Harewood aims to end drought with quiet celebration planned

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GIVEN his 18-month Football League goal-drought, Marlon Harewood would be forgiven for overdoing it a bit on the celebratory front if he finds the net this afternoon.

Yet despite the lengthy wait, the much-travelled Barnsley striker insists it is the last thing he will be caught doing.

And with good reason with the Reds’ opponents Nottingham Forest not just a run-of-the-mill fixture for the 33-year-old, who went from aspiring teenager to a footballing man during his time by the Trent which spanned a decade.

Harewood hit 51 goals in 181 league appearances for the City Ground outfit and proved a firm favourite with supporters before returning to his native London to sign for West Ham in late 2003.

The goals continued for the Hammers, with the bustling frontman famously netting the goal that booked them a spot in the FA Cup final against Liverpool at the Millennium Stadium in 2006 after a semi-final victory over Middlesbrough at Villa Park. Former Upton Park chief Alan Pardew lauded his strike with an impromptu jig on the touchline in front of the ecstatic claret-and-blue hordes.

As the saying goes, goals pay the rent and Harewood – who failed to find the net in a brief stint back at Forest at the start of the year – has been in arrears since being on target for Barnsley in his first spell at the club at Boro’s Riverside Stadium in a 1-1 draw in April, 2011.

In anyone’s language, Harewood, who has assumed goal-scoring responsibility in the absence of injured top scorer Craig Davies, is overdue one.

But if he manages to find the net today, Harewood, who struck in successive seasons for West Ham at the City Ground after leaving Forest – including one just over a month after leaving in November, 2003 – has pledged: “I won’t celebrate, out of absolute respect. They looked after me well in my career and I will show that respect.

“I was brought up there at Forest for 10 to 12 years from a young age. It will always hold a fond place in my heart as I had some really good times there and still have some really good friends. There’s also family I grew up with there and I still speak to them now.

“Dex (Dexter Blackstock) phoned me on Wednesday, to be fair, for a little chat and said: ‘Don’t bully us on Saturday,’ and little things like that and told me not to score and to ‘take it easy on us’.

“I have always had a good reception from Forest fans as I have at all the clubs I have been at and have never left on bad terms anywhere.

“They are good fans and I hold them in my heart and I look out for Forest results and keep my eye on them, as I do all my former teams.

“It is a pleasure to play for Forest and against them. It will be a nice day for me but it would be good to be involved in a Barnsley win.

“You want to do well against every team you have played for and want to take the win, as it is a pride thing.”

Adamant that his barren streak in front of goal is not preying on his mind, he added: “For me, personally, once I get that first goal, they all start flowing after that.

“It is about getting that first goal; when I was at Sheffield Wednesday on trial I scored one and then three straight after that (in a friendly hat-trick at Kilmarnock).

“You just need that break and the confidence of that first goal going in.

“Hopefully, I will get that first goal soon. But as long as we are winning games, it does not come into the equation. But it is good to help out because, as a striker, that is your job.

“In training, I have been scoring left, right and centre and doing what I do best. I just have to try and do that in games and one will go in off anywhere and the confidence will come back.”

Promoted with West Ham through the play-offs in 2005 and a finalist the previous year with the Hammers and semi-finalist in 2003 with Forest – when Paul Hart’s side lost out to Sheffield United – elder statesman Harewood is well qualified to talk about what it takes to become a top-six side in the Championship.

And while Sean O’Driscoll’s Forest are the ones with the upwardly-mobile aspirations and weight of expectation on their shoulders as opposed to Barnsley, on the evidence so far this season, allied to a bit of good fortune, Harewood does not see why the Tykes cannot make a surprise push for the top six.

It may seem like a bold claim, but Harewood insists confidence has been emboldened by Keith Hill’s troops’ performances this term and feels they deserve a much higher current placing than 17th.

While headlines were claimed in the Davies-inspired 5-0 drubbing of Birmingham City, the Reds have also beaten third-placed Middlesbrough and dominated large parts of their home drawn encounter with Blackpool in early autumn.

The equivalent of a stewards’ inquiry was needed after Barnsley somehow failed to claim victories at Leeds United and Blackburn Rovers despite dominating and Harewood feels performances have merited far more points so far this term.

He said: “When people say Barnsley, straightaway, people automatically think mid-table or bottom half. But I do not really see that.

“When I am training with the lads and seeing what they can achieve and our performances against the majority of teams who should be up there, I would say we should be looking for the play-offs, to be fair.

“We just have to pull out the results we deserve and I believe we have a good chance of doing that, really.

“We just have to turn performances into more points.”

On today’s opponents, he added: “With the players they have got, Forest are expected to do big things but results have not gone their way yet. A bit like us, to be fair. They have some really good players, who think they should be doing better.

“They should be there or thereabouts with their players. But I have seen the same at Barnsley and do not see any reason why we should not be there either. Touch wood, if we get the injuries clear, as we have a small squad, we can be up there.”