Nahki Wells looking for another win against idol Wayne Rooney
Nahki Wells would like to mark his first year at Bristol City tomorrow with a third win against his idol Wayne Rooney when they visit Pride Park today to play Derby County.
Rooney, the former England captain, recently took over as Derby manager after ending his playing career. Wells has fond memories of two previous meetings on the pitch against the former striker.
“My first start for Bristol City was against him and I scored the winner,” Wells told reporters during a press conference at Ashton Gate on Thursday.
“It’s ironic because he’s my favourite player of all time. He played in our last fixture at Ashton Gate and we beat them, too, so we’re 2-0 up and fingers crossed we can make it three.
“We know it’s going to be a big test, they’re in good form but we want to get into the play-offs and to do that we need to win these fixtures.”
Since his £4 million move from Burnley at the end of the transfer window in January 2020, Wells has managed six goals for Bristol City. Not the kind of return he was expecting at this stage, but pleased the team are in the promotion hunt.
“I’m disappointed with the goals I have,” Wells admitted. “I’m no hypocrite, and I’m honest, but the team feels we’ve underachieved in that aspect.
“Maybe not Famara [Diédhiou], who is in form with six goals from seven games and scoring every game. I’m not one to shy away from reality. I should have more goals but I’m still confident and sure with the players in the squad that they can help me produce goals. I’m sure the goal tally will increase very shortly.”
Wells added: “We’re three points off the play-offs, we have some winnable fixtures coming up at an important time, so let’s try and put a run together to push momentum towards those positions.”
City’s latest win was against Wells’s former team, Huddersfield, in midweek when they held on for a 2-1 win after Diédhiou scored twice midway through the first half.
Both Wells and Diédhiou were substituted in the 65th minute, soon after Huddersfield pulled a goal back to keep it close. Huddersfield then struck an upright in the first minute of stoppage time.
“It was a nervy one, wasn’t it,” a reporter asked Wells at the press conference.
He replied: “They started quite brightly and in the beginning caught us a bit flat-footed and then we got a grip on the game and scored quick goals back-to-back.
“We got a bit naive and just survived a bit, but we were able to stick it through. It was a nervy finish. We just need to manage that type of situation a bit better. I think they are a very good side.”
Asked if he was disappointed to be subbed against his former team, Wells answered: “I wasn’t that disappointed to come off, but there’s no hiding the fact I show frustration when I come off sometimes.
“That’s just the desire and hunger in me when I’m fit enough to play games all the way through. I don’t have any real issues with it; the manager made his decision and it proved to be the right one because we got the result. So all is good in that respect.”
Wells feels the team have done well despite several injuries that tested their depth.
“We know we have overcome a tough patch having to endure long injuries which took a toll on the squad,” he explained.
“It did force the club to bring players back from loan and players to play out of position. We now have important players coming back, we’re picking up momentum and starting to score more goals and keeping clean sheets.
“Of course, it always tough to break into the top six year after year, but I don’t have any doubts that from now to the end of the season we should progress as a squad and with that being said we should accumulate points to get us into the play-offs. One game at a time, of course.”
Wells admits he should he should be in double figures by now. “If I’m being honest I’m not happy with my goal return, having been fit for the majority of the season,” he accepted.
“In terms of fixtures I’ve been involved in I should be around double figures at the moment.
“I went through a period where I was probably lacking a bit of confidence. I lost a lot of rhythm playing out wide and up front and then back on the wing, which was a bit foreign to myself, being a No 9 and not having played there ever in my life. But I did what I had to do for the squad, of course.”
Diédhiou is coming towards end of contract at City and already there is speculation about his future.
“These scenarios quite often happen in football,” Wells said. “I had a similar situation last January prior to coming here.
“There’s no hiding the fact that his contract ends at the end of the season. He’s been our catalyst over about the last two months and has been scoring his fair share of goals.
“He’s influential to us and we’d all love him to stay, of course. Nevertheless, we try not to get too caught up in what’s going on. Obviously, it's his personal business. He’s going to make whatever decision is right for him.
“He’s doing what he has to do on the pitch and putting a bold statement out there to try to finish the season as strongly as possible. He’s good to have around, always positive and that is what we want around the changing room — that type of personality.”
Wells has no regrets about his move to City and says he has enjoyed his first year at the club.
“Yeah I have, but it’s been a weird period,” he said. “When I came over the team was doing really well and I sat on the bench my first couple of games, then was able to score in my first start.
“Then the pandemic came in. A lot changed in football, so it’s been a very strange period from then to now. I miss being able to play in front of the fans.
“I don’t hide around the fact I would like to score more goals, but I’ve been fit and the goals return will only improve from here on out.”