Nottingham Forest & Notts County Thoroughbred Wins The Lincolnshire
Nottingham Forest manager Colin Calderwood always saw Hamza Bencherif as one for the future, but alas even though Hamza came up through the youth system to earn a three year pro deal, he never made it at the club that took him from his adopted homeland France. Between 2006 and 2009 Nottingham Forest was a different animal to the one at the top of the Championship this weekend. Back then Calderwood had to get them back in it and, then struggle to keep them up. Hamza kept up and on 88 minutes thumped home Newton’s corner to defeat the fishy foe and silence 1800 Grimbarians behind that very net. Such was the emotion the first three rows of the Lincolnshire Co Op Stand have pledged their daughters virtues out of admiration and respect.
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Hamza was actually born and brought up in the suburbs of Paris where the Forest scouts got wind of him as a cultured kid at Guingamp on the Peripherique. The strong lad had broken into the reserves and featured regularly from an early age. Young Bencherif played seven games for the Algerian under 21’s in 2005-6 and, it was decided that he would go on loan to Lincoln City, to get some valuable game time. That was when the Imps love affair with the giant of a man began. Unable to get into Colin Calderwood’s Nottingham Forest side, the manager kindly agreed to a months loan to get the Algerian under 20 international some much needed match practice. He would work under Johns, Schofield and Deehan, for just 13 days before they started the Imps annual October manager merry-go-round trend. Hamza started, the day he joined, on Oct 2nd v Bury, then scored in the 2-4 defeat at home to Chesterfield. He was brave, he was popular, but a lack of pace and youthful nativity exposed him at the centre of an Imps defence that was ransacked more regularly than Rome.
Despite hopes that he would sign full-time in both the January and the summer, a move failed to materialise. Peter Jackson did try on both occasions but money was tight and he was always, frustratingly for both managers, on the verge of breaking into the Forest first team . No doubt Matt Alexander, still a close friend, played a part in Macclesfield securing his services in the summer of 2009. Matt even Tweeted his best regards upon his release from Notts County. In his natural centre midfield berth he was magnificent, although a leg break against Rochdale, in December, brought a promising season to a close. He was fit and raring to go for 2010/11 banging in 11 goals, including a brace against Burton.
Martin Allen (alerted by Schofield and perhaps Matt, son of KA) made Hamza an offer that Macclesfield could not match in June 2011 and he signed a two-year deal starting 17 times with 8 substitute appearances, scoring against Bournemouth and Rochdale. Some poetic justice there of sorts in a 1-0 win. He was popular with the fans, his endurance endears as much as his bravery. Incoming Keith Curle, who signed 12 players in the Summer of 2012, also rated him highly, although Hamza would be little more than a bench warmer this season. He would only play 11 times, all starts and thanks to injuries, in a promotion chase that fizzled, costing Curle his job in March. Chris Kimonya gave him 1 minute of action away at Doncaster before deciding to release him at the end of the 2013 season.
With Simmo back at Lincoln City Hamza was on the verge of a second loan spell at the Imps in March 2013, until a mysterious MLS club scuppered the chance of Simmo securing a unique loan treble of Macclesfield Town heroes – Hamza (then at County), Tony Diagne and Nat Brown. Patience clearly comes to those who wait then Simmo? Last summer Lincoln missed out again, as did Hamza, in the end electing to join Plymouth i n September on a short-term deal . JS Kabylie came in for him with an 18 month contract in the January window offering a return to Algeria. Bencherif bagged a unique runners up double last term with medals in Algerian Ligue 1 and the Coupe Nationale.
His somewhat surprising arrival back at Lincoln has been a long time coming, finally linking up with Diagne and Brown to form a spine that threatened League 2 promotion for Macclesfield until the injury list and player sales caught up with the dream. But Hamza, still only 26, is at his peak, proving, pace apart, that he is the complete Conference Premier central midfielder. Thus far he has scored in each of his last four games for Lincoln. The Thoroughbred may not win the sprints but over a 46 match marathon you can bet your house on him to shine this season. A dark horse for player of the season maybe, but he is the spine that is allowing Nolan and the rest to glow. It’s getting brighter too with Lincoln also set to be there or thereabouts this season.
Posted on September 10, 2014, in Squad, Writers - Neil Gentleman-Hobbs and tagged Hamza Bencherif Transfer, Macclesfield Town, Nottingham Forest, Notts County. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.