Nottingham Forest's homegrown XI: The top academy product side of recent years

Nottingham Forest's Andy Reid celebrates at the end of the match

The Reds have arguably the best youth academy in the Midlands, unearthing a series of stars down the years.

Chris Lumsden of Barnsley chases the ball with Nottingham Forest's Jermaine JenasChris Lumsden of Barnsley chases the ball with Nottingham Forest's Jermaine Jenas

The one shining light of Nottingham Forest's dismal season this campaign is their youth system, with several youngsters emerging and making a name for themselves - notably Ben Brereton, Matty Cash, Joe Worrall and Jordan Smith.

However, this is nothing new for Forest, whose youth academy has produced several outstanding talents down the line, since it was first officially opened in 1997. Here is a best XI produced of Forest youth academy graduates, in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Goalkeeper - Karl Darlow

Now set to help Newcastle United return to the Premier League, Darlow initially started his professional career with Forest, coming through the academy and making his debut in the 2010/11 season. After that season, the 26-year-old became a key part of the Forest side, and would go on to make 111 appearances in all competitions for the Reds, before being sold in controversial circumstances to the Magpies in 2014, though he was loaned back to Forest for the 14/15 Championship campaign. Despite his tender age, Darlow was excellent at times for Forest, and proved himself to be a highly capable shot stopper - which he is now proving at St James' Park. 

Right back - Brendan Moloney

After starring in the youth sides and with the club in League One at the time, Moloney made his first team debut in the 2006/07 season and showed bags of potential, with the 28-year-old having an uncanny ability to waltz round a player, making him a very useful attacking full back. Moloney would play 42 league matches for Forest before being sold to Bristol City in 2013, and is now a key player for Northampton Town in League One.

Forest DerbyMichael Dawson in action for Nottingham Forest against Derby County

Centre back - Michael Dawson

There have been a few rare talents emerge from the Forest academy, some of which are on this list, where it has been immediately apparent that the player in question will rise to the top and play Premier League football - Dawson was one of them. From the get go, Dawson resembled a player far beyond his years, playing with a level of fearlessness, passion, desire and performance that seemed unbelievable for a teenager. After making 91 appearances, scoring seven goals, Dawson moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 2005, and it was of absolutely no surprise to any Forest fan who saw him play that the centre back played both Champions League football for Spurs and internationally for England. 

Centre back - Wes Morgan

The powerful defender is proof that some players simply get better with age, as 'Big Wes' never seemed an overly brilliant centre half at Forest until four years after his debut in 2003. Morgan was always a colossus at the back and was by no means bad, with the Jamaica international always seen as a decent defender, but once he kicked on, he turned into a powerhouse centre half that brought chants of 'you'll never beat Wes Morgan' from the Forest faithful. After 402 appearances, scoring 14 goals, Morgan was sold to Leicester City in 2012 amid financial difficulties, and continued his late development, becoming an integral part of the Foxes' title winning side in the 2015/16 season. 

Leeds United's Andrew Keogh (R) in action with Nottingham Forest's Wes MorganLeeds United's Andrew Keogh (R) in action with Nottingham Forest's Wes Morgan

Left back - Kieron Freeman

A disappointment in a lot of ways for Forest as Freeman was tipped to have a big future at the club, especially after promising loan spells at Mansfield Town and Notts County, yet only made two appearances before leaving for rivals Derby County, with Freeman seemingly doing his best to go through every notable East Midlands club. Now at Sheffield United, the former Wales U21 has become a key part in the Blades backline, and ultimately assisted in getting the club back into the Championship after a six year exile.

Central midfield - Jermaine Jenas

Similar to Dawson in the sense you knew he would be special, Jenas was brilliant for Forest, and even though he amassed 33 games in his first spell - scoring four goals - you knew the box-to-box midfielder with seemingly everything in his locker would go on to do better. That came when Sir Bobby Robson's Newcastle United made the decision to spend £5m on Jenas in 2001, as reports BBC Sport, and the midfielder would go on to play Champions League football for both the Magpies and Tottenham Hotspur, as well as racking up 21 caps for England, scoring once. Jenas did return to Forest on a loan spell in 2012, playing six times and scoring once.

David Prutton Nottingham ForestDavid Prutton Nottingham Forest

Central midfield - David Prutton

A tough tackling midfielder who could pass a ball with both feet, Prutton made 155 appearances for Forest after emerging from the academy, scoring seven goals. Interest in Prutton was very high, and eventually Southampton signed the former England U21 international in a £2.5m deal in 2003, as reports BBC Sport. Prutton would become a fairly key player for Saints, but returned to Forest on loan in 2007, where he made a further 13 appearances, scoring twice. 

Right wing - Oliver Burke

The third player on the list who you knew would be special, Burke had everything you could possibly want from a winger - pace, power, goals, the ability to beat a man, strength and an array of passing - to the point he was drawing comparisons with Gareth Bale. The Scotland international racked up 31 appearances in all competitions for Forest, scoring six goals, but at the start of the 2016/17 season, Burke had four goals in five Championship matches and seemed set to become a key part of the Forest side. However, owner Fawaz Al Hasawi controversially sold the player behind the manager's back to RB Leipzig for £13m, as reports BBC Sport, where he remains today. 

Lewis McGugan scores Nottingham Forest's second goal from the penalty spotLewis McGugan scores Nottingham Forest's second goal from the penalty spot

Attacking midfield - Lewis McGugan

It's a shame McGugan never lived up to his full potential, because at one stage, it seemed like Forest had an unbelievable gem on their hands. The midfielder had a rocket of a shot and would fire from just about anywhere - normally with a great deal of success - while the Reds haven't had a free-kick taker as excellent as McGugan since his departure from Forest in 2013. In total, McGugan scored 44 goals in 229 appearances for the Reds, and the 28-year-old is now in Sheffield Wednesday's reserves.

Left wing - Andy Reid

Much like Dawson, Jenas and Burke, fans just knew Reid would be special. In his first spell with the club, the former Republic of Ireland international would rampage down the wing for fun, beating men left, right and centre before delivering an inch perfect cross that you'd expect to see in a Hollywood blockbuster - and do it consistently. It was of little surprise when Reid made the switch to Tottenham Hotspur in 2005, with 25 goals in 160 games for Forest, but what was a surprise was that things didn't work out as expected. Unlike Jenas and Dawson, Reid never kicked on at the top level, and while he enjoyed an eight year long Premier League career, Reid returned to Forest in 2011 as a central midfielder - where he proved he still had that ability and was outstanding yet again. In Reid's second, injury ravaged spell with Forest, he scored 17 in 130 before retiring in 2016.

Striker - Marlon Harewood

In a year or two's time, this striker could well be Ben Brereton, who is demonstrating unbelievable potential for a 17-year-old, but for now, it has to go to a much loved figure on Trentside in Harewood. After emerging in the 1997/98 season, Harewood became a phenomenon for Forest - and even scored in the Premier League for the Reds in the 1998/99 season - and rattled in 56 goals in 204 games, really kicking on in the 2001/02 season. Harewood was sold to West Ham United in 2003 and became a key player for them, featuring in the 2006 FA Cup final, before being sold to Aston Villa at a time where Villa were one of the better sides in the Premier League. Harewood returned briefly in the 2011/12 season, but made just four appearances, but remains highly thought of at The City Ground. 

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