Summer signing Rai Simons says he’s been surprised how quickly he’s progressed to first team action at Chesterfield - but intends to make the most of it.
The 19-year-old Bermudan international signed from non-league Ilkeston FC having come through the renowned academy setup at the New Manor Ground.
Having made just a couple of eye-catching reserve team appearances for the Spireites he made his first team bow as a substitute against Burton Albion before earning his first start at Crewe last weekend.
Another start at Rochdale in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy followed on Tuesday night, leaving Simons thrilled to have made the breakthrough so soon in his Spireites career.
He said: “I didn’t expect to be in the team so quickly, if I’m honest.
“I just kept training hard and also impressed in the reserve games which earned me the chance.
“It was great to be part of the squad and to come on against Burton, then I got an assist early on at Crewe for our first goal so it just kept getting better.”
Despite having also been in in full-time football at Ilkeston, Simons says he has noticed a big difference the way things are at a higher level and that his game has improved greatly as a result, leading to his first team chance.
“The training is very intense and high tempo and the football itself is a lot more of a thinking game and more technical than at the lower levels, but I’ve always aimed to be at my best to perhaps try and get a place on the bench or better,” he said.
“I’d done well in the reserve games and I think the manager saw what I could do and decided to give me a shot and I think he’s been happy with how I’ve played so hopefully I can keep his trust and stay in contention.
“I’d watched all of the games and tried to learn what to expect but playing was completely different. I just tried not to let the occasion get to me and treat it like a regular game.”
On the wider picture, Simons believes Chesterfield are progressing well and that a climb back up the table is well within reach.
He said: “We’re doing pretty well, it’s just been little mistakes that have cost us dearly in some games.
“If we can cut those out then in the next few weeks we can be where we’re supposed to be, higher up the table.”
Meanwhile, Simons’ progress hasn’t gone unnoticed back home in Bermuda, where youngsters idolise those who progress into professional football in foreign climes, including Simons and the likes of Nahki Wells who is currently at Huddersfield Town and formerly striker Shaun Goater who had a great career with the likes of Manchester City and Rotherham.
Many from the island move to the USA to play their football, but with Simons having been in England since he was 15, he was determined to break through in this country.
He said: “I’ve had lots of messages from back home which is great.
“Not too much goes on in Bermuda so when someone from there does well it gets lots of attention!
“It’s great that I can hopefully be a role model to the young footballers there. I’m no different to any of them but have shown that with the right commitment and work ethic you can achieve your dreams.
“Many go to America because they want to be closer to home and can get college education there too, but I always wanted to be a pro in England so I’m thrilledto be doing that now.”