A move to encourage future generations
It remains to be seen whether Nahki Wells can match the feats of Clyde Best and Shaun Goater in England’s top division, but he does have a record already that may never be broken by a Bermudian footballer.
Wells, who was playing with local club Dandy Town up until just seven years ago when he won the league’s top scorer and MVP awards in the 2009-10 season, became the island’s first million-pound footballer in 2014 when he moved from Bradford City to Huddersfield Town for £1.3 million. Yesterday he raised his value even higher when Burnley paid a reported £5 million on transfer deadline day to take him to Turf Moor in the North West of England.
It is difficult to see another Bermudian footballer with the talent to command such a fee in the near future, but it does give young footballers something to aspire to.
“If he can do it, so can I” should be words ringing through so many young heads.
Best played for West Ham in the old first division in the early 1970s before Kyle Lightbourne became the first local footballer to play in the Premier League when he joined Coventry City in 1997-98 from Walsall for £500,000, then the highest transfer paid for a Bermudian footballer.
Goater moved to Manchester City for £400,000 and after relegation from the Championship in that first season he helped lead them to successive promotions and return to the Premier League. At the age of 30, Goater got his first taste of Premier League football in 2000, although injury and the arrival of strikers Paulo Wanchope and George Weah, a former World Player of the Year, meant that he had to wait three months to get his chance.
Now, Wells is set to become the first Bermudian since Lightbourne and Goater to play in the top flight of English football, possibly recovering in time from his ankle surgery to be available for selection when Burnley host Huddersfield on September 23.
“He deserves it, he scores goals at every level and definitely deserves the opportunity to play in the Premier League,” said Lightbourne, one of many proud Bermudians on hand at Wembley Stadium in May to watch Wells shoot Huddersfield into the top flight.
“For whatever reason, his Huddersfield manager didn’t want to give him that opportunity. He was one of the leading players for them, now I hope he can show the manager that he got it wrong and that he can score more goals than anyone who is at Huddersfield.
“That will motivate him between now and the end of this season. I actually quite like the move. It is a great move because of the way the manager [Sean Dyche] sets up his teams. He likes to have a little-and-large sort of combination and Nahki was very good at that with Bradford.
“Since he has left Bradford, he has mostly played up front on his own. He probably won’t start every game but the manager will see that he can be a game changer. I quite like the way Burnley approach games. Sean Dyche is a manager I played against when I was at Walsall and Stoke.”
Lightbourne expects Burnley, who beat champions Chelsea in their season-opener at Stamford Bridge, to generate some new followers from Bermuda with a Bermudian in their ranks. “This [transfer] thing happens to all sorts of players, but Nahki is one of us and we want the best for him and to see him play in the Premier League,” Lightbourne said. “He is good enough to play at that level and score goals.”
Kerry Tucker, from Pembroke, began supporting Burnley in his teens in the late 1970s and is excited to have a Bermudian in his favourite team. “This is a good feeling,” Tucker said after the move was confirmed. “I’m happy for the guy.
“I don’t care which team would have taken him, I’m just happy for him to get the chance to play in the Premier League. Burnley’s been my team since I was real young. A lot of people don’t know that unless I tell them. Arsenal are my second team.”
Frowned upon in England fandom, perhaps, but a vintage Bermudian football fan.
He and so many others who support the Clarets will hope that Wells is of a vintage that makes Burnley’s cup runneth over.
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