Harry Forrester once sat in the same England dressing room as Jack Wilshere and Jonjo Shelvey, sharing their ambition and desire to become one of his country’s next big things.
While Arsenal playmaker Wilshere and Swansea midfielder Shelvey now enjoy the status of senior England internationals plying their trade in the Premier League, Forrester’s hopes remain unfulfilled.
Having celebrated his 25th birthday last weekend, he is still trying to reach the potential he showed as a youth player with Aston Villa and which earned him a place in the England under-16 and under-17 teams alongside Wilshere & Co.
Forrester, who has joined Rangers on an initial six-month contract after falling out of favour at Doncaster Rovers, believes he is still capable of achieving greater things in the game and hopes his reunion with his former Brentford boss Mark Warburton at Ibrox can re-ignite his career.
“I do feel I have still got another level to reach,” said Forrester. “I don’t think where I have played previously and where I am now in my career, that I have reached the top where I should be. You get older, you get wiser and you learn your lessons. Now it is time for me to come to a club like this and show what I can do.
“Maybe I was a bit too eager for the end product when I was younger. Some things take longer. When I was younger, I wanted to be playing in the Premier League by a certain age and it doesn’t just happen. It is unrealistic. The likes of Jack Wilshere are one-offs. You’ve got someone like Delle Alli doing it with Spurs and England now, but there are not many of them about.
“Sometimes you have to go through a lot of stuff first of all to come out the other side and I have done that.
“I have always got a point to prove. I have got a point to prove now, because of the last three months when I have not played a lot of football. I have got a point to prove to try and get in the team at Rangers.
“Mark is a good man manager, he demands high quality every single day. I think the style of football that he plays suits me and the way I play, so that’s what attracted me to Rangers.”
Warburton is gratified by the chance to work with Forrester again, having previously advised him against his decision to leave Brentford and sign for Doncaster in 2013.
“Harry will be the first to agree we offered him a very good contract at Brentford and he chose to go to Doncaster,” said Warburton. “I think it was a poor move for him at the time and I think he’d agree now.
“You live and die by your decisions but Harry now has an opportunity to come and impress at Rangers. He will excite the fans and get them off their seats.
“He is a technically gifted player. He has a really good pedigree in terms of having been in England teams at 15 and 16 alongside the likes of Jack Wilshere and that crop.
“He is a very talented ball player who can play wide or in the middle. He has an eye for a goal and good technique. He needs to deliver a level of performance for Rangers and I’ve no doubt he’ll do that.”
Rangers’ decision to sign Forrester has been criticised by former Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels who was No 2 at the Rugby Park club when the attacking midfielder had a loan spell there five years ago. Shiels’ claim that Forrester is not the type of player Rangers need to reclaim their status as top flight title challengers was dismissed by Warburton.
“If you listen to everyone’s opinion, you would drive yourself nuts,” he said. “It is his opinion and he is more than entitled to it. The fact is that I completely disagree with him. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have signed Harry.
“Without being arrogant, it is my opinion which counts right now, not Kenny’s. Harry is a Rangers player now and I know what he can do.”
Forrester goes straight into the Rangers squad for tomorrow’s Scottish Cup fourth round tie against Cowdenbeath at Ibrox, a tournament Warburton is confident his team can make a major impact upon this season.
Asked if they were capable of lifting the trophy, he replied: “I’m not going to say we are not going to win the Scottish Cup.
“But I can see the headlines will be ‘Warbs says we can win the Cup’. I’m not saying that. But what I am saying is that we are a good team, we are in good form right now. We are in a good position in the league and have demonstrated a strong start to the year after the rumours of a crisis. So we are in good shape. Anyone who draws Rangers will know they are in for a good game.”