Chesterfield’s Connor Dimaio is fulfilling every young child’s dream of playing for their hometown club - and he couldn’t be happier.
The midfielder has enjoyed a near-perfect start to his Spireites career following an unbeaten four-game run, which has seen Danny Wilson’s side pick up eight points from a possible 12 to pull away from the relegation zone in League One.
A determined display in the heart of midfield saw Dimaio and Chesterfield return from Colchester with a point, despite playing the majority of the match with ten-men, and he believes that could be the turning point in the Spireites’ season.
An impressive goal on his home debut capped off a vital win over struggling Crewe before an equally impressive victory at the home of the division’s leading scorers, Gillingham, put breathing space between Wilson’s side and the bottom four.
“I think we can go anywhere in the league and get three points. That’s the confidence we’ve got now,” said Dimaio, who was part of the side that drew 1-1 with Blackpool on Tuesday night to maintain a three-point cushion between themselves and the drop zone.
“I’ve had my chance and I’ve taken it. The gaffer’s kept on playing me. It’s not just me the whole team has contributed and it’s going well.
“Hopefully things can carry on as well as they’ve been going. I think we can move further away from the relegation zone. It’s going to be hard for us but if we keep performing the way we have done it should be no problem.
“We’ve dug in and shown what we’re made of.”
The former Netherthorpe pupil was hooked on football from an early age after becoming a frequent visitor to Saltergate, fondly recalling watching the Chesterfield sides of the early 2000s.
He started playing the game soon after, starting out at Old Whittington and Brampton Rovers Juniors before Sheffield United spotted his raw potential at the age of nine and quickly pounced.
While at Bramall Lane he worked with Chris Morgan and was handed his chance in the first team by Nigel Clough at the end of the 2013/14 campaign, making three appearances.
And, following his release, Dimaio revealed a phone call to Morgan initiated a trial at Chesterfield. The youngster is full of praise for the Proact coaching team.
“He’s probably one of the best coaches I’ve worked with,” said Dimaio on Morgan. “It’s the same with Danny Wilson, he’s probably the best manager I’ve worked under, so I feel at home. Morgs has been there and done it. He has a presence and experience and has passed that on to us all. We all learn from him.
“He had been at Sheffield United for a long time. He told us that he needed to move on for his career and he did. He’s done well. The time was right for me too. I’m 20 now and need more experience playing first team football. They’ve given me a chance at Chesterfield and I want to repay them for that.”
Dimaio may have spent just over half of his life playing in the red and white of the Blades but the midfielder is delighted to finally be wearing the blue of Chesterfield, in front of so many familiar faces.
And, while the ground has changed, the sense of pride remains.
“It’s a dream for me, coming from Chesterfield, to step over that line and play in front of all the fans,” he said. “I used to be one of those that used to go down to Saltergate and scoring made it a great debut for me. I think my first match might have been when I was three.
“I feel like people have taken to me straight away around the club. I’ve had some nice messages from fans wishing me well and I want to do well out there for them. The fans have been brilliant and it gives me more confidence.”
Though only contracted to the end of the season, he added: “I’d love to stay longer at Chesterfield. It would be an honour to stay longer.”