Forest v Derby: Robert Earnshaw on trying harder to send fans 'nuts'

By Owen Phillips and Robin ChipperfieldBBC Sport
Robert Earnshaw scores for Forest against Derby at Pride Park in 2011
Robert Earnshaw scored five goals in seven appearances for Forest against Derby - including this winner in January 2011

Cliched chat of bragging rights and form going out of the window while still "only being three points" are plentiful around derby day.

But few players admit to trying even harder in the very biggest games.

Former Nottingham Forest and Derby County striker Robert Earnshaw refuses to pretend otherwise prior to the East Midlands meeting at the iPro Stadium on Saturday.

"I can say it wasn't extra special and I didn't go harder in those games - but I did," Earnshaw told BBC Radio Nottingham.

"I felt I needed to go the extra step and I needed to score in that game because it meant so much to the fans and the team. Going into that game I was always a little bit nervous. I don't get nervous too much, but had a little bit of anxiety.

"After a few touches I felt more confident. But I always felt I would score, that I would get a some space and a chance."

A foot in both camps - selected players to have played for both sides
John McGovern, John Robertson, Archie Gemmill, Peter Shilton, Colin Todd, Nathan Tyson, Darren Wassall, Steve Sutton, Gary Charles, Kris Commons, John O'Hare, Alan Hinton, Robert Earnshaw, Terry Hennessey and Lee Camp.

Five goals in seven appearances, including a lovingly recalled away winner for Forest in January 2011, meant his feeling was often proved right.

And his happy knack of derby goals - he also got two in a 5-2 victory at the City Ground in the previous month - proved a few doubters wrong.

The 33-year-old ex-Wales international, who was last season playing for Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer in the United States, had a miserable year-long stay with the Rams, scoring just two goals in 25 appearances following a £3.5m move from Norwich City.

But Earnshaw was a hugely popular figure during his time with Forest. And the derby goals certainly helped.

"It wasn't great at Derby because of a lot of off-the-pitch stuff that happened," said Earnshaw, who only started eight games for the Rams.

"After about six months I was thinking I need to move. Footballing-wise it wasn't run right and it wasn't about football. Moving to Forest was perfect.

"It was about playing football and that's why I enjoyed myself at Forest."

Robert Earnshaw
Earnshaw only scored two goals in 12 months while at Derby

The move along the A52 and winning over the "other" set of fans is never an easy one.

The legendary Brian Clough obviously managed it. As did many of the men associated with his teams, like Peter Taylor, John McGovern, John Robertson, Archie Gemmill, Peter Shilton and Colin Todd.

More recently Darren Wassall, Lars Bohinen and Lee Camp are among those that seem to have earned respect.

But Earnshaw's troubled Derby spell, during a dismal season in the Premier League, meant he knew he would get plenty of grief on his return.

"Every time I played there the crowd gave me stick," admitted Earnshaw.

But the increased attention did make 'that' away winner even better.

He was a substitute that day, but got over his anger at being dropped by manager Billy Davies - "I was very annoyed to say the least" - to help Forest complete a first double over Derby in 21 years.

"I thought if I get a goal here the crowd will go nuts," he explained.

"It was more about pleasing the fans but I was going to milk it. I got booked but it was brilliant. I loved those moments. You have to enjoy it."

Robert Earnshaw
Earnshaw scored 45 goals in 83 starts and a further 30 substitute appearances for Forest

Earnshaw was signed for Forest by Colin Calderwood, and feared the worst when Davies - his manager at Derby - took over.

"If I am being honest I did think I was in trouble," said Earnshaw. "With a new manager you wonder which direction they will go in. Will he play me?

"We had a few arguments, but I always got on with him. But it was more about the playing side."

And the current playing side is something of a major concern from a Forest perspective.

The Rams are second in the Championship table, level on points with leaders Bournemouth and full of confidence.

The Reds topped the division early in the season. But they have not won in eight games following Saturday's 2-0 home defeat against Sheffield Wednesday, and have dropped to 13th place.

"I think it's the best game for them because they have been struggling," said Earnshaw.

"You need an automatic surge - an energy surge and a change of mentality. The Derby game is totally different. With the pressure and the fans, and what it means, you get that surge. It is the perfect time to play.

"What a game to go in and come away with the win and lift your season."

Robert Earnshaw was talking to Robin Chipperfield on BBC Radio Nottingham Pre-match.

Robert Earnshaw scores for Forest against Derby at Pride Park in 2011
Robert Earnshaw scored five goals in seven appearances for Forest against Derby - including this winner in January 2011