Much has been made of the success of Nottingham Forest’s Nigel Doughty Academy.
Sales of academy products have propped Forest up financially over the last few years, notably those of Oliver Burke (RB Leipzig, ~£13m), Ben Brereton (Blackburn, ~£7m) and, most recently, 19/20 Player of the Season Matty Cash (Aston Villa, ~£16m).
Burke has since moved to West Brom, Celtic (loan), Alaves (loan) and now Sheffield United in a swap deal involving Republic of Ireland international, Callum Robinson.
The fee paid for Brereton has been a source of amusement for some Forest fans since the striker moved in 2018, despite being a first-team mainstay in the turbulent 2017/18 season in which Mark Warburton was replaced by Aitor Karanka and Forest finished 17th.
Since moving to Ewood Park, Brereton has scored just two goals in 43 games in all competitions for Rovers.
Winger Arvin Appiah joined Spanish Segunda Division side UD Almeria in 2019 for a fee of around £8m after eight appearances. The England U19 international has made 24 appearances in Spain since.
Joao Carvalho followed his path to Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos a year later, albeit on loan. Carvalho made 66 appearances for Forest, scoring just six goals as many fans bemoaned the way the £13m signing seemed to be frozen out by Martin O’Neill for much of his spell at the helm in 18/19.
Joe Worrall made his Forest debut in October 2016 after a one-month loan at then-SkyBet League Two side Dagenham, and joined Rangers on loan in 2018/19 in Steven Gerrard’s first season as manager.
Though Worrall’s spell at Ibrox split opinion in the blue half of Glasgow, the centre-back returned to become a lynchpin in Sabri Lamouchi’s defence the following season. Everton and Stoke had shown interest in Worrall at the back end of 2016, until the Hucknall-born defender signed a new contract at the City Ground.
During the pomp of Forest’s 19/20 season (i.e. before the restart which saw them slump out of the playoff places), there were rumours of interest from Burnley in Worrall’s services. Worrall is under contract until 2022, though, something new manager Chris Hughton will likely be glad of.
Striker Tyler Walker completed a permanent move to newly-promoted Coventry City in summer 2020 after myriad loans.
The 24-year-old is the son of Des Walker, the centre-back voted into Forest’s all-time XI after making over 400 appearances over two spells.
He has spent time at Burton, Stevenage, Port Vale, Bolton, Mansfield and Lincoln (and breathe). His spells at OneCall Stadium and LNER Stadium have been by far the most prolific, Walker scoring 26 in 50 for Mansfield and 16 in 34 for Lincoln before being recalled on January deadline day in 2020.
Midfielder Jorge Grant spent time on loan at Notts County (over two spells) and Mansfield Town before joining Lincoln City in summer 2020. He’s become a mainstay in the middle of Michael Appleton’s Imps side who are joint-top of SkyBet League One at time of writing.
The relationship between Forest and neighbours Notts County fell apart in 2018 largely due to Notts’ outspoken then-chairman Alan Hardy, and the Reds began to send their young players to Mansfield Town and now SkyBet League One side Lincoln City.
It appears that the relationship is beginning to rebuild, though, thanks to Notts’ new owners Christoffer and Alexander Reedtz’ arrivals in summer 2019. Forest announced in October that a number of their U23 games will be hosted at Meadow Lane this season as opposed to their Wilford Lane training ground or Alfreton Town’s Impact Arena.
Fellow attacking midfielder Brennan Johnson has joined Grant at Lincoln on loan until the end of the season, following a path also trodden by Lincoln-born left-back Adam Crookes in the Imps’ SkyBet League Two-winning 18/19 campaign. Crookes now finds himself at Port Vale after a loan spell at Vale Park in 19/20.
England U18 international winger Alex Mighten is very highly rated at the City Ground, and has had Forest fans on social media clamouring to see him get more minutes for the first-team. The 18-year-old is a very direct, quick, exciting winger who featured in Forest’s 19/20 FA Cup trip to Chelsea in which several academy graduates were named in the squad.
Mighten’s chances of getting game time have been boosted to a degree by Forest’s swoop for Kamil Grosicki falling through. The Polish international was being courted for some time but the move couldn’t be completed by the transfer deadline, and Mighten has been named on the Forest bench on several occasions already this season.
Forest have plenty of youth players out on loan away from the City Ground this season. Danny Preston and Virgil Gomis are both at Ian Holloway’s Grimsby Town, the latter having previously been on loan at Braintree, Notts County and Macclesfield.
Right-backs Jordan Gabriel and Jayden Richardson are at Blackpool and Forest Green Rovers respectively, the latter having reached the SkyBet League Two playoff final with Exeter last season.
Midfielders Jake Taylor, Tyrese Fornah and Marcus McGuane have gone out on loan to Scunthorpe, Plymouth and Oxford respectively for the season. Taylor spent last season with Port Vale in SkyBet League Two, while Fornah joined Portuguese second division side Casa Pia temporarily in January, making five appearances. Meanwhile, former Arsenal and Barcelona prospect McGuane made 24 appearances for Barcelona B before joining SC Telstar in the Dutch Eerste Divisie in 2019/20.
Former Academy head and three-time caretaker manager Gary Brazil took on a Director of Football Development role at the club after signing a new contract at Forest in October. He oversaw Forest U23s winning the 19/20 Professional Development League North title under former Reds midfielder Chris Cohen, who departed in September to join Luton Town in a first-team coaching role.
Speaking of the U23s, they’ve picked up where they left off. The young Reds have won six of their first seven games this season, drawing the other at Sheffield United.
They have a +15 goal difference from seven games, and remain in the PDL due to Forest still having a Category Two academy status, one below that required for a place in Premier League 2 Division 2.
Things aren’t going quite so well for the U18s so far, who sit seventh in the nine-team U18 PDL North with ten points from seven games. Notable results include a 4-0 defeat at Barnsley on the opening day and a 5-1 loss to Crewe.
They’ve seen an upturn in fortunes more recently, though, and are unbeaten in their last four with three wins and a draw, including a 7-0 home drubbing of QPR U18s.