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Decision Day…

With just two weeks left of the season for me, this week turned out to be a very good one. After playing well as a team but losing to Man City on Saturday, we had a double days training on Monday morning – it was just us that were in because the reserves and first team had the day off.

In the morning we did a possession game in the dome where there were 3 mini goals about a metre long at each end. We played for three minutes and the winning team would stay on. I think my team managed to finish joint top, meaning the losing team had to collect all the gear in for being losers!

In the afternoon we did a bit of work with the ball at our feet with our technical coach and again some small sided games scoring in to the small goals. Then for the second half of the session we did some finishing from distance.

We did turning and shooting, setting the ball and shooting and then we used something I hadn’t ever used before; it was a black board in an arched shape, and when you passed the ball in to it, the ball rolled up and back to you to volley it. Everyone was buzzing to start with because it was volleys, but after a few goes it got more and more frustrating! It was so hard to judge and time the volley to even go on target; I think I managed one goal in about 10 attempts so it wasn’t one of my best finishing sessions to say the least!

On Monday night our first team could secure a place in the Championship if Reading beat Norwich at Carrow Road and fortunately for us they did 2-0 which meant Forest would be staying up in the Championship and not going back down to League One which was great news.

I was still feeling a little achy from the weekends’ game even on Tuesday. A few of us trained with the reserves and did some small sided games which was a bit of a blower, before opening it up to an 11 v 11 which certainly opened my lungs.

Robert Earnshaw trained with us on Tuesday morning and I always like watching the senior players, especially the strikers, in training. He came in his Audi R8 and I laughed to myself and thought ‘yeah…one day maybe in my dreams!’ But watching his movements in training was good to see what a Championship striker does to receive the ball when defenders are tight.

We went back for lunch and then had a gym session; at this point I was knackered to say the least, my body just felt weak for some reason. That happens sometimes, its weird, some days in gym sessions you can lift the right weights for the right reps and sets; but some days like today I just couldn’t, my body was dead.

After the gym session our Academy Director told us he wanted to speak to all us second years after training individually, so we all thought immediately it would be decision day…and we were right. We waited in the study support centre and one by one we walked across and went in to the meeting.

I was first, I was a bit nervous but I felt I deserved to get one. The meeting went well and I got one, I earned a contract for next season which was all I wanted, it was great news and I couldn’t wait to get home and tell everyone that they’d have to put up with watching me play for another season!

Although it was good news for me, two out of the nine second years didn’t get a contract which was sad to see. With us being together full time for two years it’s sad to know that faces you see everyday won’t be there next year. I suppose that’s one of the harsh realities of football and seeing the lads come over disappointed is another learning curve for me to be grateful and work even harder next year.

Not only did I earn a new contract though, I was told that I’d be getting the ‘Young Player of the Year’ award for what I’ve done this season and that was just brilliant, I couldn’t believe it when they told me.

On Wednesday I was training with the reserves in the morning because they had a game at night against Sheffield United and I knew that I was in the squad on Tuesday, but when I got there on Wednesday I read the team sheet and saw that I was starting.

I was excited to be starting, but my body felt so fatigued after having double training days Monday and Tuesday and then training Wednesday morning and a game in the evening against a very good side. My only concern was that my body may not be able to run and last as long as usual in the match. Training went well in the morning; we did a bit of shape and set pieces before going back for lunch and resting for the game.

Match: Sheffield United Reserves v Nottingham Forest Reserves

We got caught in traffic, but got there about an hour and a half before kick off at Bramall Lane. We went in the changing room and saw their team sheet. We had a young team and I think we had two players who had played for the first team before, whereas they had 8 senior players playing who mostly had Premiership experience if not then they were proven Championship players. The likes of Brian Howard, Leigh Bromby, Danny Webber, Sun Ji Hai, Lee Hendry and Billy Sharpe were all playing. I wasn’t too fazed by who we were playing against, when warming up I was just focussed on my game and making sure I was ready for it.

