Joel Piroe exclusive - Leeds United striker on surviving tough times, finding a home in the EFL and not the Eredivisie and his parents

CHAMPIONSHIP life is a beach for Joel Piroe.

Fresh from his sunshine feats at Swansea City, the striker is already making waves at Leeds United after netting five goals in his opening eight league appearances.

Added gloss arrived on Friday after winning the Sky Bet Championship’s goal of the month award for September following a fine strike at Millwall.

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Since arriving on UK shores in the summer of 2021, the Dutchman has scored 46 goals and is closing in on his half-century already.

Leeds United striker Joel Piroe, pictured with his Sky Bet Championship goal of the month award for September.Leeds United striker Joel Piroe, pictured with his Sky Bet Championship goal of the month award for September.
Leeds United striker Joel Piroe, pictured with his Sky Bet Championship goal of the month award for September.

In that time span, no rival has struck more times at second-tier level. United’s investment in a significant eight-figure fee to sign Piroe may have been head-turning, but it already looks like money well spent.

Piroe’s Championship love affair may have started by the Gower Peninsula, but it was not all plain sailing.

Before he rocked up in South Wales, he had it hard in his homeland.

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His initial time at Swansea was also a test when he was left out of their squad for their 2021-22 opener.

While his team-mates took to the field, Piroe headed down to a local beach with his dad and a friend for a kick-about instead.

He netted in the Swans’ next game and has not looked back.

Piroe, speaking in an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post, said: “It was the first game day and I wasn’t involved in the squad.

"I had the day off and before I watched the game, I went to the beach to just do some kick-ups and enjoy the day and try and make it a little bit good.

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"At that point, the weather was still nice. Someone saw it and took a picture.

"At this time, there was a change of staff and the boss (Steve Cooper) left and Russell Martin came in. We didn’t know each other before and had to work that little bit out before I got my chance."

In his early years in the Netherlands, Piroe had to contend with much more. It provided him with the requisite hunger to succeed across the North Sea.

Hailing from the rural town of Wijchen, Piroe was touted as a star in the making in Holland - even likened to a Dutch icon who would later coach him in Ruud van Nistelrooy.

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Linked with the likes of Manchester City and Everton in his early teens, the Dutch youth international signed his first professional contract with PSV Eindhoven.

A manufacturing town, Eindhoven has also produced a conveyor belt of Oranje internationals over the years at the Philips Stadion - including current stars Cody Gakpo, Memphis Depay and Steven Bergwijn.

Despite being destined for the top, it just never happened for Piroe at PSV.

Creditably, he took the blows on the chin and it drove him on as opposed to deflated him.

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He is now getting his rewards, in the EFL and not the Eredivisie.

Piroe, whose dream is to play for the full Dutch national team, continued: “It always goes with ups and downs and you always have to keep working hard to see where you get.

"Of course, it was very difficult to get many minutes at PSV with internationals playing in front of you like Eran Zahavi and Donyell Malan and Luuk de Jong for a period as well.

"You know you are not going to get much game time and it’s hard work. It can be frustrating sometimes, when you feel like you are good enough to play.

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"But they also have their status and when they are performing well, you have to see where your options lie.

"I tried to pick the good stuff from the trainers I had like Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roy Makaay. I just listened to them and soaked the information up and tried to use it to my best advantage.”

Throughout his football journey, Piroe has been able to count on the unstinting support of his parents.

Their backing extended to travelling on a Swansea supporters’ bus for a South Wales derby at Cardiff City - and they have already sampled the Elland Road experience, with their ‘boy’ scoring in recent games against Bristol City and Watford.

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On his parents experiencing Wales’s premier derby, Piroe added: "It was something new.

“We knew it was a big game in South Wales and they wanted to see how the supporters lived through it. It was something special.

"They came to loads of (Swansea) games, especially when we had two home games in a week, they’d come over. They love it.

"They have already been to Leeds and really enjoy Elland Road as well. They say that the atmosphere was something different here and louder of course and the stadium is always packed. It makes a big difference.”

Piroe already has his own song at Leeds.

"That’s always very nice. Sometimes, I wish we could just stand still and listen to it,” he said.

Expect it to be sung repeatedly this season.