Kamil Zayatte believes his Premier League partnership with Anthony Gardner can be the platform for success at Sheffield Wednesday this season.
The 28-year-old defender only joined the Owls on the eve of the new campaign after a drawn-out summer transfer saga, but has already settled into his new Hillsborough surroundings.
And being reunited with Gardner – the duo were part of the Hull City defence which spent two years in the top flight – has made the transition all the more easier.
The pair have been Dave Jones’s first-choice centre-back partnership for the first two games of the season, and despite a midweek League Cup exit at Rotherham United, optimism is high after an impressive opening day performance at promotion favourites QPR.
Guinea international Zayatte played three seasons at the KC Stadium before spending the last two years in Turkey with Konyaspor and Istanbul BB.
Zayatte was desperate for a return to England and even ditched his agent to thrash out a deal with Owls chairman Milan Mandaric to rescue a move which had, at one point, collapsed.
Now the African-born footballer – he moved to Paris with his family when he was 15 – hopes he and Gardner can once again shine in Yorkshire despite a shaky start.
“We played together for Hull City and now we need to try and find that connection in training because it has been a long time since we played together,” said Zayatte.
“We played together in pre-season games but I think our partnership will only get better. Anthony is a good player, and in Hull we had a good partnership. On the pitch, he talked to me a lot.
“It has been a long time since I lived in this country and the first two games have been hard.
“I don’t know what happened at Rotherham. In the Cup game, we tried to put in 200 per cent, keep the ball, but it didn’t happen.
“Now we have the next game to build and show to everybody that Tuesday was an accident.
“We played well at QPR, had a lot of possession but didn’t score. We did well, both tactically and mentally, and played better than QPR. But we didn’t win.”
Zayatte explained the behind-the-scenes problems in the summer which nearly scuppered his move to Hillsborough.
“I went to training camp with Wednesday in Portugal,” he said. “My agent and the club tried to sort out a contract and I stayed two weeks with the team.
“I said to the gaffer I need to go back to France to see my family. Both parties tried to come up with a solution but they didn’t find one. So I stayed in Paris, training myself with a friend.
“The agent and the club could not find a solution between them, so I came back to Hillsborough myself and I agreed a deal with the gaffer and owner, and signed.
“I solved the problem. I signed the contract without the agent, I don’t have one now.
“I am happy to be here as everyone worked hard to get me into the team.
“Clubs from France and Turkey were interested in signing me in the summer but, in my head, I wanted to move back to England.
“When the club first proposed I went to Portugal with them, I said ‘okay, no problem if you want to sign me now, or if you want me to go on trial, because I want to come back to England’.”
Two years living on his own in Turkey have meant a nomadic lifestyle for Zayatte but with his family due to fly in from France next month, he hopes he can finally settle down in Yorkshire.
“My family are going to come to Sheffield next month and I am going to stay with my family here.
“I stayed two years in Turkey without my family and it was so hard for me.
“Now here, I need to be with my family. It’s been a journey.
“The gaffer believes in me and showed a lot of confidence to bring me here. I am one of the important players of this team and that’s why I want to make something special with Wednesday.
“We have a good team, a good mix of young and older players, and, for me, we will get better game after game.
“We played well against QPR, now we are out of the Cup, so we can concentrate on the Championship. We can be one of the top teams at the end of the season.”
Today’s visit of Burnley will see Zayatte make his Hillsborough debut, having never played in S6 before.
“I am excited about playing at Hillsborough. I can’t wait for kick-off, to be in our stadium and show to the people we are a good team.
“I have never played at Hillsborough before, only at (Sheffield) United with Hull.
“If we play like we did against QPR, we can beat Burnley.
“Everybody (in the dressing room) was sad after Rotherham, but now we need to be prepared for the League. We need to take every point at home.”
Zayatte will be in a makeshift Owls defence today, with Jones still without his four first-team squad full-backs.
The manager has been told by chairman Mandaric that he must unload players from Hillsborough before he can bring in any new signings before the September 2 transfer deadline. With a new midfielder and striker top of his wanted list, midfielder Liam Palmer and teenager Rafael Floro – a 19-year-old from Portugal – will continue to fill the full-back spots.
“Rafael is only a young boy and is learning his trade,” said Jones.
“Unfortunately, he might have to be thrown in at the deep end, but what a great way to learn your trade, being thrown in at the deep end.
“We might have to give some of the youngsters a run, we may have to do that a number of times as we are not running with the biggest squad at this moment in time.
“We want to add to the squad, to strengthen it, there are players here that we need to move because they are surplus to requirements. But with the size of the squad here, everybody here will get an opportunity.”