A TOUGH START MADE ME BRITT OF AL­RIGHT

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By David Jor­dan

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.”

Di­a­monds

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

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