Commons winning the popular vote with appeal to the left

Nottingham Forest's man of the moment is ready to run rings around Tottenham in tonight's FA Cup replay, writes <i><b>Jon Culley </b></i>
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The Independent Football

Ironic, really. When Tottenham signed Andy Reid from Nottingham Forest - on the same day the fifth-round FA Cup draw decreed that the two clubs would meet - they probably thought the one player from the struggling East Midlands side who might have threatened their progress was now safely ensconced in their own camp.

Ironic, really. When Tottenham signed Andy Reid from Nottingham Forest - on the same day the fifth-round FA Cup draw decreed that the two clubs would meet - they probably thought the one player from the struggling East Midlands side who might have threatened their progress was now safely ensconced in their own camp.

Ironic that the player who almost brought about their downfall at White Hart Lane 10 days ago was the one who is rapidly assuming Reid's mantle as the golden boy of the City Ground. Short, stocky, a little bottom-heavy even, but beautifully balanced - give him a bottle of hair dye and he could be the Irishman's double. What's more, his left foot is an instrument of equal magic. "Who needs Andy Reid?" Forest fans might ask. "We've got Kris Commons."

A show-stealing performance from the 21-year-old as Forest came from behind to earn tonight's replay at the City Ground landed Commons the Football Association's player of the round award. Of almost 58,000 votes registered at the association's website, he polled almost half.

A week ago, three days after Tottenham, he came up with a match-winning, goalscoring performance against Preston as Forest, struggling in the relegation places, registered only their second Championship victory in almost 12 weeks.

Last weekend he was outstanding again as the battle for regional supremacy with an in-form Derby County ended in a 2-2 draw. Less than two months after scoring his first Forest goal, Commons is now their star turn.

He appears to have come from nowhere but, of course, there is more to his story. Although he was signed, with some enthusiasm, from Stoke City last summer by the then Forest manager, Joe Kinnear - and for a fee, too - it has taken the arrival of Gary Megson to bring him to prominence.

"I spent the best part of four months on the bench, just getting the odd game, which was disappointing," Commons said. "I think I was brought here partly because it looked like Andy Reid was going and that didn't happen until January, but Joe didn't give me the chances I thought he would. With our position in the table I wanted to be involved in a lot more games and it was frustrating to be only watching."

Perhaps Kinnear did not appreciate his young acquisition's inbred passion for the club. As a nine-year-old from the north Nottinghamshire village of Skegby, he had faithfully turned up for coaching schools at Forest, sharing dreams inspired by Teddy Sheringham and Roy Keane. "All my family and friends were Forest fans," he said.

His return has been by a roundabout route. After Forest failed to spot his talent, Commons spent six ultimately unfulfilled years across the Trent with Notts County before persuading Chesterfield to give him a trial and then unexpectedly catching a Stoke scout's eye.

Rave reviews - and a first goal in the week of his 19th birthday - earned him instant headlines in Stoke's senior side only for a cruciate ligament injury in September 2002 to rule him out for almost a year. Had that not happened, good judges suggest, Forest would have had to find rather more than the £300,000 valuation determined by a transfer tribunal.

"It took me the best part of a year to get back to where I was before," he said, "so I feel there is a lot more to come from me. Before the injury I was playing really well and I'd like to think we wouldn't be where we are now in the table if I had been playing right from the start of the season.

"With Reidy going it has left an even bigger gap for me to express myself in the side. I've always been a positive, attacking player. I like to dribble, to run at players and I have a good left foot. If I had been playing week in, week out, maybe people would have been talking about me before now."

People are talking about the accuracy with which Commons seems able to shoot from almost any range. "I do work on striking the ball, although with long-range efforts it is an instinctive thing you can't really practise," Commons said. "But if a goalkeeper is off his line he is asking for trouble."

Forest's trouble is their League position, six points from safety, which will unavoidably be at the back of minds this evening, regardless of the chance to go to Newcastle in the quarter-finals.

"Of course, it is the FA Cup and everyone has the dream of getting to the final, but the main thing for us this season is not getting relegated. For that to happen would be devastating."

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