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Five Royals who once walked through the Forest

4 April 2016

Royals who have played for Forest

On Tuesday, Brian McDermott’s Royals host Nottingham Forest at Madejski Stadium, and in the past there has been no shortage of players who have donned both shirts during their careers.

Brynjar Gunnarsson, Simon Cox, Darius Henderson, Jamie Mackie, Matt Mills, Billy Sharp and Matt Upson are just a selection of names that haven’t made it into the profiles below. But from a fairly long list, we have selected five players who have played for both…

Michail Antonio

Having scored seven goals already since joining an in-form West Ham side at the beginning of the 2015/16 season, Antonio has come a long way since representing non-league’s Tooting & Mitcham United, the club whom he joined at the age of 12. After spening his formative years in non-league, he was signed by Steve Coppell’s Royals in October 2008. He was immediately loaned back to his local club and then joined Cheltenham Town for a spell until the end of the season. He made his bow in blue and white hoops in a Carling Cup fixture against Barnsley, one of 6(+27) appearance he would go on to make for the Royals. Loans with Southampton, Colchester and Sheffield Wednesday came before he ended his stay at Madejski Stadium, signing for the Owls on a permanent basis in August 2012. It was with the Hillsborough club that Antonio truly began to unlock his potential, and 12 goals from midfield in 61(+3) games prompted Nottingham Forest to sign the winger at the start of the 2014/15 season. 16 league goals in 50 starts for Antonio really set him apart from the rest, and West Ham chose to acquire the winger’s signature where he would progress to be a successful and powerful presence in attack for the Hammers.     

Ronnie Blackman

Reading’s all-time leading goalscorer, Ronnie Blackman joined the club from Gosport Borough and, upon signing for manager Ted Drake, he made his debut in a 0-0 draw at home against Bristol Rovers in October 1947. Having signed as a part-time professional, he became full-time the following year, and scored the first of his 158 Reading goals at Elm Park against Port Vale in April 1948, setting him on his way to establishing his position as first-choice centre-forward. He twice scored five times in a single game for the Biscuitmen - once against Brighton in a 7-0 demolition and then again against Southend United in a 5-2 home win two years later. At the end of his Reading stay, Blackman had amalgamated 158 goals in his 218 league appearances, a club record that will probably never be beaten! He also holds the record for most goals netted by a Reading player in a single season, with 39 notched during the 1951/52 Division Three (South) campaign. Blackman was sold to Nottingham Forest in 1954, and he then moved to Ipswich Town the following year, where he remained a Tractorboy until 1958. The forward briefly represented non-league outfit Tonbridge before hanging up his boots.      

Garath McCleary

Current wing magician for the Royals, McCleary, like others in the side, has represented Forest at on stage during his career. He began at his hometown club Oxford City, and then a short spell with Slough Town followed before a move to Bromley at the age of 19. Upon breaking his leg and considering a career outside of football, the Conference South side took him in and rehabilitated him into a promising young footballer. Battling on, he made more than 40 appearances and scored 11 goals for the side before Nottingham Forest manager Colin Calderwood offered the winger a trial at the City Ground where he signed a contract in January 2008. McCleary netted his first goal in April, just three appearances into his time as a Red, and he soon became first choice on the right of midfield for the duration of his stay. In May 2012, he signed for newly promoted Premier League outfit, Reading, and made his debut in blue and white hoops for Brian McDermott against Stoke in the opening game of the season. Not shy of scoring a spectacular in front of goal, memorable strikes against QPR, Burnley and most recently Cardiff make the Jamaican international a favourite among the supporters.     

Ryan Bertrand

Born in Southwark, Bertrand was on the books at Gillingham from the age of nine before moving back to London in July 2000 to sign for Chelsea. Young and inexperienced at the time, he was sent out on loan to Bournemouth and Oldham Athletic tasting first-team football at its roots, before joining Norwich City for the duration of 57(+1) appearances. The Chelsea defender was brought to the Royals on loan in July 2009, and he made his debut for our Championship outfit in a 0-0 draw at Madejski Stadium against Nottingham Forest. He scored his first ever professional goal whilst with the Royals against Derby County, and although his stay was short, he certainly made an impact during his time in Berkshire, finishing third in the voting for 'Player of the Season' behind Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jimmy Kebe. The following campaign he was loaned to Nottingham Forest, and after starting 19 games in defence he moved back to his parent club to play a more consistent role throughout the following seasons. Having made his Premier League debut for the Blues against Birmingham in April 2011, Bertrand progressed to make a total of 42(+15) appearances for Chelsea, before more loan spells with Aston Villa and Southampton, all prior to becoming a permanent player with the Saints in the 2015 winter transfer window. 

Chris Gunter

Another of our current crop to have donned the shirt for Forest, Gunter’s time at the City Ground came after starting out his career with spells at Cardiff and Tottenham. A brief loan with Nottingham Forest turned into a permanent move in the summer of 2009, and the right-back made his first of 151(+6) appearances against Burnley, one of eight loan games he played at right-back to end the 2008/09 season. During his time in a red shirt, he only scored two goals from the comfort of right-back; one against Plymouth in September 2010 and the other against Doncaster almost two years later. After appearing as a regular in the Forest defence, Gunter became a Reading player after the club’s promotion to the Premier League, and he made his bow at Madejski Stadium against Stoke. However this wasn’t his first appearance at the Mad Stad, his inaugural showing came during his time with Spurs when he stepped out against the Royals in an FA Cup third round replay! A solid and consistent performer in the Royals’ back four, Gunter is also a mainstay for his national side, and going into the Euros in the summer, he remains the most-capped Wales player of any in the current squad with 66 in total.

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