Highly-rated Exeter City striker Tom Nichols hopes a loan move to Blue Square Premier Bet promotion hopefuls Hereford United will stand him in good stead for the future.
The 18-year-old agreed a month-long deal with the Bulls yesterday and is poised for a baptism of fire, as he is expected to be involved in Hereford's first league game of the season against Macclesfield Town tonight.
He hopes that exposure at the top end of non-League football will benefit his career and give him a chance of breaking into the Grecians' first team on his return.
"I was pleasantly surprised when I heard Hereford wanted me," Nichols said.
"They are a well established club that played in the Football League for a number of years. They slipped out last year and I have played against them for the youth team and reserves and I'm looking forward to it.
"I think I am on the bench [tonight]. They don't have many strikers and one of them has got injured as well, I think.
"I'm pleased with how pre-season has gone here, I feel fit and sharp and I scored a couple of goals on Tuesday [in a 4-3 friendly win over Chippenham Town], which is what it's about as a striker.
"The aim is to play for Exeter and if it means I have to go out on loan for a few months to get fitter and sharper, then I will do that."
Nichols enjoyed a hugely successful loan spell at Blue Square Bet South side Dorchester Town last season, scoring eight goals in 12 games. Prior to that, he netted his maiden goal in the Football League – the winner in a 2-1 win over Chesterfield on the eve of his 18th birthday.
That feat saw him enter the record books as the third youngest scorer in the club's history, but, while there was a chance to return to Dorchester, Nichols wanted to test himself at a higher level.
"I really enjoyed myself at Dorchester, but, with the greatest respect to them, I didn't want to go back there. I want to test myself at a higher level and it's good for me to go to a level lower than Exeter are now," Nichols said.
"Hereford should be pushing for promotion and they are a big club at that level. That was why I was so pleased when I found out.
"Hopefully I can score some goals while I am there and help them push towards the top.
"I was speaking with Tilly [Exeter City coach Andy Tillson] and he said a few clubs had mentioned my name. You never know who is watching you and I happened to play well against Chippenham. If I had a nightmare, I may not have gone."