West Brom forward Owen Windsor had his debut delayed when his first scheduled starting appearance for the Blues was washed out by heavy rain in Rochdale, but he made sure his introduction was a positive one with the equaliser against Port Vale just four days later – a game in which he was also nominated as the Vesta Wealth man of the match.
Another full-blooded display at Colchester followed, and his substitution in both fixtures was greeted with a loud and appreciative round of applause from the United fans, in recognition of his efforts.
Looking back to the events of the final day of the window, he said: “Carlisle isn’t close, it’s a long way, but as soon as it came up I was interested.
“I only really found out about it the day before deadline day and it didn’t get done until the last day. My agent called me, then the gaffer here called me when training had finished at about 3pm on the Monday.
“I’d signed the papers about four hours after that. It is a long way away but in terms of the move to come to League Two and Carlisle, it was a no-brainer.
“The staff at West Brom spoke to me about playing under-23s, and the fact that I’d been out on loans before, and they felt I needed to get more of that kind of experience.
“Especially with league football, the more minutes and appearances you get, the better it is, so you can’t really turn that down. They want me to perform, try to score goals and help the team as much as I can now that I’m here.
“And speaking with Keith, he told me that he wants his team to play football, and that suits my game. It’s not just the football side of it, he told me he had a lot of other players, younger lads, who are all in a similar situation.
“They all want to fight and they want us to stay in the league, and we aren’t hiding away from the fact that we’re struggling. We are in a fight and he feels I’m the type of player who will battle for him.
“As soon as he told me that I wanted to come and help. And on top of that he asked me about my family and what my personal situation was, and automatically that made me think that it’s not just the football, he wants to make sure I’m ok as well. That’s a big part of what made me want to come here.”
The previous loan spells with Grimsby and Newport provided an insight into what life in League Two is like, and a swift settling-in process has helped with his eye-catching performances.
“I think I’d settled in even after the first few sessions with the gaffer and the players,” he confirmed. “Everyone has been unbelievable really. I’ve come straight in, trained and then played, so it’s been good.
“Starting like this when you come on loan is good for your confidence, and to get the goal on my debut as well was massive.
eBay and EFL partner to support local communities and over 300,000 small businesses across the UK14 February 2022
“Obviously Grimsby went through a bad spell last season, and it’s a similar situation in terms of where we are in the league, and obviously the fans and everyone at the club wants us to win games and get points.
“But sometimes things like this happen to a team and you have to get through it. But I feel like the players here are good technically and we’re a team that could definitely be higher up the league.
“It’s now about making it work. We have some younger lads who are still settling and we have to wait for it to connect. When it does, we’ll get results and wins, we all know that.
“Colchester is an example, it’s only a point, but if you build on that and play with the same competitive approach we’ll definitely pick up results.”
Elaborating on the experience gained on his two previous loan outings, he added: “It’s massive. Coming into this league can be quite daunting, especially as a young player.
“You come up against players who are more experienced, and they do things, those little dark arts in football that you’ve got to have, and you have to be able to deal with it.
“Also at under-23 level you play to be developed and to learn different things, whereas here in the league you play based on performances. You have to be doing something that makes a difference to getting the points or you don’t get picked.
“It’s about the result, so you might play one week but you don’t suit the game the next week, and you’re left out. It’s based on things like that.
“You have to be able to deal with things on and off the pitch a lot more at this level and that’s why my time at Grimsby and Newport definitely helped.
“The big thing I didn’t have last season because of Covid is that I didn’t get to play in front of fans. That’s one of the biggest things I was looking forward to with coming here, and it’s been brilliant.”
But does it feel like a dressing room that’s nervous, or edgy, particularly heading into a match day?
“No, it doesn’t feel nervy, it almost feels like everyone’s got belief and confidence in what the team can do,” he insisted. “Individually we have players that can do things, and score goals, and we’re all just waiting for it to happen.
“As players we know we’ve got to make it happen as quickly as we possibly can. I definitely wouldn’t say we’re nervous, but we know we’re in a fight and that we’re at the wrong end of the table, and if we can make it connect and work as a team we know we’ve got more than enough to stay in this league.
“I don’t see myself as a young player in all of this. I think I just fully embrace it. I’ve come here as part of the team, as a player to help, to perform and get the team out of the situation.
“Me being younger is not an excuse, me being less experienced than some of the players isn’t an excuse. I’ve come here to do the same job as everyone else and I’m ready for it.”
Having now played twice for United, already a factor has been his versatility, with him covering plenty of grass during his time on the pitch.
“The big thing about my game is that I’m always looking to get on the ball,” he told us. “I never hide away, even if we’re losing. I want to get on it and I do like to be aggressive and strong.
“Against Colchester it was a lot more of a fight whereas against Port Vale I was able to get on the ball a bit more. It’s one of them where I know we’re in a position where we have to fight, but we still have to be able to play with moments of quality that will win us games.
