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Former Villa star on a Persian sojourn

HOLDING OFF A DROG: Samuel (right) in action against Chelsea's Didier Drogba

IT’S SOMEWHAT of an incongruous situation to find a former Premier League player enjoying an Indian summer to his career in Iran. But that is exactly what Jlloyd Samuel is doing.

While many English players display a reluctance to leave these shores, the 32-year-old has approached his Persian sojourn with a refreshing open mindedness.

He’s now in his second full season at Esteghlal, having joined the Iranian Pro League side in December of 2011, after more than a decade in the combative Premier League.

“I’m still enjoying it and learning new things all the time,” Samuel told the Voice of Sport of his time in Iran. “The culture is very different here, but I’m learning about it all the time. I think I’ve got the respect of the locals because I’m trying to assimulate myself into the culture of the country.

“Players should try and experience different things and playing abroad provides that. It’s not just in terms of the lifestyle, but it will improve your football education. You learn about playing in different systems and your technical level improves.”

This is something the ex-Aston Villa left-back can bear testimony too having spent his entire career as a buccaneering full-back.

However, upon his arrival in the Middle East, his manager asked him if he could deploy his experience and knowledge of the game in a central midfield berth.

It has injected a new sense of impetus into his game and even at this late stage of his career, he’s been able to adopt the philosophy of the style played in Iran.

“It’s more of what I would class as a technical style of football,” he explained. “They will play out from the back and try to play football.

“Maybe they might overplay a little bit, but their mentality is always to try and pass the ball. You have to applaud that because it’s the best way to play.

“They always believe they can play out from the back and out of trouble. In England, we don’t take risks with the ball in those areas, they just want you to get it out. That approach is frowned upon here - they want to see you passing and keeping possession.”

The development of young English players has been hotly debated topic after the failings of their youth teams at international tournaments this summer.

Samuel, who gained seven England Under-21 caps, before gaining two caps at senior level for Trinidad and Tobago believes young English starlets should play abroad to enrich their education of the game.

He added: “Players will benefit from it [playing abroad], especially players of a young age. In England, they have everything they need - the best training facilities and the best stadiums.

“Everything is there - it’s on a plate for them. Maybe they need to step out of their comfort zones and test themselves. It might be a little bit too easy for them.”

Despite the dominance of Spanish and German football over the last few years, the excitement and pulsating action provided by the Premier League ensures it remains compulsive viewing.

“The public over here prefer the Spanish and German football,” he continued. “It’s a more technical style of football over here and it’s similar to the way the play.

“They love watching English football because of the excitement of our game. The lads are always asking about what it’s like to play in England and about my experiences of playing there.

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