Few Nottingham Forest supporters can remember the exact date they became a fan but Wesley Hall, the latest #faceofforest, knows the exact day he fell for The Reds.
It was Saturday 28 October 2011 and Reds supporters had taken to Twitter to congratulate defender Wes Morgan on his 400th appearance for the club, against Hull City.
But instead of directing their praise towards the popular centre back from the Meadows, they inadvertently tweeted @bigwes
, a 46-year-old web developer in America – and a love affair with The Reds was born.
“I had never heard of Nottingham Forest but I answered back after a couple of tweets,” explains Wes, on the phone from his home city of Atlanta. “I said to a couple of guys ‘Thank you for all the love you’ve been showing me but unfortunately you’ve got me mixed up with another Big Wes!’”
But after exchanging a few tweets with Forest supporters, Wes declared he’d like to become an honorary fan. The rest is history.
“It went nuts!” says Wes. “My Twitter account exploded.
“There was a newspaper article about me, then three or four guys over there got together, built a website to take donations and they bought me a Forest shirt with Big Wes on the back.
“When I got the shirt I was hooked and now I’m a diehard Forest fan!”
Wes had 150 Twitter followers before the story began to unfold. Now he has 6,000, the vast majority of whom are based near Nottingham.
“I did one of those online things where you can see where your followers are from,” he says. “About 90% of mine are from the Midlands – I say I have dual citizenship now!”
Wes vividly remembers listening to his first ever game on Forest Player and being bemused as to what was going on.
“I had never been to a match. I had never even held a football before,” admits Wes, who is also a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. “So when I listened to that Hull game I heard all these terms – corner kicks, free-kicks, offside – and I think fans got a huge kick out of me asking, ‘What on earth is he talking about?’ I had no idea.”
He slowly got to grips with ‘soccer’ though, and watching his first Forest game on TV, he fell head over heels for the sport when Simon Cox scored a wonder goal against Birmingham City.
“He got the ball and it never touched the ground, he went from leg to leg and shot,” Wes recalls. “That was a brilliant goal and the first time I’d ever been able to see a game.
“I will never forget the beauty and athletic nature of that shot – I was hooked on the club, but that was the moment I became hooked on the sport.”
Wes has been watching the World Cup closely and is proud of his country’s performance. But with the USA now out, he has shifted his focus back on to The Reds – and he’s excited about the coming season.
“I’m really hopeful about Stuart Pearce,” he says. “I think some fresh blood will help a lot and I’m really thankful to see some of our injured players back.
“Losing Reid was a big deal. He is a leader, he loves his team and is without question my favourite player.”
Big Wes has ordered the new adidas away shirt and is hoping he’ll be able to wear it to The City Ground soon.
“My wife and I are trying to sort out when we can come to see a game.” They can expect a warm welcome.