This kid is a little bit special isn’t he? Against QPR on Wednesday night, when his Nottingham Forest side were in need of something spectacular to get them back on level terms in a key play-off match-up, he unleashed a fizzing shot from 30 yards out.
As with everything Djed Spence seems to touch this season, it turned to gold. The despairing dive of David Marshall only added to the brilliance of the goal, as the ball flew past him and into the top corner. Forest went on to win that game 3-1 to move within a point of the Rs, but Spence’s strike was the turning point.
His league performances have been exceptional - he bagged two assists at the weekend and has been the division’s stand-out right-back this term - but it has been in the FA Cup that he has attracted the highest praise. Two elite performances in two live televised games will do that.
Against Arsenal in round three he was electric as the Gunners purred over his performance, but he went one better against Leicester in round four. In a thumping 4-1 win, he scored a sensational goal and proved once again that he has the ability to compete against Premier League clubs.
But he wasn’t just competing - he was dominating. And Liverpool are up next.
Every good performance will add another million to his price tag and he will be a huge miss for Forest next season. Let’s not forget, he is still Middlesbrough’s player, who decided to loan him out and instead focus their attention on 22-year-old Isiah Jones, who is also a fantastic attacking wing-back.
“I think the biggest thing is the young man that’s playing in that position at the moment [Isaiah Jones]. I don’t want to stunt his progression because he’s been outstanding.”
“We always look from a football point of view when these boys are playing well, and Djed’s done that. From our point of view, that increases his value as well and certainly Djed has done that,” Boro manager Chris Wilder explained in January, after agreeing to let him finish the season in the East Midlands.
“I think we all understand that he might not be a player I would have allowed to go out. I think that’s understandable in terms of how we play and what his attributes are.”
But what Boro now have, is a unique situation on their hands. Europe’s top clubs are now queuing up to pay big bucks to a player that isn’t even in their own starting XI. With both Forest and Boro fighting for a play-off spot, they both harbour Premier League ambitions and Spence could play a key role in the promotion fight - but the likelihood is that he will not be playing for either of these teams this season.
He’s only 21, yet Bayern Munich have already begun talks with the player over a potential summer move. This seems his most likely destination, but Premier League sides, including Arsenal and Tottenham will not want to let him slip away that easily. Antonio Conte is desperate to improve his right wing-back situation while Mikel Arteta got a first-hand look at the promising talent as his side crashed out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle.
But Spence himself must be careful not to believe in the hype too much. So far, he has remained grounded but as we saw with Max Aarons at Norwich when he was linked with Barcelona, a player can regress if the dream move doesn’t materialise.
This weekend Spence will get a chance to test himself again, on the biggest stage against one of the world’s best sides. If he can produce magic once more, his value will skyrocket and interest in him will be at an all-time high. Forest need him to help them get promoted if they have any chance of signing him permanently. Meanwhile, Middlesbrough will be licking their lips at the prospect of a mega transfer tussle over their biggest asset.