Boss Mark Warburton has warned Joe Worrall he cannot afford to let his standards drop after signing a new Nottingham Forest contract.
The 20-year-old defender put pen to paper on a four-and-a-half-year deal earlier this week, committing himself to the Reds until 2022.
Warburton says it is just reward for a year which has seen Worrall establish himself in the first-team, lead a young England side to Toulon Tournament success in the summer and then make his Under-21s debut for the Young Lions.
The centre-back also captained Forest for the first time earlier this season, against Sheffield Wednesday, with Warburton backing him to wear the armband on a more permanent basis in the future.
But, before then, Worrall’s challenge is to keep maintaining his progress. And although the ink is barely dry on his latest deal, his manager says he should already be aiming for the next one.
“I gave him the captaincy earlier on in the season and it was fully deserved,” Warburton said, when asked if Worrall could be a future Reds captain.
“Chris Cohen was injured, Michael (Mancienne) was injured and Matt (Mills) was suspended, but it was right for Joe Worrall.
“At 20 years of age he’s a very focused young professional.
“He’s aware of what it means to captain Nottingham Forest. He’s aware of what it means to the supporters. He knows the passion of the club and the history of the club.
“Absolutely, going forward Joe Worrall can be a captain of Nottingham Forest.
“The aim for him is to keep pushing.
“Once you sign a contract, your next job is to go for the next one. That’s his aim now.
“His aim is to deliver a level of performance that means we have to offer him another deal. That’s how football works.
“Four-and-a-half years, five years, eight years – for me, it’s irrelevant. His focus now is being the best he can be, in every single game for the foreseeable future. Our job then is to respond accordingly, which we will do.
“But he’s got all the talent in the world.”
It is almost exactly a year since Worrall made his first Forest appearance, in a 2-0 defeat at Reading last October. He made 21 appearances last term and has picked up from where he left off this time around, featuring 14 times so far.
“He’s a very talented young defender. What any club must do is tie down its best talents,” said Warburton.
“But you’ve got to be wary, you’ve got to think long and hard – when you offer a player a contract, it’s a commitment by the club. You’ve got to have belief in the potential that he still has, the level he can perform at now and how you think he can contribute over the coming seasons.
“For Joe Worrall, he’s come through the Academy, he’s Nottingham Forest through and through and he’s shown his quality at 20 years of age. He’s had England Under-21 recognition, which is fully deserved.
“We think he can go from strength to strength, so we’re delighted to secure him.”
And Warburton says he has been impressed with the way Worrall has dealt with the rigours of playing regular second tier football.
“He’s a 20-year-old mostly playing week in, week out in the Championship, dealing with the physicality, dealing with the technical demands and the mental demands that come with it – because it is relentless,” he said.
“I use that word and people say ‘oh, it’s a tough league, the Championship’ – they have no idea. No idea of the demands week in, week out on the young players.
“It’s that relentless grind. And there are no easy games. If you’re five percent below or two percent below, you will be exposed and pay the price.
“For a young guy to come in and deal with that, it speaks volumes for his character.”