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Interviews

INTERVIEW: A challenge I'm ready for

Defender Dynel Simeu on his move up to Cumbria

28 January 2022

We managed to grab a few moments (it actually turned into nearly an hour) with new arrival Dynel Simeu on Thursday afternoon after he’d completed his second training session following his loan move from Southampton, which was done and dusted earlier in the week.

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The 19-year-old looked comfortable in front of the camera as he spoke to the club and the local press about what he wants to get from the next few months.

Speaking first about what’s been a hectic few days, he said: “It’s been really good. I’ve met loads of staff and the players, top professionals, and it’s been very welcoming. I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead.

“My head isn’t spinning, or anything like that, because I’ve had a few days now to get to understand the situation, and I think this is just football.

“Things can change very quickly, overnight sometimes, especially in the transfer window. Your mentality has to be that you have to be ready to take on any job that you’re asked to do.”

One thing that impressed the manager was the speed in which the player himself showed interest in making the long move up north.

“I don’t think I was desperate to get out on loan, or anything like that, I was just very cautious of what’s best for me,” he explained.

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“I was thinking about whether staying with the first-team and getting minutes was better, or to go out and push myself to try and get 20 games or so under my belt.

“It was about finding what was best for me, not rushing it, and making sure I found the right club which fits my style. With a gaffer like Keith he’s willing to help me to get better, so I’m glad I’m here.

“I was on the brink at Southampton, but as a young defender it’s about gaining experience and getting as many games as you can get.

“It’s playing real football and having to fight for three points. It’s having to defend, clear the ball, put your body on the line when it matters, and finding yourself outside your comfort zone.

“That’s why this is a good place to come. I know League Two is about coming up against big, physical players and it isn’t going to be easy, but I’m ready for it and I’m ready to learn.”

On the type of player we can expect to see, he said: “I would say I’m aggressive, I’m a leader, I like to communicate a lot, talk to others around me.

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“I like to put my body on the line, I like to head it, but I also like to play. I would say I’m composed, I like the ball at my feet and to build from the back. 

“I think being a leader is important. Coming up from young I was naturally a leader, just because of my physique, I was bigger than everyone else.

“I’ve had to adapt over the years, I’ve learned a lot, being in different changing rooms, I’ve had to become more of a leader in the way I play as well.

“I was captain at Chelsea in the younger groups and I lead by example, maturing, just being really professional on the pitch. Not just being that leader who shouts at everyone, but by being really supportive – being someone my team-mates trust.”

Part of that learning experience so far has been EFL Trophy appearances against League One and Two sides for both Chelsea – where he spent six good years – and more recently with the Saints.

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“I think they were great for my development, because it’s not every day you get to play against teams like that,” he told us. “You’re usually up against the likes of Man City in the under-23s, and they just want to pass it, so it’s two different parts of the game.

“I feel it’s very important to be able to play football, but it’s just as important to be able to do the other side of it as well.

“That’s why I want to play against bigger players and teams who sometimes just want to lump it down the pitch. As a defender you have to be prepared to head and kick, and then fight for the second balls, and I’m looking forward to doing that.

“Playing against physical forwards is an art in itself, because it isn’t just a case of lumping it. Teams are playing to their strengths, and it’s something I can get better with.

“Working with the gaffer and this squad I know I will get better, and that’s good for me. I know I’m not going to be perfect straight away but I’m willing to learn and I want to feel what it’s like. Hopefully I can learn very quickly and become a good player.”

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And he certainly has the personal physical attributes to help him to cope with that side of the game.

“I’m big, I like to fight for the ball, but I do think I need to learn the other stuff,” he admitted. “I need to be patient and clever, and I know I’m going to come up against players who are bigger than me, and who will match me physically, so I need to be able to find other ways to win the ball or to play as a defensive unit.

“With the clubs I’ve been at obviously I love to play, but I think it’s going to be important for me to know when to play and when to go direct.

“At academy level, even though you play in a league, there isn’t as much risk and you don’t get punished as much for the risks you take, so it’s going to be very important for me to not overplay and make the right decisions at the right times.

“When you come into a new club you aren’t guaranteed anything. It’s about how you perform and I know I’ve got to earn a shirt and the right to play. I’m willing to fight for a first-team place and hopefully solidify that and stay in the squad.

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“It’s a challenge I’m ready for and I’m really excited. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, let’s bring it on.”

One thing that can’t be ignored is the distance, so why, when there was other interest, did he decide that the trek the full length of the country was the way to go?

“It is far away!” he joked. “I think it was a five-hour drive but the things the gaffer said to me really make me want to come up here.

“He’s been great with me so far, he showed me the plans he has for me and he really wants to develop me as a player.

