Paul Taylor column: Will the faith shown in Karl Darlow at Nottingham Forest pay dividends?
SOMETIMES a few words are enough. Occasionally, just one will do.
When asked if Nottingham Forest could rely on Karl Darlow to be first choice for the rest of the season, Paul Barron demonstrates the reactions that had served him well as a keeper with Arsenal, Crystal Palace and West Brom have barely faded with age.
The answer is instantaneous: "Yes".
"Whether that is a long enough answer to the question for you, I don't know. But that is the answer nevertheless," says the man who, as goalkeeping coach for the last few years, has seen as much of the young keeper as anyone.
Forest fans, initially, were more cautious. But that is more to do with the circumstances than it being any reflection on Darlow.
Yet it says much that, among many supporters, what was a potentially negative situation is now seen as being a resounding positive.
Little more than a week ago, Forest fans were coming to terms with the news that not only was Lee Camp not going to sign a new deal, but he was also going to be unceremoniously ushered out of the exit at the City Ground.
The long-serving, once hugely popular keeper's stay at the club, which began with a loan spell back in October 2008, was all but over.
The blow was softened with the suggestion that Alex McLeish was searching for an "experienced" replacement, with names like former England keepers Robert Green and Paul Robinson among the targets.
With respect to Darlow, when it became clear the void would instead be filled by a young player who had never previously started a league game for the Reds, for many, it was something of an anti-climax.
But any immediate concerns have now been replaced by optimism.
There is nothing Forest fans like more than seeing one of their own come through the ranks.
When Camp was making his debut for Forest, Darlow was still a part of the youth set-up at the City Ground. But now, after only two matches, he already looks to be grasping his opportunity to secure a place as the 28-year-old's replacement.
When McLeish made the decision to effectively steer Camp out of the exit with a metaphorical foot planted on his backside, after the keeper revealed he would not sign a new contract, it was a sign that the new manager meant business.
And there was a logic to it. If Camp was not willing to commit his future to Forest, why should they commit their future to him, even if that future was only the remaining months of the current campaign?
The Scotsman almost certainly meant it to be a signal of his intent; a statement that he is the boss – and is not afraid to make big decisions.
It was perhaps not initially by design, but, by ousting Camp and replacing him with Darlow, he has now also demonstrated he is willing to give young players a chance.
And that is a trait that will not do him any harm at all as he looks to win over any remaining doubters among the Forest faithful, who might have been sceptical following the decision to replace Sean O'Driscoll.
At a time when, off the pitch, the club have not done themselves any favours with the manner in which they ousted the popular former player, manager and chairman, Frank Clark, along with chief executive Mark Arthur and head of recruitment Keith Burt, Forest need some positive PR.
And, as the club continue to work to add the "four or five" new signings McLeish craves – regardless of whoever is now in charge of player recruitment – Darlow's emergence has provided that.
In truth, the 22-year-old has not really had a huge amount to do.
In the space of two matches, an acrobatic, sharp stop, pushing a driven, rising effort from Jeff Hendrick over the bar at Pride Park, has been the obvious highlight.
But what Darlow has done has been done with poise and composure.
Rather than looking like a rabbit in the headlights, as young players can sometimes do, he has looked full of confidence.
Even the powder keg atmosphere of a local derby did not faze him, as he came for crosses, dominated his box and punched under pressure.
There are, of course, many challenges to come. There will be mistakes. Darlow will concede more goals, he will have to pick the ball out of the net, just as he has done against Peterborough and Derby.
Neither goal he has conceded has been his fault, but one will be soon. Because every keeper makes mistakes, even at the highest level of the game – look at the weak punch of David de Gea at White Hart Lane on Sunday, which allowed Spurs to snatch a late point from Manchester United.
When a keeper makes an error, it frequently decides the outcome of matches. It is how you handle those set-backs that counts.
This season, Forest's love affair with Camp has lost some of it's passion, on both sides. The fist-pumping, driven attitude that was at the epicentre of what made him popular at the City Ground has been on the wane, seemingly from the moment Swansea's approach to sign him 18-months ago was rebuffed.
Instead, it was Darlow who was noisily heralded by the travelling support at Pride Park.
Playing in front of 30,000 people will have been a new experience for the Northampton-born player, whose CV otherwise includes eight games on loan at Newport County in the Conference and ten with League One Walsall.
It is Darlow's efforts on the training ground, in front of dozens of people, that have earned him this chance to impress in front of rather larger gatherings.
So how good can he be? Again, Barron, who has coached at Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Newcastle over the past 14 years, is blunt and to the point.
"I have had some good keepers at the clubs I have been at before and I don't see too much difference between him and them. You can work out for yourself who they were," he says.
"I don't see much difference between him and them, so it is safe to say he is in good company."
That is something of an understatement – those names include David James, Mark Shwarzer, Shay Given, Steve Harper and Tim Krul.
There is an awfully long way to go, but, if a young man with potential can ultimately prove that he can actually live in such esteemed company, then the faith shown by both Barron and McLeish will be more than justified.