LICHAJ IS LOVING LIFE AT FOREST...
BORN in a Chicago suburb to Polish parents, Eric Lichaj didn’t know much about the rich history of Nottingham Forest.
However, after nearly a decade playing this side of the pond – almost four years of that for the two-time European Cup winners – the penny has well and truly dropped for the United States international. He is adamant the club don’t belong in League One.
It has been a gruelling season at the City Ground, characterised by managerial changes and unrest at boardroom level as Forest scrap to avoid dropping into the third tier for the first time since 200708. They were just three points above the drop zone before the weekend.
While a Forest side managed by Colin Calderwood and inspired by the goals of Junior Agogo finished second in League One that year, an 18year-old Lichaj was gaining his first taste of English football with Aston Villa’s academy. He was the first signing of the Randy Lerner regime.
The boy from Illinois has now played well over 200 games in England, which includes 32 matches in the Premier League with Villa, and considers himself pretty well-versed in the culture of his adopted home.
Lichaj has two children with wife Kathryn, who runs a clothes shop in the Nottinghamshire village of Annesley.
The 28-year-old defender has developed a fondness for Forest and the club’s standing as a footballing institution.
“Coming from America, I really didn’t know too much about the club,” said Lichaj, speaking at the
Kits for Kids campaign, run by Wickes, official partner of the EFL.
“Everything is different in America. Everything is so new over there, but here everything is so much more preserved.
“I love the stadium. It’s a proper old-fashioned English stadium and I love its little kinks and that nothing much has changed around the place over the years. “When you speak to the supporters, you get a feel for the history. This club doesn’t deserve to be in League One. “When I first came here, I struggled with the accents, especially the Liverpool accent or the Irish or Scottish ones. I thought they were speaking a different language sometimes!
“My wife’s got a Brummie accent and it took me a while to understand everything she says, but we got there.
“I just love the culture here. I love that you can be in a city one minute and then drive ten minutes away and see a castle.
“I have no idea where I’ll go when I finish playing.”
With youngsters such as 22year-old goalkeeper Jordan Smith, striker Ben Brereton, 18, and 20-year-old defender Joe Worrall all central first-team figures this season, Lichaj feels like a senior presence.
The reliable full-back, who is one of his club’s highest appearance-makers this term, doesn’t mind that.
He has revelled in taking on the role of an on-pitch leader from early in the season.
When club captain Chris Cohen is sidelined, Lichaj has usually been the man to don the armband – and the first time it happened he was bursting with pride.
“It was a game against Fulham (a 1-1 draw last September),” explained the Forest defender.
“After the game, I asked if I could keep the armband and I’ve got it at home. To captain this club was amazing.
“I’ve played for a long time now and I feel a lot more confident in my ability.
“As you get older, you learn not to get over-excited and learn how to shut down wingers. I think that confidence is so important.”
GOING NATIVE: Forest’s Eric Lichaj loves our culture