“He feels very passionate about me, he came down to see me and we had good conversations. That feeling of being wanted and welcomed is really good. I know I still have to earn the right to play but the gaffer really helped me make the decision to come up here.

“And Southampton have said that they just want me to learn and embrace everything. They obviously want me to play as many games as I can without changing my game too much, but learn to adapt.

“I’m only going to go back there a better player with more experience. I’ll just give it everything and keep working hard.”

It goes without saying that the level of interest shown by the Carlisle boss brought a further sense of reassurance that this was going to be a good next step.

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“When you know the manager wants you … it’s hard to describe but it’s a good feeling,” he commented. “He doesn’t have to travel all that way, he could have just spoke to me on the phone, but that extra touch really makes you know how much he wants you.

“I want to repay him for the faith he’s shown in me by bringing me here. It’s a great opportunity for me and I want to try and do everything he tells me and learn from him.

“I think I just see this as a great opportunity for me. I’ve been at Chelsea for most of my career and I think it’s important for me to see the other side of things and gain that experience.

“We obviously want to see how high we can climb in the table and I want to learn from the dressing room at the same time. I think it will be good for me to see how they cope with different pressures and hopefully I can add to it as well.

“I want to be a positive character and a leader around the place. It’s a good opportunity for me to see what happens in a different environment and learn everything I can. I think before Saturday we were five unbeaten so there’s a really good belief around the place already.

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“I’m excited to play at Brunton Park in front of the fans and gain experience at the same time. At academy level you don’t really play in front of much of a crowd and we’ve obviously had a couple of years of Covid.

“I thrive off external energy and the atmosphere that a crowd can bring. I looked at the attendances and saw that there was even over 250 fans who went to Forest Green at the weekend. I think there’s a great community here and I’m looking forward to meeting the fans on Saturday.

“If I’m playing, it will mean a lot to me. I like to take things in my stride, whatever happens happens, the gaffer makes decisions, he knows when he thinks I’m ready. I’m just ready for whatever challenge or whatever game I play, I’ll give my all and make sure I’m ready.”

Looking back at his route to Brunton Park, he left Cameroon to come to England as a three-year-old and found that he had football in his blood very soon thereafter.

“I think I’ve always been kicking a ball from when I was about five,” he told us. “I used to kick a ball about at school, I was always in the playground. I played Sunday League, I had a few clubs, Chamberlayne, City Central, and the club I was probably at the longest was Bitterne Tyros Black, which was just down the road from our house.

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“I used to ride to training, sk for lifts if my parents were busy, and when I was with the under-13s at Christmas time I had a one-day trial at Chelsea, and the rest was history.

“After that, I got signed, then went to England the year after, and then it just sort of came so quick. I got the scholarship, got a professional contract, signed there for three years, so I was at Chelsea for six years before moving onto Southampton. 

“It was great being there, one of the best places to be at as a young kid. You compete in so many tournaments at the highest level, in so many games, and I think they really get the winning mentality into you.

“Everything is so important about winning, they love to win, they have the best facilities around. It’s almost like a fake bubble, they have so much money to be able to invest into you, and it’s great, it helps technically and there are so many life lessons, you meet so many people, some of whom I’m in contact with to this day. It’s a good place to grow up.”

“There were so many people to look up to,” he added. “There were a few greats. Growing up I loved Didier Drogba, he was just an icon.

“I liked Frank Lampard and loved John Terry. They were the three main ones. To go into the academy, you see people pushing through, like Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and later the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, it gives you that drive, belief and hunger. 

“Obviously the highlight was being in the Champions League squad for Bayern. That was surreal, it happened so quick. Unfortunately they lost but it was a dream just being on the bench, seeing the likes of Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, great players. It’s definitely one of my best memories. 

“I’d say when Southampton came up I took it as a great opportunity, even though I’d never played for them. Southampton itself is close to my heart.

“It’s a place which means a lot to me, I went to school there my whole life, got scouted from there, and the city’s done a lot for me. I want to give my all to Southampton.

“The fans have been great, I get messages daily from fans, get spotted and it’s a team that’s supported by the community.

“I’ve been back to my school and it’s great seeing the kids because they have a real belief and I want to be someone they can look up to, someone who can make them believe and show them there’s a pathway, I want to help my friends fulfil their dreams.”

And as far as his career is concerned, he said: “My short-term dreams first of all are to play for Southampton.

“I really want to play for Southampton, I want to make my debut, hopefully be a part of the club. I want to have a good career at the top-flight, I want to play a few hundred games.

“I don’t know what’s in store for me but I want to make sure I reach my peak. I want to win trophies, be part of the team as a main player and I want to help my family.”

Click HERE to watch an interview with Dynel Simeu 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.


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