Nottingham Forest: Third-choice keeper Jordan Smith on how famous save changed Reds’ fate
That saves. A moment – summed up in two words in club folklore – defines Jordan Smith’s 20 years at Nottingham Forest, his iconic status among Reds fans and the role he played in bringing the Tricky Trees back to the Premier League .
“It’s the rescue that will forever haunt me for all the right reasons. There’s no getting around it,” Smith, 28, told BBC Radio Nottingham.
“It will probably always be the highlight of my career.”
It was the final day of the 2016/17 Championship season and Forest needed a convincing win over Ipswich Town to retain their status in England’s second division.
Back then, Evangelos Marinakis, the owner of Greek champions Olympiakos, was in talks with the unpopular Fawaz Al Hasawi to buy the club.
The stakes were high – the future of the two-time European Cup winners was at stake.
With early results against Forest and the trapdoor to League One seemingly creaking open, Smith acrobatically tipped a deflected Dominic Samuel shot onto the bar.
Forest won the game 3-0, avoided relegation on goal difference and were then sold to Marinakis in the summer, who took ownership to fund them into the top flight five years later.
The image of Smith extending his arm, his back arched and fully extended is one that has been immortalized in artwork and printed on commemorative shirts.
For a player who failed to feature once for the club in their historic campaign of promotion last season, his contribution to ending the club’s 23-year exile in the Premier League is undeniable.
“All I can remember is the silence on the city ground like time had stopped,” Smith says of the moment he made the save.
“I remember hearing the clink of the pole and the applause and the roar that followed. To be honest I was beyond grateful because it was a critical point of the game.
“It was a catalyst for the game and what we achieved. I’m glad I stuck it out and how big that moment was.”
Neither the rescue nor the takeover signaled an immediate reawakening of a former English giant. That was still a few years in the making.
The following season, Smith held first place for the first half of the season. It was and still is the longest run on the pro team that he has ever had.
Smith was on the bench just three times last season in the league, watched from the stands in the play-off final win over Huddersfield at Wembley and is third-choice goalkeeper this season behind England international Dean Henderson and the Welsh Wayne Hennessey.
“My role has changed over the season, had ups and downs and I’ve come to terms with that,” Smith said.
“With Dean Henderson and Wayne Hennessey here, I have a great opportunity to work with two of the best around.
“In my role, I always have to be ready. I take this seriously.
“Steve Cooper gets to the heart of the matter, he uses the phrase ‘It’s going to take everyone to succeed’. I know I’m only one suspension or injury away from being on the bench.”
“Premier League Boxes to Tick”
Since first signing for Forest at the age of seven, Smith says he has “done everything” at Forest – from starring in youth teams to working as a ball boy, backup goalkeeper and first-class shot stopper.
He’s seen them relegated, toiled the Reds in League One and celebrated with his team-mates at Wembley when they got promoted last season.
“Some of us have been here a long time, we’re fans, we’ve been through it all – the ups and downs that Nottingham Forest fans are all too familiar with,” said Smith.
“I have seen everything, done everything and experienced everything.
“I’ve played for Forest in the league, FA Cup, League Cup, been on loan, played in reserve and then U21.
“I miss the Premier League and from a selfish point of view I want to tick that box.
“If that day comes, when I’m needed, then I will be absolutely ready to do the job to the best of my ability.”