On February 25, Ryan Yates took in just his fourth Championship start for Nottingham Forest.

You don’t need me to remind you who the opponents were that day.

I will do anyway though – it was Derby.

The Rams rolled into the City Ground chasing down a play-off spot, but were sent packing on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline.

Yohan Benalouane stole the headlines, with the masked man netting an early match-winner.

Yates, though, earned plenty of plaudits that evening.

At just 21 years of age and with limited experience of life in the second tier, a home-grown star was thrown in at the deep end.

Martin O’Neill saw enough in the midfielder to give him a big break.

A first league start was made for Forest when a European Cup winner pieced together his first XI.

A little over two weeks later and an academy graduate was given a derby bow.


(Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Yates revelled in the experience.

Such occasions can bring the best and worst out of youngsters – some freeze or try too hard to catch the eye.

Any fears regarding Yates’ temperament were eased inside a matter of minutes.

He looked at home in the engine room and merely went about his business as if it were any other game.

Some Rams took exception to quite how easy a relative rookie found things.

And his celebrations at the final whistle.

Quite what the likes of Richard Keogh and Co were expecting after a hard-fought 1-0 win for the hosts is anybody’s guess.

Again, though, Yates displayed maturity beyond his years.

He did rise to the bait and allow himself to get caught up in a pointless confrontation.

If supposed senior stars on Derby’s books want to throw their toys out of the pram, let them get on with it.

Yates did so and didn’t really need the assistance of Jack Colback, Jack Robinson et al – although two fiery characters were more than happy to get involved with the Keogh debate.

Two arch-rivals are now preparing to lock horns at the City Ground once more.

Forest have already retained the Brian Clough Trophy on one occasion this season, but there will be precious points on the line this weekend rather than progress in the Carabao Cup.


Sabri Lamouchi has some big selection calls to make.

One those could involve Yates once more, with a welcome return to fitness and favour having been enjoyed over recent weeks.

With Samba Sow sidelined, energy and bite has been missed in the middle of the park.

Yates provided those qualities during a 2-1 win away at Luton and, with it yet to be determined when Sow will return, is very much back in contention for another derby outing.

He has shown himself to be deserving of that chance.

Forest looked more assured against Luton when operating with another ball-winner in their ranks, rather than the Joao Carvalho-Tiago Silva playmaking pact favoured in recent home games.

Yates put himself about against the Hatters – making two interceptions, three recoveries, a block and taking in 27 touches – and has every right to feel a starting berth is his to lose.

That was the case last season when the Rams prepared to pay a visit to Trentside.

History may be about to repeat itself.

There will be no Keogh to rile on this occasion, but another victory with Yates to the fore as wild celebrations are sparked would be most welcome.

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