Cast your mind back to the spring of 2003; Paul Hart was patrolling the touchline, Darren Huckerby was tearing Championship defences apart and Nottingham Forest were plotting a return to the Premier League – after just four years away.
So who’d have thought then, on the night of their 3-0 battering of arch rivals Derby County at the City Ground, that the only promotion Forest would be cheering in the next 16 years would come in League One?
“They gave me a fantastic performance,” Hart told The Guardian after Huckerby and Marlon Harewood battered Derby into submission. “Nights like this make me realise that this club belongs in the Premiership."
Unfortunately, ‘nights like this’ have been few and far between.
Forest did roll back the years to thump Derby 3-0 in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday but that was their biggest win against their old enemies since Huckerby’s heyday all those years ago.
But what happened to a team that promised so much?
The long-serving goalkeeper spent nine years of his career in Nottingham, splitting his time between Forest and nearby neighbours Notts County. Not that his allegiances with those from down the road stopped him from becoming a fans’ favourite at the City Ground.
After finishing his playing career with spells at Sunderland and Norwich, Ward is now a goalkeeping coach at Sheffield United, teaching ‘future England number one’ Dean Henderson the tricks of the trade.
A right-back with the possibly most French name in football, Louis-Jean is now tasked with unearthing rough diamonds from all over Europe rather than snapping into Championship wingers.
Louis-Jean has worked as Nice’s head of recruitment since June. And with the Riviera club being taken over by Jim Radcliffe, Britain’s richest man, Louis-Jean’s job has just got a bit easier. Kasper Dolberg and Adam Ounas have arrived already from Ajax and Napoli for eye-watering fees.
Matthieu Louis-Jean will be @ogcnice_eng’s new Head of Recruitment, announces Gilles Grimandi.— OGC Nice (@ogcnice_eng) April 4, 2019
The former Le Havre, Nottingham Forest and Norwich man, became a scout in 2007. He had been the 1st Team Scout - France for Manchester United since 2016. pic.twitter.com/IWx5lIlTX9
Inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame in 2015, Brennan earned 49 caps for his country, won the 2002 Gold Cup and played against Brazil in the Confederations Cup.
He wasn’t a bad servant for Nottingham Forest either, playing over 150 games during a four-year spell. Brennan has since taken his talents into the dugout, coaching the likes of, ahem, Cyrus Rollocks at Canadian Premier League outfit York9 FC.
16 years later, Dawson is back where he started. Forest’s creaking captain these days rather than their budding young buck, there is still life in the old dog yet at the age of 35.
After a fine career in which he starred for Tottenham in the Champions League and earned a handful of caps for England, who could begrudge Dawson a dream return to the City Ground? Celebrating promotion as captain? That certainly has a ring to it.
Rosenborg, Nottingham Forest, Busan I’Cons, Nottingham Forest again and Mansfield Town; we bet you can’t find a footballer with the same career path as former Norway left-back Hjelde.
These days, it’s his son who is making waves on British shores. Leo Hjelde may be a centre-half instead of a left-back but Celtic, who signed the teenager on a three-year deal this summer, will be hoping he’s every bit as solid at the back.
Mr Versatile and a former captain to boot, Scimeca is remembered fondly by Nottingham Forest fans 16 years after his departure, mainly for his ability to play in almost any position with the same levels of determination and class.
Featuring in a defensive midfield role during Paul Hart’s tenure, that night against Derby proved to be one of Scimeca’s final appearances in Forest red.
Injuries forced him to retire and the 44-year-old can now be found organising charity football games in Warwickshire.
The world was at Williams’ feet in 2002. He had just been named Nottingham Forest’s player of the year and picked up his first five caps for Scotland. But then it all went wrong.
A money-spinning move to Leicester never worked out, he never played for Scotland again, and eventually injuries forced an unfortunate Williams to retire at the age of just 28.
Where is he now? Well, your guess is as good as ours.
Rather portly and standing at just 5ft 7ins, Reid never looked like your typical footballer. But give him the ball and watch him weave his magic.
Academy graduate Reid had two spells at Nottingham Forest and is still regarded as one of the most talented footballers to represent the club since the turn of the century.
The once fleet-footed winger is now coaching Ireland’s U18s. Can he instil a bit of wizard into the most dour of national sides?
The definition of an old-school targetman, Harewood scored twice against Derby in that famous 3-0 win before embarking on a nomadic career which took him to Aston Villa, West Ham, Newcastle and, erm, Hartlepool.
Harewood has now indulged in another of his passions; car modifications. He owns AC13 Premier, a favourite among top footballers who want to turn their vehicles into anything from a mobile office to a one-man DJ deck. Kyle Walker and Henri Lansbury are clients.
Derby fans everywhere still wake up in cold sweats thinking about the jet-heeled, spiky-haired forward who scored five goals in just nine games during a loan spell at Forest from Manchester City.
Best known for firing Norwich to promotion in an irrepressible blur of canary yellow, Huckerby is now an ambassador for the Premier League newcomers. Imagine him and Teemu Pukki up top together. Goals galore at Carrow Road.
Born in Jamaica but made in Nottingham, Johnson is the least heralded of Forest’s front three but 50 goals for the East Midland giants is not to be sniffed at.
Though the chances are that his son, 18-year-old Brennan, will soon bypass his father’s achievements at the City Ground. Sabri Lamouchi thinks the teenager is ‘unbelievable’ – and so do the fans.
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