Bambo Diaby admitted he couldn’t have imagined a better return to action after over two years out of football, marking his first appearance for PNE with a clean sheet and a goal in the Central League.
The defender, who officially joined the club in January, featured for North End for the first time on Tuesday afternoon, starting and scoring against Bolton Wanderers for the reserves side.
PNE came out 2-0 winners at the Trotters’ training ground, with Bambo breaking the deadlock and Joe Rodwell-Grant netting a second to seal another three points in the Central League.
Speaking post-match, Bambo said: “I enjoyed it a lot. It’s my first game after a long time. Since my first day here, every day I’ve imagined my first game with this shirt, and today when I put the kit on it was like ‘okay now is the time to enjoy’.
“You can’t imagine that [scoring a goal]. I just imagined to play good and to do my best on the pitch.
“As a centre back if you get a chance to score you have to do it and today God helped me. The ball is coming to my head, I scored and I’m very happy and it helped me to get more confidence going forward.”
The Senegal-born man, formerly of Barnsley, celebrated right in front of the cameras, putting his fingers to his ears to silence those who have doubted him in the past few years.
He added: “My celebration is because for a long time people talk too much about me. Me and my family have suffered a lot in this situation and I don’t need to listen.
“I just close my ears and enjoy. Enjoy the football and enjoy working hard.
“I am focused on that and not what the people are saying behind me.”
Manager Ryan Lowe was in attendance – alongside the rest of his backroom staff – and he has stated openly he has been waiting to see the defender in action.
Bambo is yet to make his senior competitive bow since joining, but the hard work for him has continued in recent weeks behind the scenes.
He said: “On the game I’m not focused to impress anyone. I try to do my best to help the team, to help myself, to enjoy and step by step to get some chances to play with the first team.
“I’m always working hard to get the opportunity to get some minutes with the first team.”
North End’s line-up against Bolton was made up mainly of those in Nick Harrison’s U19s, who currently sit top of their league table.
Bambo has been keeping an eye on their results and believes there is a future in the game for many of PNE’s youngsters.
“We have quality,” he said. “I follow the U19s and see that they’re first in the table. I think they’ve scored a lot of goals in the last few games, it’s unbelievable.
“I enjoy playing with them because it’s football. It’s not about them being young, for me the most important thing is the attitude.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re young or old, I just try to learn because you learn from everyone.
“Sometimes you learn from a kid, sometimes you learn from older people and these lads have quality, and I think if they continue like this we will have very good footballers here.”
You can watch Bambo's full interview for free above on iFollow PNE.