Ex-Nottingham Forest striker Robert Earnshaw will return to the City Ground tomorrow as the guest of honour for the Reds’ Championship game with Milton Keynes Dons, which got me thinking about where Earnie ranks among the great strikers to have played for the club.
Whilst Earnshaw wasn’t as prolific as a David Johnson or a Stan Collymore, or as powerful as a Britt Assombalonga or a Marlon Harewood, rarely has a striker got the crowd going like the little Welshman used to.
The ex-Wales international is the only striker to have scored hat-tricks in all four English professional divisions, as well as the FA Cup, League Cup and on the international stage – which you might have heard before, okay you definitely will have!
When he arrived at the club, most fans were in unison with the opinion that the man knew where the back of the net was. His record at his previous clubs confirmed that and many were just hoping he wasn’t going to fall into the Neil Harris or Marlon King trait of scoring goals week in, week out for every club they have played for, except of course for Forest.
Arriving at the City Ground from Derby County, following promotion from League One, Earnie was always going to have to work his backside off to win over the City Ground faithful and boy did he do that.
His work rate was never in doubt and from the first time he pulled the red jersey over his head, you just knew he was desperate to prove a point.
Earnshaw was part of the Derby side that went down as the worst Premier League team of all time when they were relegated during 2007/08 with just 11 points from their 38 games, with the striker largely used as a substitute during the campaign.
During the first half of that season he would play under Billy Davies, who would get the best out of him at Forest, with the pair seemingly having a decent relationship – despite what was written in the press.
As I sit and pen these thoughts I have a visual montage in my head which is playing all of Earnshaw’s goals one after the other and boy, is it enjoyable.
One game that sticks out in my mind is a 5-1 drubbing of Leicester City during the 2009/10 season when Earnshaw tore central defender Wayne Brown to pieces and finished the afternoon with the match ball, following a scintillating hat-trick.
I also think back to the cold, December evening, just after Christmas when Forest stuck five past Derby County, Earnshaw netting a brace and celebrating as you would expect a man who openly disliked the Rams would do. Seeing Robert Earnshaw somersault his small physique into the air after scoring yet another goal will go down as one of my favourite sights ever, whilst watching live football.
Also, the first time the Reds were victorious at Pride Park since it opened in 1997, came courtesy of an Earnshaw strike which I still remember to this day.
With the game petering out into a drab 0-0 draw, Nathan Tyson crossed for Paul Anderson who cushioned the ball into the path of Earnshaw and his natural goalscoring ability was evident as he drove the ball beyond Stephen Bywater, to spark pandemonium in the away end.
Of course Earnshaw scored other goals but the point for me is that Earnshaw loved the big games. Indeed he still might do, lest we forget that the ex-Forest number 10 is still playing in the MLS with Vancouver Whitecaps.
Even when Forest were dumped out of the play-offs by Blackpool, Earnie still netted twice in the 4-3 City Ground reverse, so the defeat certainly wasn’t down to his lack of effort.
Earnshaw wrote himself into Forest folklore with numerous important goals and as he prepares to take the adulation from the City Ground faithful tomorrow afternoon, I would like to thank the little magician for contributing towards the most successful three-year period in recent history.
Welcome back, Earnie. You can follow Lee Clarke here.