Everybody loves a fist pumping central defender don’t they? You know the sort - heart on their sleeve, 110 percent each and every game, always demanding more from the supporters and a natural born leader.
Not since Luke Chambers departed from the City Ground have Forest had the luxury of a central defender to whom they feel they can relate: the type of player who spends 90 minutes putting their body on the line for the sake of Nottingham Forest.
Chambers wasn’t a fan of the club – far from it – but he possessed a skill that is so sadly lacking in so many footballers these days – passion.
Step forward Matt Mills, the Reds’ new talismanic rock at the heart of the defence.
Mills hasn’t adhered himself to many supporters at his previous clubs. Speak to fans at Reading about Mills and an explosion of expletives will probably be voiced in your direction, likewise fans of a Leicester City persuasion.
Doncaster Rovers fans might be an exception but even they had a sour taste in their mouth following his departure and as for Bolton Wanderers supporters, one fan offered to bring him to the City Ground in his own car when the Reds were first linked with the player.
When he first signed for the Reds, many of our more critical soles on social media had already written him off as a flop signing who would do nothing. I have to say he is winning those doubters over with every performance at present.
The 29-year-old has forged a decent career for himself playing football in the Championship and has been lucky enough to be paid very well at pretty much every club he has been at and I get the impression that fans of his former clubs resent the amount of money he has collected over the years.
This is where Mills at Forest is different. Dougie Freedman knows all about the player from his time spent at the Trotters and secured his services despite asking him to take a pay cut, which should give us an indication about where the player’s priorities lie these days.
Forest could only pay Mills £10,000 per week as part of the ongoing transfer embargo which they are placed under and at times it looked as though he may go elsewhere – for more money.
The new Forest number five didn’t want more money though. As I mentioned earlier, he probably has plenty – and instead opted to sign for the Reds citing us as a ‘great club’ and one that ‘is going places’. I am not sure how true his second statement is but nonetheless he said all the right things.
And on the pitch he appears to be doing all of the right things too.
Now I don’t want to be misunderstood here and I am not for one minute waxing lyrical about how Matt Mills is the best player to ever wear the red shirt or anything of that sort. Defensively he is fairly old fashioned, a no nonsense sort of guy, decent on the ball, reads the game very well and chips in with a goal or two every now and again.
Okay so he has his cons too. Fairly slow at times if up against pace and as he proved against Hull earlier in the season, can be incredibly clumsy. During his 86 minutes on the pitch he gave away a needless penalty and was later dismissed for a challenge that can only be described as assault.
One of the key factors for me is that Mills makes the defensive unit seem much more rigid and I think his experience of playing at this level is underestimated. When he was missing from the side earlier in the season, the Reds looked lost, like they were desperately searching for a leader to step forward and grab the back four by the scruff of the neck. Mills does that with superb authority.
And then we get back to the word passion. When Mills netted his second goal in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Fulham I actually thought he was going to run straight into the Main Stand as he sprinted towards it, fists clenched in delight at securing the Reds three valuable points
It should also be worth noting that when Mills has come up against the Championship’s more feared marksmen he has never let the side down. Chris Martin took up a nice comfortable position in his pocket a few weeks ago, whilst Ross McCormack, the Championship’s record signing barely got a kick on Saturday afternoon, such was Mills’ performance.
His goal celebration really did resemble that of Chambers back during his time at the club and the two are extremely similar, not just in personnel but also in their desires to achieve success for the football club.