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Nationwide Division One, 23/10/01
Nottingham Forest
Feeling old
By Matt Rowson

Nineteen Eighty Five. The year of Heysel, and the first mention of perestroika. The year of "Back to the Future", of "Raspberry Beret", "Like a Virgin", "West End Girls".

It was also the year that Craig Westcarr was born.

Craig Westcarr is now making the bench for Nottingham Forest.

Bloody hell.

For goodness' sake. It was bad enough when Gifton (born in 1980) Noel-Williams started making the Watford squad. I think I realised then that I was leaving it a bit late to make the first team. But this is ridiculous. Offensive. I mean, I can remember 1985, properly, remember things that happened and everything. I was six when Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister. Craig Westcarr was six when she left. He was two when the last A-Team episode was filmed. He was twelve when Labour came back to power. I defy anyone of any age to say out loud "Craig Westcarr was born in 1985 and is playing for Nottingham Forest" and not feel old.


But given Nottingham Forest's financial plight, and that their new manager was until recently a highly successful youth-team coach, it's not too surprising that if a footballer born in 1985 was to surface anywhere, it was at the City Ground.

Perhaps more surprising is that, despite well-publicised problems cemented into reality by Forest's failure to gain promotion during their last parachute-money season last term (and David Platt's perhaps unconnected departure to the national U21 position), Forest appear to be making such a decent fist of the new season.

The Nottingham side's squad may not stand a heavy run of injuries, and will almost certainly be weakened by panicking vultures with greater disposable income. For the timebeing however there's a more than useful side presenting another step up in the size of obstacles lugged in front of our gathering momentum. We beat some poor sides at home. Then we beat a poor side away. Now it's time to beat a half decent side at home, albeit a half decent side whose open style welcomingly shepherded in two comfortable Watford victories last season.

In goal for Forest will be Darren Ward, signed from neighbours County in the summer to replace the finally expired Dave Beasant. His cover is Irishman Barry Roche.

Matthieu Louis-Jean plays on the right and former Bristol City man Jim Brennan on the left. In the centre of one of the tightest backlines in the division - only Coventry have conceded fewer - are Jon-Olav Hjelde and Riccardo Scimeca, the brawn and brains of the defence respectively. Both have been in fine form this season. Elsewhere the thuggish Tony Vaughan still appears to be on the books, but is behind both ex-Swansea defender Christian Edwards and Chris Doig, an ex-scholar of Hart's academy, in the pecking order.

A competent midfield seems to flow around Chris Bart-Williams; with his contract up at the end of the season Forest's board have been eager to profit from an earlier departure. Bart-Williams seems keener to stay at Forest, having resisted overtures from his ex-Wednesday manager Trev at Brum in particular either due to devotion to the Forest cause or, perhaps more plausibly, the added revenue available by negotiating as a free agent at the end of the season. Nonetheless another ex-manager, Dave Bassett, has been linked with a move for Bart-Williams this week, as well as for centreback Hjelde.

The other positions in midfield will probably be taken by David Prutton, Gareth Williams and Jermaine Jenas. All three are Forest graduates with the right-sided Prutton, an England U21 international, perhaps the highest profile. With Alan Rogers injured, midfield competition comes from the fantastically named German Eugen Bopp, winger Andy Reid and left-sided Irishman Keith Foy.

Up front, the mythical Stern John appears to be finding his form just as the point when he's free to start negotiating contracts with would-be-suitors approaches - presumably just the scenario that provoked GT into refusing to offer him a two year deal. His hat-trick at the weekend came courtesy of a strong supporting role from David Johnson, whose star has waned since he was about to take the Premiership by storm at the start of last season, but who is still a dangerous striker. The hardworking Jack Lester is out with broken bones in his hand, and the quick Marlon Harewood is also injured, leaving Westcarr to emerge up front.

Forest have dual reasons to welcome Westcarr's arrival. Firstly it provides yet more evidence of a healthy farm for new players which must be the long-term future for clubs the size of Forest and Watford. Second because the more players Forest have that cannot remember and are therefore less burdened by the times when Forest used to be famous the better. When the support starts to live in the present rather than the past Forest could be formidable opposition indeed. Until then, we merely have a tricky looking tie on Tuesday.