A TOUGH START MADE ME BRITT OF ALRIGHT
IT IS nearly two years since Britt Assombalonga was dispatched to Wealdstone to cut his teeth in the Non-League game but Peterborough’s new million pound man has not forgotten his more humble beginnings.
Back in November 2011 Assombalonga was sent with Watford team-mate Connor Smith to get his first taste of senior football with the Ryman Premier League side – the Hornets could not have picked a more incongruous duo.
While Smith had shot to prominence on Sky One’s Football’s Next Star, Assombalonga had snuck into the game through the back door when he was noticed during a football in the community initiative in 2010.
Placed with Watford’s U18s he scored ten times before being handed a one-year deal and sent out to Wealdstone the following season, finding the net 11 times in 16 games.
Further loan spells – and goals – followed at Conference side Braintree Town and then last year with Southend he struck 16 times to alert Peterborough who were searching for a replacement for Premier League-bound Dwight Gayle.
Gayle, who was also playing NonLeague football as recently as 2011, joined Crystal Palace for £4.5m this summer after scoring almost a goal every other game for Posh – leaving Assombalonga sizeable boots to fill.
The 20-year-old Assombalonga started to pay back the undisclosed club record fee (Posh had previously paid £1.1m for strike partner Tyrone Barnett) with a debut goal in the 1-0 win over Swindon last weekend and admits he can barely believe how far he’s come.
“I never thought I would be a one million pound player, definitely not when I was arriving at Wealdstone,” he said.
“How I started out definitely makes me appreciate everything a lot more. I know what it means to have everything I have now because when I was at Wealdstone you had to take care of everything yourself.
“They provided you with your kit and that was that. I grew up a lot there and I found out what it was like to have to care of yourself on and off the pitch.
“It was totally different to what I had been used to with Watford. It made me stronger. Going through that was the best thing that could have happened to me.
“I’m still getting used to the idea of being a one million pound player, slowly it is sinking in but it is just a price tag I know I am still the same player and I just have to keep my feet on the ground.”
Assombalonga’s Non-League credentials may mark him out from the Premier League’s pampered academy stars, but they’re unlikely to hold much sway in the Peterborough dressing room with the club famed for unearthing dia- monds in the rough.
It is the faith the club and manager Darren Ferguson showed in Gayle that is fuelling Assombalonga’s confidence.
“To see the faith they had in Gayle is really good, they all believed in him and he did really well. They have a good reputation for developing players and hopefully I can continue to improve.
“The fee shows just how much they wanted me,” added Assombalonga, who was also handed the No.9 shirt for the first time in his career.
“You know you have the support of the manager and the staff and everyone at the club. It was a great feeling to get the No.9 shirt, I actually asked for No.20 because that is what I wore last season and I’ve never worn the No.9 shirt for any of the clubs I’ve played for.
“I scored goals at Wealdstone and then Braintree and then Southend and now I’m at Peterborough and I want to carry it on.
“I’m playing in a very similar role to what I played at Southend but it is another step up to League One so I need to adapt to that.
“It was a great start to the season. I had lots of thoughts running through my mind before the game so to score was great.”
PARTNER: Tyrone Barnett