‘Bittersweet’ What Sam Bell has said about replacing Antoine Semenyo at Bristol City

Sam Bell has netted three goals in his last three games for Bristol City
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Sam Bell has insisted that he can be the man to fill the void left by Antoine Semenyo who departed Bristol City for Bournemouth last week.

The Ghanaian completed the move to the south coast on Friday in a deal potentially rising to £10.5million, after the Cherries had two previous offers rejected.

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With Tommy Conway and Andi Weimann sidelined, and Chris Martin out of favour, City boss Nigel Pearson has made it clear that he wants to bring in a striker before the January transfer window shuts on Tuesday.

However, Bell’s performances of late, especially against West Bromwich Albion, will have eased the City boss's concerns. His inclusion in the line-up against Albion on Saturday was the 20-year-old’s first start of the season - and he certainly took his chance.

Bell opened the scoring with a thunderous right-footed effort before he put the game to bed with a jaw-dropping touch and finish as City eased past the Baggies 3-0.

Post-match, Bell recognised the Ghanaian’s departure but insisted he is ready to fill the ex-Bath City man’s shoes. “It’s bittersweet with Antoine leaving, we’re obviously sad to see him go,” he said. “He’s been a big part of what we’ve done over the past couple of years but he’s moved on to bigger things and it’s exactly where he deserves to be. So, we’re buzzing for him in that sense.

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“It’s the nature of football, one person leaves a space for someone else to fill. Hopefully, for the rest of the season, I can be that person to slot in there and bring more goals to the team.”

Bell has had to bide his time in search of senior minutes, as he watched fellow academy success stories Alex Scott and Tommy Conway take the Championship by storm over recent months.

But, the Bristol-born striker’s impressive contributions to the Robins’ Under-21 side has helped them to the top of the Under-23 Professional Development League.

Bell netted his first senior goal for City in their FA Cup third-round tie against Swansea City earlier this month and was desperately unlucky to not have made it two late winners in two matches when his last-minute strike against Blackburn Rovers was disallowed for offside.

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The young forward's dad, ex-City, Wycombe Wanderers and Cheltenham Town defender Micky Bell, has had plenty of words of wisdom for his son over the years.

“(He tells me to) be calm, don’t overthink anything, just go out there and play your natural game,” the forward said. “I've played hundreds of games over the years and goals have always been a big part of my game. Don’t try too hard, and it’ll just come naturally.”

Pearson has been delighted with Bell’s contributions over the last few matchdays: “When players break into the side you just hope that they’re able to continue to do what they’ve done at the level they’ve been playing at. The difference from the Under 21’s league to that (first team) is massive, believe me. But what he’s been able to do is because he’s a player who trains really well and practises, he’s been able to step up.

“It’s interesting that when he went on against Rotherham, he struggled to get to the pace of the game for whatever it was, ten minutes or so. But getting that chance to get back into the side has been quite an important thing for him and the game against Swansea gave him the opportunity to get a good run out there. He was excellent today.”

Bell netting his second against West BromBell netting his second against West Brom
Bell netting his second against West Brom
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City’s ability to produce talent from the academy has been evident over recent seasons, and Bell believes that trend will continue for years to come.

“Players always get challenged,” the striker said. “If they’re doing well in their age group, they’re straight up to the next one to play against bigger, more physical lads which bodes well when you get put in scenarios like the first team because everyone is always bigger or a bit sharper than you when you start off.

“We’ve all done that, played in the under-23’s and under-18’s when we were a bit younger, I think that’s something that the academy does really well.

“The talent is endless. With the High Performance Centre as well, having those facilities means there is only going to be more.”

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Pearson admitted in his post-match conference that the club are yet to make any progress in their pursuit of a Semenyo replacement, however, if Bell can continue to reproduce what he has of late, City can keep their money in their pockets.

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