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Ajax loss was Bradford City gain on Nahki Wells signing
Nahki Wells will write his name in Bermudian football history when he becomes the first player from the island to appear in a major cup final in England.
But if things had taken a different turn, he could have been plying his trade with one of the most famous names in the European game.
As a talented teenager, Wells was taken on a summer tour to Ajax – and promptly offered the chance of a contract.
Youth coach Scott Morton recalled: “They couldn’t believe his speed and skill. He was tremendous out there and outplayed their youth team by leaps and bounds.
“Ajax wanted him to sign there and then but it was a big stretch for his parents to let him go. We’d only taken him over through the contacts we had – we didn’t expect them to want to keep him!
“But it’s not surprising because he had that natural talent from an early age.”
Morton knows that better than anyone, having coached the City striker through the ranks at Dandy Town and the Bermuda Hogges development team.
“I’ve known Nahki nearly all his life and started coaching him from when he was 12,” he told the T&A.
“Nahki has always been one of those players who gets to the training ground early. Then he’d stay late just taking free-kicks and penalties.
“I’d often end up chasing him home! But he’d just keep saying ‘c’mon coach, let’s just stay a little bit longer’.
“But football is what he’s always wanted to do and it’s that dedication that has got him where he is so far.”
Morton, like half of the island it seems, will be flying into London in the early hours of Friday morning ahead of the Capital One Cup final. Expect Bermuda to be shut for business come kick-off time on Sunday.
Wells at Wembley is the only story on the island. It has dominated the newspaper front pages, whether it’s interviews with the former pros or the governor proudly donning a City shirt.
Morton said: “Mad is an understatement. People can’t get enough of it. Because Bermuda is such a small place, to have another player being put forward in the English professional game is big news.
“The last ones were Shaun Goater and Kyle Lightbourne but that was a few years ago. It’s been a while since we have had that buzz about one of our own doing so well and everyone wants to see the game.”
Both Goater and Lightbourne played at Wembley – but not in a major cup final. Goater appeared in a play-off for Manchester City, Stoke’s Lightbourne in the Auto Windscreens Shield.
It is fitting that Wells will set the mark on Sunday – the same day that Clyde Best, the trailblazer for Bermudian football at West Ham in the 1960s and ’70s, turns 62.
Morton said: “The first time I saw Nahki on TV there were tears in my eyes. I never thought it would happen.
“There is a crazy buzz going on and that’s before the game. As soon as Bradford made the final, everybody was just desperate to acquire tickets.
“Reporters are calling all the time to talk about him, his picture is in the papers every day and there are always people who have played with him or school coaches doing different articles.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Wembley and I couldn’t miss this. A few friends are coming over with me and I know there will be a lot of Bermudians in the stands – and they’ll all be making sure they are packing a flag!”
With all this adulation back home, speculation is rife about where Wells could end up one day. But Morton believes the Bantams have been the perfect club to bring out his potential.
He said: “It’s critical you are with the right team and Bradford have done a tremendous job slowly developing him. From what I see and read and when I talk to Nahki, I know that he remains grounded.
“Most of the time he plays but it’s good to see that he has to put in the actual work to get to the next level. He is competing to be in the team.
“He has that belief in his ability but he is humble about it. He knows that hard work will lead to that opportunity.
“I remember when he got a trial period with Ipswich and I went there with him. He got to see the English environment and the experience around it but he wasn’t ready.
“Not from a football perspective but he had to learn to adapt to life outside the game, the home sickness and training regime – everything that comes with moving away to join a team.
“But you can see how he has grown as a young man. He knows the example he has to set and how a lot of players in Bermuda look up to him.
“What has also impressed me is the support of his parents, his friends and extended family. You need that support network to adapt and he has done that.”
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