*Start of something big for Lewis Salmon as he signs an Alty contract alongside manager Phil Parkinson at the end of 2019. Picture by Michael Ripley.
Highly-rated Altrincham striker Lewis Salmon is heading for an exciting opportunity with Nottingham Forest after landing a dream move to the two-times European champions.
The teenage prospect has been on Forest’s radar for months, and one of the more remarkable transfers of Alty’s recent history was finally completed today after the Championship club agreed to pay the Robins an undisclosed fee.
After assessing Salmon as an Alty trialist in the summer of 2019, when he scored for the senior side in a pre-season friendly against the club's youth team, manager Phil Parkinson quickly recognised his goal-scoring potential and not only added the raw youngster to his Robins squad but secured him on a contract towards the end of that year.
It was during a subsequent loan spell at Trafford, when he rose to the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier League North-West Division scoring charts, that he came to Forest’s attention.
Scouts from the club that won back-to-back European Cups in 1979 and 1980 under Brian Clough and Peter Taylor monitored his clinical finishing and sent back glowing form reports to the Forest coaching staff.
As a result, Lewis was invited to the City Ground for a trial in April, and he made enough of an impression for Forest to follow up their interest and agree a deal with Alty that has now gone through, after the EFL transfer window reopened.
Describing how Salmon first came to the attention of himself and assistant-manager Neil Sorvel, Alty boss Phil said:
'Lewis is a player we spotted in our second season at the club. His talents were obvious for us to see. We have a talent ID, and we earmarked him to replace Jordan Hulme in the long term.
'However, due to his ability and speed of progression, we always felt he could end up moving on before ever pulling on a Alty shirt. It was all about progression with Lewis and bedding him in at the right time. But when a club like Forest come calling, we couldn’t stand in his way, which obviously ended our plans but moved his on a lot quicker.
'His attitude is second-to-none and he scores goals, but his age dictated he needed nurturing, which is something I like to think we were able to do for him during his time with us by sending him out to the right clubs for a variety of experiences whilst training with some of the best part-time footballers around the north-west at the highest level of non-League. He goes with all our blessing and best of luck.'
Alty director Rob Esteva added: 'First and foremost, I am delighted for Lewis. He is at an age where he needs to kick on in his development, and he is going to a club that can help him do just that.
'While there is always that tinge of sadness when a player departs, this speak volumes for the approach we have taken in recent times about investing in young talent and developing them. As everybody knows, with the recent announcement of Phil moving full-time with the club, we are putting various plans in place to enable us to be in a position to focus much more on developing our own players.
'But this was simply an opportunity neither us nor Lewis could turn down. Not only is Lewis a hugely talented player with the potential to go far in the game, he is just as good a person.
'When the COVID pandemic hit and, as a club, we had to try to navigate through all the financial implications, Lewis kindly agreed to a restructuring of his contract, which ensured we could furlough him during the period of inactivity and help save the club some money. A small example, perhaps, but it was something he didn't have to do, so full credit to him for doing it.
'Just as with Duncan Watmore several years ago, when he moved to Sunderland, I’m sure I will be joined by all Alty fans and everybody around the club in wishing Lewis all the very best at Forest, and we’ll all be closely following his progress there. And even more importantly, Lewis and his family will always be welcome at The J.Davidson Stadium.'
The Stoke-born 19-year old heads for the East Midlands with everyone at the club echoing Rob's message and hoping he makes the most of a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.