WALES striker Simon Church is enjoying his football again as he prepares for Euro 2016 – thanks to a loan spell at Aberdeen.
For a player who has spent most of his career in the Sky Bet Championship with teams like Reading, Charlton and MK Dons, the Scottish Premiership appeared an unlikely destination.
But the 27-year-old grasped his opportunity with both hands, scoring six goals in 13 appearances, including a debut strike against champions Celtic.
And Wales could now reap the benefit, with an invigorated Church heading to Sweden as part of manager Chris Coleman’s 23-player squad this weekend for a final warm-up game, and then on to France.
“It was important for me to get out of where I was at MK Dons,” Church told Press Association Sport.
“It wasn’t working, really, on a personal level, and the club wasn’t doing as well as it should have.
“I felt like I needed a change – I needed to do something to kind of reignite myself – and Aberdeen was the perfect opportunity for me to do that. Luckily for me, it worked out really well.
“I have been in the Championship most of my career, and I didn’t know what to expect up there.
“My first game was against Celtic, and I found myself enjoying the game a lot more and getting back to what I was used to – scoring goals and enjoying my football.
“Without being disrespectful to the league or anything, I don’t think it is as technical up there, but it is still a very competitive league.
“A team like Aberdeen have shown that with a good team, a good manager and good backing from the fans, they can push hard.
“Now, it is a good chance for me to get my head down here (with Wales), hopefully do well and then see what happens after that.”
Wales’ Euro campaign begins against Slovakia in Bordeaux on Saturday week, and having ended a 58-year wait to reach a major tournament, Church and company have every intention of seizing the moment as they target a last-16 place from a group that also includes England and Russia.
“It’s unreal to be a part of,” he added.
“We had the build-up, and now we are here. We can’t wait to get going.
“We’ve all been busy with our clubs, but you have always had one eye focusing on the tournament, so we wanted to finish the season well for our clubs and now the whole focus is towards a big summer for us.
“We set out at the beginning of the campaign to make sure that we qualified – this was our time to do it – and now we have got here, we want to maintain where we are, and we can only do that by winning games and continuing to do well.
“Obviously, there is going to be a lot of expectation on us, but we want that pressure – we deserve that pressure – to be pushing for success.”
And if Wales are to become Euro stars, then the Gareth Bale factor will undoubtedly prove significant, given his influence on a team that flourishes under his world-class direction and inspiration.
“It’s amazing to have him as part of the squad,” Church said. “To play with him is magnificent.
“He is a big part of the team – on the pitch and off the pitch. He’s grounded, he has got time for everyone and he is a big part of everything.”
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