Meet ‘DJ’: The winger from non-league who interested Manchester United before joining City
PUBLISHED: 06:00 06 February 2020
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When Swindon Town boss Ritchie Wellens spoke in gushing terms about Norwich City loan export Diallang Jaiyesimi, it caught the attentions of Canaries supporters.
The winger signed for City in 2016 from non-league Dulwich Hamlet after impressing for the then seventh tier side. He made five appearances for the London-based club and captained their FA Youth Cup side.
Since joining City, Jaiyesimi's journey has included loan moves and frustrating injuries but, with Daniel Farke willing to introduce youth prospects into the first team as Carrow Road, could the 21-year-old be the next player off the production line?
Professional academies are often thought to be the best place to nurture prospective talent, but there is a degree of romanticism when a player breaks the mould and emerges from the non-league system.
Jaiyesimi was recommended to Dulwich Hamlet boss Gavin Rose when he was a 14-year-old and impressed enough to convince the non-league side to train him alongside second year scholars at the club.
"He's coming from a tough area but he has always shown a great attitude to listen and learn," Rose explained. "He's shown a great mental strength to focus on his football.
"He's a very talented boy. He first came onto our radar as a 14-year-old and immediately trained with our academy and scholar boys.
"Both physically and technically, he was ahead of the boys in his own age group and we'd fast-tracked him at every point to aid his development."
Jaiyesimi made light work of academy football for Hamlet's youth side, scoring 25 goals by November. That prompted interest from a number of Football League and Premier League clubs.
Instead, he progressed into the Dulwich Hamlet first team, where he made five appearances under the stewardship of Rose.
Manchester United enquiry
Jaiyesimi's form was gaining attention from professional clubs, and Rose's links to Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand led to the Red Devils making an enquiry for the pacey winger.
"He saw him play briefly and he also said that he had a phone call from someone at Manchester United who was asking about his availability and how much Rio knew about him," Rose told BBC Radio Humberside in 2017.
"He told them that he liked what he saw.
"The only real communication that came from Rio was that United had made a little enquiry about how good this kid was.
"To be honest, we tried not to give him much information about it at the time because each individual can take it differently. We decided to give him as many facts as we could, if United would've presented themselves as wanting him, then we'd have told him."
Joining Norwich City
He joined the Canaries back in 2017 after being offered a four-match trial. He impressed in games against Leicester City and West Ham United but scored against Arsenal in November 2016.
City's academy recruitment staff flagged him up to then Under-18s boss Graeme Murty as a potential addition. He arrived in Norfolk for an undisclosed fee and became a second year scholar at Carrow Road.
In 2016, his performances for City's Under-23s alerted the Nigerian national team, who were keen to cap Jaiyesimi for their youth sides.
"Jaiyesimi is a Nigerian and he is available to play for Nigeria if called upon. With consistency in his performances, he can break into the first team of Norwich." Team Nigeria UK boss David Doherty said in 2016.
EFL loan moves
The next stage of his development included a loan move at senior level.
Grimsby Town were the first to take a chance on City's highly-rated talent, and Russell Slade provided Jaiyesimi with his senior debut.
He went on to feature 29 times before joining Yeovil Town in 2018. In October of that season, however, he suffered a long-term injury to his ACL. He scored twice in 11 games for the Glovers.
That knee injury ruled him out of the remainder of the season and Swindon Town was the next club to provide him with a lifeline.
Ritchie Wellens' men find themselves sitting at the top of League Two, with Jaiyesimi being a major protagonist within their midfield.
Speaking about the City loanee, Wellens said: I think he can play in the Premier League, 100%."
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