Joao Francisco Vasconcelos is hoping that his title winning form from last season can continue, as University of Sunderland 3rds bid for an immediate return to BUCS Northern 5B Division.
Vasconcelos, who is from Leiria on the west coast of Portugal, found himself thrown straight into the heart of the backline for Sunderland 3rds, who struggled last year in a season that culminated in relegation.
Back in his native Portugal, his side GDR Boavista achieved promotion, and defender Joao admitted he does see similarities with the sides from either end of Europe.
Joao said: “Last year the objective for my team was promotion and we achieved that.
“This team has the same feel to it actually, a team that really is trying for each other.
“It might not be the most talented team, but we have a lot of fight.”
Sunderland 3rds are on a great run of form of late, including last weeks victory over previously undefeated Huddersfield 2nds.
This has put them within touching distance of Huddersfield, going into the winter break.
Vasconcelos did say that the football itself is simple, but that communication on the pitch can prove to be tricky.
The defender said: “On the pitch it’s been easy, but the hard part is to know how to say things correctly.
“But working with teammates from different countries that have different styles of game can be tricky.
“The big difference in my opinion is the way the game is played here.
“In England, you rely more on strength and speed, rather than a tactical passing game.”
Vasconcelos did also admit that outside of playing football it has been hard to adjust, especially with having a part-time job to go alongside his studies.
Joao said: “Off the pitch in University it’s been great so far. Everyone is very supportive and has helped me with the language barrier.
“The work aspect can be hard because in Portugal we aren’t used to having a part-time job and studying at the same time.
“The work itself hasn’t been too bad but having to convert Portuguese words into English can be difficult.”
As the season rolls into the second half, Joao insists that given how much the team has improved upto this point, they have every chance of winning their final three matches and gaining promotion.
“We can definitely win promotion as long as we keep performing like we have been.
“The progression in the last few weeks has been really positive, we understand each other so much more and have become a real unit as a result.”