When Joe Worrall arrived back at Nottingham Forest after a year sabbatical on loan at Rangers, it was anticipated that he would probably be the fourth choice centre-back on Trentside.
The 22-year-old was seemingly behind Michael Dawson, Alexander Milosevic and Tobias Figueiredo in the pecking order and a campaign continuing to learn his trade was on the horizon.
That wouldn’t do for the Hucknall-born centre-back, however. Sitting and kicking his heels on the bench or in the stands isn’t his style. He wanted to get on the pitch as soon as possible and show people what he had learned during his time at Ibrox. Proving his critics wrong would have also been in the back of his mind.
Just nine games into the 2019/20 campaign and Worrall is yet to miss a league game. Fourth choice? No chance.
It is a testament to the character of the academy graduate that he has thrown himself into the thoughts of boss Sabri Lamouchi from the very first day he arrived to replace Martin O’Neill.
It is unlikely that the French manager would have seen too much of Worrall and it’s telling that he was forced to do the old-fashioned thing of working his backside off on the training ground to impress the new manager.
Dawson, Figueiredo and Milosevic will have been household names to Lamouchi, but a young man who has risen through the ranks won’t have rung too many bells in the head of the boss.
Forest have lost just once with Worrall in the team this season. Even in the 2-1 defeat to West Brom, he looked like a completely different player to the one which departed the City Ground over a year ago.
A lifelong Forest fan, it seems certain that the centre-back will captain the Reds permanently one day. He took the strap for Carabao Cup contests against Fleetwood and Derby and that will have almost certainly whet his appetite for more.
When Worrall was interviewed by BBC Radio Nottingham after Friday’s win over Stoke he uttered the quote, “we’re Nottingham Forest, for God’s sake – we need to be up there…”, when quizzed about the Reds going top of the table.
Being a lifelong Red, the 22-year-old just gets it. He appreciates what playing for Forest is all about and right now he is looking a more polished defender with each passing game.
When Dawson limped out of the action on Friday night, Worrall stood up to be counted. According to Who Scored, he made 11 clearances and three crucial blocks, standing firm as Stoke tried to get back into the game.
It’s difficult to say what is around the corner in football but already it looks like Worrall will be vitally important to Forest this season.
He may have started the summer as a fourth choice in his position, but as Forest head to Blackburn without the injured Dawson, Worrall is firmly established as the first-choice centre-back in Lamouchi’s ranks.