STEPHEN McLaughlin is finally expected to celebrate a memorable Christmas 2012 - the Derry City winger is now on the verge of signing professional terms for Nottingham Forest.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
And while it has been a frustrating two months for the 22-year-old, McLaughlin will travel to Nottingham for a second time in the company of his agent to undertake a medical today before signing on the dotted line.
Derry City, however, last night refused to either confirm or deny the move with club chairman, Mr. Philip O’Doherty, declining to comment on the issue but he did admit that he was aware McLaughlin would be travelling back to Nottingham today.
There had also been widespread speculation that 20-year-old Barry McNamee had been on Forest’s Christmas shopping list as well, but sources close to the Midlands club rejected such suggestions despite the fact that Ramelton lad had also spent a week on trial at the City Ground.
While the Brandywell club refused to make any comment on the issue, McLaughlin confirmed that contact had been reignited and that could spell good news for both Derry City and, indeed, Finn Harps’ Football Club.
“I received official contact a few days ago from Nottingham Forest to travel over for a medical,” said the player. “Naturally, that gave me a great boost after all the waiting to find out what had been going on,” he added.
“But I’m delighted that things have started to move forward and provided everything goes okay with the medical, I’m hopeful that I will be signing a contact with Nottingham Forest. Until I actually sign on the dotted line, I’m not going to take anything for granted but I have to admit that I’m delighted things have moved on. I’m also happy that my gut feeling, after spending a week on trial, was a fair reflection on how I got on.”
Hailing from Clonmany’s famed Isle of Doagh, McLaughlin comes from a well-bred footballing family background and having emerged as Derry City’s joint leading scorer last year with 17 goals, it comes as no surprise that his progress has been monitored cross-Channel.
He was the first to admit that having joined the “Candy Stripes” prior to the start of the 2010 season, he made significant progress on the playing front.
“When I joined Derry from Finn Harps I knew that I would have to step up a gear, particularly in terms of my fitness levels. I wasn’t sure if I would fit in at the Brandywell but that was never a problem for me as I got on really well with everyone.
“I actually felt the same way when I spent a week at the City Ground. I was really impressed with the stadium and the training and coaching facilities. I came across different people every day and everything was so professional.
“But I also felt comfortable when training with the first team. I had no problems whatsoever and having received favourable comments from the manager, Sean O’Driscoll and the coaching staff, I was very happy within myself. I felt I had done well and never looked out of place,” claimed Stephen.
Keeping his fingers crossed that everything would go well in relation to his medical this afternoon, Stephen held the view that it may take a few weeks “to get up to speed” on the fitness front.
“If everything goes through, I think I can start playing for the club in January but I would imagine that I’d have to get up to speed on the fitness front. I’ve been training twice a week with my local Inishowen League club, Clonmany Shamrocks, since the end of the League of Ireland season and I also attend the gym on a regular basis. However, I try not to over-do it as getting adequate rest is also very important after what had been a very tough 2012 campaign with Derry.”
Happy to see McClean
move to Sunderland!
Having been brought to the Brandywell to compete with James McClean on the flank, McLaughlin was not unhappy to see the Creggan man move to Sunderland for a record club fee of £350,000.
“I felt I was improving as a player when joining Derry and having played in the first team for five or six games - when James was injured - certainly boosted my confidence. But I wasn’t too disappointed when I watched James leave for Sunderland,” laughed McLaughlin.
“Journal” sources have confirmed that the clubs have recently agreed a fee for the winger, but the same sources insisted that the fee falls well short of the £200,000 which has been rumoured.
Indeed, should McLaughlin make progress at the City Ground - graduating into the first team and playing regularly - then additional finance would follow from the add-on clauses which are understood to be included in his contract should he sign a deal this week.