Godfather Of Champions - Chapter 729
Chapter 729: The Future Belongs to the Young
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Carl Spicer criticised Twain’s recruitment strategy for the summer in his column. He believes that Twain is living in a fantasy if he intends to employ a team made up of young players next season.
His views were met with approval from numerous media outlets and led to the successive arrival of various other criticisms.
Some of those criticisms were against Twain, some were against the club, and some pointed their fingers at the players.
“I don’t believe Tony Twain will be able to achieve any notable results this season.”
“The club spent money buying all these young players, and it will be quickly proven that they have invested wrongly.”
“Nicolás Millán? I’m sorry, I haven’t even heard of the name before…”
“Tony Twain must be dreaming if he thinks he can make the team powerful just by bringing in all these young players with potential. Is he trying to replicate Manchester United’s Class of ’92? This is nothing more than a complete farce in my eyes!”
Even Pierce Brosnan, a journalist for Nottingham Evening Post who has always supported Twain, published an article expressing his concern at how Twain had mostly bought young players over the summer.
He opined that it was worrying that Twain has pinned his hopes on a team of young players between the ages of 17 and 18. He did not doubt that Twain had brought in talented youths, but he felt that grooming these youths is a process that takes time. They might turn out to be great players in a few years’ time, but is Forest going to rely solely on them right now?
He tried his best to be as tactful as he could, and tried to phrase his words nicely as much as possible in the article.
However, his article still angered the King.
He received a call from Twain, and a flood of admonishments came his way the moment he picked up.
“What the hell are you writing about in your article, Mr. Reporter? Are you trying to denounce me? Thank goodness I didn’t plan on publishing an article in a column in your newspaper! If not I’d have become a big f*cking joke! An article written by me scolding the media and the article from you casting doubt over me would have been published at the same time in the newspaper… Mm hmm?”
“But… But, Mr. Twain, I only wrote what I wrote out of concern as a Forest fan…”
“Forest fan? Have you gone onto the streets to interview people? Are those fans worried? Can you represent their opinion?”
“Based on what I understand so far… Yes, they are worried, Mr. Twain. They are all worried about the overly young team that you have right now…”
“They have their reasons to be worried! But you don’t have the right to publish them! Do you know what I’ve been doing every single day besides training the players? I’ve been inculcating the footballing spirit of Nottingham Forest in these youngsters! I’ve been telling them that whatever the media says is bullsh*t, and that they are actually much better than what the media makes them out to be! I’ve been trying to instill confidence in them all this while… And here you are trying to wreck my plans? You have to understand where you are coming from, Mr. Reporter! You are the local newspaper for Nottingham, you represent the voice of Nottingham! You can’t get in my way like this! If we start fighting amongst ourselves, then aren’t we just going to end up becoming the laughingstock of others?”
“But what I’m saying is the truth…”
“Screw your f*cking truth! I’m the only one who needs to know about the truth! What you need to do is to give the youngsters confidence, confidence and more confidence! The reason why I gave you access to the club’s exclusive information is not for you to be loggerheads with me! Are you a Nottingham Forest fan or not? Do you wish for Nottingham Forest to become better, Mr. Reporter?”
“Of… Of course I wish for that…”
“Then you go out there and write a story about how these youngers are the best in the world! The best! It doesn’t matter if you praise them to the skies. Don’t worry about them letting your words go to their heads. It’s my job to make sure that doesn’t happen, Mr. Reporter.”
Pierce felt wronged and was reluctant to do as Twain said, but he could not continue squabbling with Twain over the phone. He was worried that he would send Twain back into the hospital after remembering that he was someone with a heart disease.
“All right… I will accept this suggestion of yours, Mr. Twain.”
Twain’s voice softened a little after hearing his words. “Remember this, Mr. Reporter. You represent Nottingham and you are the voice of Nottingham Forest. No matter what happens, you have to always stand on our side. I need voices of support from you. When the other media outlets out there are questioning my team, you have to step out and defend us. Do you know what it means by the ‘atmosphere at our home grounds’? Don’t think that you only get that kind of atmosphere when you are at the stands of the City Ground stadium. What the youngsters need is not the media’s disapproval towards them. It’s praise! Don’t care about anything else. You are only getting in my way if you do.”
Two days later, an article was published on Nottingham Evening Post by Pierce Brosnan. In it, he interviewed the young players playing for Nottingham Forest. The article wrote about how the young players had a lot of fight and resolve going into the next season, and displayed a tightly-knit and optimistic team to the public.
Of course, the article had been published at Twain’s behest. Twain could not care less about Pierce Brosnan and his ‘position as a journalist’. All he cared about are the things that benefit him, and those that do not.
Twain’s anger towards Brosnan’s earlier article was well grounded.
The truth was that Twain was actually happy that the other media outlets out there were chastising his players. He had only been feigning fury at their words. This was because he could make use of the opportunity to unite the youngsters as one.
