NEW Notts County goalkeeper Stuart Nelson insists the grounding given to him by Forest Green boss Dave Hockaday laid the foundations for his professional football career.

Nelson, 28, a former student at Cirencester Academy under Hockaday, has never forgotten his former mentor’s influence.

“I have always appreciated what Hocky did for me,” said the Stroud-born former Archway School pupil.

“He gave me the grounding to go into the pro game and helped me get the ball rolling - I owe him a lot.”

Nelson almost joined Rovers on loan last season from Aberdeen.

“Hocky and I keep in touch and there was a possibility,” Nelson revealed.

Hockaday always felt his former star pupil had what it took to make the grade.

He said: “Stuart Nelson was always going to make it as a pro. He always worked hard and would train with Cirencester Academy even when he was 16 and still at normal school.

“He had the desire, passion and hunger to kick-on and I am as proud as punch for him.” The former Brentford captain, whose one-year stay with Aberdeen has come to an end, will go head to head with fellow new-boy Rob Burch for the No.1 shirt at Meadow Lane, with former first choice Kasper Schmeichel departing for Leeds.

Nelson, who has also turned out for Leyton Orient, started his career at Doncaster before making over 130 appearances for the Bees.

And, with just three appearances for the Dons last term and none the previous season with Norwich, Nelson will be eager to show County boss Craig Short what he can do to steer his career back on track.

He opted to come to Meadow Lane, rather than sign a new deal at Aberdeen.

Nelson wanted to get back into the English game, after a one-year absence in the Scottish Premier League.

He said : “It’s brilliant, I’m delighted and definitely happy to get it all tied up.

“I feel that there’s a better opportunity here. It’s a two-year contract and the club’s on the way forward.

“That’s what I like about it, everything about the club. It looks settled and looking to progress, and that’s what I want to do.”

Craig Short has stated that his newly recruited goalkeepers will be judged on their performances in pre-season.

“We’ve got two ‘keepers who I feel have got their best years ahead of them.

“I’ve played with some really good goalkeepers in my career and I think they, and defenders, peak in their 30s.

“We need competition and they’ll both push each other. They’ll start on a level playing field - everyone’s got to prove themselves.

‘I think they’re progressing their career and I think they’re coming to a club that’s going forward.”