FC Halifax Town: “They took a chance on me and I’m grateful” - Debrah on motivation, belief and his dream debut
As far as debuts go, Jesse Debrah’s couldn’t really have gone much better.
The Town defender was only 24 minutes into his first appearance for the club at Woking last Saturday when his left-foot strike flew into the net from 25 yards out.
Debrah went on to play a key role in repelling the hosts and ensuring Halifax held on for their first win of the season.
“I thought it was a tough game,” said the 20-year-old.
“Credit to Milly (Chris Millington) and the gaffer (Pete Wild) for showing the confidence in me to play me.
“I’ve only played one full pre-season game and half of another so to show confidence to play me in the second game of the season, I just want to thank them. And I want to thank God for the opportunity he’s given me.
“It was a competitive game, we knew it was going to be difficult, but we had a game-plan and I feel we executed it to the best of our abilities.
“There’s a couple of things we can work on, because we conceded two goals, but overall it was a good debut.”
That’s a bit of an understatement. And that’s without even mentioning his stunning goal that put Halifax in-front.
“I didn’t want to bring that up!” he said.
“It was so funny, Warbs (Matt Warburton) passed me the ball back and then I took it with my right foot and he was like ‘No, what are you doing! No, no, no!’
“I just thought ‘I’m going to hit this, why not’, left foot as well, just hit it, and I believe it was all part of God’s plan. I’m just glad it hit the back of the net and it ended with a win.”
The quality of the goal is perhaps less of a surprise considering Debrah used to be a striker until around three years ago.
“I keep telling the guys but they don’t believe me!” he said.
“I’m trying to join in the shooting drills after training and they’re like ‘why are you here!’, but hopefully that goal proves it.”
The 6ft 2in centre-back was at Charlton Athletic’s academy for a few months before joining Millwall aged 10.
He was with Millwall for the next 10 years, and had loan spells at Eastbourne, Dulwich Hamlet and Billericay in the Conference South.
Debrah was released by Millwall without making a first-team appearance and re-joined Dulwhich on a permanent basis.
“But Covid interfered with that, so from January to about June/July I was just training with a coach who lives near me, and two other guys, every day for about six months,” he said.
“It was a weird period but I’m religious, I believe in God and I feel everything is God’s timing, so I didn’t panic or feel too down.
“I felt down some days but I knew that if I kept working hard, hopefully God would bless me with an opportunity and I feel like he has.”
Debrah was always confident a deal with a club would materialise, even after trials at Motherwell and Bromley failed to turn into offers.
“I believe in my abilities,” he said. “It didn’t work out at Motherwell and Bromley but when I first came here, Milly and the gaffer were so good, interested in me, showed faith in me.
“They said they’d give me a week and I felt like I’d done well.
“I’m just thankful for them for the opportunity.
“My agent called me and said Halifax might need a centre-back so I might have to go up for a couple of days, so I literally went from Bromley training.
“I’ve never moved away from home but I thought ‘why not, just take the opportunity, it’s something new’.
“Six people live in my house, it can get very messy and noisy!
“Being away from everyone I know for a while, it’s actually quite exciting.
“I enjoyed my short spells at Motherwell and Bromley, I did learn in the space of two weeks at each club, and grew at those places.
“But I feel like the gaffer, Milly and all the staff, it’s just somewhere I gravitated towards.
“The gaffer and Milly just want you to play with confidence, they want you to not be afraid to make mistakes, and they want to coach you.
“I feel like this is the best place for me to be at and I’m just thankful for them for giving me this opportunity.”
Debrah celebrated his goal at Woking with Wild, and says he can recognise the fact he and Millington have worked with younger players before.
“Definitely. I don’t always get it right, I’m still learning every day, I’m not the finished article by any means, nowhere near it, but they show patience with me, they try and coach me every day,” Debrah said.
“I feel like if I can just learn every day and try to work hard and get better, I’ll keep progressing.
“Credit to them because a lot of managers wouldn’t show faith in you, they might just think ‘he’s young’ or ‘he’s been out of the game’, but they took a chance on me and I’m grateful.
“When you’re scared to do things, you limit yourself, but in this environment, it’s not just the coaches but my team-mates.
“Of course, if I do something silly they’ll get on to me, but they allow me to try and grow and develop my game.
“Just trying to play as free as I can, within a system obviously because we have a game-plan, but that’s how you enjoy football, that’s how you’re going to learn, through your mistakes.
“I’m a big believer in the faster you make mistakes if the faster you learn.
“I’ve only been here four weeks but I’ve loved every second of it.”
This is the highest level Debrah has played at in his career so far.
“I always want to aim to be the best I can be. I don’t want to put myself in a bracket of playing at this level, I just believe that with hard work, dedication, listening to my coaches and my team-mates and trying to work hard every day, the plan is to go as high as possible,” he said.
“I could tell it was a step-up from the level I’ve been previously, with the tempo of the game, even the atmosphere, it was just different.
“I just embraced it, it was good and hopefully I can make many more appearances for Halifax.”
Town’s win at Woking was a useful introduction to life in the National League, against a physical opponent who put plenty of high balls in the box.
“I honestly love that side of the game, which is something you didn’t get in academy football when I was playing for the under 23s,” said Debrah.
“A lot of things would be called for fouls, but in this league, and the way the rules are going now, they’re trying to let a lot of things go on, and that’s a little bit of me. I like that, I don’t mind that at all.”
But Debrah is also confident about the other side of his game, such as bringing the ball out from the back and his distribution, which he feels is helped by his time playing as a striker.
“I don’t feel like I showed it on Saturday because it was a tough game and we weren’t really trying to play a possession-based game, but I feel I can step out with the ball,” he said.
“I feel like I can pick out a pass but I want to be more consistent and get better with my passing, my stepping in, everything, every part of my game.
“But I do feel like I do those things well. I’ll be working on that every day and if the opportunity comes, I’ll show it.”
Debrah is only on a short-term contract at Halifax, but is hungry to earn a longer stay.
“It is a motivation that I’m only on a short-term contract, but to be honest, the motivation is just the next game,” he said.
“If I’m in the team, what can I do to play well so I can keep my shirt.
“Even in training, the next day in training, I want to be the best player I can be in training, and if I have a bad session, I’ll go home and think about it.
“I might text Milly ‘what do I need to do’. On my phone, I have note sections, so every day of the week, I score myself out of ten how I’ve done in training.
“I feel like if you do those little things in training, when it comes to the match it’ll just be natural.
“You don’t need to add extra motivation to be like ‘it’s game day, I need to switch on now’ because I’m trying to do that every day.”
When asked where his drive to succeed stems from, Debrah said: “My dad, he always told me ‘take it one day at a time’ and he always said if I had a bad game, he’d say ‘so what, we move on’.
“My dad instilled in me, just take it one day at a time, because that’s the only way you can live your life, let alone football. “That’s how I try to be, just live it one day at a time and just try to be the best version I can be on and off the pitch that day.
“If I do that every single day, that’s what you call discipline.”