Nigel Jemson's was an unusual sort of career. Spanning seventeen seasons it both began and ended right at the foot of the Football League.
In the early stages of this career Jemson appeared set to make a significant impact on the English game. Despite spending six seasons in the top flight and scoring a cup winning goal at Wembley this never really materialised. He did, however, take his final chance to leave an indelible mark on the game as his career reached its end.
Nigel Jemson signed for his local club Preston North End after having originally been taken on as a YTS trainee and he made his debut as a substitute at Aldershot in the final game of the 1985-86 season.
This game marked the culmination of several years of steep decline at the Lancashire club and the 4-0 defeat they suffered saw them finish the season 91st in the Football League with only Torquay United beneath them. Not an auspicious beginning.
North End then enjoyed a remarkable turn around the following season under new manager John McGrath and would eventually be promoted in 2nd place.
This dramatic improvement actually limited Jemson's first team opportunities but he did make an immediate impression when given his chance just after Christmas. He scored on his first start for the club in a 1-1 draw at Swansea and also notched in the next two games which were both won.
Nigel Jemson also got a taste of the bigger stage when selected for the clubs' 4th round FA Cup tie at Newcastle but the youngster struggled to make an impression as North End went down to a 2-0 defeat.
Shortly after Jemson had spread a flu bug through the first team squad McGrath signed the veteran Frank Worthington and Jemson would not be seen again that season.
In this short spell of action he had shown that he was strong, had a good touch and possessed a strong shot. His obvious weakness was a lack of pace.
It was a tribute to Jemson's qualities that he quickly began to attract attention from the first division the following season despite not being a regular scorer and playing in a side that initially struggled to adapt to life in the third division.
There were rumours that he had trained with both Liverpool and Manchester United before Brian Clough made a definite move and took him to Nottingham Forest for the modest fee of £150,000.
The manner of his departure from Preston was perhaps telling. Although he obviously had ability, and had gone for little money, the move hardly caused uproar among the fans. Few supporters had real conviction that Jemson would be a success at the top level. His lack of pace was an obvious drawback and although he could finish he was by no means a predator.
There was another reason why his going was not lamented. There was a widespread opinion on the terraces that Nigel Jemson was overly conceited. As a local many supporters encountered the player in their everyday life and stories of his arrogance were legion.
In most cases the possibility of petty jealousy being a factor in such a perception would need to be taken into account but given that his new manager, "Old Big Head" himself, would go on to remark that Jemson was the one man in football with a bigger head than himself then we can assume that the Preston public had him tagged pretty accurately.
There was little chance for Jemson to display his confidence at Forest during his first season there as he spent his time in the reserves or out on loan. He had a spell at Bolton and made his debut for them back at Preston, having little joy in a 3-1 defeat.
His spell at Burnden Park was wholly unsatisfactory but he fared better when returning to Preston for a couple of months at the end of the season. Ironically his first game back was in the return game at Bolton and he was again on the losing side, surely some kind of a first.
Jemson figured regularly as Preston reached the third division play offs. He then opened the scoring in the first leg of the semi final with Port Vale at Deepdale. With the bit between his teeth he continued to torment the Vale defence with a powerful first half display only for his finishing to let him down.
The game would eventually finish all square with the Valiants running out winners in the return.
The follwoing season, 1989-90, would see Nigel Jemson given his chance in the first team at Forest. He made his debut as a substitute at Aston Villa in early December, was handed his first start in a 1-1 draw at Luton and scored his first goal for the club in a 2-0 victory at Derby County.
Jemson's confidence/arrogance did not take long to show itself. Although he had yet to score his first Forest goal he had just shown up well in a televised game against Liverpool as his side fought back to draw from 2-0 down. Next up was a 3rd round FA Cup tie against a struggling Manchester United and their beleagured manager Alex Ferguson.
Jemson happily informed the papers that he would make Ferguson pay with his job for deciding against signing him after his trials at United.
In the event he did little as United squeezed to a narrow victory at the City Ground through a Mark Robins goal. Ferguson kept his job, his team went on to lift the trophy and the rest, as they say, is history.
Forest and their striker fared better in the League Cup, however. Jemson scored one of the goals as Forest won a thrilling quarter final at Tottenham 3-2 and then went on to score the only goal of the final as they lifted the trophy with victory over Oldham Athletic.
In a game of few chances Jemson made his count with an assured finish after being put clean through the defence.
This might have signalled the start of a brilliant career but, as it transpired, it was simply providing the highlight.
Nigel Jemson started the next season in a blaze of glory, scoring five goals in the first four games and earning selection for the England Under 21 team. He would then see his progress interrupted by injury, however, and although he was available to score a hat trick against Southampton in a replayed FA Cup tie he was absent as Forest lost out in the final to Tottenham.
Although Jemson then started the next season alongside Nigel Clough and Forest's new signing Teddy Sheringham, Clough snr. soon realised that there are only so many paceless forwards you can play in one side at the top level, no matter how clever they might be. Hardly surprisingly Jemson was the one to make way. Forest received the tidy sum of £800,000 from Sheffield Wednesday as Jemson moved on to Hillsborough.
Injuries would hamper Jemson during his time with the Owls although he would be unable to hold down a regular starting place in a strong side even when fit.
The highlight of his time with the club came early on when he came off the bench to score twice against Manchester United and give Wednesday a 3-2 victory at Hillsborough.
