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  • Writer's pictureSuperstar Speakers


Updated: Feb 17, 2022

As some Forest fans voice their view that youth is the best way forward, Reds legend Gary Mills has told Superstar Speakers how Brian Clough was a great example of how to nurture young players.

Mills became Forest’s youngest ever first teamer when he made a shock debut in a First Division clash with Arsenal at the City Ground in November 1978 aged 16 years and 11 months.

Since replaced at the top of the Reds’ all-time youngest list by Craig Westcarr, the now 59-year-old was also the youngest player to take part in a European Cup final when he started the club’s historic 1-0 triumph over Kevin Keegan’s Hamburg in Madrid barely 18 months later.

Today Mills is the manager of Southern League Corby Town but still takes a keen interest in the fortunes of both Nottingham clubs, having also played for and managed Notts County.

And he highlights 18-year-old Alex Mighton, who has continued his breakthrough break into Forest’s first team this term and 19-year-old Brennan Johnson, currently on loan at Lincoln City, as positive signs for Forest. Mighton is the fourth youngest Forest debutant and Johnson, 20th on the all-time list, featured last term under Sabri Lamouchi.

“Brian Clough’s attitude was that if you’re good enough you’re old enough – and it worked wonders for us,” Mills said.

“I made my City Ground debut in the same game when he brought in Garry Birtles after selling Peter Withe.

“The gaffer believed in backing the young players and that helped give me my big chance.

“But it’s important to say how much work went into making decisions like that possible. Brian Clough had me training with the first team from the age of 14, so when I got my first team chance I wasn’t overwhelmed.”

Mills eventually left the City Ground in 1987 when Clough’s younger Reds side, which went on to win two League Cups, finish third in the First Division and be controversially beaten in the 1991 FA Cup final by Spurs was developing.

Mills told Superstar Speakers : “Forest have brought young players such as Matty Cash, Joe Worrall and Ben Brereton through in recent seasons and it’s good to see Mighton and Johnson making an impact. I saw Brennan score a couple of goals in Lincoln’s 4-0 win at Northampton and was impressed."

“Sometimes being young can be an advantage. I must admit that, being a teenager, I never quite took in the magnitude of what was happening when I played against Hamburg.

“I think my family was more nervous than I was. Young players usually play without fear.

“I’m sad to see my old club struggling at the wrong end of the Championship but they have a good manager in Chris Hughton, and he will be very aware of the young talent at the City Ground."

“Whenever I see a player such as Mighten in a Forest shirt, it brings all my feelings flooding back of being the new lad in the side.

“It would give me great pleasure if he and other young players can help improve Forest’s position this season – and point the way to a much brighter future.”

Gary Mills is currently writing his autobiography featuring his amazing experience with Brian Clough.

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