Since the turn of the century Nottingham Forest has transformed a plethora of academy graduates into first team players, they all have their own story to tell but none quite so interesting as that of Spencer Weir-Daley.
Spencer’s opening gambit was to describe himself as “a veteran, no longer a young boy,” going on to confirm what all ex NFFC graduates, myself included, will concur with, “it catches up with you!”
Much was made of the new kid on the block when he scored on his League debut away at Gillingham in 2005, where he played alongside his old mate Wes Morgan who went on to lift the Premier League trophy in 2016. Spencer described to me in detail his journey from 10-year-old to first team and the influential figures along the way. “The debut goal was like a dream come true, starting at ten years of age I worked my way through the ranks and saw a lot of players come and go. When I scored that goal, it wasn’t just about that game, it was nine years in the making and the adrenaline surge it triggered is something I’ll never, ever forget!”
We spoke about Weir-Daley’s decision to leave Forest and head across the Trent to Notts County. “If I’m honest I didn’t enjoy it at Notts and it’s a real regret of mine, I loved it at Forest, but I kept picking up long term injuries after playing well.” Those injuries the 35-year-old alluded to had indeed kept him out of contention at Forest for over a year in total, ankle, knee and of course the shoulder problem. Spencer told me “I was actually offered another year on my contract at Forest but I was young and impatient because I knew I could play well and score goals, in hindsight I probably should have stayed at the City Ground but I was hungry for first team football.”
Given the potential and natural ability that we all saw in Spencer Weir-Daley as a youngster at Forest, many including myself were surprised to see that he’d not been a regular Championship player at the peak of his powers. I asked how much those injuries he’d picked up had restricted his progression? “It wasn’t a case of me moving differently because I always came back from injuries fitter and stronger, it was mainly the timings” said Spencer. “When I did my shoulder, I’d already racked up about ten first team appearances at Forest, when I recovered, they’d signed three new strikers; the timing of injuries for a young player is hard because once you get that moment you have to take it.” Spencer went on to say that the expectancy regarding his progression was more than evident, a 50% sell on clause had been engineered and in his own words “I was expected to do big things!”
The former Forest man provided a wonderful insight to his evolution from boy to man under the NFFC umbrella; he spoke highly of former teammates saying “I’m proud of James Perch and Wes Morgan of course, me and him are really close. Those guys fully deserve everything they’ve achieved in their careers’, as well as footballers they’re good people too.”
On the coaching side of things Weir-Daley was full of praise for John Pemberton and Paul hart, saying “the fear factor those guys had was evident but they were fair also, Chris Fairclough provided the discipline too, they were all good coaches at the end of the day.” Spencer told me that the NFFC academy was a tough school to come through but one that made him respect his lessons, he said; “we had great teachers for the life skills required like Jim King, Rest in Peace, who taught us how to conduct ourselves and manage our money too; what I love about Forest is that they’ve kept their tradition by helping you as people and not just footballers!”
The conversation meandered towards the non-league scene and the many clubs that Weir-Daley has represented, scoring plenty of goals along the way. At this point you’d expect the interview to become a mere tributary at the twilight of Spencer Weir-Daley’s career, however, the stream became an ocean at the ripe old age of 30 as his international career began in style. Montserrat came calling and Spencer thought carefully before enlisting with the tiny Caribbean island, where his grandad from his father’s side was born. Spencer is very respectful regarding his heritage from all angles, given that his other grandparents are from the USA and Northern Ireland. Spencer explained how his Irish nana, with whom he lived, was constantly on his case to declare himself available for the six counties.
Weir-Daley detailed how and why he pledged his alliance to Montserrat in 2015 and the positive effect it’s having upon his prolonged career. “At first I didn’t pay too much attention to the invite but when I saw the calibre of players they had and the levels of organisation I thought I’d be a great experience.” The man himself was no stranger to the fact that Montserrat were once ranked as the world’s worst footballing nation, losing a play-off final for the title to Bhutan in 2002, the very same day as the world cup final in fact. Spencer was quick to point out how things are now vastly different for the Island with less than 5000 inhabitants; “the whole narrative has changed, and we’ve been causing some big shocks.” One of those shocks in question was the brilliant victory over Belize in 2018 where the former Forest man bagged a sublime winning goal. “That’s probably the best goal I’ve ever scored you know” he said with a huge smile on his face, and what a goal it was too, curling a 20 yard strike into the top corner to send the whole Island into raptures!
As Spencer revealed more about his international football it was abundantly clear that this wasn’t some vanity project at the end of his career, he spoke with unbridled conviction about the huge disappointment of missing out on the Gold Cup finals due to goal difference and the injustice of that decision due to a 3-0 default win for Michael Johnson’s Guyana. He also confirmed something I’d been aware of too, the strong Irish influence on Montserrat. “Our nickname is the Emerald Boys and there’s a big Irish connection on the Island, a lot of the players have Irish surnames,” said Spencer. We both made reference to the you tube video called ‘The Black Irish of Montserrat, Irish Accents in the Caribbean’, where a percentage of locals still speak with an Irish tongue having descended from those exiled from Ireland by Oliver Cromwell; I shall refrain from my personal views of Mr Cromwell, as we Irish say, a windy day is not for thatching!
Closer to home, Montserrat has another tangible link to Nottingham Forest Football Club in the shape of Lyle Taylor. Taylor is Spencer Weir-Daley’s strike partner for the Emerald Boys and Spencer had plenty of good things to say about his fellow hit man regarding his transfer to the City Ground. “Lyle and I got called up at the same time, like a lot of the side, we grew up in England so there’s great banter and camaraderie. I messaged Lyle to say that he’s joining a good club (Forest), his record speaks for itself and when he hits the ground running, he’ll score goals.” Spencer elaborated on Taylor’s all-round game, “when he’s not scoring, he’ll hold up the ball and bring others into play, he’s a handful and I’ve no doubts that he’ll do well for Forest!”
Thanks to some ground-breaking physio treatment Spencer Weir-Daley is fitter than ever and still banging in the goals for Spalding United when not representing his national side, injury free and loving life at the age of 35. I asked Spencer if he ever got any reoccurrences of the severe shoulder injury he sustained whilst at Forest? He laughed loudly and said, “ask Michael Dawson….it was him who did it to me in training!”
Amongst all this, Spencer Weir-Daley finds quality time to coach youngster’s courtesy of his S10 Future Starrs project in Leicester. In his own words he said the following. “The young people in my area will benefit from fun, professional sessions, it’s really pleasing to be able to give the kids a head start in football and we’ve had a really good response so far.” If you’d like more information regarding Spencer’s coaching sessions check out S10 Future Starrs on Facebook or look up the man himself, Spencer ‘swizz’ Weir-Daley on Twitter @SwizzyWeirDaley or Instagram @swizzy_weir_daley
It was an absolute pleasure to speak with Spencer Weir-Daley and I’m indebted to the man for his time, and more so his honesty. His outlook upon life is commendable and his commitment to pushing the boundaries on the field of play is truly inspirational.
*Article provided by Steve Corry (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
Main image @NTelegraph Weir-Daley in his days at Corby Town.