The much-coveted Bermuda international has enjoyed a wonderful season and has become a cult hero with his club’s fans. Here we look at Wells’ career so far…
Picture credit for this article’s featured image: Sports Mole.
From Bermuda to Bradford: 22-year-old Nahki Wells’ story is quite incredible. Born and raised in the small British colony of Bermuda – he is unequivocally one of the most talented footballers the island has ever produced. Other notable names such as former striker Kyle Lightbourne – who is most known for his exploits with Stoke – and fellow forward Shaun Goater – who scored over 100 times for Manchester City – also hail from there.
Given Cricket is by far the most popular sport played and watched in Bermuda, with football (or, ‘soccer’) rarely in the spotlight, it speaks volumes about the trio’s achievements. For Wells, though, he still has an excellent future to look forward to. His potential is tremendous.
Early Days in Bermuda
But it all began with Bermudan top-flight club Dandy Town (see above). He joined them when he was just 12 and shone through all age levels. Inevitably, at just the tender age of 18, Wells was presented with his first-team debut in the 2009/2010 season. 20 goals in 18 appearances helped fire Town to their sixth Premier Division title and was enough for Bermuda Hogges – who play in the fourth tier of the American Soccer Pyramid and are owned by Lightbourne and Goater – to come calling.
His appearances for Hogges were sporadic and although he only contributed two goals in nine matches, when he did play he glistened. Ultimately, after a string of exceptional performances from the frontman, the media in his homeland started to pay close attention. Articles were written in the island’s local newspapers declaring just how good he was, emphasizing the mindboggling point that he was just a baby-faced teenager.
20 goals in 18 games for Dandy Town was enough for Hogges to come calling
He was also a star performer at school. Jermaine Postlethwaite, who coached Wells while he was studying at CedarBridge Academy, said: “It was well known throughout the school and community that he was more advanced than many of his peers on the pitch. He was recognised as a standout player who attracted a lot of attention from college coaches.”
There was a real aura about the way he played. The way he escaped his opponent, sped down the wing or threaded in a pinpoint ball for a teammate. It was obvious that Wells was miles ahead of all the other players and with the media and press getting understandably excited, this was when clubs in Europe began to pay an interest.
Move to England and Carlisle switch
Well-known Dutch side Ajax took him on trial and were very quick to offer him a deal. Youth coach Scott Morton, who has known Wells all his life, recalled: “They couldn’t believe his speed and skill. He was tremendous out there and outplayed their youth team by leaps and bounds. Ajax wanted him to sign there and then but it was a big stretch for his parents to let him go.”
Homesickness also played a prominent role in the striker’s decision to turn his back on a contract at Ipswich. He impressed at a trial and in hindsight he says he regrets the decision to turn down the offer: “I knew as soon as I got on the flight back to Bermuda it was something I should have made the most of.”
His time at Carlisle was a fruitless one, making just three substitute appearances
At this stage, it was becoming increasingly apparent Wells suffered heavily from being away from his family and he had to decide if chasing his boyhood dream was worth the hassle of homesickness. It was a difficult time for him. Horton touched on the immense support from his family: “What has also impressed me is the support of his parents, his friends and extended family. You need that support network to adapt and he has done that.”
He did later move to England – after questioning close friend Goater about what the sport in the UK is like – joining the International Academic and Soccer Academy (IASA) in Leeds. Shortly after, he was picked up by local non-league outfit Eccleshill United. Wells was stationed there for a matter of months before he underwent a successful trial at Carlisle United (see below), to which he signed for in the January transfer window of 2011.
It’s fair to say he enjoyed a fruitless spell with the North East club, however, as he made a paltry three substitute appearances and failed to register a goal. He was continually left on the bench and neglected, not handed the opportunity to show the management staff or supporters what he could do. Wells didn’t even make the matchday squad for the team’s Football League Trophy Final against Brentford, which Carlisle went on to win 1-0.
There was talk that the club were unsure over whether or not to release the forward. Mark Ellis, who coached Wells at the IASA, reportedly warned the coaching staff of the possibility Carlisle might regret the decision to release him: “Carlisle have to be careful, because if they release him he could go and do well for someone else,” he said in April 2011.
In May that year, it was officially announced Wells’ contract would not be renewed at the end of the campaign. He failed to cut it and despite Ellis’ pleas to keep him at the club, the manager Greg Abbott thought it was for the best. The irony is Wells did move somewhere else, and they would live to regret the decision.
By Nathan Carr
Part 2 of Wells’ marvellous story will be posted within the next fortnight. Until then, make sure to check us out on Twitter @caribbeanftbl