Nottingham Forest Under-23s defeated Sunderland 3-0 at Meadow Lane last night. Riley Harbottle netted the team’s second goal and the club are reaching a crossroads with the centre-back.
The talented central defender was named captain by Andy Reid. His team kept up the pace on the play-off places and right now, the team is in fine form.
Harbottle has made two appearances for the first team during 2021/22. He played at centre-back during a 2-1 win over Bradford in the Carabao Cup and during the 4-0 defeat to Wolves.
The academy graduate didn’t let anyone down during his two outings. With that in mind, it’s perhaps surprising he’s not been around the first team a bit more.
Harbottle is an uncompromising figure and typically operates at the heart of a back three. Coincidentally, with Steve Cook injured, Steve Cooper now has a void to fill in that position.
At 21, the defender isn’t really what you’d consider young these days. As a result, he is perhaps craving more first-team football at this stage of his development.
Wealdstone took Harbottle on loan last season. He made 11 appearances for the National League outfit and his performances this season suggest he learned a lot.
Forest should offer Harbottle a contract extension
Forest have a little dilemma when it comes to the academy star. He’s now captaining the team and is playing really well at the hear of Reid’s back three.
Last night his goal capped off a superb performance; although it’s perhaps his resolute defending that is catching the eye the most.
Harbottle will see his contract expire in the summer. As a result, Forest have a decision to make over the defender who has been integral to the under-23s this season.
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On current form, the academy man deserves a new deal. He is improving each week with the under-23s and as the captain, he has the respect of his teammates.
Even if the club chooses to get him out on loan in the EFL next season, it would still be worth handing him a new Forest contract.
Last night’s performance showcased his quality. Cooper was in the stands at Meadow Lane and he should ask Forest to tie Harbottle down to a new deal.