Nottingham Forest legend Garry Birtles has lauded the impact of Taiwo Awoniyi as the Reds were beaten at Arsenal. The striker stepped off the bench on his return from injury to score for Forest in the 2-1 defeat.

Awoniyi didn’t feature during much of pre-season at all. He picked up an injury against Leeds and missed the overseas friendlies against PSV and Eintracht Frankfurt.

Forest Birtles
Photo; Marc Atkins; Getty Images

Perhaps, for Steve Cooper, it was a case of keeping him fresh, however. Awoniyi was a surprise inclusion in the squad on Saturday and he was fit enough to play for 20 minutes.

Awoniyi was in fine form at the end of last season as Forest secured Premier League survival. Now, he’s picked up where he left off and hopefully, there are more goals to come for him.

Birtles was very impressed with the Forest striker at the weekend. He felt it was perhaps a shame that he couldn’t come on earlier, with the Reds chasing the game.

He told the Garibaldi Red Podcast: “The second half Steve changed it well. Maybe, it would have been nice to see the two lads come on earlier; Elanga and Awoniyi.

“When Awoniyi came on, that goal was just brilliant. You talk about Saka’s goal it was great but I was just so impressed with the desire of Awoniyi when he came on.

“I just watched him and he sprinted the length of that field, it was unreal. The ground he made up was absolutely stunning. The final ball for Elanga was just perfect for a striker, it was terrific.”

Birtles praises Awoniyi after Forest defeat

There is a lot of talk this summer that Brennan Johnson might be sold, with some fearful that he’s the most important player. At this moment in time, Awoniyi is the player that must be kept at all costs.

The talented striker has grown as a player on Trentside. He was sensational at the end of the 2022/23 campaign and now he’s started all guns blazing once again.

Forest Birtles
Photo; Marc Atkins; Getty Images

Awoniyi is the man who Forest have to build their team around. Together with Morgan Gibbs-White, those are the two that could really propel the Reds up the division.

Birtles was right to praise the striker after his Arsenal cameo. The hope from the fan base will be that he’s fit enough to take on a bigger role against Sheffield United this Friday.

Related Topics