Derby-Forest foursome face former clubs

Having made the controversial switch from Forest to Derby last summer, Kris Commons has already had to endure one frosty reception from Reds fans this season – in November’s 1-1 draw at Pride Park. The Mansfield-born Scotland international now prepares to face the wrath of the Forest fans again on Friday night as the Rams and the Reds go head to head in the FA Cup Fourth Round – a night that will see managers as well as players confront their former clubs. Nottingham Forest’s promotion celebrations in May were tempered by the news that the chief architect in their rise from League 1, Commons, had decided to join arch-rivals Derby, and on a free transfer to boot. “I could understand the Forest fans’ reaction, but I made it clear that it wasn’t a case of me wanting to leave, I just wasn’t offered a new contract,” says Commons in the February issue of FourFourTwo magazine, out now. “I’d wanted my future sorted before the end of the season and with Forest’s promotion on a knife-edge, I don’t think they wanted to commit themselves. I found that disappointing, given my input over the years, so I decided to leave. “I had to think long and hard before making the decision because my dad works with Derby and Forest fans and I have family and friends who live in the area. “I’ve had the odd Forest fan wanting to know why did it have to be Derby, but that’s all. I’ve got respect for their fans, as they were so good to me during my time there, but I’d imagine I’ll get plenty of stick when I go back to the City Ground!” Commons was handed a taste of what’s to come during the 1-1 draw in November, but he admits his main memories of the day were the battles against opponents who, just months earlier, had been team-mates. “Obviously there were boos whenever I touched the ball but the Derby fans were so loud that day that they overpowered anything that came from the away end,” he says. “But it was a surreal day. It was a full-blooded game and here I was flying into tackles with guys I’d been the best of friends with, who I’d gone abroad with, and who I’d worked with for every day, some of them for four years. “I remember slipping over as went to take a shot and their skipper Ian Breckin came flying over to get in my face as he thought I’d dived. It was strange, especially as Ian is the gentlest giant I know. I had to have a little laugh about that.” Commons is not alone in facing former employers on Friday night. Much-travelled Welsh striker Robert Earnshaw – who has scored in each of Forest’s last four games – arrived at the City Ground in the summer of 2008 from Derby. While managers Nigel Clough and Billy Davies also know a thing or two about their respective opposition. Forest boss Davies guided the Rams to the Premier League in May 2006, while former Burton Albion chief Clough – whose father Brian enjoyed unprecedented success with both clubs – scored over 100 league goals for the Reds.   "I've got very fond memories and they will never go away after supporting Forest for nine or 10 years and then playing for them for same period of time,” said Clough. “But that all goes out of the window and I am completely Derby now. "All those thoughts and feelings will be confined firmly to the memory bank and it will be all about trying to get a result for Derby. There will be no divided loyalties." Davies, returning to Pride Park for the first time since leaving the then Premier League strugglers in November 2007, still feels an immense amount of pride in what he achieved in a remarkably short space of time. However, he’s under no illusions that he’ll avoid any jeers and sneers from some sections of the crowd.   "I know what reaction I should get and most Derby fans still stop me and tell me they appreciated what I did for the club,” said Davies. “But there is always going to be that hardcore to whom it is just Derby against Forest and they must abuse the Derby manager." Forest striker Earnshaw, who moved from Pride Park to the City Ground last summer having scored just one league goal in 22 top-flight appearances, believes the presence of Davies will help deflect some the fans’ fury away from him. "It is something you just have to take on your shoulders and be big about,” said the diminutive Welshman. "It is not a problem for me. In fact, it makes me want to do well. "There is the obvious connections of the two managers, which only adds to the spice of the occasion. The big thing is that we have already been there this season. "We want to play well in the competition and get through the next round, to the final if possible. "But when it comes to games like this, it is all the more brilliant as a player because of that local rivalry.” The full interview with Kris Commons is inside the February issue of FourFourTwo magazine, in shops now. 

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