It was also the chance for him to bring out the fight in the young players and build up their confidence by telling them ‘Look, the media does not think highly of you lot’. The youngsters are all at the age whereby they can get rebellious, so it is a good way to direct those fiery emotions of theirs towards the media instead. Then, he can tell them that he, Tony Twain, will always stand with them. He will believe in them forever and that they are the best!
Those words would get the young players fired up and itching to prove their abilities on the pitch.
Afterwards, it was up to Twain’s ability to train and discipline the players.
He did not worry about the youths breaking free of his control over them, regardless if the team lost or won.
It was also then that Brosnan came out and showed the world that he was more aware of the situation at Nottingham Forest than others.
All along, the Nottingham Evening Post has been Twain’s spokesperson. It has been admonished by others as a newspaper that was devoid of the principles of good journalism when it comes to issues surrounding Nottingham Forest. However, the Nottingham Forest fans did not share their sentiments. They enjoyed reading articles that praised the Forest team. They would pay attention to the articles published in the Nottingham Evening Post. Nobody likes to read about criticisms against the team they support.
A media outlet that has always supported him suddenly questioned him. That definitely made him feel uncomfortable.
Nottingham Forest did not make a trip to Asia for money during their pre-season days. Neither did they go to North America. The team did not even step out of Nottingham and visit other areas in Britain. They simply stayed in their training grounds and had practice matches with a few other British football teams.
Twain had arranged for more practice matches this year because he hoped to bring the team together by playing more matches. This would help the young players get used to the way the team plays quicker.
It was also a good chance for him to observe and pick out the players who would be a part of his plans for the coming season. There are things that one cannot discern during training. The best way to judge a player’s abilities is always through actual matches.
Twain found Adriano Moke, the player who Greenwood rated very highly, to be very disappointing after observing his performances over a few practice matches.
His physique, which was prone to injuries, constantly gave him the disadvantage when he was engaged in physical battles with his opponents. He might be good at dribbling and getting past his opponents, but those things mean naught if he cannot get into physical battles with other players. There is no soccer match in this world that does not involve physical contact between players.
If a player is not good with physical battles, then it does not matter how good his techniques might be. He was not a player that Twain wanted.
On the other hand, the player who had not stood out for a few years in the reserve team, Chris Cohen, impressed Twain. His performance on the left flank was noteworthy. His pace and technique did not rival Moke’s, but he performed better on the whole than Moke.
Additionally, what really set Cohen apart from Moke was how he preferred working with the team, unlike Moke who preferred working on his own. Perhaps this has something to do with how he lacks pace and power and is unable to create much chances for the team on his own.
During the practice matches, he managed to make several good passes and was a threat going down the middle from the left flank as well.
Twain decided to focus his efforts on grooming Cohen for the coming season.
As for Moke… He would either get him out on a loan or sell him.
Bostock and Millán’s performaces lived up to Twain’s expectations. Neither of them lacked experience after having already played in plenty of youth team matches. Millán has even played in a first team match before when he was just 14 years of age. Therefore, playing first team matches was not something new for both of them.
Similarly, Şahin’s performance was worthy of praise as well. At the very least, he had displayed a higher level of abilities than other players during the practice matches. His techniques are regarded to be outstanding by the British players, and Twain’s decision to bring him back to the first team also seemed to have strengthened his confidence.
Meanwhile, the left back Joe Mattock’s performance was average at best. He had moments of brilliance, but did not perform better than Leighton Baines and Gareth Bale most of the time. Twain believes that the Premier League might still be a little challenging for a player like him who has only played in the League One so far. Mattock might have a lot of potential in him, but he has to be groomed over a period of time first.
Victor Moses performed well thus far. His physicality and speed allowed him to gain the upper hand during the matches. He was good at breaking through the defense with his speed and also managed to shoot for goal while holding back the defenders. He was a player who could be used during squad rotations.
If everything goes to plan, then as of now, Nottingham Forest’s list of strikers for next season includes Žigić, Eastwood, Agbonlahor, Nicolás Millán and Victor Moses. The first three are players that Twain intends to rely upon heavily throughout the season. The other two players would play games for both the reserve and first teams so as to gain experience and improve themselves through game time. As for what kind of position those two will end up playing in the first team, that will be dependent on the kind of performances they make from now on.
Twain’s most expensive signing of this summer, Agbonlahor, has not let him down so far. The kid’s pace and power turn him into a razor-edged dagger on the pitch. He started in all four practice matches and played till the end for each match. He scored a total of six goals across the matches.
Twain also tried to play him as a winger, and he put in a performance that was to Twain’s satisfaction. Regardless if it was breaking through into the penalty box, or crossing from the byline or shooting, he was good at each and every of them.
The best part of Agbonlahor was how he had publicly declared time and time again about his trust in Tony Twain’s abilities. He expressed that he has never regretted making the switch from Aston Villa to Nottingham Forest, because he believed that he would stand at the top with Twain one day.
