Harewood in the groove to lift Forest back up the charts

Fast-maturing striker shines as a DJ in Nottingham's clubs but is focused on making up for last season's play-off agony
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The Independent Football

Mention the abbreviation "DJ" in football circles and there will be a generational split between those to whom it means "dinner jacket" and those who think "disc jockey". Not at Nottingham Forest. Marlon Harewood is as familiar with turntables as with league tables and, perhaps uniquely in the game's history, is actually encouraged by his employers to pursue his passion in nightclubs.

When Harewood takes his love of music to the city's dance dens, spinning everything from 1960s Motown to the R&B, hip-hop, rap and garage grooves of today, he understands that he is the public face of Forest. There is no question of burning the candle at both ends. The club, in turn, view his DJing - more Fatboy Slim than Smashie 'n' Nicey - as positive public relations.

The mutual trust reflects the mature management style of Paul Hart. Until the former Leeds United academy director was promoted from the youth set-up as David Platt's replacement two years ago, Harewood was like one of those pop singles that briefly light up the charts before fading from view.

Now this Londoner of Barbadian extraction, who turns 24 this month yet has been associated with Forest for a decade, has become a long player, as it were, adding durability to his undoubted dynamism.

In each of the last two campaigns Harewood has scored more goals than in all his previous seasons put together. In 2002-03 his partnership with another DJ, David Johnson, amassed 50, his own share being 21. Increased productivity has prompted Premiership interest, but the 6ft 1in striker will at least start the season in the First Division, Hart's side kicking off at home to Sunderland on Saturday.

Harewood had hoped to be in the top flight with Forest by now. In May, having drawn 1-1 with Sheffield United at the City Ground in the first leg of their play-off semi-final, they led 2-0 after an hour at Bramall Lane in the return match. Then a collision with United's keeper, Paddy Kenny, left him concussed and confused.

"I was in a daze and began dribbling towards our goal so they substituted me and sent me to hospital," Harewood says. "I assumed we were through until the nurse said: 'All this and you lost'. I said: 'No, you've got it wrong'. She said Sheffield had won 4-3 after extra-time. I couldn't believe it. I was in massive shock. Mentally, I was already in the Millennium Stadium lining up against Wolves."

Harewood first sampled the Premiership as a 19-year-old in 1998 - he recalls his jaw dropping when David Beckham walked past him in the corridor and said: "All right, Marlon?" - and since then he has crammed a lot into his career. A Tottenham fan who idolised Arsenal's Ian Wright (and later played with him), he was first invited to Forest just as Brian Clough's remarkable reign was ending in 1993.

He reels off the managers and strikers he has served and partnered. Even a devout Trent Ender may have forgotten some: Micky Adams and Peter Shreeves in the first category, as caretakers; Gary Bull and Andrea Silenzi in the other. There are more obvious figures, too, like Frank Clark, Dave Bassett, Stuart Pearce and Ron Atkinson in the dug-out; and Stan Collymore, Bryan Roy, Pierre van Hooijdonk and Wright in the attack.

"Paul [Hart] is the manager that has helped me most," he said, his use of the first name instead of the ubiquitous, outmoded "gaffer" being another sign of the relationship Hart fosters with his charges. "He was a centre-back so he has been able to impress upon me what defenders hate forwards to do.

"He also told me I needed to score more goals. That may sound obvious but I'd thought, a bit naïvely perhaps, that if you won games, it didn't matter who scored. So instead of just looking to play other people in, I looked at the way David Johnson got into striking positions. I found myself thinking: 'Why shouldn't I do the same?' I set a target of 15 goals last season and passed it comfortably."

As well as Johnson, the former Ipswich front-runner, he lists Van Hooijdonk and Wright as the forwards from whom he has particularly learnt. "Pierre showed me how to make more of myself in the air and with my back to goal. Wrighty was amazing. Larger than life, and so generous to a raw kid with his time and his know-how."

Hart, who adheres to Clough's dictum that football is meant to be played on the ground, will be especially keen for Harewood to maintain his yearly increase in goals. Several first-teamers, including the influential Riccardo Scimeca, have left, to be replaced in the main by products of Forest's fabled youth policy. The bookies rate them only a 14-1 shot for promotion, yet Fulham and Portsmouth, albeit with resources Forest do not have, proved it is possible to go up playing a passing game.

"If we can get into the top six again then we can try to push on to the two automatic promotion places," Harewood asserts confidently. "Our home record is excellent. It's the away form we have to sort out. But it'll be tough. Some big clubs have come down and I especially fancy West Ham. Playing at Upton Park isn't like playing at Grimsby and it can put doubts in the minds of younger players."

If he continues "to terrorise defenders", as he sums up his role, Harewood will be fuelling his own ambitions as well as Forest's. One way or another, he intends to return to the Premiership, following the trail blazed from the East Midlands by Emile Heskey. "Emile's a good friend but when I watch him I think 'I could do that'," he says by way of comparison rather than criticism.

Bringing music to the people will again provide a leisure-time diversion for him, always provided he has the club's approval. "The way it works is that if I have a day off, I might do the DJ thing the night before. The first one drew 600 people. I'm a massive Michael Jackson fan. Usher, too. But my tastes are broad. I love Elvis Presley and Bob Marley. I have a studio at home with a mixing desk. Now that I've got a detached house, I can pump up the volume."

Harewood is at pains to point out, however, that his football always comes first. Forest, two-time European champions facing a fifth season in exile from the English élite, are looking to the man at the turntables to turn the tables.