Chris Hughton says he has been “absolutely delighted” with James Garner since the midfielder arrived from Manchester United in January, ahead of a return to former club Watford this weekend.
Garner spent the first half of the Championship season on loan with the Hornets, making 21 appearances in total and starting 12 times in the league.
In January, however, United made the decision to recall the midfielder from his loan spell at Vicarage Road and send the player elsewhere, with a view to him accruing more minutes in the second half of the campaign.
Garner has since established himself as a key player for Forest under Hughton, starting seven games since his arrival from Old Trafford and producing a string of impressive performances in the middle of the park alongside Cafu.
The 19-year-old returns to Vicarage Road this weekend, as Forest look to return to winning ways against Watford after losing 1-0 to Luton Town in midweek.
Speaking to FLW in today’s pre-match press conference, Hughton spoke of his delight at Garner’s performances since joining the Reds, and insisted that he is on the “right road” to becoming a star in the future.
“We’ve been absolutely delighted with him. He’s grown in experience, he’s learning all the time. His game isn’t perfect, but it wouldn’t be at his age.
“He’s on the right road to being a very good player, that’s my thoughts on him at the moment. We are very respectful of how we speak about him as he’s not our player, but more so, we are very grateful to Manchester United for his services.”
Garner, as alluded to before, was involved in plenty of games during his time at Watford, with United’s decision to recall the midfielder surprising a few people.
When asked if he shared the same feeling, Hughton said: “Surprised isn’t the word. The game is all about what a team wants and what a manager wants.
“I certainly don’t think it would be anything detrimental, because he played games for them. This is not a lad who went there and played only a few times, he had a good amount of starts and was involved.
“What I would like to think is that they (Watford) have added to his experience. If I’m looking at the experience he will have had come the end of the season, then I think Watford have very much played their part.”
Garner scored his first professional goal in a 1-1 draw with Derby County last week, and also came closing to finding the net against Luton on Tuesday night, forcing Simon Sluga into a save in the second half after breaking into the area.
“In the position he plays, he’s not one who are you generally looking for to get goals,” Hughton says.
“It’s very much about being a continuity player and making good runs. That is part and parcel of being a midfielder.
“But when he sees opportunities where we are breaking and he can make the box, then we would very much encourage him to do so. If he can add a few more goals to his game, then that would make him a better all-round player.
Hughton will have plenty of decisions to make on his squad in the summer, with Garner a player who has caught the eye amongst fans, albeit from afar.
The manager remained coy on any potential City Ground return for Garner, though, saying: “In regards to anybody for next season, particularly who aren’t technically our players, it’s probably right for me to only talk about what I see now.”
Garner has been a breath of fresh air since joining Forest and he’s added real quality to the middle of the park.
He is very good on the ball, as you would expect from someone who has come through the ranks at Manchester United, and he can also cope with the physical side of the game too.
If United allow him to leave on loan again next season, then you’d fancy Forest’s chances of getting him given how well he’s settled and performed under Hughton.