This week was by far one of the most enjoyable weeks for me at Nottingham Forest. On Monday I reported for training at 8.30 like usual and cleaned the first team boots before heading to education. We’ve almost finished our education programme so I got a bit of work done to edge nearer to completing my course.
Just before the end of education our coach came in and informed us all that we would be training with the first team and reserves in a big tournament. I was buzzing, straight away the mood of all the lads was lifted and we were all excited.
We got up to the training ground and had our snack before heading out to put our boots on where everyone was together in what must have been a strong 40 or 50 man squad. The assistant manager Ned Kelly then named the four teams and we went off to warm up. Seniors like Lewis McGugan, Ian Breckin, Paul Anderson and Dexter Blackstock were in my team so I was a bit nervous but was really looking forward to playing with them and trying to impress both them and the coaches.
We had a fifteen minute warm up in our own teams before getting ready for the games. We were to play each team once and then the top two teams would play one another and the losers likewise for the wooden spoon. I was playing upfront with Blackstock and it was just good to watch and learn what players like him do as a striker movement wise.
We came from behind in our first game to win 2 – 1, in our second game we won 2 – 0 and I managed to get an assist, and then in the last game we won 3 – 0 where I managed to score all three which was a great feeling for me and a couple of first team players congratulated me.
In the final we drew 0 – 0 and so it went to a penalty sudden death shoot out, just what I needed with my record of penalty misses this season! Fortunately for me though I didn’t have to take one because our team won after the other team missed their second penalty.
After we cooled down, the whole youth team sat down and we had a talk from ‘Ned’ the first team assistant manager which was good to listen to as he made us feel welcome and let us know that if we work hard then he’ll give us a chance to train up with them again.
On Tuesday morning we had a training session before our game against Macclesfield at 7pm later in the evening at the City Ground. We did some technical work in the morning with the reserve squad and just a loosening off session before the night’s game. After that we did some work on the team shape and I was named in the starting line up so I was looking forward to the evening’s game a lot. We finished after about 45 minutes and then had lunch before going home to rest up. I got a couple of hours sleep and came back just before 6 for the game.
Match: Nottingham Forest Reserves v Macclesfield Town Reserves
In the changing room before the game I was a bit nervous with it being my first start for the reserves on the City Ground, but there were a few of us playing from the Academy so it wasn’t just me. We warmed up and I miss controlled a couple of balls and was disappointed with that and wanted to make sure I put it right and tidied up in the match.
We had a quick chat back in the changing room before going out for the game, it was pretty warm as well so I knew it was going to be tough work but I was more excited than nervous now.
Once the game got going and both teams had small spells of possession, it was us that came out on top towards the mid point in the first half and up until half time. I got played through after about half an hour by Reidy and managed to slot the ball past the keeper, I was buzzing to score my first goal for the reserves, but what followed for the rest of the game I would never have predicted….
About five minutes later Reidy whipped in another great ball and the defender sliced the ball in his own net, shortly after that I managed to score in at the back post after a great ball by Hamza across the six yard box. We went in at half time 3 – 0 up, I was happy to have got two goals, but I was still a little disappointed as I’d miss controlled a couple of balls.
The Reserve’s manager said he wanted pretty much the same but to up our tempo a bit and pass the ball crisper so we can get the fourth goal and hopefully kill the game. After about five minutes I received the ball inside the box and did a trick that even I didn’t know I was capable of to get away from a defender and then I smashed it in with my left foot. I couldn’t believe it, the fact I’d pulled off a good bit of skill or the fact that I’d scored a hat-trick for the reserves!
I carried on working hard and shortly managed to latch on to a slack back pass which I laid to Ryan to stroke home past the goalie. There was one more moment in which a ball came in from the right by Max and I headed past the keeper. It was turning out to be one of those nights when I couldn’t miss the target.
We won the game 6 – 0, I was knackered and cramping up towards the end, but it was a great feeling to score four in front of my family who were watching in the stands because my grandparents, my mum, brothers, uncle and cousin were in the crowd so I was pretty chuffed.
After the game we had the dreaded ice baths, but they weren’t too bad this time round. The Reserve Team Manager then said well done to us all for the performance we put in.
On Wednesday it was education as usual at 9 in the morning, my legs were absolutely dead and getting out of bed was a struggle I must say. Our teacher let us know that we could potentially finish our final unit and finish our whole education course which you would think would motivate me to try and get it done.
However my body ached and I’ll admit my head was gone, mentally I was so tired so got little quality work done. By 3 o’clock I had got a bit more work done, so in a positive way I had gotten closer to finishing, it just meant that I’d probably have to stay a bit longer on Thursday to make sure that happened.
On Thursday we had training and gym as normal, we did the gym session first and then went out to train as a big group including both reserves and youth team. We did a series of games, one was on a pitch which was about 20 × 20 yards and we played seven-a-side matches. It was actually a really good session because it meant your technique and decision making had to be perfect or else you’d get caught out with it being so tight and crowded. We then opened it up and played an 11-a-side game for 20 minutes before finishing for the morning.
We had lunch and went to education where we had a team meeting with our Academy Director and he confirmed with us that we’d be having Easter weekend off, so that meant Friday, Saturday, Sunday and bank holiday Monday all off! We were all buzzing but I knew the four days would go quicker than ever.
After not getting all my work done on Wednesday I stayed behind for an hour or so with my teacher on Thursday and managed to finish my last unit, which meant I’d finished my entire education programme. In a way it was good to know I’d finished all my work, but in a way it was kind of sad because it meant no more banter on a Wednesday which all of us in the team have enjoyed throughout the season.
For the weekend that I had off I spent it with family and friends, I had to ball boy as well for the Saturday game for the first team, but that game was class, we managed to win 3 – 2 after coming from behind twice. I went to the gym on the Sunday just to do a few weights and a light jog to keep myself ticking over. I didn’t do too much though because it’s important to make sure you rest well when you have time off to enable your muscles to recover.