With Paul Scholes casting aside his pipe and slippers to rejoin Manchester United for the remainder of the season and Thierry Henry re-signing for Arsenal, in order to help counter the losses of Chamakh and Gervinho to the African Cup of Nations, the return of Marlon Harewood to the City Ground has been somewhat overlooked by the national media.
For those too young to remember, Marlon, a product of the Forest Academy, scored more than 50 goals for us during his first spell at the club, building up an incredible rapport with the City Ground faithful in doing so.
He is perhaps best remembered for his part in the 2002/03 season, when he formed a formidable strike partnership with David Johnson. It was a season in which Forest played scintillating football, under the management of football purist Paul Hart, reaching the playoffs for the very first time in our history.
Marlon became one of the most dangerous forwards in the league. His pace, power and skill made him a name that defenders dreaded seeing on the teamsheet.
I had the name HAREWOOD embroidered across the back of my shirt, despite the fact that they charged by the letter back in those days. BOPP would have been a cheaper option.
I have been flying that shirt at half mast since the day he left and I’m extremely excited that he’s finally returned. But are these things ever as good the second time around?
Let’s look at some examples from recent Forest history:
Nigel Clough – During his original spell at the City Ground, Nigel Clough not only scored 101 goals for the club, but was also an intelligent, creative and exciting player to watch. When he returned in the 1996/97 season, he still showed glimpses of his former brilliance but it was never quite the same. Nigel took on the role of Burton Albion manager before turning his back on football, in favour of a career in shepherdry. 6/10
Des Walker – Despite being 37 years old, Des Walker’s comeback has to go down as one of the greatest in Nottingham Forest club history. It’s rare that a defender can be as enjoyable to watch as Des was, but his know-how and exceptional tackling ability helped propel Forest into the 2002/03 playoffs. 9/10
Alan Rogers – After an impressive initial spell at the club, in which he earned the nickname ‘Tank’, Alan Rogers returned looking more like a Ford Escort with a flat tyre. 3/10
Jon Olav Hjelde – He’d hardly had time to unpack his suitcase before Joe Kinnear hauled him back to Nottingham. It was a largely uneventful comeback, with Hjelde only playing a handful of games. 3/10
Jack Lester – Much like Hjelde and Rogers, Joe Kinnear brought the ever popular Jack Lester back to appease fans in the midst of a relegation battle. Jack’s second spell at the club started with a sublime match winning performance against QPR but injury hampered his progress for the remainder of that season and Forest were relegated. He proved an important part of the squad during the subsequent League One campaign, before eventually being released again. 7/10
David Prutton – It was all going so well for David Prutton. Fans had begun to grow accustomed to his new ‘John the Baptist’ look, before he got stupidly sent off in the semi-final of the playoffs, against Yeovil, effectively losing us the tie. A disastrous end to an otherwise impressive Forest career. 5/10
Andy Reid – When Andy Reid left Forest back in 2005 he was at the peak of his powers. He had been the first name on the timesheet and, at the time of his transfer to Spurs, he was our sole source of creative inspiration. Although he’s produced some match winning displays since his comeback, Andy has not been as involved as we had all hoped upon Forest re-signing him last summer. But he has lost none of the finesse and ingenuity that made him such a joy to watch all those years ago. Throughout the season I believe he has looked the most likely to make something happen in the final third and I’m thrilled to see him back at the City Ground. 7/10 … so far!
As with all of the examples above, part of the reason Marlon is back is because of the success he had during his initial period at the club. Unfortunately with this comes a degree of unrealistic expectation from the fans.
I believe, at the age of 32, Marlon still has a lot to offer in the Championship but, as the evidence above shows, things are never quite the same the second time around. Marlon is not the same player and Forest aren’t the same team.
However, that’s not to say that Marlon, much like Andy Reid, can’t have a massive bearing on the rest of our season. And I’ve got a sneaky feeling we may yet see a few moments of Marlon magic before the season is out.