre back did not take long to form a formidable partnership with veteran Des Walker. The 34- year-old has since made his return to the City Ground, after a successful career in the top tier of English football.
Wes Morgan – ‘Big Wes’ was originally scalped from neighbours County, after being rejected as a trainee. Paul Hart handed Morgan his senior debut in 2003 and the Jamaican international went on to play over 350 times on Trent side, before departing in a £1m deal to rivals Leicester, where he went on to captain the side to the most unlikely league title.
Ben Osborn – Originally rejected by arch rivals Derby County as a youth team player, Ben Osborn quickly earned the recognition of the clubs academy and then caretaker manager Gary Brazil, who handed the number 11 his debut back in 2014. Osborn continues to be at the heart of the clubs plans and is a reliable worker in either midfield or at left back.
Jermaine Jenas – Despite only having one full season with the Reds, Jermaine Jenas’ career after his departure speaks for itself. A centrepiece for both Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur, when fully fit Jenas rubbed shoulders with the best, English midfielders of his time; earning 21 international caps.
David Prutton – The tough tackling, Hull born central midfielder made over 150 appearances for Forest, after joining the club as a trainee in 1995. Handed a professional contract in 1998, Prutton went on to play for the likes of Southampton, Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday as well as a return to Forest in 2007.
Gareth Williams – David Platt described Williams as the ‘best passer at the club’, during his tenure and if it were not for injuries, Williams may have gone on to have success at the top level. The Scotsman was voted player of the season in 2001/02, before leaving for Leicester City in 2004.
Lewis McGugan – Known for his tremendous long distance shooting and playmaking ability, between 2010-13, the team seemed to revolve around the talent McGugan possessed. Graduating from the academy in 2006, the now 29-year-old went on to spend seven years at the club before transferring to Watford. Since then, similar to Williams, the attacking midfielder has been dogged by injuries which have hampered his undoubted ability.
Andy Reid – Originally turning down Arsenal and Manchester United, Reid joined Forest in 1998, aged 16. Making his first senior appearance in 2000, Reid enjoyed four years as Forest’s midfield magician, making 144 appearances and scoring 21 goals. With a wand of a left foot and tricky pace, Reid attracted the interest of Premier League side Tottenham, who he joined in January 2005 with Michael Dawson for a joint £8m.
Marlon Harewood – The big number 9, made his league debut in 1999, after a successful, if slightly odd loan spell in Finland for FC Haka. On his return from Scandinavia, Harewood scored 51 goals for the Reds, forming a formidable partnership with David Johnson in the process, helping Forest reach the 2003/04 play offs. Harewood went on to play for West Ham, Aston Villa and Wolves.
International XI (4-3-3):
Lee Camp – Bought from QPR after a successful loan spell, Camp was a stalwart in the Forest net during Billy Davies’ first spell at the club. Brash and passionate, the Northern Ireland international made 163 appearances for the Reds, before being released in 2013 under Alex McCleish.
Mathieu Louis-Jean – Relatively unknown before joining, the athletic French man joined from Le Havre in 1999, following a loan spell. A regular starter under Paul Hart, the right back made nearly 200 appearances, before leaving for Norwich in 2005, where he would only make two appearances.
Jon Olav Hjelde – The Norwegian joined Forest in 1997 and played for the Reds until his departure in 2003. Often filling the gaps between Michael Dawson, Des Walker and John Thompson, Hjelde was unable to consistently feature during his time in Nottingham, however was a stern competitor when called into action.
Danny Fox – Once crucified and mocked by Forest fans, the former Burnley and Southampton man has reaccredited himself over the last 12 months, under Aitor Karanka. Unrecognisable from his lax, sluggish self under Dougie Freedman, the Scotsman is now a recognisable leader in the Forest team, now idolised by the fans.
Eric Lichaj – Forced to play in his unorthodox left back position, Lichaj was always a committed member to the Nottingham Forest squad. Joining as a free agent from Aston Villa, the American made 173 appearances for Forest between 2013 and his move to Hull during the summer.
Adlene Guedioura – Now in his second spell at the club, the Algerian international is again gaining heroic status in his dynamic, central midfield role. His ability to run from deep, shoot from distance and spray unforeseen passes, helped save Forest from relegation in his first arrival in 2012; he again looks to be the main man for Karanka’s side this season.
Guy Moussi – The beloved Guy Moussi’s firm tackling ability in the middle of the park, made the Frenchman a fan favourite during his time in the East Midlands, particularly during Billy Davies’ team. The holding midfielder retired in 2015, after brief spells at Millwall, Birmingham and Helsinki.
Radoslaw Majewski – The once, Polish international arrived at the City Ground in 2009, initially on loan from Polonia Warsaw. Scoring three goals in his first spell, ‘Radi’ helped project the club to an unlikely third position, before signing permanently in 2010. He went on to make a total of 144 appearances in a red shirt, scoring 16 goals – most of them, firecrackers!
Junior Agogo – Arriving from Bristol Rovers, Junior Agogo took a little while to get going, but he quickly became a firm favourite amongst both the fans and Colin Calderwood who starred the Ghanian 64 times during his time at the club. After helping achieve the clubs promotion from League One in 2007/08, Agogo moved to Egyptian side Amalek SC.
Pierre Van Hooijdonk – One of the best strikers in Forest’s all time history, the Dutch international’s pairing with Kevin Campbell in 1997/98, catalysed Dave Bassett’s sides immediate return to the top flight. Scoring 34 goals in that campaign, the forward was considered a prize asset by the Forest board, who infamously denied his transfer request during the transfer window.
Robert Earnshaw – The Welsh international is entrenched in East Midlands football folklore, for his involvement on both sides of the A52. The Forest faithful will remember the number 10 fondly, for his electrifying pace, clinical finishing and elaborate celebrations during the Davies era.
Picture Credit: ITV.Com