A Friday night in Newcastle, back in the days when bars and restaurants were open to public. The last one of the year, relatively quiet Quayside with tomorrow being New Year’s Eve. Nottingham Forest were up toon, struggling in 18th under French Coach Phillipe Montannier. League leaders Newcastle United were pushing for a return to the Premier League under Spaniard Rafa Benitez. This was the end of 2016, a team on the up against a side trying badly not to go down.
The Geordies drew reds blood early doors as Matt Ritchie’s deflected free kick beat Serbian legend (not quite so good at the City Ground however) Vladimir Stojkovic. Nicolao Dumitru, one voted amongst the top worse players ever to don red, volleying home past ex-Forest shot stopper Karl Darlow to level. He wasn’t that bad was he? I remember that night thinking this is where he finally comes good.
Against the run of play was Dumitru’s goal, but Forest held their own thereafter…
That was, until the hour, when Matt Mills saw red himself for a second booking. Dwight Gayle, predatory as always in the Championship, taking full advantage of the man down for Forest to score not once, but twice, and put the game to bed…
But in the closing minutes of the match which took Newcastle above Brighton in the chase for the championship, enduring Forest and Montannier to more doom and gloom, as folk started to leave their seats to beat the rush and a pint of brown or two in the Strawberry, 3-1 up against ten men the result all but out of sight, a debutant for Forest, as 17-year-old Swedish born defender Anel Ahmedhodzic replaced Thomas Lam for the final six minutes of the match.
Those six minutes, nothing of any worthy note, would be the only six minutes Ahmedhodzic would play for Nottingham Forest in his three years at the club. But did that three years in Nottingham turn the Swedish born Bosnian defender from a boy with potential to a man with promise?
Ahmedhodzic said “I have been educated in English football and it’s very hard work. There are more physical duels than in Sweden. I’ve learned a lot, even though I’ve been stuck to playing football along the ground from the backline”. A dig at the ‘system’ perhaps from a man who see’s no harm in simply clearing his lines.
Born in Malmo, in March 1999 to a Swedish mother and Bosnian father. Anel came through his home town sides academy to join Forest, an exciting adventure in January 2016 aged just 16, staying for three years in Nottingham, a new club, a new culture, a new country.
Showing promise at Forest, where he was capped for Sweden at youth level, he grown into a tall, strong, intelligent defender that read the game very well playing largely in the sides U23’s. The Reds ‘urgency’ for success however meant that opportunities were limited for the then teenager. By the time Ahmedhodzic had left to return to Malmo in January 2019, Forest were already on their fifth new Manager post Montannier.
Now 6ft4in tall and earning rave reviews for his performances playing in Sweden, Ahmedhodzic broke through into the Malmo first team early this year and after being capped at full level by Sweden in an international friendly against Moldova in January 2020, he then switched allegiances to Bosnia and Herzegovina after changing his sports citizenship, he then made his debut for his father’s birth nation against Northern Ireland in October.
On making that decision on what nation to represent, Ahmedhodzic stated “It’s been difficult. I have played for Sweden at youth level, was born and raised here. At the same time I have Bosnian blood, have been there every summer since I was a child… I have really thought about all sorts of aspects; thought for a long time, discussed a lot and felt for what I really want to do,”
“The only right thing for me is to represent Bosnia.”
The 21-year-old has not just had the dilemma of which international team to choose of late, but another decision pending could be choice on who, of a growing list of major European clubs could be next on the young players target of destinations?
Ahmedhodzic has already impressed Frank Lampard at Chelsea who like AC Milan and PSV Eindhoven seem keen on the former Red. The players agent stating “The interest is enormous. Almost daily it is written about Anel and it’s no secret that there are always new clubs calling him.”
“Anel has it all. Of course, he can still learn a lot, but if you look at the important qualities – he is young, tall, built, has technique and a good overview. He’s got it all.”
Ahmedhodzic emerged at Forest during a similar time to Joe Worrall which might certainly have halted his own opportunities of game time at the City Ground and in the end the club were powerless as the big defender decided that a return home was for the best in his personal development.
That decision to move home was proven right by the player, who has just helped his Malmo side to a magnificent league title this year, Di blae finished nine points ahead of their nearest rivals Efsborg to win a seventh Alsvenskan since 2004. For Ahmedhodzic who has been brilliant all year after winning his first major honour, the decision now is whether to keep patient and playing for a team that will have a crack at Champions League football qualification next season? Or move to bigger, better, richer things with interest in the youngster gaining wide appeal from some of Europe’s best.
One that slipped through the City Ground net? Could Ahmedhodzic be the biggest brightest most talented defender in world football right now? Time will tell of course, but here’s thinking he could certainly be one that got away for Forest, if only they had more faith.
*Article provided by Daniel Peacock (Editor).
*Main image @Anelswe Ahmedhodzic with the Swedish title after winning it with Malmo.