Simon Adingra has made a dream start to life as an Albion player and he’s loving every minute.
Simon, how pleased have you been pleased with your progress?
It’s gone well so far. My performances in pre-season gave me the belief that I could play in the first team this season, so it’s been nice to make that next step. I know that I am new to the team, so I just have to stay focused and be ready for any opportunity I get in the team. I am ambitious; I want to be the best player in my position, but I also know that I have to be patient.
You’re only 21, so do you have to pinch yourself sometimes?
Since I was a kid, I have dreamt of playing in the Premier League, and while I hoped it would happen, I didn’t expect it to happen this quickly! So to now be in this position, I am just enjoying every minute, every game. Of course, every opponent at this level is tough, but I am living my dream and every moment is special.
You made your debut against Luton – and scored. What a start!
I was just so excited and had no nerves at all. When I was called to go onto the pitch [as a second-half substitute] I just wanted to play and if you rewind the video again, I was everywhere on the pitch! I had this feeling that maybe I could score and that’s what happened! It was a dream first game for me. The perfect start.
You also scored against Liverpool. What do you remember of the goal?
When I’ve intercepted the ball, I already knew the position of the goalkeeper, so when I took the touch, I didn’t think twice about shooting. I already saw he was out of his goal and just put it in the net. I had lots of messages on my phone afterwards from my friends and family, telling me how proud they were of me and to keep going!
You mention a lack of nerves. Is that how you are all the time?
I don’t get nervous, I’m just enjoying myself whenever I am playing. Football is what I love to do, and I can’t wait to play – that is just me, that’s who I am! The more I play at this level, the more I feel assured, which helps, but I also know that there’s always things to learn and to improve on. I’m always ready for whenever the coach gives me a chance and then I have to take my opportunity when it comes along.
How have you found playing for the gaffer – different to anything you’ve experienced before?
It is different, and it did take me a little time to adapt to what he wanted. He is also Italian, so I had to listen closely to what he was asking of me on the pitch and off the pitch. I had to focus, but very quickly I was enjoying my football. We play a style of football that I like, where I can express myself, and that is why I like it so much.
You started out at the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana, so how did you end up in Europe?
The academy has a partnership with FC Nordsjaelland in Denmark, so for all the players who show promise, they get invited to the club I started off at first with their [Nordsjaelland’s] U19 side and showed what I could do – then I progressed to the first team the following year.
Didn’t Michael Essien have a big influence on your career in Denmark?
Yes, he was part of the staff when I was playing there and he always gave me a lot of advice. He also gave me a lot of advice on the Premier League: how the football is, the intensity, and he also said it was a good place to play, with the fans and the atmosphere in the stadiums. When you receive advice from someone who has played at that level before, you pay much more attention because you can trust what he is saying.
Did you have many other football heroes when you were growing up?
Coming from the Ivory Coast, we had many great players when I was growing up, the likes of Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Salomon Kalou. They were the players – and many like them – who would inspire me to follow in their footsteps.
You left the Ivory Coast at a young age to pursue your dream – has that helped you with your move to Europe?
I think so. I left the Ivory Coast for Benin, for my football and my education, and from there to Ghana. Leaving my family in my homeland at a young age has meant that these moves since have not been as stressful as they could have been. Of course, I still miss my family and speak to them regularly, but it wasn’t such a big issue to move to Denmark, then Belgium and now to Brighton. I know my family are always with me, that they are proud of me, and I’m hoping to bring my mum and my sister over to England soon.
You spent last season on loan at Union St Gilloise in Belgium. Has that made the transition to the Premier League easier?
It was a different level compared to Denmark but it was a good step for me because I got a lot of minutes on the pitch and took a lot of
confidence from that. The standard in Belgium is also good; there are lots of exciting young players, the intensity is high and I also got
experience of playing in Europe. I was also able to play as a striker as well as a winger, so that was a new experience for me. With all that experience gained, it certainly helped me with this next step to Brighton and now I’ve just got to keep learning and keep going.
You’ve scored twice this season and netted 11 goals last season for USG, so can we expect more goals from you?
That is the aim! As a winger I have to score more goals and make more assists. That’s what I expect of myself and I feel I am moving in the right direction to make sure that it happens.
Finally, how are you finding living in the city?
It’s a good place to live. It’s very calm and it’s like a family at the club, with the staff being so good to me. I have been hanging out with Carlos Baleba, as he has a similar background to me [coming from Cameroon] and arrived at a similar time as me. Off the pitch, I just like to chill out. I like to call my mum and my sister or watch Netflix. It’s important to relax when I’m not playing.