His words made Twain overjoyed.
The players who choose to stick with the team through their toughest times are the players who deserve his respect and attention, and a player who specially transferred to the club when it is going through its toughest times is a player he must value.
This summer feels like a summer that belongs to the young in Wilford.
North Wilford welcomed a new batch of U18 players around the time when Twain was preparing for the new season with the first team.
Every summer, a group of players who has been specially hand-picked throughout the globe would be sent to North Wilford. These players are here to receive the most formal training, and they are all here with the goal of either becoming a professional footballer, or a first team member of Nottingham Forest.
Some of the players are average, but there are also a few talented ones amongst them. Those with talent might get a few more glances their ways by the coaches, but their talent would have little to no impact on their futures. What determines if a player can succeed in the future is not the player’s talent or gift, but rather how much hard work he puts into training and improving himself.
Every year, the head of the youth team would provide the first team manager with a new list of youth players. Talented players who the manager should focus on would also get marked out on that list.
However, how many players on that list can make their way into the first team?
Fewer than few.
There are very few players who went through training at Nottingham Forest’s youth team who eventually ended up playing for the team. This is also why Twain’s promotion of 4 young players into the first team became a topic of debate everywhere in North Wilford.
The young players who were training at North Wilford saw hope through Twain’s actions.
Greenwood looked at the group of fresh faces on the training grounds. Some of the players standing before him have grown up in Nottingham and have managed to rise above the rest after going through numerous trainings that were tailored for different age groups. Others are players with potential who have been brought over by their scouts from other countries. They have all agreed to join Nottingham Forest’s youth team and receive training in Nottingham.
For the young players who grew up in Nottingham, George Wood was their exemplar and someone they should aspire to become.
For the players who came to Nottingham Forest from other parts of the world, Gareth Bale would be the role model for them.
The last batch of youth team players have mostly left the team. Some joined the reserve team while some lucky ones managed to make their way into the first team. As for the rest… They have either been sold to other football clubs in a different tier to theirs, or they have had their contracts terminated with the club and are left to figure out what to do next on their own.
“Firstly, I’d like to welcome all of you to North Wilford.” Greenwood stood before the bunch of kids with his other youth team coaches.
“Next, I’d like all of you to know that your goal is not to stay here forever. Your goal lies in the south…” He pointed in the southern direction. “That’s the training grounds of Nottingham Forest’s first team. A team that has won the Champions League four times is waiting for all of you there! Still, I hope all of you can understand, that the door over there is not open to everyone. Every year we will eliminate many players, and even if you make it into the reserve team, it doesn’t mean you will have a chance to play for the first team. Besides training your hardest here, I also want all of you to put in your best performance before us and the first team manager. Don’t think about doing anything else other than those!”
“I’ve looked at your résumés, and I understand a lot about where you lads have come from and what you have done so far. I truly believe that you are cream of the crop. But you need to prove that you are indeed more outstanding than those who are of the same age as you through your actions and performances! You are not here because you want to play amateur football, right? I don’t want to tell you the success story of George Wood. That is a story that has been reported endless times by the media. All I hope you can understand is that he put in a lot of hard work to become as successful as he is now! From today onwards, each and every of you will be lucky enough to experience what he had to go through! It’s not an experience that will make any of you happy, but I can guarantee you that when the day comes and you are able to shine on the pitch, you will realise that everything you have gone through here is not for nothing!” Greenwood flailed his arms about forcefully.
Chen Jian stood amongst this group of newcomers. He might have trained as a part of the youth team from last season, but he was still allowed to join as a newcomer for this year’s youth team.
Henceforth, he would be an official member of this youth team. This time round, he has come from China and not from a talent show anymore. He was no longer just a ‘guest’ who could only participate in the training and could not represent the team in any competitions. He has a concrete goal that he could work towards. His every good performance would mean something now, unlike in the past when it did not matter whether he performed well or badly.
He wants to become a professional footballer!
It did not matter how much sweat he has to put in for it, or how tough the journey would be for him. It did not matter how the road beneath him would twist and turn.
His goal would never change.
He was willing to gamble everything that he has and give his all for it. He wants to become a professional footballer no matter what.
He was like a soldier who had wandered into the opponent’s territory. There was no way back now. He cannot even turn around. All he can do is to keep walking forward.
And finally, at the end of the road… Checkmate!
Twain received the new list of youth players from Greenwood. There were 30 names on the list, and some were circled in red.
The ones circled in red are the players that Greenwood thought highly of. They have the potential to make it into the first team and are the ones that they should keep their eyes on and see how he develops from here on out.
Those players were Lee Alexander from Nottingham, Darren Williams from Bishop’s Cleeve, Andrew McLeod from Glasgow, Scotland, and Chen Jian from the distant, far-away country of China.