“I was at Forest from under 9s until under 12s so I had four seasons there and then I was let go. At the time it was devastating, being a 12-year-old being told your not quite good enough, and then a few weeks later I came to Derby at under 13s. I kicked on quickly after that,” Huddlestone explained.
After his release at Forest, Huddlestone quickly established himself as one of the brightest products in Derby’s academy, and he went on to make his Rams’ debut aged just 16 on the opening day of the 2003/04 campaign.
Then manager George Burley saw his potential and deployed him at first as a central defender, utilising his passing ability out from the back, and he went on to help Derby finish in the playoffs in 2004/05.
Huddlestone was inevitably sold to the Premier League, with Tottenham Hotspur taking advantage of Derby’s financial problems at the time to pick him up in a bargain £2.5 million (BBC) deal in 2005 which angered the club’s fans.
The 31-year-old then converted into a holding midfielder, making over 240 Premier League appearances for Spurs and later Hull City, showing Championship promotion challengers Forest exactly what they missed out on.
The Reds have a proud history of producing young talent, but they’ve not always had the ability to hold onto them. Defender Michael Dawson was another Nottingham Forest allowed to leave early in his career, as he also joined Spurs.
Dawson - now back at the City Ground - and Huddlestone - now back at Pride Park - are set to meet on Monday, as the two east Midlands clubs go head-to-head with both sides seeking to consolidate themselves in the Championship top six.
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