Elliot Simoes joined Barnsley Football Club on Monday, after the Reds paid an undisclosed fee to FC United of Manchester.
The recently turned 19-year-old was tipped by national newspapers to get a big move from non-league in this window and despite interest from multiple teams across the footballing pyramid, Simoes chose to join the Reds because of the ‘clear pathway’ and ‘trust’ in young players at Oakwell.
“I wasn't expecting it to happen!” Simoes told barnsleyfc.co.uk, shortly after signing. “I was surprised, I was heading to FC United training as normal, then I got a call telling me that Barnsley wanted to sign me. It's probably the best thing that's happened in my life. I knew I wanted to come straight away, I knew I wanted to join. The only worry you ever have is meeting new people and leaving home, but everyone has been great with me so far. I can't wait to get playing now.
“I have a lot of friends who know about Barnsley,” continued the winger, showing the research he had put into the club before signing his three-and-a-half-year contract. “As soon as I got told a bid had been made, I asked them about it here, I wanted to learn about the place. My friends told me how young the first team was and that they like to bring players through from the academy, that was perfect and clearly the right thing for me.”
Originally from Portugal, Simoes has spent time with both Sporting CP and Benfica, before moving to England in 2013. The move to Manchester saw him join the FCUM Academy, where progress was made through the age groups before making a first team debut and keeping his place in the side.
“I left Portugal in 2013, it was a big change… especially the weather! Before I left Portugal, I don’t think I had ever seen snow! But on a serious footballing side of it, it was a big change in the style. It took me a while to get used to the football played here, because in Portugal you don’t have to be as physical. It’s more about pace and flair over there, but here it’s really physical, you have to be prepared to use your body in England. I noticed that straight away and it’s improved me, I want to keep working and learning now.”
After such a big initial move in his life, Simoes is aware that this is a change, but his family still remains close enough. The youngster has had positive first impressions and describes not knowing anyone as ‘like a first day at school’.
“An hour away isn’t too bad, my family are only in Manchester, my Mum and sister live there and I am sure they will pop over to watch me when they have the chance!
“It’s amazing here from what I have seen. I haven’t got many words for it! It’s a big place, I’m not really used to that, the facilities are superb and will help me. I haven’t played against the lads before, but I have a mutual friend with Louis Walsh, one of my mates is mates with him so it helps you settle, we’ve been chatting since I have come in. It’s like a first day at school, meeting new people and you don’t know anyone.”
The pleasantries are over now though, and it is down to work for Reds’ fourth January addition, following the arrivals of Cauley Woodrow on a permanent basis, Jordan Green and Mateo Aramburu. Simoes knows he has the opportunity to work hard and can see the pathway towards the first team if he does that.
“I haven’t had a huge chat with the coaches yet, but I’m only just in. The ones I have spoken with have wished me well and told me to work hard, that’s what I’ll do. This is 100% my home now, I know that the club have put a lot of faith in me with a three-and-a-half-year contract, so they expect me to better myself and improve my abilities. I’m really happy with the contract, it makes me feel wanted here.
“I’ve been looking back at the results for both the first team and the U23s, the boys got a good win recently at both levels [U23s 1-0 at home against Burnley; First Team 1-4 away at AFC Wimbledon]. The U23s play some tough games against some good academies, it’ll be tough at that level, I hope I can play a part for them and see if I can progress into the first team, that’s the goal for everyone and you can see how many boys have done that, it’s very obvious that there is a pathway to do that.”
So what can Reds fans expect to see from their new signing, who has scored twice and provided eight assists in his 23 games for FCUM at first team level.
“I’m direct, I’ve got a bit of pace and hopefully I can help out with goals and assists. You’ll see a few stepovers, as a winger we like our skills but there is a right and wrong time to do it! Hopefully I can help the team in any way I can. I’m right footed, so I prefer to be on the left-wing so then I can come inside. I’ve played many times on the right though, I think I can do both and I’m working on my left-foot to improve that.”