'I knew when I saw that, I had to pay them back'

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Morgan Gibbs-White celebrates and fans hold a Tifo of him celebrating with a finger in each ear
[Getty Images]

Just before kick-off a huge tifo of Morgan Gibbs-White was revealed at the Trent End. Nottingham Forest's number 10 was depicted eyes closed, with an index finger pressed into each ear. It’s his trademark goal celebration and it was accompanied beneath by a message which read “Shut everything out and play your game”.

Speaking to the 24-year-old afterwards he revealed how the sight of the banner was both “touching” and “incredible”. Feelings which he quickly switched to extra motivation, adding: “I knew when I saw that, I had to pay them back."

For those who’ve never seen Gibbs-White play in the flesh, he’s all action. His outrageous outside-of-the-right-boot assist for Callum Hudson-Odoi’s opener, and goal in first half stoppage time, will understandably dominate the headlines, but he brings so much more.

Most obvious is the work-rate. He will literally run himself into the ground, as demonstrated by the weary figure he cut when being replaced in the 77th minute. Yet what I enjoy most about his game is the confidence and ability he has to regularly receive possession, with his back to goal, in and around the halfway line, under pressure, and subsequently perform a variety of body bending pirouettes, to turn his man, drive away with the ball, and spearhead the attack. Quite simply, if Gibbs-White is on it, so are Nottingham Forest.

Nuno Espirito Santo is a man of few words, but he stepped away from the norm when I moved the post-match interview topic onto Gibbs-White.

He told me: "He's very talented, no doubt about that. He's reaching the levels of a football player that is almost complete. He reads the game well, he has talent, he can score. The biggest challenge is to keep Morgan at that level”.

It's his second season at the club. He was signed from Wolves for an initial £25m, which is expected to rise to a club record fee of £42m. His performances in Garibaldi red are attracting interest from others, irrespective of whether Forest will be playing Premier League football next season.

Speculation surrounding his future won’t go away, but for the player, his focus is clear. There was no hesitation from Gibbs-White when asked if there is enough quality in the Forest dressing room for them to stay up.

“100%," he told me. "We were in the same situation last season, so we know exactly what we need to do. I know for a fact that the boys will get together and get it done.”