Nigel Jemson also returned to Preston for a 3rd round FA Cup tie but despite being on the winning side it was not a particularly happy day for the player as he suffered continual abuse from his home town crowd.
Wednesday finished 3rd in his first season at Hillsborough but Jemson was only a peripheral figure at a club where David Hirst was king. The signing of Mark Bright slammed the door shut even tighter on his first team ambitions.
Jemson spent a spell on loan at Grimsby Town but his next permanent move would shape the rest of his career.
Jemson was 25 years old and theoretically approaching his prime when he left Wednesday. Although he had hardly set the world on fire in the top flight he had shown enough quality to suggest he should have been a hot property among clubs outside the Premier League.
If he did have options he took a poor one in joining Notts County. The Magpies were a struggling side in Division One and Jemson did nothing to improve the clubs' fortunes.
He had cost the club £300,000 and an expensive, barren, ex Forest centre forward was unlikely to find much favour with the fans at Meadow Lane as the club lurched towards relegation.
Jemson was farmed out on loan to Watford and Coventry City, where he did not actually make the first team, before the season was out.
This marked the beginning of a nomadic existence which was hardly designed to make the most of his abilities. Nigel Jemson was not really an explosive, impact striker who could come into a club and transform the side with a rash of goals.
He had strength, an excellent touch and was a clever player who could bring others into play with astute passes and flicks. He was a target man with a touch of class around whom an attack could have been built but this would not happen as he flitted from one club to another. It is possible the player himself did not fancy filling that role and saw himself more as the main striker who should have others doing the work for him.
Notts County had a good season after being relegated but there was no place in the side for Jemson. Instead he was sent on a prolonged loan to Rotherham United.
The spell at Millmoor was a definite success. He helped keep the side comfortably clear of the relegation zone and was instrumental in their Auto Windscreens Shield triumph.
Jemson bagged both goals in the 2-0 away leg victory over Carlisle in the Northern Area final before scoring another brace at Wembley as Shrewsbury Town were defeated 2-1.
The Shrews fans would have cursed Jemson that day but they would come to forgive him.
Jemson moved from Meadow Lane permanently before the start of the 1996-97 season, £60,000 taking him back into the first division with Oxford United.
The goals came with an unusual frequency at the Manor Ground as Jemson managed 18 in the league and 25 in total. The sweetest of these would undoubtedly have been the one that knocked Sheffield Wednesday out of the League Cup.
Jemson remained consistent the following season but he would still have moved on again before it was over, £100,000 taking him to Bury who were desperately fighting against relegation from Division One.
Although Jemson could hardly buy a goal at Gigg Lane he was influential in helping steer the club away from the relgation zone but his wages, and continued lack of goals, saw him on his way out of the club the season after as Bury did slump into Division Two.
A short spell north of the border with Ayr United followed before Jemson returned to Oxford for a second spell. This time he was unable to find the net and after the club retained their second division status by the skin of their teeth Jemson found himself dropping into the Third Division anyway after moving to Shrewsbury Town.
Now into his 30's Nigel Jemson was still a star turn at Gay Meadow. Never having had much pace to lose he was well capable of dominating games at this level and the three seasons he would go on to spend at the club represented just about the most settled period of his entire career.
It was not, perhaps, the stage his talents were meant for but Jemson did now provide consistent excellence for a team high on effort and endeavour but low on real quality.
Jemson managed 15 league goals during his first season with the club and reached double figures again in his second, despite missing a large chunk of it through injury.
In 2002-03 the Shrews found themselves embroiled in a bitter relegation battle as they fought to maintain league status. In a very poor side Jemson excelled. He scored regularly, if not heavily, and was obviously a yard or two ahead of his colleagues mentally, if not physically.
The FA Cup offered some welcome relief as the Shrews made it to the 3rd round and were drawn at home to Everton.
The game appeared destined for the history books as marking the first appearance in the competition of Everton's man-child Wayne Rooney but Nigel Jemson ensured that it was his and Shrewsbury's day.
Taking the opportunity to show the skills that had once made him a hot young property he opened the scoring with a splendid free kick and then won the game, after Everton had drawn level, with a sharp last minute header.
It was a nice, momentary, return to the spotlight for Jemson although this performance did rather point out that overall his talent had largely gone to waste through the course of his career.
There was no further cheer for Shrewsbury that season as they were hammered by Chelsea in the next round of the cup and then suffered relegation from the league at the end of the season.
There was still time for one last remarkable Jemson performance, however. Returning to Gigg Lane with Shrewsbury he produced an eight minute hat trick as his side fought back from 4-0 down. It was not enough as the Shrews ended up losing 4-3.
With Shrewsbury losing their league status Jemson moved on from Gay Meadow but his own league career was now also at an end.
After a short spell playing for Ballymena in Northern Ireland Jemson ended up at Ilkeston Town where he would go on to become player manager.
Whether he has changed much since his days of headstrong youth must be doubted as stories now do the non-league rounds of Nigel Jemson directing operations from the Ilkeston dugout sporting the Nottingham Forest top he once donned as a player.
An interesting career from a player undoubtedly blessed with ability but one of little genuine achievement. Indeed it is doubtful whether Jemson more than scratched the surface of his true potential at most of the clubs he stopped off at, seldom leaving a truly lasting impression among the collective consciousness of his teams' supporters.