Transfer talk surrounding Joe Worrall over the summer was taken with a large pinch of salt by those of a Nottingham Forest persuasion.
An academy graduate may have spent a season out of sight at Rangers, but he was never out of mind.
The intention was always to play a long game with a rough diamond.
A stint at Ibrox was sanctioned in an effort to get Worrall out of his comfort zone.
Away from Nottingham, Worrall had to grow up.
Old Firm passions burn bright in Scotland and a young player with much to learn was thrown in at the deep end.
His head dipped below the waterline at certain intervals, but he always bobbed back up.
Determination and desire are qualities that Worrall has always boasted in abundance.
At times, when first breaking through at Forest, he could be too eager.
An insatiable desire to thrive at the club he supported as a boy made a promising centre-half prone to quite literally taking his eye off the ball.
Back in familiar surroundings for pre-season, there was a noticeable change.
The boy had become a man.
It did not take long for Sabri Lamouchi to notice as much, with Worrall quickly earning the trust of a new boss on Trentside.
Michael Dawson was slotted in alongside him, with master and apprentice forming a formidable centre-half partnership.
Two home-grown talents starred over the opening weeks of the season, until one was laid low.
Dawson’s injury-enforced absence had some fearing the worst.
In truth, he has barely been missed.
A return to action for the club captain will be most welcome, but Worrall and Co have provided classy cover.
Still just 22 years of age, a Hucknall native has become a talismanic presence.
Mistakes of the past have been ironed out, with Worrall now a model of consistency.
And to think, he was linked with Hull City and Wigan a few months back!
No disrespect to the Reds’ Championship rivals, but they were never shopping in the right market.
And Forest were never going to sell.
They have Worrall tied to a long-term contract, with some of the first words out of his mouth upon returning to the City Ground seeing him lay down the challenge of earning fresh terms.
No thought was ever given to taking on a new challenge.
Worrall has said in the Nottingham Post: “Of course there’s always speculation. You see it all the time on Twitter. At the end of the day I’m playing for Forest – the team I love. I love wearing the red shirt.”
Local lads made good while always hold a special place in the hearts of those who share a similar passion.
Worrall now has the chance to become a Forest stalwart.
Form and fitness allowing, what is to stop him spending the next 10 years or more gracing the famous Garibaldi?
Especially if a return to the Premier League is secured and that particular carrot is removed from in front of his face.
The Wigan and Hull talk was ridiculous, with showings across 2019-20 proving as much, and the hope now is that further speculation can be avoided when it comes to much bigger footballing fish.