As the City Ground prepares to welcome Derby County on Sunday, Will Ward believes Stuart Pearce has already reinvigorated Nottingham Forest
“We need to make sure that the Academy players feel as though there is a path from the Academy into the first-team. I think the Academy is the lifeblood of any football club. I want to nurture our young talent.”
When Stuart Pearce officially took over at Nottingham Forest on 1 July, he expressed his intentions to develop the Academy; to nurture our young talent. ‘Psycho’ has managed to progress players, young and old, and bring the whole city alive.
On 25 August, he turned to a sport he doesn’t usually dip his toes into. Taking the team-talk in the Notts Outlaws dressing room, ahead of their crucial quarter-final against Derbyshire Falcons, certainly had the desired effect.
“Everyone sat there silent and never said a word. He spoke about preparation and giving yourself the best chance in these knockout games,” said bowler Luke Fletcher.
They beat the enemy, in convincing style. It was something Pearce didn’t have to do. He doesn’t just want to carry Nottingham Forest on his shoulders, he wants to carry the whole city. And who could bet against him succeeding?
Back into his comfort zone a few days earlier, the first team faced Reading on 23 August. Leading 1-0 at half-time, it wasn’t quite the convincing opening 45 minutes we had hoped for, and the players needed awakening a tad – the probable instruction was to put the game to bed, and put the game to bed they did.
Three goals in 27 minutes and the golden touch Pearce currently possesses, became even more evident.
The third, and possibly the most significant, day came when a crowd of around 100 people were watching, at the most. The U21s side played Sheffield Wednesday in South Yorkshire on 27 August. Pearce and his assistant Steve Wigley trotted along to the touchline, and watched intensely as Forest dominated.
As against Reading, the Reds couldn’t make their possession count as the half-time whistle blew, with the scoreline once again at 1-0 in Forest’s favour.
Pearce followed Jimmy Gilligan in the direction of the dressing room – in the vicinity of those four walls were David Vaughan and Kelvin Wilson. Big names, both vastly experienced.
Yet it was Jake Wholey, Oliver Burke and Jorge Grant who scored the three goals in the second period, as the lower age group trounced the opposition and blew them off the park. Players even the most avid of Forest followers may not have heard of – the hidden gems that Stuart Pearce inspires.
He could’ve talked. He could’ve quite so easily stood there with his hands on his hips, making his presence known. That’s what he is. On and off the pitch, he commands respect.
So far, the headlines are telling you the benefits being reaped have led to Forest occupying top spot. But there’s something a whole lot more beneficial taking place when you scratch the surface and have a look inside.
For the first time in a long time, sustainability is being created. As he leads his army into the biggest game of the season against Derby County, you can sense a fourth day – another special team-talk, that you’d like to be a fly on the wall for.
Win or lose, the future looks immense. And limping from week to week, looks to be a thing of the past.