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Former pros praise Wells’ exploits

Rising football star Nahki Wells has something in common with former professional Kyle Lightbourne . . . both bounced back and went on to greater things after being released by their first clubs in England.

It happened to Lightbourne 20 years ago when Scarborough released him after just five months along with several other players following a managerial change. Lightbourne landed back on his feet with Walsall in the summer of 1993 and quickly became a fans favourite, scoring 10 goals from more than 30 games in his first season.

Wells suffered a similar setback when Carlisle United released him two years ago, before a move to Bradford City revived his career.

Now Wells looks set to continue a similar path as both Lightbourne and Shaun Goater, who originally signed for Manchester United as a teenager in 1989 and then spent six years at lower division Rotherham before climbing the divisions with Bristol City in 1996 and then Manchester City two years later. Lightbourne also played for Coventry, then in the Premier League, and Stoke City before joining Macclesfield.

“I remember saying to Nahki, maybe three, four years ago, that he has the ability to play at a much higher level, even before he went to England,” said Lightbourne.

“People could see that he was outstanding at Bermuda level and wasn’t really getting challenged. The season Dandy Town won the league he was streets ahead of everybody as far as scoring goals and one thing he has is ‘left-foot, right-foot’ and he has pace which is a good combination.”

Lightbourne said getting released by a club wasn’t necessarily an indication of a player’s ability.

“Those things happen, it doesn’t mean that because they released him that he’s not a good player,” said the former Bermuda international who signed on an initial six-month contract with Scarborough in 1992.

“ Whoever the manager was had to make a decision at that time. He probably knew when he made it that ‘this guy may go on to do great things’ but sometimes clubs have to make those decisions. He just wasn’t given an opportunity at Carlisle. I spoke to him a couple of times and he always had that belief in his ability.

“When I saw him play as a youngster he had way more ability than myself. He’s quick, left-foot, right-foot and I was predominantly left-foot and my height got me over a little bit. He’s a natural footballer and the manager’s got the balance right in that team, little man, big man and they feed off one another. He’ll be the first to tell you he appreciates playing up there with the big guy. It reminds me of Kevin Wilson and myself when I was at Walsall.

“That’s one thing he did at Bradford, score in his first couple of games and that bides you times and gives you belief. That’s how it was for myself at Walsall and when I was at Stoke it took me a while to get off the mark. It’s a great opportunity for him and I think he can go all the way to the top.”

The exposure given to Bradford during their cup run has a lot of managers taking notice of their top scorer. Whether they can hang on to Wells over the summer remains to be seen, though they do have the resources to play at a higher level.

“Eventually that (a move) will come, provided he stays free from injury and keeps banging in the goals,” Lightbourne feels.

“He’s at a club that can potentially make it back to the Premiership because they made it before.”

Goater, who had just turned 28 when he signed for Manchester City for £400,000 in March 1998, had to wait two more years before moving into the Premier League with City. He signed for Bristol City for £175,000 in 1996, a few months after leading Rotherham to victory at Wembley in the Auto Windscreens final against Shrewsbury. Ironically, Bradford City failed to sign him with a £300,000 bid the previous November.

Wells, by comparison, has age on his side and Goater urges him to choose carefully if a transfer away from Bradford becomes imminent. In three short years Wells has gone from the top scorer in Bermuda in his last season with Dandy Town to a sought after striker in England who could possibly become Bermuda’s first million pound transfer.

“I think a good move for him would be to the Championship,” said Goater. “If he was to go to a Premiership team and was unsuccessful it would take a long time before he reached it (Premiership) again.

“I think he could make steady progress by moving up a couple of levels and it would certainly be within his capabilities of doing well in a shorter period at a Championship team for maybe three seasons and then moving on beyond that. That, I think, would be his best move.”

Added Goater: “Culturally the team has to suit you. When you are working your way up the ladder and nobody knows you, it is easier being the underdog and scoring. It’s harder being the striker who ‘has’ to score and that’s what the Championship level would prepare him for. Moving to the Championship for around three seasons would do him a world of good rather than moving straight into the Premiership.

“Some clubs just don’t suit players, I’m talking about Wells with his build, his structure and his style. Some clubs won’t suit him and then some clubs are just perfect for him. If someone is interested in him, he will have to make the decision that he is happy with.”

Photo by Bradford Telegraph and Argus Bradford City players celebrate beating Aston Villa 4-3 on aggregate to reach the Capital One Cup final on Tuesday night.

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Published January 24, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 23, 2013 at 7:56 pm)

Former pros praise Wells’ exploits

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