What Dylan Vente 'came to do at Hibs' as striker speaks on Villa defeat and move from Roda
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Two goals and one assist in his first five games suggest he has enough about him not to become another recruitment statistic for the Easter Road side who have probably had more misses than hits in recent transfer windows, particularly in terms of foreign imports, but he fired an ominous warning at opposition defences as he revealed he is still getting up to speed.
“Before I came here I hadn’t played for three or four weeks, so I am still working on my fitness. But playing every three days has helped get my fitness up to speed,” he explained. “I came to Hibs to score goals and be an important player for the team, that was my goal. It is my job to do that so hopefully I can add a lot more during my time here.”
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, his career to date has followed a similar path to that of the man he has replaced in that he was with one club – in Vente’s case, Feyenoord – and when it didn’t work out, with just seven goals in 33 games, he dropped down the leagues in a bid to work his way back up to the top.
He tried, and was unsuccessful during an initial loan spell with RKC Waalwijk in which he failed to find the net in 18 appearances, but a second loan stint with future employers Roda yielded five goals in 17 matches during the second half of the 2020/21 season and prompted De Koempels to sign him up permanently. He responded by hitting 25 goals in 42 matches during his first full season followed by 19 in 33 before his exploits prompted Hibs to part with a hefty six-figure fee to secure his services.
Lining up against Aston Villa in European competition this week is a far cry from playing in front of a few hundred fans for Roda in the Dutch second tier last season when they played Ajax’s B team, as Vente explains.
“I made my debut against Manchester City with Feyenoord but I only played 20 minutes and it was a long time ago – in an official match, I think so,” he states, when asked if Villa had been his toughest opponents to date.
“I got a lot of texts from fans and former team-mates saying they are proud of me and what I’ve done over the last two years to achieve this. But I know I want more. I came from Roda, I’ve made the next step. Last year I played in front of a few hundred fans away to Jong Ajax and now I’m playing Aston Villa so there is a big difference.
"But I like it. That’s the football you want. I played for Feyenoord for four years in a big stadium and you had to perform there in huge games especially against Ajax, also a tough opponent. I have experienced it a little bit. Coming here is a step higher but as a striker and player you want to make the next step.”
Like many of his team-mates, all he is interested in is learning from the experience against Unai Emery’s side.
"Maybe we showed too much respect to them; maybe we had to, not play more dirty, but not let them just play. In the first 20 minutes it was okay, we had some counters and could have made something. But after conceding, the game ran away from us quickly. That’s maybe what we have to learn, to stay focused – it went too quickly from 1-0, to 2-0, to 3-0,” he says.
“They only made one or two mistakes in the whole game. There are no mistakes in passing, or runs behind the defence. You can learn a lot from that, a lot of people can learn a lot from that and I hope we did that. The only thing we can do is react.”
Like many figures involved in Dutch football, AZ Alkmaar’s comprehensive dismantling of Dundee United in last year’s Europa Conference League qualifiers didn’t go unnoticed by Vente but the former Feyenoord youngster is fully focused on helping fire Hibs to victory – and their first cinch Premiership points of the 2023/24 campaign – when Livingston come calling.
"I remember they played them. For us it’s reacting on Saturday and to show what happened on Wednesday… for us to react is the most important thing,” he continues. “From the beginning we have to play hard, play well, make chances for everybody. The most important thing is reacting from the game from Wednesday and that’s all we can do.”
Vente drew a blank in Switzerland against Luzern, but found the net in the Viaplay Cup against Raith Rovers, scoring the winner after Élie Youan’s header had been cancelled out by Callum Smith’s goal. He didn’t have an abundance of chances against the English Premier League side but insists he can’t dwell on games where he isn’t on the scoresheet.
"As a striker, for example if you don’t score for three games in a row it is in your mind. I learned that from my former years,” he explains. “Every game is different; if you don’t play well in one game, you have to change your mindset and be free in your head, that’s the most important thing – to be mentally good. Hopefully I’m all good and hopefully the other players are too.”
Scottish football has its differences compared to the Dutch game – ‘back home it’s just football, football, football. Here it is sometimes more direct’ – but Vente is relishing the change and the challenge. “I just need to make sure I score goals here,” he repeats, with a smile.