Dexter Lembikisa interview: Wolves defender on his breakthrough season and shutting out Cody Gakpo
Sometimes all you need is someone to believe in you to get your first opportunity.
Dexter Lembikisa travelled to Spain in pre-season with Bruno Lage’s Wolves side last summer, but saw his opportunities limited thereafter.
Once Lage was sacked in early October, and academy coaches Steve Davis and James Collins made the step-up on an interim basis, the pair put faith in the club’s young talents.
Hugo Bueno and Joe Hodge were both given their chance – and took it superbly – and on November 9 it was Lembikisa’s turn as he came on in the 82nd minute for his senior debut against Leeds in the Carabao Cup.
It came just five days after his 19th birthday and was a huge moment in the teenager’s blossoming career. Then, just three days later, he made his Premier League debut in the 68th minute against Arsenal at Molineux.
“It’s been a good season and I’ve enjoyed it,” Lembikisa said. “Getting my chance with the first team is amazing. It’s a dream come true to play professional football.
“It was a lot to handle. When you’re there in the moment you don’t really take it in, you just want to play.
“But after you take it in you think, ‘wow I’ve just done that’.
“Arsenal were the top dogs at the time and it was exciting to play them. I wanted to enjoy it.
“You don’t normally get this chance, so you have to make the most of it. It was big.
“A lot of my friends back in London support Arsenal and were watching, so it was nice.
“I saw the time when I was coming on and realised I’m getting a decent amount of minutes, so that was even better!
“My mum, my two brothers and my dad were very happy. My dad has always wanted me to play football, he always thought I could do it.
“My two older brothers inspired me first to play football. They helped me.
“When I was young at first I didn’t enjoy football but I saw them playing, started playing more and started to enjoy it.
“They were definitely happy to see me playing. Everyone was very happy and proud.”
Those two fixtures were the last before the World Cup break, and once the team returned under new boss Julen Lopetegui, Lembikisa was given an incredible and unexpected opportunity.