OXFORD City first-team coach Andy Sinnott says the success of his former winger and now Nottingham Forest star Garath McCleary has come as no surprise after his four-timer in their 7-3 win at Leeds United.

Before Tuesday’s game, the 24-year-old, who hails from Blackbird Leys, had scored only nine goals in 117 appearances for the npower Championship outfit.

Sinnott was boss at Southern League City when he handed McCleary his debut in the 2004-5 season after impressing in the youth team.

“I first worked with Garath when I was county under 16 coach,” said Sinnott.

“You could tell that he was going to be a good player. He’s got something that you can’t coach and that is exceptional pace.

“He’s so level-headed and it is great to see him doing so well.”

A former student at Oxford & Cherwell Valley College, McCleary, who also played for England Colleges Under 19s, had unsuccessful trials at Oxford United and Leicester.

After leaving City, McCleary joined Slough in the Ryman Premier before leaving to join Bromley.

And after impressing in a league game against Eastleigh, he was invited along to Forest for whom he signed in 2008 having shone in a trial.

Oxford United assistant boss Mickey Lewis, who coached McCleary at Oxford College, said: “He had the ability to run with the ball at his feet and was very willing to learn.

“I wasn’t at Oxford (United) when he came here and it was a difficult time for the club. They weren’t taking anybody on.

“He ended up playing here there and everywhere before going to Forest, which showed his desire and attitude to be a success.”

Andy Ballard, who played alongside him at college, Oxford City and Slough, added: “He is fantastically quick and has a trick or two. He just has that ability to change a game.

“You could see there was something a bit special about him. He was dedicated and wanted to become the best he could be.

“I don’t think you can find a person who deserves success more than he does.”

Forest are at home to high-flying Brighton this weekend.