The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Joshua Richards

THERE is much de­bate as to whether Eng­land’s Premier League is the most ex­cit­ing com­pe­ti­tion in the world.

But, ac­cord­ing to one-well trav­elled mid­fielder, what is cer­tain is that lower league foot­ball in this coun­try is the best on the globe.

Mans­field Town’s Fergus Bell has en­joyed spells in Scot­land, Spain, Bel­gium and Italy but in­sists there is no coun­try he would rather be than Eng­land.

“There is no place like Eng­land to play foot­ball,” said London-born Bell, 23, who net­ted his first Mans­field goal ear­lier this month in a 2-1 win at Ex­eter.

“Spain and Italy might have bet­ter sta­di­ums in the lower leagues, but they don’t get the in­ter­est and the at­mos­phere at games. The for­eign play­ers that come over can’t be­lieve the ex­po­sure you get even at the lower level.”

Bell, who links his at­tack-minded men­tal­ity to his Brazil­ian blood­line, be­gan his ca­reer in the Sun­der­land academy, then to Hiber­nian, be­fore be­com­ing the vic­tim of Celta Vigo’s rel­e­ga­tion from La Liga and con­se­quent fi­nan­cial prob­lems, lead­ing to his con­tract be­ing torn up.

He was res­cued from the foot­balling abyss by for­mer Eng­land boss Glenn Hod­dle – whom he cred­its with dra­mat­i­cally im­prov­ing his tech­nique – and who, to­gether with Dave Beas­ant and Gra­ham Rix, were build­ing a team in Jerez full of young English tal­ent, in­clud­ing Ikechi Anya and Sam Clu­cas, now of Wat­ford and Ch­ester­field re­spec­tively.


A move to Bel­gium via Barns­ley, briefly, fol­lowed be­fore he ended up in Monza for a sea­son.

Bell ad­mits that a part of him al­ways felt he was miss­ing out by ply­ing his trade away from his home­land.

“I have learned a lot more hav­ing the jour­ney I did on and off the pitch. But noth­ing com­pares to the English chang­ing rooms for ban­ter.”

Rarely do Bri­tish play­ers take op­por­tu­ni­ties to play abroad, and although Bell is adamant his glo­be­trot­ting days are be­hind him, he be­lieves play­ers should be more open minded to moves away to max­imise their po­ten­tial.

“I’ve been sub­jected to lots of dif­fer­ent train­ing meth­ods un­der lots of dif­fer­ent coaches and I see my­self as a chameleon, I can adapt to any team and any style,” he added.

“I’d en­cour­age play­ers to go away. I never felt that far from home, par­tic­u­larly when I was in Bel­gium. Cul­tur­ally they are the nicest peo­ple I have come across.

“On the last day of the trans­fer win­dow, I had a call from Monza.They were look­ing to bring in an at­tack­ing mid­fielder and a striker. My­self and Alex Fisher, who had been in­stru­men­tal in my ini­tial move to Bel­gium, were con­tacted and we flew out and signed there and then.

“My girl­friend lived with me in Italy. They are quite stub­born about not speak­ing English, so it was dif­fi­cult to in­ter­act.The man­ager didn’t speak English, so it was nice to go home to my girl­friend and have a chat.

“Th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences make you stronger, on and off the pitch. I don’t re­gret any­thing.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

ADAPT­ABLE: Fergus Bell, right, cel­e­brates with team-mates after scor­ing for Mans­field

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