D’Sean Theobalds is nearing the end of his first season in Poland and he would recommend the experience.
The midfielder joined Korona Kielce as a full-time professional from Tonbridge Angels at the start of the year and is currently in the thick of an end of season battle to avoid relegation
It’s the second time the 24-year-old has played abroad - he has previously had a spell in Spain - a move that allowed him to taste full-time football.
He said: “It was a great opportunity. I always wanted to go full-time, I was just waiting for the opportunity and then this came along and I don’t mind going to Europe to play football.
“I would definitely recommend it. For me, it is about learning different experiences and it is about being able to adapt.
“Originally I thought I was going to have to go down the non-league route, just rise through and keep trying to play well at non-league and get picked up, but I went down a different avenue.
“Going abroad for me is an experience, you don’t really know what it’s going to be like until you do it. We have serious players in Poland from all over the world. There is quality over here.
“The chances are there. So many players go from non-league to pro, there are different avenues and one thing I would say is that you never know who is watching. Scouts don’t come in their uniform, they could be at any game watching, they could look like any other fan. The opportunities are there, you just have to work hard.”
His dream was to turn pro and the chance to move to Korona came out of nothing. His younger brother was at a trial match with their dad and happened to mention to a scout that there was an older sibling who played a bit too. They showed him clips of D’Sean in action and things quickly progressed.
An agent in Poland was tipped off and a trial with Korona was arranged. After impressing the management he earned himself a contract.
“I am playing and getting better,” he said.
“To get a three year deal, I was like, ‘wow’. You don’t expect it. I didn’t think it would be that long, if I am honest.
“From then I just had to work hard and try and adapt, it takes time.
“It is full-time, it is a different style, but it gives you that intensity. It is quicker and sharper when you train every day, I have definitely improved, you learn all the time.
“Different managers want different things, you just have to add different parts to your game and that all helps.”
D’Sean was speaking ahead of their ‘relegation round’ match against Zaglebie last week, from the comfort of his hotel, travelling the day before the match. It’s a world away from car-sharing with James Folkes to games located around the M25.
“It is very different,” he said. “You get a coach, hotel, relax and do whatever, that is nice, it is more chilled.
“When I first signed at Tonbridge Angels I told the manager that my ambition was full time football and he said he would never stop me. He never did and I have the utmost respect for everyone there.
“The fans were brilliant, amazing, same as the staff. I have high praise for all of them. Everyone was supportive. I wish them good luck and people do still message me and that is nice. I have the most amount of love for them.”
His focus now is to try and help his side avoid relegation. The Polish top-flight splits into two groups of eight for the final months of the season, with the top eight challenging for honours and the bottom eight facing off to survive.
A limited number of fans are allowed into watch matches in Poland after the country emerged from the Covid-19 lockdown. The season resumed at the end of May.
He said: “A lot of things are back to normal. When it started happening we went straight into strict lockdown. It was strict, nothing like in England.
“Over here you would be getting fined and it was good because we stayed in for however long and once it stopped we were ready to go. We get tested every two weeks, it has been fine the whole time, it was dealt with well here.”
Things aren’t looking good for Korona’s survival chances, however. They are entrenched in the bottom three relegation places, but D’Sean will keep learning, working hard and hoping to improve for the benefit of the team.
He said: “You go in blind but I wouldn’t have passed the opportunity. It is what I have worked hard for, to go full-time, it is what I wanted out of football.”