Cobblers defender Lelan can’t wait to play under the pressure of winning ‘proper points’
Derby-born Lelan has spent five years with his hometown club, without managing to break into the first team at Pride Park.
He has played senior football in a couple of loan spells at Gateshead - under Northampton-born Gary Mills - and also at Swindon Town, but Lelan has played most of his recent football at Under-21 Premier League level.
It’s a good standard, with Derby finishing third in Premier League Division Two, above the likes of Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle United and Aston Villa, but there’s no ‘edge’.
And that is what Lelan craves, genuine competition, and is one of the main reasons he has swapped the Rams for the Cobblers.
“The physicality of league football is a massive thing, but I think the main thing is just playing for three proper points,” said Lelan.
“I don’t think technically the level of the players is much different, or the playing ability, it is just the thing of getting that mentality of how much rides on a win.
“If you concede a goal in the 90th-minute in Under-21s football it doesn’t really mean that much, but when you come to league two and you are fighting, for a play-off position for example, then it is a much bigger thing.
“And there are also 5,000 screaming fans inside the ground as well!”
Lelan has been signed primarily as a right-back, but he can also play in central defence and in midfield, and he feels that versatility is a positive.
“I like to think my versatility is a strength,” he said.
“I have played a number of positions in my time at Derby, I have played at right-back, centre-half and even a holding midfield role, and I am open to all of them.
“I don’t mind as long as I am on the pitch playing, I do my job.
“Playing a number of positons can only add more strings to your bow.”
Lelan’s experience of senior football is limited to say the least, with a month at Gateshead in 2013 being followed up with two months at Swindon in August and September last year.
But the fact that he did turn out for the high-flying Robins in Sky Bet League One gives him the belief that he will be able to deal with life in league two.
Asked if he feels it is a level he’ll be able to handle himself at, Lelan said: “I 100 per cent believe that.”
And he’s not just talking about the odd appearance here and there, Lelan wants to be a starter.
“I am coming to Northampton to cement a starting position and play 40 games a season,” he said. “Then from there we will see where it takes us.
“I see this as an opportunity more than anything, and the chance to prove what I am all about, and to succeed.
“Everything else will come with that as long as I do the business here.
“I have a 12-month contract, and we will see how it goes from the start of the season.
“Hopefully I will be able to cement a starting position, and a contract would come with that I suppose.”