AS the number of Bradford City shirts seen on the streets of the capital Hamilton last year amply proved, Bermuda simply cannot get enough of Nahki Wells.
The 23-year-old, along with Shaun Goater, comfortably the Caribbean island’s most successful footballing export, is big news in his homeland.
Even the country’s Prime Minister was pictured before last season’s Capital One Cup final at Wembley sporting claret and amber.
Now, however, the Bantams’ famous old colours have given way to the blue and white of Huddersfield Town following Wells’s switch across West Yorkshire in the January transfer window.
“The support back home for me is great,” said Wells to the Yorkshire Post ahead of today’s derby with Leeds United at Elland Road. “They support me in whatever I do.
“Obviously, things can get blown up at times and maybe some in Bermuda thought I would be going to a Premier League club.
“But that was never going to be the case. I wanted to go to the right club and one that would help me continue to develop, and continue to learn as a player.
“That is why Huddersfield was always the right move for me and my first week here just proved that to me. Back home, Huddersfield is the name now floating about in the press. Bradford were well known because of what we did but Huddersfield now get good exposure. Now, everyone supports Huddersfield.”
Bermuda’s football fans may well have been as surprised as their Bradford counterparts that Wells ended up at the John Smith’s Stadium. But the player himself was never in any doubt as to where he wanted to go.
“The Premier League wasn’t a realistic option for me,” said the striker who netted 23 times last season as Bradford clinched promotion from League Two and made history as the first team from the basement tier to reach a major Wembley final. “Not at this stage.
“Of course, any young player who had the opportunity to go to the Premier League, I don’t think he would turn it down.
“There was a lot of interest in me but I didn’t want to take too big a step in one go. I didn’t want to go to the biggest name in the country or the biggest clubs who were interested in me.
“Instead, I thought about things and weighed up my options. I wanted a club who would help me do well at Championship level. I didn’t want to take the jump and then be back in League One within a year or two.
“I wanted to grow as a player at Huddersfield. As a club, I don’t think Huddersfield get the credit they deserve. They came up last year and survived. Now they are taking steps forward as a club.
“The manager is ambitious and wants us to play football the right way. That is why I wanted the long-term security here because I know in a year’s time we will be another two steps forward, and a year after that, we will be forward again. You won’t be able to rule us out of promotion.”
When still at Bradford, Wells’s future had become something of a saga with Peterborough United last summer having a £1.3m bid turned down for the striker.
Wolverhampton Wanderers made an identical offer shortly before the January window opened. Bradford, well aware that Wells’s contract had just 18 months to run, were tempted but Wells made it clear where he wanted to go.
So, on January 10, a deal that saw Huddersfield pay a record-equalling £1.2m transfer fee – with the promise of further payments based on future success and appearances – was agreed.
The news went down badly in Bradford, where fans found it hard to stomach the idea that their star striker was on his way to a bitter rival.
“I understand the rivalry between the two clubs,” said Wells, when asked about crossing the Bradford-Huddersfield divide.
“I also understand about local pride and what fans think about their own club.
“But, unfortunately, you can’t make everyone happy in football. I couldn’t allow people’s views to affect where I chose to go.
“It was important to go where it suited me. Unfortunately, that was to the local rivals of my previous club but that is sometimes just the way it goes.
“To be honest, I have had more thank-yous (from Bradford fans) than bad wishes. I am thankful for that.
“The thing was my mindset was to move (in January) and I wanted to come here. I had my heart set on Huddersfield. I couldn’t keep that to myself and I went to the chairman and manager to tell them.
“That was the first time I maybe got distracted. It was before the window opened. Some interest came in when the window opened but I stayed the same. I wanted to come here. I pushed and did whatever I could to get here. Ten days into the window, the transfer happened.
“Before, when my name was being linked (to several clubs), it wasn’t a distraction. Not to me. Most of the time I get to the bottom of what is the truth and a lot of the links were rubbish.”
Leeds United were one of many clubs who had Wells watched as the goals started to fly in for the Bermudian. Today, he will get the chance to finally play at Elland Road after his previous visit with the Bantams – in August, 2011 – ended without Wells getting off the bench.
“It was one of my first professional fixtures as a Bradford player,” recalls Wells of a 3-2 Capital One Cup first-round victory for Leeds.
“I didn’t come off the bench but the atmosphere was great and it was clear there was a big rivalry between the two clubs.
“I enjoyed the moment. Leeds won but the memories of that night are great, especially as there were 25,000 fans there. Any player enjoys moments and big games like these.
“Prior to last season, I maybe might have questioned myself in that I came from a small place. But I did well in those big games for Bradford against Arsenal, Wigan, Villa and the two Wembley trips.
“They were all big games and big occasions. This weekend’s game at Leeds is big but I have played in bigger occasions. So, I am totally capable of rising to the occasion. I always think big occasions bring the best out of me.”