We started off very well, causing them masses of problems and creating a few chances before getting the opener through Ryan after about twenty minutes. I thought to myself that we could pull off a great victory. Oh I was wrong indeed, reality kicked in, we showed them too much respect for the rest of the first half and they passed the ball freely causing us problems all over the pitch. They proved that when they went in 2-1 up at half time.

We got a bit of a rollicking from our manager at half time, and rightly so, because as he stated they couldn’t get near us for the first 20-25 minutes, but we showed them too much respect and let them get back in the game. He also told us that we weren’t playing a reserve side, we were pretty much playing their first team and that if we wanted to make it as footballers in the Championship then we need to be able to play against players like these. He was spot on with what he said and we all went out wanting to prove a point and get back in the game.

We started the second half very brightly; we got the ball down and played some great passing football. I managed to get on the ball a few times as well and my confidence grew and grew and I wasn’t scared of getting the ball when under pressure either. I gave it away a couple of times though, but I worked hard off the ball closing down defenders trying to get it back.

We managed to pull level through a great strike by Reidy from the edge of the area which went in off the post. That goal was around the mid point of the second half and after that it was end to end football with both teams creating chances and either of us could have nicked it. I came off after about 85 minutes relatively happy with the shift I put in for the team, but I was a bit annoyed that I hadn’t really managed to get a chance on goal.

We drew 2-2 in the end and it was a very good result against a very good side. In the dressing room after we were praised for our efforts in the second half of the game and the manager said it was one of the best results of the season given the quality of the opposition we had to play against.

On Thursday I had the day off which was great because it meant I got to firstly have a lie in, and then I got to go back to my old school and see some of my old mates who I don’t normally get to see.

On Friday we had a shape session and I was named in the line up for the last game of the season for our youth team against Wolves away. I was fatigued more than anything at this point so it was vital that I got home and put my feet up after training and rest well, which was what I most certainly did!

Match: Wolverhampton Wanderers v Nottingham Forest

It took us about an hour and a half to get to Wolves on Saturday and it was a hot day like every last game of the season always is. For some reason it’s always red hot when you play your last game of the season, or it may just be me.

We started the game well and put them on the back foot creating chances. I got on the ball and passed it well and was confident to get on the ball a lot under pressure retaining possession most of the time too. After about 15 minutes we went 1-0 up after George intercepted a pass, played it to me and I managed to back heel it through the defenders legs for him to go through and score.

After that though we went 2-1 down in the space of ten minutes, two counter attacks killed us and one was partly my fault because I went short for a ball and didn’t know I had a man tight who managed to nick in front of me and they went on and scored – a shout would of been nice, but I can’t go round blaming other players, it was my fault. After that we got back in the game just before half time with a bullet header from Karlton in to the top corner.

In the second half we went 3-2 up through George, then Nialle rounded the keeper and finally Tom scored with his 3rd touch after coming on as a sub. We ran out 5-2 winners, I came off with about 5 minutes to go absolutely exhausted from what has been a pretty intense week to end the season off. To finish with a win was great as well after our season which has been good in parts and not so good in others as a team, but to finish winning away from home like that is a good way to say the least.

On Sunday our first team played Southampton at home in a game where there was little pressure on either teams because the Saints were already relegated and Forest were already safe so it meant both teams could just play freely.

Before the game though I collected my award for winning the young player of the year, just next to the pitch in front of the tunnel. Unfortunately none of my family was there to see me collect the award, but I spoke to them after the game which was nice. The crowd were all clapping, which was a great feeling with me being a local lad because I’m just a fan of this club like all of them and have had a season ticket in previous years when I was younger to support the Reds.

One day hopefully I’ll get the chance to run out in front of 28,000 fans at the city ground for the first team. Our Financial Director and Academy Director presented me with the plaque which now had my name on it and they just advised me to keep working hard and come back after summer fresh and ready to make an impact early on. Whilst watching the game I got quite a few texts and even a couple of mates rang to say they’d heard about it on the radio and some of them were even in the crowd watching and just wanted to congratulate me which was appreciated.

Next week we don’t have a game and have the dreaded fitness testing to look forward to before we can finish for the summer break!

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