Josh Daniels reckons it’s time he took his Derry City career by the scruff of the neck this season as he enters his FIFTH year with his hometown club.
The gifted midfielder who celebrated his 21st birthday last week is no longer the new kid on the block and is determined to deliver on a consistent basis for the ‘Candy Stripes.’
He finished a disruptive 2016 term in top form with three starts and three superb performances in the final three matches of the season which earned him a call-up to Noel King’s Republic of Ireland Under-21 panel last month.
The former Top of the Hill Celtic youth made just 10 starts in total last season, scoring three goals - his first coming in the memorable 2-2 draw against Finn Harps at Brandywell last May.
He didn’t want the season to end such was his form and he’s been counting down the days until the start of the new Airtricity Premier Division campaign which opened with a sensational 1-4 victory over Bohemians at Dalymount last Friday night.
Daniels started on the right wing and enjoyed plenty of the ball before he was replaced by scorer of the fourth goal, Lukas Schubert, in the 68th minute. He’s hoping he can hold onto that starting berth and is prepared to fight for a sustained run in the team.
Kenny’s very good at getting us going and he knows how to get every player ticking. He knows when to put his arms around players and knows when they need a boot.Josh Daniels
It’s now his time to shine under manager, Kenny Shiels who, he believes, is key to his career progression as he continues to harbour hopes of clinching a dream move to the top leagues in England.
Indeed, his ambitions remain the same and he hopes that the chance of going to England comes around again having already been invited for trials at Manchester United and Everton in the recent past. But for now he has another year remaining in his contract and is focused on battling for a regular spot in Shiels’ in-form Derry City side. Anything else would be considered a bonus.
“It’s about getting into that first team and impressing Kenny. He’s my manager and knows me best. He sees me every day in training. International call ups and anything else that comes is just a bonus. I want to go further and further and I’m really trying to achieve that.
“I was over in England and saw what it’s like and it’s not out of reach for any player in our league,” claimed the ambitious winger. “I think people underestimate our league. The majority of players at Derry could go to England and do well.
“If I was playing well for Derry this year there will be bonuses. I could get called into the Ireland U21s, I could go to England next year. It’s all down to me to progress and there’s no better man than Kenny (Shiels) to help me do that.”
Incredibly Daniels is playing under his fourth Derry City boss and while he’s grateful to all his coaches for helping nurture and develop his career, he admits Shiels has played a significant part in his development.
“Kenny brings that mental side of things and he gets the hard work instilled in you,” said Daniels. “If you’re not working hard you’re not going to play. He’s fair and every decision he makes he explains it to you, man to man, and I think he’s a massive part of my year.
“You can approach him or he will approach you, he’ll know if there’s something wrong. He’s a workaholic, he’s non-stop and he’s unbelievable with young playersor older players, it doesn’t matter. He gets the best out of everyone. I just want to see if I can push on with the help of Kenny and get into the squad and then we’ll see what happens from there. But, to be honest, it would be nice to get back across the water. I have my personal goals, just like any footballer, but the team comes first.
“Kenny’s very good at getting us going and he knows how to get every player ticking. He knows when to put his arms around players and knows when they need a boot. Every manager has been different, Peter (Hutton) gave me my Derry debut. Declan Devine brought me through and Roddy Collins - they all believed in me. But it’s not just the Derry managers the academy teams as well, Top of the Hill Celtic and Eamon McLaughlin played a big part in my career and I joined there late enough when I was 14. John Quigg brought me into the Derry squad when I was 16 and Eddie Seydak were both unbelieveable as well. They all believed in me and gave me confidence. But Kenny has played a massive part in my development. His understanding is unbelieveable.”
Championship club, Nottingham Forest came knocking for Daniels in 2013 but after much deliberation he decided to reject their advances in favour of signing a two year professional contract with Derry City. He was repaid for his loyalty when then Derry boss, Declan Devine fast-tracked him to the first team set-up. The following year he was handed his senior debut by Hutton and six weeks later made his UEFA European bow in the 4-0 win over Welsh club, Aberystwyth Town at Brandywell.
His City career has come in fits and starts ever since, but he knows if he continues to improve under Shiels this year, he’s got an excellent chance of reviving interest from top English clubs. “If I was to get into the team and get a run of games you never know what could happen. This year I want to cement my position in the first team and start effecting games. I’ve been counting down the day to the start of the season, I’m feeling sharper than I ever felt. I want to kick on with more goals. I got three last year and seven or eight assists from 10 starts. There’s rivalries all over our squad for positions but we all talk, we work with each other every day. I see my teammates more than I see my girlfriend half the time,” he smiled. “That’s the way he has us, We’re like a family. We do everything together, We lose together and we win together.”
“There’s no better feeling than pulling on your hometown jersey and playing football. To do that in Europe again would be a very proud moment,”