Amid Spence to Spurs, Maitland-Niles links, Laryea must grasp Nottingham Forest chance
TORONTO – Highly-touted right wing-back Djed Spence is set to join Tottenham out of parent club Middlesbrough, reports The Guardian.
The 21-year-old is set to join Tottenham out of parent club Middlesbrough for about £20m – a reasonable sum for a standout player who also regularly features for the England U-21 national team.
Much of the talk now will be about whether Spence, with his 50 (often excellent) appearances on loan at Nottingham Forest last season, can replace Emerson Royal and figure into Spurs' starting lineup next season.
Or, will he be used off the bench as Antonio Conte continues to flesh out his back-three-plus-wingbacks system at Tottenham?
Frankly, it doesn't really matter much as far as Canadian soccer fans are concerned.
See, we're only talking about Djed Spence because his move to London leaves newly-promoted Nottingham Forest powerless to sign him back permanently – or, at least, strike another loan deal for the 2022-23 Premier League season, unless Tottenham is looking to strengthen direct opposition.
And that opens the door for Canadian fan-favourite Richie Laryea to earn a spot in the Premier League side's defensive line.
The story so far at Nottingham Forest
Laryea, 27, joined Nottingham Forest out of Toronto FC during the January transfer window, the end result of a blistering three-year spell that saw him go from Orlando City reject to full-fledged star man for both club and country.
Indeed, Laryea was instrumental in securing a spot at the 2022 FIFA World Cup as Canada cruised through Concacaf's World Cup Qualifying adventure.
Laryea was often used in a number of different positions by Canada manager John Herdman, often as an overlapping right-back, and sometimes as an out-and-out winger, or a central midfielder, and, once, as a CAM.
Despite being fielded an offer that would have made him the highest-paid full-back in MLS, Laryea opted to turn that rich run of form into a European move, joining Nottingham Forest in the middle of their Championship season.
However, he soon found himself missing playing time, as manager Steve Cooper looked to keep his team consistent as they battled for promotion to the Premier League.
His wait for playing time didn't seem to impact his Canada form, as Laryea was called back in for the team's final World Cup Qualifying window in March.
𝗟𝗮𝗿𝘆𝗲𝗮 𝘂𝗿𝗴𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝘆 "𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱𝘆" 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗮𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗹𝗼𝗻𝗴-𝗮𝘄𝗮𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗱𝗲𝗯𝘂𝘁— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) April 22, 2022
📝 | @AlexGangueRuzic
The #CanMNT star made his #NFFC debut, and could be called upon again soon 👀
READ 👇https://t.co/wv33NjUkHd pic.twitter.com/Ae0xduu2uZ
But his absence was being felt on the club level, as Toronto FC also reportedly began to enquire about a potential loan return for the 2022 MLS season, which never materialized.
Laryea would need to wait four whole months before making his Nottingham Forest debut, coming in to replace Spence on April 18 vs. West Bromwich Albion.
Since then, he went on to make just a handful of appearances off the bench, figuring just five times for his new team as they clinched promotion with a 2022 EFL Championship play-off Final win over Huddersfield Town, joining Fulham and Bournemouth in the English top flight.
But, with Canada kicking off their 2022 Concacaf Nations League campaign in June, Laryea was left on the bench in favour of CF Montreal's Alistair Johnston.
It begged the question (in the video, above) between Kristian Jack and former CanMNT goalkeeper Craig Forrest: Is Laryea at risk of losing out on a World Cup starting role if he's not getting playing time at Nottingham Forest?
That brings us to today, as his direct competition Djed Spence doesn't look like he'll be returning next season.
So, Richie Laryea, here it is – the door has presented itself for a starting role for Nottingham Forest.
Is this Laryea's big break?
While Laryea is by no means guaranteed a chance at regular playing time at Nottingham, the opportunity being presented is crucial.
Nottingham Forest has already been linked with Ainsley Maitland-Niles, currently on loan with Jose Mourinho at AS Roma.
But, the opportunity exists all the same, as form and function often dictate a manager's personnel decisions more than status (one hopes).
So, Laryea has to rediscover his best form first, and make that clear to Cooper and co.
At his best, Laryea is a game-breaking right wing-back who provides equal measures of defensive solidity and attacking prowess.
His ability to combine on the right-hand side with Tajon Buchanan, with Sam Adekugbe doing the same on the left alongside Alphonso Davies, helps make Canada one of the most dynamic threats in Concacaf.
And, he'll need to find that sort of top form as Canada faces a tough 2022 FIFA World Cup group consisting of Morocco, Croatia, and Belgium.
But, the opportunity is there for the taking.
Laryea has proven nothing if not resilient over his MLS career. And he's found himself in this exact place before.
During his time in Orlando, Laryea had to fight every week to prove his worth, but ultimately never realized his full potential.
His return to Toronto signalled the "aha!" moment he and those who knew of his talent – including his former youth coach Bobby Smyrniotis of Forge FC – expected of him.
"The one thing that describes him is determination," Smyrniotis told Gareth Wheeler on TSN 1050 radio.
"He really proved himself at Toronto FC and really became one of the most important players at that club.
"That culminated with his move overseas. That determination, he shows it with our national team each and every game, too."
Smyrniotis continued: "You go back to his game against Costa Rica – he was two months without a match in Nottingham, and he was still the number one guy out there.
"That's what describes him. When he's got his opportunity to be on the pitch, he's a guy who can change the game, and is determined to win.
"I know it's been a little bit of a tough time for him in this adjustment over in Nottingham – and the team has done very well to get themselves promoted.
"But I know one thing for sure. He will have his moment, and it'll be very exciting to see him in this new year."