In the latest part of our series looking at the upbringing of our Academy youngsters, defender Dynel Simeu talks idol Didier Drogba, FA Youth Cup memories growing up at Chelsea and being an all-round athlete.
What is your earliest memory of football?
I was still in primary school, I was in year five and I played for a team called Chamberlayne Athletic in Southampton and it was just a Sunday league team - I used to play for the age group above mine. I remember winning managers’ player and players’ player of the year, they were my first proper individual trophies. I really enjoyed my football there.
Did you play in any other positions when you were younger?
I started off as a winger but I would sometimes play as a striker. As I got older I moved into back and played in centre midfield for a few years then, after a season in defence, Chelsea used me as a right-back during my trials and developed me into a centre-back.
Who did you look up to when you were younger?
My football idol would be Dider Drogba, I’ve always loved him. I loved him as a character, I found him funny and I can relate to him because he’s from Africa as well. But growing up, one of my first jerseys was a Frank Lampard shirt, I had the home top with number eight on the back.
I like Meek Mill, he’s an American rapper – I like how he is as a person. Outside of rapping he does a lot of work to help his community and the injustice system. He’s humble enough to try and help others.
Did you play any other sports while growing up?
I pretty much played every sport – I did cross country, I was quite good and I won a few races, I did athletics and represented Hampshire, my county. I played rugby and had trials for London Irish but I chose to play football instead. I also did rowing and was once national champion, growing up I played quite a lot of sports.
What’s your earliest memory of watching football?
My earliest memory was from the game when Chelsea played Barcelona in the 2009 Champions League semi-final. I wasn’t at Chelsea at that time but I was at home watching Drogba, and he was booked after the 90th minute - that game was full of action.
What one footballing memory sticks to mind?
Signing my professional contract… Actually it would have to be singing for Chelsea after my trial. I came from a Sunday league team in Southampton and with my background I didn’t know many footballers and didn’t even know how Chelsea Academy worked, I thought playing here was unrealistic. I admired Portsmouth and Southampton because that’s all I knew, I always dreamed of becoming a footballer but my family and I never thought it was realistic, then when I got the chance everything happened quickly and it was unbelievable.
What do you remember from the FA Youth Cup growing up in the Academy?
I remember the final versus Manchester City in 2015 when Tammy [Abraham] scored two top goals, it was great to see. What I also remember from that year is that the team were always confident, they always thought they could win and nothing fazed them – they took it all into their stride. They had to beat some big teams and they always believed they would come out on top, they were always well prepared.
It’s quite similar to us this year, we are fresh and ready for any team, and we are focussing on ourselves. The results we have had so far have been good because we’ve had two clean sheets and scored plenty with 4-0 and 5-0 scorelines.
Our Under-18s meet Wolverhampton Wanderers in the fifth round of this year’s FA Youth Cup on Monday 10 February at Aldershot. Tickets are available at just £3 for adults and £1 for concessions. The tie is also live on the 5th Stand App, kick-off 7pm.