Alex Mighten is a player who has benefitted from the arrival of manager Chris Hughton at Nottingham Forest.
Mighten made his Forest debut as a substitute in the 5-0 defeat away to Arsenal in the Carabao Cup back in September 2020. Throughout the rest of former manager Sabri Lamouchi's reign, the Forest academy graduate was a squad player only making one start against Bristol City in the Frenchman's final game in charge of the Reds.
However, with Hughton at the helm, the England Under 18 international has been a key figure in the Forest side that are unbeaten in seven games in all competitions. The winger has started four times out of the last six league games for the Reds.
American born, Mighten joined the Reds back in 2009 aged just seven from local side Arnold Town. Despite being such a young age, it was clear Mighten had the talent and ability to be a long-term success at Forest.
Throughout his years at the Nigel Doughty Academy, the winger often found himself playing for older age groups. He and ex Forest man Matty Bondswell formed a good partnership down the left hand side for the Under 18s, when the pair were just 15 years of age.
Mighten's good form for Forest saw the winger earn his first England Under 15s call up in 2016, where once again he excelled. After just a handful of appearances at his own age group, Mighten earned his first call up to the Under 16 squad. Before long he was a regular in the starting 11 for the Under 16s and Premier League clubs were starting to monitor him.
Fresh from his England success, Mighten brought his good form back to the Reds. He continued to perform consistently and began to progress rapidly.
At 17, the winger made his first Under 23s appearance and immediately impressed and was rarely seen again in the Under 18s.
After scoring a hat-trick against Australia for England Under 18s, Manchester United registered their interest in signing the talented youngster. This prompted instant action from the Forest hierarchy.
On the 13th December 2019 aged just 17, Mighten committed his long-term future to Forest by signing his first professional contract.
The academy's next star?
Many people know that Forest's academy is known for producing quality players and Mighten is the next to come out of the Nigel Doughty Academy.
Multiple graduates have gone on to play crucial roles in the first team and in the process propelled Forest forward and generated large transfer fees which help keep the club afloat.
Gary Brazil has worked wonders in the academy and is an unsung hero for his work with the promising youngsters.
Matty Cash, Karl Darlow, Ben Brereton, Jamaal Lascelles, Oliver Burke and Ben Osborn all came through the Reds academy making a combined total of 515 appearances, generating around £48 million for the club.
Despite selling many academy products, Joe Worrall and Ryan Yates are two that are still at the club and are arguably Forest's two best performing players this season.
God-son of Forest legend Des Walker, Mighten is highly rated amongst supporters and within the club. The youngster was handed his first start in the FA Cup tie at Chelsea in January last year. Mighten starred despite the 2-0 defeat, winning a penalty for Forest before VAR controversially overturned the decision for offside.
Hughton's side have been crying out for a creative spark and the 18-year-old has taken his first-team opportunity with both hands. His nimble feet and explosive pace have the ability to turn Championship defenders inside out which is very rare for a player at such a tender age.
Mighten's work rate and maturity are way beyond his years. The Reds number 17 has great defensive awareness to be in the right places when out of possession which is a great quality to have for a winger especially so early on in his professional career.
Mighten will be looking to add more starts under his belt in 2021 and become a consistent figure in the Reds starting 11. Regardless, the talented teenager is certainly one of the hottest prospects in the division and has the potential to play in the top flight in the near future.
Dislodging proven Championship players
Many Reds fans called for the inexperienced winger to be loaned out in the summer transfer window after signing a new contract until 2025. However, previous boss Lamouchi refused as the winger was in his first-team plans. Despite this, Mighten was often left on the bench and on occasions not even included in the 18.
After the departure of Lamouchi, Hughton's first signing was proven Championship winger Anthony Knockaert. Mighten now had Knoackert, Joe Lolley and Sammy Ameobi ahead of him in the wide positions.
However, after inconsistent performances from Lolley and Knockaert, the 18-year-old was handed his first start under Hughton against Sheffield Wednesday. The teen produced a fine individual performance and helped the Reds claim their first three points in eight outings.
After his impressive display against the Owls, Mighten was rewarded with a second start in the space of a week away to strugglers Millwall, a game which will live long in the memory for the youngster. The winger latched onto a long ball from Loic Mbe Soh before showing great composure to lift the ball over the onrushing Bartosz Białkowski for his first Forest goal.
After scoring his first goal for the club, the youngster said:
”We have some great players, especially in my position and that is good as it gives us healthy competition and it keeps pushing me. I want to get into this team and it is only going to push me harder knowing that I have got good players to compete with. I just try and play my normal game and hopefully that gets me to where I want to be.”
In recent games, Mighten and Ameobi's remarkable form has kept Lolley and Knockaert watching on from the bench, something which would have seemed unimaginable a few weeks back.
What does the future hold for Mighten?
Fans must remember that this is the teenagers breakthrough season. Patience is required if Mighten is to succeed in the Garibaldi Red as he is still just 18.
He has all the attributes to make it to the very top. However, the priority for him now must be to nail a first-team place with Forest and keep improving game on game.
The next 18 months are vital for the winger. If he keeps performing for England at youth levels and maintains his quality performances under Hughton, a move to the Premier League seems a certainty in the near future.