One of the best footballers to emerge from the Dispatch district in recent years has been given the chance to realise his dream of playing in the Football League.
For prolific striker Liam Hearn (28) has been handed a one-year contract with Mansfield Town in League Two -- subject to ratification by the league’s authorities.
Hearn, who hails from Bulwell and was once Hucknall Town’s top scorer, was released by Conference side Grimsby Town in March after two serious injuries.
He ruptured his Achilles tendon at the start of the 2012/13 season and then tore the cruciate ligament in his knee last term.
However, he previously netted 34 goals in 72 appearances for The Mariners, and Mansfield manager Paul Cox is keen to resurrect Hearn’s career.
“Liam has a fantastic goalscoring record, and has done it at every level he has played,” said Cox.
“People will point to the fact that he has been out injured for long spells. But he has been training and working with us for the last three months and we have monitored his fitness.
“He’s had scans, we’ve had surgeons’ reports and everything looks fine. I know exactly the type of player and character he is.”
Hearn made his name at Watnall Road in the 2003/04 season when he was leading marksman in Kevin Wilson’s Hucknall team, firing 16 goals in 31 games.
However, a dip in form coincided with a turbulent spell in his personal life, which included two months in prison for assault.
After the sacking of Wilson, The Yellows released Hearn, who had a spell under Cox at Eastwood Town before drifting into the lower levels of the non-league game.
But he bounced back in an amazing 2007/08 campaign when he plundered 67 goals, including six hat-tricks, for all-conquering Bulwell Sunday side, Scots Grey.
He was soon snapped up by Alfreton Town where he netted 45 times in 76 appearances and was called up for the England non-league team, winning one cap. Alfreton manager Nicky Law described the striker as “my best-ever find”.
Hearn joined former Football League club Grimsby in the summer of 2011 for £30,000, and quickly became a favourite with the fans.
In 2011/12, he scored 29 goals in 42 games before picking up his first injury the following season and missing out on a trip to Wembley with Grimsby in the FA Trophy final.