Kent- Striker Jimiel Chikukwa sees National League South outfit Maidstone United as the ideal club for his development after joining on loan from Watford.
The English sixth tier side have secured the services of the 18-year-old Zimbabwean starlet for the rest of the season and he’s determined to make the most of the opportunity.
Part of the under-23 squad at Vicarage Road, he’s had a taste of first-team training with the Hornets and knows a successful loan spell will add another string to his bow.
“A couple of months ago my coach at Watford was saying he thought it would be beneficial for me if I went out and got some men’s team experience,” said Chikukwa.
“He came to me with that idea and then I spoke to my dad about it and we thought it would be really good if I could get out on loan and it’s just advanced over the last couple of weeks.
“Maidstone was the name put forward to me. There were a couple of options we were looking at but we decided this was best for me.
“When I heard about Maidstone, I saw they were quite high up in the table so if I could come in and, being a striker, get them goals and hopefully push for promotion, it would be a good thing for me and the team.
“This is going to help me. Whether it’s men’s football in the Premier League or men’s football in the National League, the demands are going to be there and you’ve still got to push yourself to the maximum, and that’s what I’m going to do.
“I’m a direct striker, so I like to run in behind, I like to run on my man, my movement’s quite good as well, and my finishing.
“I’m quite versatile so I can play striker but I can also play either side.”
Chikukwa bounced back from the disappointment of being released by Leeds last summer to secure a move to Watford.
📺 We had a quick catch up with new loan signing Jimiel Chikukwa before departing for St Albans ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/Y5gBaDMr7y
— Maidstone United (@maidstoneunited) January 22, 2022
It’s kept him around that Premier League environment, leaving him in no doubt what’s required to make it in a tough industry.
“They push you quite hard at Premier League clubs,” said Chikukwa.
“Obviously before Watford I was at Leeds, so I’ve had that experience for a season already.
“It’s tough physically and mentally but in the end it will help you become a better player.
“I’ve trained with the first team at Watford a couple of times and you really see the difference in the standard between 23s football and first-team football.
“You have to be much more switched on mentally.
“It’s good when you’re with the first team because it’s obviously what you’re aiming for, you want to be playing first-team football, so every time I go and train with them, I just try and do the best I can.
“It was good to get the move to Watford.
“I did four or five years at Leeds, through my scholarship, and then the time came to find out about pro contracts.
“Me and the rest of the boys in my group didn’t get offered anything so I had to go and find a new club.
“In football you can’t dwell on the lows too much, so I just tried to stay motivated and keep on top of running and playing football, stuff like that, and when the opportunity came to trial at Watford, I think I took it quite well.
“When you score as a striker it boosts your confidence and the fact I got two on my first start, it was good stuff.”
Maidstone boss Hakan Hayrettin sees the potential in his new recruit.
“He was highly recommended to me by two or three people that I trust,” said Hayrettin. “He’s in a good squad here – let’s push him.”