Donervon Daniels interview: Walsall captain’s goal of the month, Cristiano Ronaldo celebrations and his ‘rebirth’ | Football News

Estimated read time 5 min read

These goal of the month awards tend to be the preserve of prolific strikers and nippy wingers not strapping centre-halves but Donervon Daniels broke the mould for Walsall in January. “I am quite nippy,” he responds, quick as a flash.

Let us leave it to Daniels to describe the moment.

“It was a throw-in from our right-hand side and we worked the ball across the pitch through midfield. It comes out to me on the left centre-half and I just ran in, passed the ball and continued my run. Nice link-up play between myself, Jack Earing and Liam Gordon.”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Watch Donervon Daniels’ goal in Walsall’s Sky Bet League Two match against Sutton

And then the strike. What a strike.

“Back of the net, top corner,” he tells Sky Sports.

“It is a lot harder than it looks.”

The reaction of his team-mates told a tale. “They expected me to score but not that type of goal. They were actually giving me stick because I have had quite a few chances throughout the season and I have not put it in the net. And when I scored, everyone was, like, ‘Your celebration needs to be better.'”

Perhaps he should have gone with the Cristiano Ronaldo celebration that he had cranked out after scoring his first goal for his country, Montserrat, in November. I should have pulled that one back out,” he laughs. “That would have been suitable for the goal, actually.”

This is a hot streak then? “I wish it was. It is two in 40 games!”

Donervon Daniels of Walsall is celebrating after scoring his team's first goal during the Sky Bet League 2 match between Walsall and Sutton United at the Banks's Stadium in Walsall, on January 27, 2024. (Photo by MI News/NurPhoto)
Donervon Daniels of Walsall celebrates after scoring his sensational goal

In conversation at the club’s training ground, Daniels makes for amiable company, pulling up the chairs for us to discuss his goal and the wider context of Walsall’s season. The goals may be rare but as captain there is a role to play beyond the very occasional screamer.

He is having a good season, personally. “Just my normal, solid, consistent self, I would say.” But as well as the familiar duties that come with defending, the 30-year-old Daniels also tops the list for most accurate long passes by a defender in League Two.

“I would definitely say it is one of my strong attributes. I think it is why the gaffer plays me on the left side because he knows I can come inside and find the diagonal pass or a third-man runner over the back. I am also very comfortable on my left side.”

Walsall's Donervon Daniels has played the most accurate long passes of any defender in League Two this season
Donervon Daniels has played the most accurate long passes of any defender in League Two

The best football of a career in which he won the League One title with Wigan in 2016? Perhaps it is his most consistent. He has played more for Walsall than any other club. “I have improved a lot as a player and as a man. I saw it as an opportunity to start again.

“I feel like Walsall has birthed me anew.”

He has certainly embraced the captaincy.

“It is also one of my roles here to be somewhat of a mentor. Lead from the front with my performances, first and foremost, and then try to help the boys with certain conversations.

“Whether it is keeping them grounded when they are in a rich vein of form or picking them up when they are not doing so well. That is something I have had from more senior lads during my career and it is something I want to give now to the lads in the group.”

Protecting those team-mates is part of it. Earlier this season, a video clip went viral – attracting over a million views – when Daniels briefly motioned towards an Alfreton fan who was giving the players stick as they walked past. He smiles at the recollection.

“I just felt like me and the team were getting a lot of criticism that day. My reaction was just to let that person know we are still human and have emotions as well. I did not get in any trouble. In the end, it just turned out to be a little bit of laughing.”

Southampton's Sekou Mara (left) and Walsall's Donervon Daniels battle for the ball during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match at St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton. Picture date: Saturday January 6, 2024.
Donervon Daniels has taken on a leadership role within a young Walsall side

What next? Walsall began 2024 with a 6-1 battering of Grimsby that put them right in play-off contention, a fifth win in six games. But a run of draws has seen them slump to 16th. Such is life in League Two that they are only eight points off the play-offs even now.

“It would be a lie if I said we are happy where we are,” says Daniels.

“But, overall, I still feel we are in a good position. We have a young squad so there are going to be moments of inconsistency. But we have got a settled team. Our hope is to pick up the performances and at the end of the season the cards will lie where they lie.

“We are not being brash by saying we are going to achieve something but we have aspirations to achieve something. If we can capitalise on our opportunities, we can get into the play-offs, which is where we want to be, and get out of this division.”

And how about another League Two goal of the month award for February? There are still four games left in which to win it. But while Daniels is an optimist when it comes to Walsall’s season, he is not so sure about his own transformation into a striker supreme.

“I don’t think I will be able to retain it,” he laughs.

Source link

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours