WHEN Nottingham Forest last appeared at Wembley I was eight.
I’ll be there on Sunday hoping to see the club finally return to the Premier League.
I remember those days in the top division and used to wear a No 22 Forest shirt with Bryan Roy’s name on the back, hoping to one day break into the team myself.
It’s unbelievable to think the club are one win away from returning to the big time.
Only a year ago I was in that dressing room with most of these lads.
And to see where they’ve got to and the job manager Steve Cooper has done, is nothing short of sensational.
When you think they were bottom of the Championship when he walked in and now it all comes down to a play-off final against a Huddersfield side who have also done brilliantly too.
As a player who came through the youth ranks to break into the first team, it’s wonderful to see that academy graduates have played a huge part in this turnaround.
Regulars Brennan Johnson, Joe Worrall and Ryan Yates have all been excellent — while Alex Mighten has been coming off the bench.
I’ve known Brennan since he was a baby as I was team-mates with his dad David Johnson.
But when I came back to the club for my second spell after playing for Tottenham and Hull, he used to come to train with us.
He was a quiet lad but I always liked him.
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He went on loan to Lincoln last year and has been incredible in his breakthrough season.
He was named Championship young player of the season — scoring 19 goals in all competitions, with ten league assists.
And his end product is only going to get better.
You need players like that in these types of games. I played in the 2016 Championship play-off final for Hull and we had Mohamed Diame. And what an honour it will be for Joe Worrall to lead out the team at Wembley — as it’s his city, his club.
He has played an awful lot of first-team games (229) for someone who is just 25 — having been out on loan at Dagenham & Redbridge and a big club in Rangers.
I’ve followed him ever since he broke into the team — he’s quick, can play on the right side of the three, has a lot of self-belief and will be striving to do it for himself, his team, family, friends and fans.
As for Yatesy, I love him. In terms of his professionalism, I don’t think there is anyone better in that dressing room.
He’s a grounded lad who wants to learn and works as hard as anyone I know to be as good as he can be. He always had questions and wanted to get the best out of what he had been given.
I remember coming back here while I was at Spurs and he won young player of the year in the academy. He went out on loan and did it the hard way — going to Barrow, Scunthorpe and Notts County.
Since Cooper has come in, his physique and muscle mass is bigger.
As first-team players, we want to be coached, we want to improve and sometimes that does not happen. But Steve has got the best out of Ryan.
Him and midfielder James Garner complement each other so well.
You have to give the manager a lot of credit.
He changed the formation and got the best out of the players he had.
The team has more freedom and they just go out there to win, believing they can score goals.
Everyone has bought into his ideas and ways of doing things.
Nottingham Forest have a rich history — but you can only be a truly big club by being in the Premier League.
If they get there tomorrow, not many people will be happier than me.
MICHAEL DAWSON was talking to JUSTIN ALLEN
Source: The Sun
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