“My best position - I still couldn’t tell you, but that’s probably an advantage because I can play more than one.
“I’ve played a lot through the middle up front for West Brom, and at Grimsby I spent a lot of time playing in a pocket behind the striker, which I quite enjoyed because you’ve got more of a free role.
“I’ve also played on the right, so I think I can sort of play anywhere. I’d probably say I like being a bit more central, but when I’ve been out wide I’ve had some of my best games. So, who knows!?”
A goal on your debut – yes please!
“You’ve got to be careful because sometimes shots like that can sail out of the stadium,” he joked. “I kept it low and hard but as soon as it rolled across towards me I was quite confident that I was going to score.
“It was good, it was the equaliser so that wasn’t as exciting, because it wasn’t to go ahead, but it’s the first time in ages that I’ve scored in front of crowd.
“That was an amazing feeling to score with the fans cheering. Unfortunately we didn’t get the result, but I want to have many more moments like that.
“I actually celebrated in front of the Port Vale fans because I thought they were ours. I didn’t know where our fans were for a second and then I ended up realising, and I did shush them, to be fair.
“I’d love to have more moments like that at Carlisle, and away from home. They booed me when I went off but that’s what makes the game. You’ve got the home fans clapping you and the away fans on to you, but I think I thrive off that more than anything else.”
And we can reveal that his debut against Port Vale was actually a delayed event, with him having been due to start the game at Rochdale on the Saturday.
“It was annoying, but with the rain all day you could sort of guess it was coming,” he said. “You’ve got to prepare right, which we did, but luckily in this league you have games coming thick and fast and three or four days later there was another one, so it wasn’t really an issue.
“There was a little bit of worry with knowing I would have played against Rochdale as to whether I’d be in for Port Vale. I think the gaffer decided I was part of what he had planned for the game and I was pleased to be involved.
“It’s just to be playing and Colchester was important for us. It might not look as pretty or as glamourous as a win, but to get a point after you’ve had a run of three or four games where you haven’t got a result, you know you can build on that.
“It would have been great to win that game, especially with going ahead, but with the way things went, and the conditions we played in, it’s a massive point. We want to go on and get some wins now.”
It’s little wonder when talking to the livewire forward that his hunger shines through, when you consider that he dropped out of the academy to take on life on the non-league circuit, before being snapped up by West Brom after a season of heroics with Cirencester.
“I started as a youngster at Swindon, I think I did about eight years there, but I went into non-league off my own decision to do that,” he explained. “It was the club I supported and it was a great place to be, but I thought it was better for me to get into men’s football sooner rather than later.
“Playing senior football at the age of 16 is arguably the period where I learned most. It got me the move to West Brom, and I think having had a mix of the academy and non-league, has possibly given me a really big advantage.
“You learn the technical aspects, but you also see the dark arts and how to use them in your own game. It’s been a really good mix, and that’s why I still want loan moves now, because I want to learn as much as I can.”
There’s no denying that stepping away from the game under your own volition is a gamble, but his self-belief was never in doubt as he knuckled down and started to catch the eye of many watching scouts.
“If anything my non-league time gave me even more of a belief in what I am,” he said. “When I was at the academies it felt like I was going nowhere and it felt like football wise it was a standstill.
“I know from the outside it will have looked like I was giving up on it when I left, but I took a step backwards to go two forwards. I always knew I’d get picked up somewhere and work my way back up.
“West Brom have a new manager now and I want to do well here and for them. I haven’t met the new manager or any of the staff because of being here, and it’s difficult for the first-team down there at the moment.
“They’re in a similar situation to us in that they’ve got a lot of good players and they just need to connect. When they do that, they’ll be fine.
“That’s why it’s important for me to concentrate on this, and then Steve Bruce will know that I can adapt. I want us to do well in the league and get as high up the table as possible, and the aim is to win every game from now on.
“That’s what you want to do every time you play. Individually I’d like to score as many goals and create as many chances as I can for the team, to help with that, and I want to be helping out defensively as well.
“My main aim is to get as many points as a team and if we’re doing that right it means that individually good stuff will happen for you.”
And the next game, of course, is against Swindon, the place where it all started for the young Owen Windsor.
“It’s my old club, where I’m from, however it doesn’t really affect how I play on Saturday,” he commented. “It’s another team I want to beat. It doesn’t really affect it.
“I haven’t really thought about it too much. It’s just another game where I’m going to play my best and try and beat them. That’s the ultimate goal.
“They’ve always been a good team, always been a footballing side and in this league they’re always going to be tough opposition. It’s one for us to look forward to.”
Click HERE to watch an interview with Owen Windsor on iFollow United now.
Click HERE to see a clip from this interview on our YouTube channel. Follow the same link for more FREE content right from the heart of the club.