It has been more than 12 years since Tom Huddlestone was last involved in an East Midlands derby clash.
His last came way back in February 2005 as an 18-year-old when the Rams were held to a 2-2 draw at the City Ground, whilst his last one at Pride Park Stadium came earlier in the 2004/05 campaign.
He was a key figure as Derby, under George Burley, recorded a comfortable 3-0 victory over the Reds in December 2004, whilst one of his own most memorable days in a Rams shirt came in the emphatic 4-2 win in the same year – a game which was dominated by the bizarre ‘coffee cup goal’ scored by Paul Peschisolido.
After such a long time, Huddlestone, 30, told dcfc.co.uk that he cannot wait to get stuck into the fixture again – one that comes with a bit of ‘extra spice’ for him personally.
Derby will welcome Forest to Pride Park Stadium on Sunday in the Sky Bet Championship when they return to action following the second international break of the season (1:15pm kick-off).
A number of his friends and family are Forest supporters, but it is for that reason he says he has a good idea about what to expect from Mark Warburton’s side.
More than anything, though, the midfielder is just fully expecting it to be a natural blood and thunder match up, which will have both teams going all out to try and claim the three points.
Huddlestone said: “I have watched it a lot still during the time that I have been away, mostly when the games have been on the TV.
“They are always good watches and there’s a few lads that have been here for a while now and know what it means to everyone that is involved on both sides.
“Without throwing out clichés, we know it will be a tough test. They have got some decent players and their manager is trying to play a different brand of football that they haven’t over the last few years.
“A lot of people know that Mark Warburton has been successful with that so I am fully expecting that it will be two good teams going at it.”
He added: “One of the guys I speak to on a regular basis, who is a die-hard Forest fan, keeps me fully up to date with who is playing well and who to look out for.
“Beating Sheffield United in their last game will give them a lot of confidence and in that sense, you could say that the international break came at the wrong time for them.
“Nevertheless, it should be a very good game. A lot of my mates are, and were, Forest fans and a few of my family members grew up as Forest fans so from a personal point of view that adds to the extra spice really.”
As the Rams’ preparations continue to gear up towards a return to action, Huddlestone also took time out to assess the 2017/18 campaign so far.
Derby went into the second international break off the back of a hard-earned 0-0 draw at early pace-setters Cardiff City.
Gary Rowett’s side have drawn their last three games, but in a division as tight as the Championship, Huddlestone feels the Rams are only a run of positive results away from transforming their picture and used one of the club’s second-tier rivals as an example.
“I spoke to a friend of mine after the Cardiff game at the weekend and we could have very easily nicked the three points,” he said.
“Even now, I don’t know how their ‘keeper has saved Nuge’s (David Nugent’s) chance in the last minute!
“We’re 11 points off Cardiff with a game in hand. If we win that, the picture looks different again and there’s still so much to play for.
“Aston Villa have proven in recent games that if you string a few wins together, you can soon shoot up the table.
“That was also the thing that we had at Hull. We won a few scruffy games and then once you get on a run, especially during a sequence of Saturday, Tuesday, games, it can make a big difference and it puts you right back in the mix again.”