Forward Zach Clough admitted this week that it had taken next to no time at all for him to make the decision to head north to Carlisle to sign a two-year deal, with conversations with the manager top of his list of reasons why he opted for Brunton Park.
The 26-year-old former-Forest and Bolton frontman took just 48-hours to ponder his options before capping off a whirlwind of weekend with a meeting with the local press.
Speaking about the process of choosing his new club, he said: “I received a call last Thursday to say there was interest and, over the length of the day, I then got a call off the gaffer and a few other members of the club.
“I could tell there was just a keen interest to get me up here – that’s what I liked the most. I just wanted to come up, have a look around, and now that I have I’m really excited to come up and play some football.
“It’s good for any player to feel wanted. The gaffer was great, the fact I’ve worked with him before at Rochdale which was a big plus point for me. His training sessions were really good, really enjoyable, and I feel he will get the best out of me.
“That’s what I need at this point of my career – to play, to smile, and be loved by hopefully the fans and the whole city.”
With a clear hunger showing through in his interview, he commented: “I’m 26 now and I want to be playing regularly. It’s important to me because a lot of people don’t see what goes on off the field at a club like Nottingham Forest.
“People didn’t see what went on. Sometimes everyone thinks it’s always the player’s fault, and sometimes it isn’t. I think to get away from there and reel really free now, and to come and smile every day, coming into work, and meet new people, I just can’t wait.
“I think the club have shown commitment and I’ve shown commitment to the club to sign for two years. I feel like I want to enjoy myself more than anything, enjoy being around the lads, hopefully we can create a real team spirit and get right up at the top of the league.
“Being with a manager who knows me is really good. I just like the way he works, the excitement he brings to people when they play. He’s a really motivated person who wants to get as high as he can, and I’m the same.
“I want to get back to the levels I was at a few years ago. That was the conversation we were having. We want to get this club back to where we believe we should be, and where it could be. I think Chris will get the best out of me in that aspect, he’s a really happy character and I think I’ll thrive under his management.
“It’s been a bit of a tough period over the past couple of years, being honest, but you find out about yourself a bit more when it’s like that. You find other things that make you happy away from football, but hopefully now I can get back onto the football pitch and get smiling again.”
And, of course, we had to ask the obligatory – what type of player are you – type question.
“I’d like to think I’m quite an exciting player to watch when I’m performing at my best,” he replied. “I like to take free-kicks, penalties, I like to run with the ball and hopefully score lots of goals.
“I always want to be nice on the eye to watch. I’ll play anywhere across the front three, or in behind. I’ve played in probably every position in the front and midfield in my time and I didn’t find my favourite.
“It’s probably in behind, in the 10 position, playing on the half turn. I’d say that’s where I’m most effective. Playing in front of fans is also something I feed off. The games do feel a bit flat with no supporters in. I think it’ll give us the edge to hopefully be where we want to be at the end of next season. If we can get the fans in it will push us all on.
“Personally I don’t think I have to prove anything other than getting back to where I was. If the minutes come, I don’t feel like there’ll be much pressure on me because I feel, when I’ve played, the numbers have always been quite good, even at Championship level.
“I scored one in four, every time I started probably one in three. I believe as long as I’m playing games, and my numbers are high, it will fall into place.
“It’s just about playing football. It doesn’t matter to me that it’s League Two, I don’t think the level matters too much. Every league poses different types of challenges. I’m just ready to take on the challenge it will throw at me this year.
“I am ready, I feel I’ve always been ready. I just don’t feel I’ve always been treated fairly. I’ve never, ever took my foot off the gas, I’ve always been working hard. I’ve probably worked harder the older I got. An opportunity is all I needed, to be honest, and I have that here now.”
Friday morning brings with it the first bout of pre-season pain, but also the all-important first meeting with his new team mates.
“We have some testing on Friday, some testing, and then it will get going quite quickly,” he said. “I’m looking forward to meeting a new group. I feel quite young still, I’m only 26, but I feel I’m at an age where people do expect me to bring some experience.
“I’m quite a quiet character to be honest. As I get older I probably do need to be a bit more of a talker in the dressing room. I don’t know if that will come, I’m more of that quiet type of person.
“It’s a fresh start for me. We’ll hopefully move up here, find somewhere nice to live and fully focus on the football. The manager has said he wants the club to be right up there challenging and I don’t see why we can’t.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s the first time I’ve been to the stadium, it looks nice, and I can imagine it’s bouncing when the fans are here. Once we get the fans in the stadium and they’re right behind us, hopefully this will be a tough place to come to.”
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With this move his next step, he spoke fondly about his first steps into the game, made with Bolton Wanderers at a very young age.
“I was with them from about the age of eight and I made my debut at 19 in the Championship, and it took off from there,” he explained. “It was a bit of a whirlwind to play for the club I came through at, that was great for me after watching them in the Premier League for so many years.
“It went well and people were talking about me, but I didn’t feel any pressure at all. I didn’t feel anything when I was younger. I think the older I’ve got the more pressure comes with it. A lot of players will say the same thing.
“When you’re younger - I had no fear of anything. I just took it all in my stride and just felt love from everyone. That’s when I felt at my best, just feeling the love. I knew there were scouts coming to watch but it didn’t bother me.
“When you look back at it now you think about it more, but at the time I didn’t think about anything other than football. I didn’t worry about who’s coming to watch. Looking back now it was all quite surreal to be honest.
“I moved to Nottingham Forest in 2017 in January, and obviously the fee was a talking point. I think it did add pressure to me personally, but I think that comes with age. I started off really enjoying it there, then went back on loan to Bolton then Rochdale, and I’ve ended up here now, so I’m really excited to get going.
“Obviously I was at Wigan before this, but I only went there in January. It was more getting myself back up to match sharpness, I hadn’t played the first half of the season because of Forest not letting me go anywhere.
“When I eventually got out and got to Wigan it was a matter of time really. I just needed to get myself embedded back into a first team environment and back up and running and fit again. I feel like I got there towards the end. The season ended at a bad time for me really because I was starting to get myself going again.
“That’s why it’s a good time to come here. I just want to play football and enjoy it. Like I’ve said about 50 times in this interview – it’s enjoying it. I know it’s serious because this club wants to push up and get back to League One. I’m just ready to go and help with that now.
“Pulling the shirt on for that first game, it’s going to mean a lot to be honest. Sometimes when you aren’t playing, as it was for me at Forest, you start to wonder if you’re ever going to play again.
“You’re just waiting for the moment. At Wigan I played a little bit, but I’m just waiting for that moment to be a real part of a team and a real fresh start. That’s why I’m so glad to be here and I can’t wait to show people what I’m about.”
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