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The Academy - Success Or Failure? - Part 1

The Academy - Success Or Failure? - Part 1
This season we were lucky enough to watch the Under 18s reach the Semi-Finals of the FA Youth Cup only to lose on penalties against Norwich City at Carrow Road. But what of the players that were in the squad 10 years ago, has the much discussed academy managed to produce any football league talent?

The latest news from The Nigel Doughty Academy is that Forest have been granted Category 2 status. Talk has been rife between fans about whether Chairman Fawaz Al-Hasawi is looking to push the club's academy up to Category 1, so now seems to be the perfect time to have a look at some of the talent and some of the disappointments to come out of Wilford Lane.

The Successes

There are two obvious players from 2003/4 who need very little debate. Their careers have already given hope to every Forest fan that we can produce genuine talent. Michael Dawson and Andy Reid were wearing Numbers 5 & 7 respectively back in the 03/04 season, and managed to net Forest somewhere in the region of £8 Million with their double transfer to Tottenham in January 2005.

Wes Morgan was also in the beginning of his Forest career, wearing the 22 Jersey and making 32 league appearances in his breakout season. Morgan would go on to captain The Reds on occasion and make 402 appearances in all competitions, cementing his place in the hearts of many Forest fans.

His move (also to The Foxes) in January 2012 was a bit of surprise, but arguably saved Forest from relegation. He now is now the captain of Leicester City and was named in the Championship Team of the Year last season.

James Perch was in the academy during the 2003/4 season, and made his debut the following year. He moved to Newcastle in July 2010 for a fee believed to be in the region of £1 Million. He was sounded out for a move by Newcastle earlier that year but no deal could be agreed.

Perch, another academy graduate to have captained Forest, was a steady player in the Garibaldi, and although it could be argued he had limited talent, there was no doubting his passion and commitment for the club.

The Debatables

Midfielder Gareth Williams was somewhat of a fan's favourite during the latter of his 142 Forest appearances, until he travelled down the M1 to Leicester City when his contract expired at The City Ground, netting Forest an undisclosed fee at the tribunal. The Scottish International had undoubted talent, but was troubled by injuries after leaving Leicester for Watford in 2007.

Williams only made 3 appearances for The Hornets before suffering a cruciate ligament injury in training. He recovered briefly, but never to the point where he could make another professional appearance. Despite travelling to see the world renowned Dr. Richard Steadman in the USA, and having a total of 6 operations inside 18 months, his career was over, and injury robbed Williams of a chance to fulfil his potential and had to his 5 Scotland caps.

Irishman John Thompson made his Forest debut back in 2002, before eventually leaving the club after 5 years of first team service in 2007. Primarily a central defender, Thompson was comfortable at full back and in central midfield, he made 129 appearances and scored 7 times. He made appearances for the Irish U21 team, before receiving a solitary cap for his country in 2003 against Canada.

After leaving Forest after losing his place in the first team, Thompson became another Forest academy graduate who failed to fulfil his potential. He signed for Oldham Athletic, before joining Notts County and leading them to the League Two trophy in 2010. He then joined Mansfield Town in 2011, becoming one of 6 players to have played for all 3 Nottinghamshire Football League clubs, including Jason Lee and former Goalkeeper Darren Ward.

The Disappointments

Eugen Bopp was another Forest player who had bags of potential, and failed to show it. His addition to the 'Disappointments' section, is purely due to the nature of his fall from football. Bopp, previously a Bayern Munich youth player, had his Forest career put on hold in 2003 when a challenge in a heated match with Derby County gave him a serious injury, one which prevented him from finding his form.

He stayed on at Forest for another 3 years, making 77 appearances before moving to Rotherham United, initially on a short-term deal before completing the season at the club. He then moved to Crewe Alexandra but only made 17 appearances in 2 seasons before having his contract terminated.

Despite moving back to Germany to re-ignite his career, followed by a 2 match spell at York City, Bopp currently find himself without a club at the age of 29, perhaps thinking what might have been.

Craig Westcarr still holds the record of Forest's youngest ever senior player, after his debut in 2001 against Burnley. 22 appearances and 1 goal later, Westcarr left the club in 2005 to move to Cambridge United. His early exposure to the Forest first team perhaps made the fans expect a little too much from such a young player, but he still had a part to play at The City Ground, even if it was for another team.

Moves to Kettering, Stevenage Borough and back to Kettering were followed by Westcarr joining Forest's Nottingham Rivals, Notts County. The striker perhaps had his career highlight to date with The Magpies, playing alongside John Thompson in Notts' promotion from League Two. But perhaps his best Magpie moment, was during the epic Carling Cup First Round tie in 2011, when he came back to haunt his former club, scoring for County in front of the Trent End. Thankfully for Forest, the old boy didn't have the last laugh, as The Reds won on penalties.

Other players not listed above include Defenders Chris Doig, Gregor Robertson and Irish Goalkeeper Barry Roche have all been regulars in Football League teams since leaving Trentside. Whereas players like Brian Cash, Matt Bodkin, and Aussie David Tarka failed to make the grade at any professional club.

In the next feature we'll look at Forest's team from 2008/9, as we compare how the Forest First Team has been helped by the Academy.

Writer:WillT
Date:Thursday June 13 2013
Time: 9:31PM

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