WHEN Jaze Kabia signed for Livingston in January, the former Cobh Ramblers player was told by manager David Martindale that he would have to go out on loan before being a mainstay in the Livingston squad.
However, after an impressive start, Kabia, 20, convinced his manager he was ready to the immediate step up and the striker is delighted with his progression.
“When I was coming into the club the manager spoke to me and hinted that I might have to go on loan at the start. I wasn’t put off by what he said, I just knew I would have to work my way into his plans,” Kabia said.
“After a few sessions, the manager seemed to be really happy with how I was doing, and he’s brought me straight into the team. I’ve been in squads since the second week I’ve been here, so I’ve been getting a decent looking in.
“The manager didn’t really say to me I wouldn’t be going out on loan. I got my debut against Celtic and he must have been impressed by my performance because after that he came out in the media and said I did enough to stay in the squad.
“That gave me a lot of confidence that I was part of his present plans. I’ve been on the bench a bit and I’ll be pushing for a starting place in the future.
“My debut was a bit mad to be honest, playing against Celtic. I was on the pitch against the best players in Scotland and trying to show what I could do.
“I done well as well, so that is what must have shown the manager that I was able to play at this level. I should have scored as well.
“Obviously, a lot of people will remember the game for Scott Brown being sent off for his elbow on me which I just couldn’t believe at the time. He’s such a legend in the game. He made contact with his elbow and then when I got up, I just looked around and seen he was walking down the tunnel.
“I thought to myself, ‘did that just happen’ it was all a bit surreal.
“There is a difference between the League of Ireland and Scotland. It’s [Scottish Premiership] a lot quicker here and a lot more physical but every day I feel like I’m getting more and more comfortable.
“At the start, it was so fast, but now I’ve been here a while, I feel part of it and getting my first goal has helped. To get a goal in my second appearance was unreal.
“I didn’t know that the Kilmarnock goalkeeper Colin Doyle, was from Cork, so, it was quite funny to score my first goal against a fellow Corkman.
“I think the coverage of the league here is unbelievable. I wasn’t aware of how publicised the game is here until I got here.
“I suppose the Scottish Premiership is the top division here, but I was still shocked by just how much coverage the league gets. Every day the paper is full of pages talking about the league which is different to Ireland.”
Although Livingston had expressed an interest in Kabia for several months before he joined the club the Scottish club did initially invite the former Shelbourne player for a trial.
Kabia had had a previous trial with Nottingham Forest when he was younger and spent time training with Ipswich Town this winter but after his trial with Livingston, he felt confident of making a move to the club.
“I first came over to Livingston for a week’s trial in December. I had heard of interest from Livingston awhile back and they just wanted to make sure that I ticked a few boxes that needed answering.
“I loved the place when I was first here. There was so much positivity around the club. I knew after a few days the club wanted to sign me, but I’d also agreed to go to Ipswich.
“After a week with Livingston, I went down to Ipswich for two weeks, but I always felt during my time down there that I preferred it at Livingston. I spent Christmas back in Cork and then signed for Livingston.
“I did have trials with Forest when I was about 15, but I hadn’t developed physically enough. I remember playing against centre-backs during my time there and they were about six foot, and I got bullied.
I was told there was nothing wrong with me technically but physically I wasn’t ready."
His father, the former League of Ireland striker Jason Kabia, told him after that he shouldn’t go on trials and just try and breakthrough in the League of Ireland.
“I did have other clubs from England asking me to go on trial, but I took my dad’s advice and turned them down.
“It was different with Livingston, because they had shown interest in me for a while and because I had played a number of games in the League of Ireland and played men’s football, I felt a lot more ready physically this time around.
“I can’t wait until supporters are allowed into games because I’ve heard so much about how good the atmosphere is in games against Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibernian, it’s just a pity that I haven’t experienced that yet but I’m really looking forward to when I can.”