Mercurial talents always require a bit of leeway, as Nottingham Forest found out in the past with John Robertson and are now discovering with Joao Carvalho.

It is not as black and white as one rule for one and another for everybody else, but it is not far off.

Certain individuals need to be handled differently.

Those who fill the playmaking mould are often enigmas.

To expect them to tow the same line as mere mortals is pretty much pointless.

Some 40 years ago, Brian Clough – himself very much one of a kind – realised as much when working with Robertson.

He famously said of the Scottish winger in his autobiography: “Rarely could there have been a more unlikely looking professional athlete. [He was a] scruffy, unfit, uninterested waste of time, but something told me he was worth persevering with.

“[He] became one of the finest deliverers of a football I have ever seen – in Britain or anywhere else in the world – as fine as the Brazilians or the supremely gifted Italians.”

The patience shown in Robertson was richly rewarded.

Could history repeat itself in the present?


(Photo Allsport/Getty Images)

Forest currently have another enigmatic talent on their books who divides opinion like few others.

Big things were expected of Carvalho when he was snapped up in a club-record £13 million deal.

The early signs were encouraging, while there was an acceptance that time was needed.

Here was a 21-year-old far from the finished article but one with the potential to become something special.

Progress has stalled.

Carvalho has barely had a kick under Martin O’Neill.

And when he has made it onto the field, he has figured in three goalless showings from the Reds.

The most recent of those came at Stoke, when some pointed a finger of blame in his direction for the Potters’ second effort in a 2-0 defeat.

Forest legend Kenny Burns, who spent many years alongside Robertson at the City Ground, is not buying the criticism aimed at Carvalho.

He has said in the Nottingham Post: “I still think he’s a good player and he can still play a key part for us. I’d still have him in the team.

“I’ve always said he’s a move in front of everyone else. He’s got quick feet. He’s not a great tackler, but neither was John Robertson.


“John Robertson was gifted and Carvalho is gifted. I’m not comparing the two, but Carvalho has definitely got ability.

“We’ve got other workers in the side. There should be enough players around him to let Carvalho do what he is good at.

“Not everyone is a battler. But we have got plenty of other players who can do that side of the game.”

There is a very valid point there.

If Carvalho loses possession on halfway, while trying to get into the game, then he really should be able to rely on those behind him to prevent the ball from ending up in the back of the net.

Forest have looked much tougher to break down of late – Stoke aside – and have been crying out for more of a spark at the opposite end of the field.

Carvalho is capable of providing that.

Is O’Neill convinced of those qualities though?

Will the Portuguese stick around long enough to become the playmaker he was intended to be?

Can he become a Robertson-esque figure for the modern era or will his be a tale of what could have been?

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