Ex Stoke City defender Cameron McJannet relishing Derry City return

Defender, Cameron McJannet can't wait to return to Derry City this season.Defender, Cameron McJannet can't wait to return to Derry City this season.
Defender, Cameron McJannet can't wait to return to Derry City this season.
CAMERON McJannet believes 2020 has taught him to take nothing for granted and so he's relishing the thought of returning to Derry City next month after another strict London lockdown experience.

The former Stoke City defender joined Derry midway through the curtailed 2020 campaign having been released by the Potters alongside ex-City midfielder Jake Dunwoody last July.

With football and his own career in a precarious situation following his release, a situation exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, his next move was crucial.

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A move to Brandywell offered a lifeline and once he made his debut for the Candy Stripes in the 2-0 FAI Cup win over Drogheda last August, he never looked back.

In fact he produced several commanding displays alongside Eoin Toal at centre-half, taking over seamlessly from the injured Ally Gilchrist with three successive clean sheets from his opening three fixtures.

It was a brave move for the now 22 year-old, to move away from England for the first time and begin life in Derry in a strange environment made all the more surreal due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

"I've been away from home since I was 17 or 18 as Stoke was a bit far from my family home," explained McJannet who hails from Leighton Buzzard.

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"Being away from England was different but it was nice as it was a new experience. When we were allowed to go to Donegal and all the other places in Northern Ireland it was amazing and a really nice place."

McJannet (right) pictured during his loan spell with Curzon Ashton FC from Stoke City.McJannet (right) pictured during his loan spell with Curzon Ashton FC from Stoke City.
McJannet (right) pictured during his loan spell with Curzon Ashton FC from Stoke City.

City boss Declan Devine has described McJannet as a 'shining light' and has full faith in the youngster to deliver once again in 2021. He was keen on offering the defender another contract and was delighted when McJannet agreed terms this week.

"He has been a shining light in our team in his time here so far and I thought his partnership with Eoin Toal was rock solid for two such young players," said Devine.

“He’s a fantastic lad to work with and has a huge future ahead of him. I know Derry supporters really took to him when he was here and I believe this is a big signing for us.”

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McJannet is grateful to Devine for taking a chance on him and reckons his desire to prove his doubters wrong has spurred him on as he looks to establish himself in the Derry team during a full campaign in the League of Ireland.

"I'm buzzing, especially with everything going on in the world. I'm just looking forward to getting back playing.

"I enjoyed myself last year and after the first half of 2020 I was just buzzing to be playing football again and to get the opportunity.

"That probably made me play better and take me on. 2020 made me realise it can all be taken away from you just like that.

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"I found the League of Ireland a great place to show what I can do, whereas I didn't get that chance to do it in England," he explained.

"Derry gave me that chance even though I only played something like 10 games. Hopefully I can show what I'm about next season."

He was in and around the Stoke team which featured the likes of Bojan, Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri.

And yet the ambitious youngster wasn't content waiting in the wings as Stoke fell from grace into the Championship as he began to question why he wasn't getting an opportunity in the first team.

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When he was told his future lay elsewhere, that knock-back ignited a desire to prove his worth and he's hoping he can show his true potential at Brandywell.

"I was at Luton for 10 years from a little kid until I got into the first team," said McJannet who was part of Luton's double-winning youth side.

"I got transferred to Stoke and it didn't really happen for me there. Stoke were on a downward trend at the time. I still enjoyed my time there, don't get me wrong.

"You had almost superstar names like the likes of Bojan and Arnautovic with a club which was going downhill.

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"You just felt that if the club was doing badly then why haven't I got my chance. When I got released I was hungry to prove to myself and to prove to them that I can do it. Hopefully Derry is that start of it."

When he made his move from Luton Town to Stoke, his youth team manager Paul Driver at Kenilworth Road described him as 'a great role model in how to carry yourself if you want to improve and succeed.'

"He's one of the most organised and professional lads I have had the pleasure to work with," said Driver at the time.

He's already shown his willingness to improve and become a success during his short time on Foyleside last season and he can't wait to return and repay Devine's faith in him.

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"It's nice to hear Declan has faith in me and hopefully the results will come next season as we did well defending during the last part of the season."

Devine put his full trust in McJannet and his partnership with Toal at the heart of the defence and the pairing showed real promise.

With Gilchrist off to Shelbourne, it's likely Devine will be depending on the talented duo to pick up where they left off last season.

"Eoin has played hundreds of games and it shows how good he is. He bossed every striker I saw when I played, that shows how good he is.

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"We grew into games and formed a decent partnership and if we didn't keep a clean sheet, then we wouldn't concede too many."

McJannet goes into 2021 with real hope and he's relishing the prospect of playing in front of fans at the Brandywell at some stage this season should restrictions be lifted.

"I've heard nothing but good things about how good the atmosphere is when the fans are there. I can't wait to play in front of a crowd so hopefully things change when the season starts.

"I just can't wait to get back really. It seems lockdown has followed me wherever I've gone. As soon as I came home we went straight back into a strict lockdown so I'm looking forward to getting back kicking a football."

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He's only permitted to exercise once a day but he'll certainly make up for the lack of running when pre-season kicks off next month.

"You can exercise once a day and meet one person but it's very limited. It's probably best I keep it in my legs for pre-season anyway," he laughed.