Marcus Forss: AFC Wimbledon loanee on keeping up family traditions and Finland hopes

Marcus Forss
Marcus Forss scored four goals in four league appearances in October

There can't be many players in the English Football League who can boast the kind of footballing pedigree of AFC Wimbledon striker Marcus Forss.

The 20-year-old is the third generation of his family to play professionally, following in the footsteps of grandfather Rainer and dad Tero.

The Finland Under-21 international, winner of the EFL's Young Player of the Month award for October, has enjoyed a fine start to his season-long loan at the Dons from Brentford.

"I never saw it as a burden. I enjoyed playing football from a young age and I feel like I've handled that pressure well," Forss told BBC Sport.

"My family is all about football, my brother plays and coaches, my dad is still involved and my mum played as well.

"She made sure that I had a back-up plan but the plan was always that I would be a footballer and it's worked out so far."

He added: "My dad was always great at striking the ball so I think I've got that from him. He was my coach before I came over to England and he'd take me and my brother out in the garden and do some extra drills."

Forss left Finland, and the training drills in the back garden, behind when he joined West Bromwich Albion at the age of 13.

It represented a huge decision for a player to make at any age - let alone when you're only just into your teens and don't speak much English.

"At the time I didn't realise how big a sacrifice it was but looking back it was the making of my career," he said.

"My English was quite bad at the start and it took a lot of time but it was worthwhile. I read a lot of footballer autobiographies and TV shows like Friends and The Simpsons, with Finnish subtitles, to improve."

'Forever grateful' to Rowan

Robert Rowan
Robert Rowan worked for Celtic and Stenhousemuir before joining Brentford in 2014

Forss swapped the West Midlands for West London when he joined Brentford in the summer of 2018.

Key to his decision to join the Bees was technical director Rob Rowan, who died from heart failure at the age of 28 last November.

"West Brom told me they didn't see me getting into the first team and I felt like I needed a change. Everything has fitted into place for me here," said Forss.

"Rob was the guy who signed me and I am forever grateful to him for doing that and believing in me. He was always asking me how I was doing and I knew that if I needed anything he would help me.

"It's massive for any young player to have that. Knowing that someone believes in your abilities means so much."

Forss vindicated Rowan's trust in him and his own conviction with a goal on his debut in the Carabao Cup, before a first league goal in the final league game of last season.

Choosing club over country

Despite featuring in three of Brentford's first four games this season he decided he needed to be playing regular football and joined the League One Dons on a season-long loan in September.

With the club then under the management of legendary Dons player Wally Downes, he managed to avoid any Crazy Gang style initiation.

"I had to sing a song and I'm not very good at singing," he said. "I did a Finnish one so I guess they wouldn't have known if it was good or bad!"

Assistant Glyn Hodges took over in late September when Downes was suspended for breaching Football Association rules around betting.

Forss, who called Hodges "a fantastic coach", made a good start to his time with the club with four goals in his first five games, again scoring on his debut.

He turned down a call-up to the Finland Under-21 side last month in order to play in the league match against fellow strugglers Southend.

Once more, it proved to be a shrewd move as he bagged his first professional hat-trick in a 4-1 win.

Marcus Forss
Marcus Forss scored his first league goal for Brentford in the 3-0 win over Preston on the final day of last season

"The team were struggling and I felt like I needed to be here to help them," he said.

"It was an unbelievable feeling to get my first hat-trick. My mum and my girlfriend came to pick me up from the training ground and they were like 'can you stop smiling?' and I just couldn't.

"It was amazing and a great achievement for me and my family."

Forss may have put international recognition to the side for the time being but, with Finland qualifying for their first major tournament, in part thanks to the goals of Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki, he hopes his season could yet see him playing in the summer.

"It's always nice to see someone from the national team doing so well and it would be nice to get to his level," added Forss, whose grandfather Rainer represented the country in the 1952 Olympics.

"The fervour for football is growing at the moment, which is very good and I hope that they get the result they need to qualify.

"You always set yourself goals and if I keep improving the way I am and scoring goals then I see no problem with getting in the team and that would be a dream come true."