CONNOR Bell admits he cannot treat Caley Thistle as a stepping-stone after an indifferent start to his football career.
Injuries and frequent moves have hampered Bell’s progress and his focus is on proving himself in the Championship with the Caley Jags, rather than getting ahead of himself.
Bell started in Sunderland’s youth academy but was released at 16, before signing a scholarship with Rotherham United.
He joined Wrexham, who play in England’s fifth tier, in 2014 and got his first taste of senior football on loan at Rhyl in the Welsh Premier Division.
The County Durham-born striker netted nine in 26 in Wales but was released by Wrexham last summer. He spent the last 12 months with Swiss side Servette in their under-21s side.
Given his career has fluctuated and he has struggled to find a base for himself, he needs to earn his strips with Caley Thistle before he can think about bigger things.
“I don’t think I can look at it as a platform just yet. I’ve been around a bit and I need to make my mark at Inverness, then see where that takes me,” said Bell, who signed a one-year deal prior to Saturday’s game against Forfar.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a platform – I just want to prove myself at this level first. I’m still young – I only turned 21 two weeks ago – but I’ve missed two years through injuries and I feel I’m playing catch-up. But this year I’m hoping to push on and prove myself.”
Bell had been training with the Caley Jags for the last fortnight and impressed in the friendly with Clach last week, scoring in the 4-1 win.
He appeared as a late substitute against Forfar on Saturday and takes Caley Thistle’s compliment of strikers up to four, which manager John Robertson stated was his target.
Both John Baird and George Oakley found the back of the net at Station Park, while Robertson has also brought in Dutch-born striker Felitciano Zschusschen. Competition is a good thing for Bell, who feels he has time to prove himself.
“A year is plenty of time so it’s down to me now. I appreciate them offering me the deal so it’s up to me now to repay them,” he said. “Everyone has been excellent with me, not just the lads but the people around the stadium as well. It seems a real family club and they’ve been really welcoming.
“I’ve come here for games and I feel like I’ve got a good chance. John was a striker and I feel like he can improve my game. In training we do a lot of stuff focused towards strikers, so it’ll be good competition between the four of us.”
Again, like new signings George Oakley, Zak Elbouzedi and Matty Elsdon, Bell comes to the Highland capital light on senior experience. However, he feels his year with Rhyl, where they were spared relegation because Port Talbot Town failed to obtain a domestic club license, was beneficial.
“I got an injury at Wrexham the season before last and they loaned me out into the Welsh Premier Division, which was my first taste of men’s football,” said Bell. “It might not have been the best standard but it made me more physical. It was a great experience looking back.”
Meanwhile, the Caley Jags have failed in their pursuit of Buckie Thistle midfielder Kevin Fraser, who had been on trial with the club. They declined to state what the proposal is.
Robertson was surprised Buckie went public last week with their demand for a fee for Fraser, who is the Highland League champions’ club captain and had three years left on his contract at Victoria Park.
Fraser played in Buckie’s 1-0 win over Clach on Saturday and last night the club announced that they had failed to reach an agreement with the Caley Jags and Fraser would remain at Victoria Park. He subsequently signed a new five-year contract with Buckie.
The Caley Jags have loaned out four of their former under-20 players, in time for the start of the Highland League season.
Goalkeepers Stephen Foster and Daniel Hoban joined Nairn County and Brora Rangers respectfully, while Wick Academy have taken Alastair Stark and Aiden Wilson on temporary deals. Foster, Stark and Wilson all started at the weekend, while Hoban was on the bench for Brora.