'I fell in love with Derry City': says ex Chelsea youngster Walter Figueira

EX-CHELSEA youngster, Walter Figueira claimed he 'fell in love' with Derry City when he made his debut for Waterford at Brandywell Stadium.

The exciting 24 year-old forward, who signed a one year contract with the Candy Stripes, scored twice on his debut with the Blues in a 4-2 extra-time defeat to Derry in the EA Sports Cup semi-final last August.

It was his first taste of League of Ireland football and while he enjoyed his three month spell in Waterford where he made 14 appearances, scoring five times, he believes Declan Devine's style of football and the club's 'winning mentality' ultimately attracted him to Foyleside.

"The week before I made my debut we (Waterford) played Derry and I watched the game and it was fantastic football," he recalled. "I won't deny it. It was very controlled, I liked the style of play and I fell in love with it to be honest.

"It's the type of football which will benefit me as a player, keeping possession and the chances Derry create. The feeling was very mutual to come here.

"When I got to speak to Declan (Devine) and Paddy (McCourt) and my agent, the energy was just amazing and I just knew we could definitely become something big."

There was reported interest from SPL clubs, Hamilton, Livingston and St Johnstone so why did Figueira opt to stay in the League of Ireland and join City?

"The atmosphere in the stadium, for one, when I came up with Waterford" he said. "I wouldn't say I was intimidated but the fans really get behind their team.

"That and with how much the city loves football and the history with the club doing the 'treble'. I want to replicate that winning mentality and I just think there's a lot of potential here which is what made me sway to a move to Derry.

"When I had a conversation with Declan and Paddy they were very happy with how the season went but they wanted more. I really love that because I miss having that winning mentality and I can see that with Derry. It was a no-brainer."

Derry City's new signing, Walter Figueira.

Derry City's new signing, Walter Figueira.

"It just made sense to come here and get the best out of me. I'm hoping it turns out the way we've imagined it to be and I'm really confident it will do.

Another major factor in choosing to play for Derry was the promise to play regularly.

"What helped was obviously having played in the league and watching how Derry played football. But what was more important for me was at my age is that I really need to be playing consistently.

"It was good for me to get my debut here and now for me to be a part of the team which attracted me in terms of football and fans, I was really excited to hear of the interest from Paddy and Declan.

"The conversations we've had with the gaffer I was ensured that if I keep my levels high I will definitely be a starter.

"That's what swayed me to stay here. I was keen to play a full season and get loads of games and that's what's important for me right now.

"I'd prefer not to gamble and make sure I can make something solid here and make a name for myself."

Figueira was on Premiership club, Chelsea's books from 2010 at the age of 15 but injury curtailed his progress after impressive performances for the U18s and U21s until 2013.

He showed early promise playing alongside the likes of Bournemouth defender, Nathan Ake and current England U21 international, John Swift and Lewis Baker who currently plies his trade with Bundesliga side, Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Chelsea stars, Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount were a year younger at the Cobham Training Centre and, despite his injuries, he looks back fondly on those years where he received a first class football education.

"I signed for the club very late," he explained. "In terms of how big the club is, it's not really heard often that a home grown player signs at 15.

"That was a very big highlight of my career at the time I played with loads of good players - a lot of which are playing now for top, top clubs.

"It's a good learning club as a youth I appreciate everything about that experience. Sadly I had injuries in back-to-back years but that was just a bridge I had to get over.

"I kept fighting and kept strong and I still believe in my ability and it's showing. These things just made me stronger. I'm here at Derry now and definitely want to hit the ground running and get some goals in and hopefully help us become a serious, serious team.

"Just looking back in what I've done in three months, now I'm just trying to see what I can do in a full season at a more improved club and team. So I'm really looking forward to next season."