Connor Ronan is a living example of how it can have huge dividends for young footballers to take a risk when it comes to enhancing their development as professionals.
In January, the 21-year-old midfielder returned to Wolves after a disappointing few months on loan at Walsall. Unsure as to what the next step in his career should be, it was suggested Ronan should look at the impact a switch to Slovakian Fortuna Liga outfit DAC Dunajská Streda had on his under-23 colleague Christian Herc.
The Republic of Ireland under-21 international set course for Slovakia, and he hasn’t looked back since; becoming a regular starter for the side which qualified for the Europa League, scoring his first goal as a professional and - most importantly - regaining confidence in his outstanding ability, which has led to him being named as an 'MVP' in the 2019 Toulon Tournament this summer.
On his time on loan with Dunajská Streda
“I’ve loved it. When I first came here I set myself a few aims and the first one was just to get in the team as soon as possible.
“I spent the first two or three games on the bench, coming on, and that was really just a case of getting to know how they play their football, what the team’s style was, and adapt to that.
“Thankfully, the coach gave me a chance after just three or four games to start and then I haven’t come out the team since, so I think I’ve definitely met that aim in terms of playing every game and getting my fitness and a bit of confidence back.
“By playing every week it’s helped me massively and I’ve also chipped in with my first professional goal and a few assists here and there, so I think it was just a case of getting my confidence back and I feel I’ve done that coming here.”
On the facilities available to players at DAC
“The quality of the facilities here were very surprising because you don’t really expect it when you think about Slovakian football, not many people know about it and you do have to look into it.
“In terms of the facilities, I had something in my mind of how they would be, which is why the club and Wolves wanted me to come over first and look around first.
“You see this new training ground, the state-of-the-art facilities which they have and a brand-new stadium, and it really helps us as players who just want to get better every day and this training ground gives you a platform to do that.
“With the pitches, the facilities, and the amount of staff they have, you’re getting everything you need to succeed, so from that point of view, it’s been perfect, and you can’t fault it.”
On scoring his first professional goal
“I felt like it had been a long time coming. Since I’ve been playing first-team football it’s always been in the back of my mind, wondering when it was going to come, and it kept getting longer and longer as I was playing more games.
“It was more of a relief when it came, just to get that first goal and get off the mark. From then, I felt I could start to build on that and I gained more confidence from that, knowing I can go into games and affect them with goals and assists.”
On being a fan favourite
“The fans have been really good to me, but they’ve never had a player from the UK or Ireland coming over here to play for their team before. So, as much as it’s something new for me, it’s something new for them and they’ve brought me in and treated me well.
“I feel like I’ve repaid them with the way I’ve been playing and hopefully I can continue to do that.”
On indulging in the Slovakian culture
“I’ve been seeing a lot of the local area, especially in the first couple of weeks of being here as I didn’t have my car, so it gave me a chance to see what the town had.
“Since my girlfriend brought my car over I’ve been able to travel out further and make the most of being out here. We’re in a small town, but we’re not far from the likes of Bratislava and we’ve also had day-trips out to Vienna and Budapest.
“When I first came over, it was not just for the football side of things, but I also wanted to make the most of the experience, which I feel like I’ve done.”
On benefit of having his Wolves teammates with him
“It definitely helped massively when I first came over. I had a chat with Dan [Csoka] before we came over because he was still at Wolves in the January transfer window and Christian [Herc] was back at Wolves for a couple of weeks because he was on a winter break, so we did all speak about it.
“It’s comforting to know that there are players over here that have been successful; Christian played a lot during the first half of the season and did very well. I was looking to come over and do that as well, which I feel I have done.
“Luckily there’s not really a language barrier because everyone speaks good English, but in terms with getting help with the little things, were to go for certain things; Christian was a massive help with that.”
On young English players moving abroad
“We’ve been seeing it a lot more with players going to the top leagues across Europe – Germany, Holland – but every players path is different.
“For some players, staying in England and dropping down to League One or League Two might be the best thing for them, while for other players like myself, moving abroad could be the most beneficial.
“I’ve had two spells in League One recently and they’ve not gone as successfully as I would have hoped but I’ve learnt a lot from them and took things away from those loans.
“When I did come back from my last loan at Walsall, looking abroad was definitely an option; maybe we didn’t have Slovakia in mind – it wouldn’t be on the mind of many people – but it’s worked out well for me. It was a risk, but it’s paid off.”