Calls for a 21-year-old midfielder to be given more game time built quickly upon Martin O’Neill taking the reins at Nottingham Forest.

Questions were asked of why such talent was being overlooked.

How can he not be involved? He is obviously deserving of more opportunities than he is getting.

Pleas for a fresh-faced hopeful to be included on a more regular basis were heeded.

It was, however, not Joao Carvalho who got the nod.

Instead, Ryan Yates was the man ushered out of the shadows and into a starting spotlight.

A youngster who had seen just six minutes of Championship football under Aitor Karanka was included from the off in a meeting with Brentford on February 9.

He made quite the impact!

A place in O’Neill’s XI was retained for a trip to West Brom days later, allowing a senior goal account to be opened.

Yates did, admittedly, make a hash of his first chance in that game, but managed to bundle home via Stefan Johansen.

He would make no mistake when given a second bite of the cherry.


(Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

With bodies flying all around him, Yates kept his composure to drill a difficult dropping ball in off the post.

An undoubted highlight in the career of an academy graduate to that point.

Before the end of the month, he was revelling in a home win over Derby.

Emotion spilled out at the final whistle, much to the delight of the City Ground faithful and rather amusing annoyance of one Richard Keogh.

A further four outings have been taken in since then.

There has been plenty of energy shown but for all of the huff and puff, no more goals and no assists.

Yates has offered his own summary of his performances to date in the Nottingham Post, saying: “Scoring goals from midfield is what can set you apart from being average to being a top midfielder, so I want to do that.

“But then just doing the basics really well, too. That’s going to help the team and make really good players in the team look even better – kind of like Roy Keane did. He wasn’t the flairiest player, but he scored a few goals and just made everyone so much better in the team.”

Yates certainly has the perfect role model on the City Ground bench.

Working with Keane on a daily basis should help to polish the edges of a rough diamond.

“I’m just trying to improve my all-round game. Training with some of the players, especially the midfielders, they are all really pushing me on to improve,” Yates added in the Post.

“We’ve got so many top, top players in midfield, so it’s really healthy competition.”



O’Neill certainly boasts an abundance of riches in the middle of the park.

The likes of Adlene Guedioura and Claudio Yacob have slipped down the pecking order, while Liam Bridcutt continues to wander in the wilderness.

Yates has been given his shot.

He has taken it, for the most part, and has even been billed as a potential Player of the Year contender.

That may be taking things a bit far.

Earning a chance could be considered the easy part.

Ambition and adrenaline gets you a big break, delivers an immediate impact and allows you to goad arch-rivals.

Maintaining those standards and retaining a starting berth is the difficult bit.

Yates has plenty of credit in the bank, but he knows as well as anybody that he needs to remain on an upward curve if he is to make that jump from “being average to being a top midfielder”.

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