FEATURE: Ambitious Hildeberto Pereira can't wait to get cracking for the Cobblers
The lure of working with one of his footballing idols in Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, the fact the Cobblers is '˜a classic English club' and a burning ambition to play in the Premier League are the reasons behind Hildeberto Pereira opting to take the next step on his footballing career path at the unlikely destination of Sixfields.
The 21-year-old Legia Warsaw winger has signed on loan with Town until the end of the season, and is keen to get his career moving again after a frustrating few months with the Polish League champions.
Pereira left Lisbon giants Benfica in the summer to sign for Legia, but has found life tricky at the Polish Army Stadium.
Firstly, the man who signed him, Jacek Magiera, lost his job in September, and with Pereira then suffering an injury that kept him sidelined for around a month, he has struggled to make an impact.
The Portuguese has played just once under current boss Romeo Jozak, and hasn’t played a competitive game since mid-October, so when he was offered the chance to come back to England and play for one of his sporting idols in Hasselbaink, Pereira jumped at the chance.
Pereira was unveiled in front of the media on Wednesday and, speaking through an interpreter, was asked for the reasons for his move to the Cobblers.
“Northampton is a classic English club I have known for many years, and the fact that Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink called me up and spoke with me,” said Pereira, who spent last season on loan at Nottingham Forest in the Sky Bet Championship, playing 25 games.
“We already know each other from before and that was a very big help, and hopefully this will be a big thing for both of us.”
And he added; “The first encounter I had with Jimmy was last year when I was in the Championship with Nottingham Forest, and we played against him when he was the manager of QPR.
“Since then we have spoken a couple of times, and then a month or so ago he called me when I was in Poland.
“I was very happy because not only do I know him very well as a manager, but as a player I was a very big fan of his.
“When he was at Chelsea I used to watch a lot of the games and I was a fan because I used to be a striker as well, like he was. I kind of idolised him when he was younger.”
English football is obviously something that attracts the Lisbon-born player, and the Premier League in particular.
As a kid in Portugal, he watched on as Hasselbaink banged in the goals for Chelsea and he says his ambition is to still reach the top flight in England himself - although he knows he is going to have to do the hard yards first if that dream is to become a reality.
“Playing in the Premier League has always been my childhood dream,” said Pereira, who providing he gets international clearance from FIFA will be available for selection for the Cobblers’ clash with Southend United at Sixfields on Saturday.
“I know that things don’t happen overnight, and it is about step-by-step and going through the leagues here in England and showing my talent.
“If I can grab the opportunities that are given to me then hopefully I can fulfil that dream, because all I ever wanted to do was play in the Premier League.”
Looking back on his tough first few months at Polish giants Legia, where Pereira signed a four-year deal in the summer, the flying winger says his struggles are just part and parcel of football.
“Essentially, these things happen in football,” said the player, who has represented Portugal at Under-18, Under-19 and Under-20 levels.
“There was a manager change, and there was a slight injury that kept me out for three or four weeks.
“Those things combined didn’t give me much space to play.
“At the beginning things were going well and I was getting minutes and feeling well, but now things have changed.
“When this opportunity to play for Northampton came, I didn’t look back.”
Pereira has been training with the Cobblers squad at their Moulton College base for the past few weeks. is already settled into life at Sixfields, and says the welcome he has received in Northampton has been a good one.
“I have been very well received, and the group here is a good bunch of people,” he said.
“That’s not just the players, but all of the staff as well who have been very, very welcoming and very nice, and hopefully I can repay this with performances on the pitch.”
So what type of player can the Cobblers fans expect to see when Pereira steps out in the claret and white?
“I am the type of player that gives everything, from the first second of the game until the last,” said Pereira, who never made an appearance for hometown club Benfica, but was a regular in their B team in the second division in Portugal.
“I try and create imbalances in defences, and go forward a lot and try to take opponents on.
“I just hope that the fans will be behind us, which I am sure they will be, and we can do good things here at Northampton.”
In his only answer during the interview spoken in English, Pereira made it clear where his favourite position on the field is, declaring: “I’m a right winger.”
But he then also made it clear he is a versatile attacking player, and will be happy to play wherever Hasselbaink wishes to utilise him.
“I can play on either of the wings, and I used to play up front as well and until I was 19 I was a striker,” he added, again through his interpreter.
“I can play as a right-back in a 3-5-2, and at Nottingham Forest I also played as a central midfielder, and offensive midfielder.
“So wherever the manager wants me to play, I’ll play.”
While in Northampton training with his prospective new team-mates, Pereira also took the chance to watch the team play in Sky Bet League One, and although Town are still stuck in the bottom four of the table, he has been impressed with the team spirit.
“I have seen Northampton play two games,” said Pereira.
“The things that stick out for me from them was that the team is very united, and everybody is pushing in the same direction, and that is very important for the progress of the team.
“Sometimes the football in this league is not the same as in other leagues, but the team is united and if we all keep pushing in the same direction then we can go places.”
With just three competitive games under his belt this season, and none since mid-October, there may be a concern that Pereira won’t be sharp enough to shine straight away for the Cobblers.
But the player is quick to reassure the Town fans, and after being worked hard in training by the Sixfields coaching staff, says he is ready and firing, and will be up to the mark if he is asked to face the Shrimpers this weekend.
“Yes, I am ready to play on Saturday if the manager so decides to give me some minutes, or to give me a start,” he said.
“I am ready to help the team, and to help them get back to winning ways.”