Back in 1995 Nottingham Forest brought an exciting striker called Andrea Silenzi to the City Ground.
The man from Rome was the first Italian to play in England’s Premier League, and to call his experience underwhelming would do a massive disservice to the abject failure common to many of his performances.
One element of Silenzi’s struggles was his willingness to write off the spell in England and move onto the next challenge. Indeed he was famously alleged to have refused to return from a loan spell back in his homeland, causing manager Dave Bassett to tear up his contract.
In addition there was a sense that Bassett’s predecessor Frank Clark, who brought Silenzi to the club, did not quite know what to do with his new import.
Stan Collymore had starred for the club in the previous season, scoring 22 goals and firing the club to third place in their first season back in the top flight. No one man was going to be able to replace the England international after his departure for Liverpool, much less a man like Silenzi with no English experience, and minimal top-flight experience.
And so it proved, with a disappointing campaign merely salvaged by the displays of Bryan Roy, a man who in retrospect was far more suited to the division than his Italian team-mate.
Whether through a once bitten, twice shy approach, or simply due to good fortune in the recruitment of home-grown talent, Forest’s foreign acquisitions in the attacking third have been fewer and farther between in their quest for promotion back to the Premier League.
Recent runs to the play-offs have featured a Welshman (Rob Earnshaw), a Scotsman (George Boyd), and Englishmen including Dexter Blackstock, Nathan Tyson and David McGoldrick.
However, this pattern was broken last January when US international Robbie Findley joined from Real Salt Lake.
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His arrival was preceded by an indifferent end to the 2010 season, where a disappointing contribution to the American World Cup effort carried over into the league, where Salt Lake followed an impressive regular season with a tame display in defeat against FC Dallas in the play-offs.
Findley was obviously eager to repay manager Billy Davies’ faith in him, but barely got a chance, picking up a thigh injury just weeks after arriving which kept him out of the reckoning until April.
Just weeks after his return, Davies announced his departure from the club, leaving the future of the Phoenix native very much in the balance.
Suddenly the 25-year-old had to prove himself all over again, and to make matters worse his former club were enjoying a typically impressive start to the campaign, coming within minutes of a CONCACAF Champions League berth and thriving domestically despite the injury-enforced absence of playmaker Javi Morales.
Of all the possible managers to arrive at Forest this summer, Steve McClaren could ultimately prove to be the best thing that could have happened, for Findley if not for the club in general.
A minority of England fans also loyal to the Nottingham club may be unable to look past his failings in charge of the national side, but plenty among the Forest faithful prefer to look at the former Manchester United coach’s success in charge of Middlesbrough and FC Twente.
He led the latter to their first ever Eredivisie triumph in 2010, and got the best out of the likes of Theo Janssen, Bryan Ruiz and former MLS star Blaise Nkufo.
When you add in the respect he will likely garner from international players, despite his on-pitch failings with England, then even those with prior doubts will have been licking their lips at the prospect of the new season.
Findley has several years experience of a likeable-yet-authoritative manager in Jason Kreis, the man who gave a young striker his chance in the first team, and the chance to learn discipline from seasoned US internationals like Clint Mathis and Kyle Beckerman.
Patience will not be a problem for a man who was prepared to wait his turn for a spot in the first team at international level, and having had time to reflect on personal World Cup disappointments, a mere willingness to move to a challenging league demonstrates a desire not to rest on his laurels.
On top of this, having not arrived with a reputation as a prolific goalscorer (31 goals in 100 professional games is impressive but not outstanding), the fans will hopefully give him more time and appreciate the work he does elsewhere on the field.
Of course the odd goal does help, seeing as Findley is nominally a striker, and on Tuesday night – less than a week after his 26th birthday – he scored his first competitive goal in a Nottingham Forest shirt, helping his team to a narrow victory over Notts County in the first round of the Carling Cup.
He also converted one of the penalties in the decisive shoot-out, further endearing him to fans who could be forgiven for not even noticing his original arrival.
Having experienced a variety of emotions from the always vocal City Ground crowd, most importantly the mixture of relief and pride which followed Neal Bishop’s final penalty miss for County, the third American to don the red of Forest after John Harkes and current DC United coach Ben Olsen ought to be able to go on to bigger and better things. Not that he needed any excuse.Tags: Championship, MLS, Nottingham Forest, Real Salt Lake, Robbie Findley, Steve McClaren