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I grew up in paradise until volcano forced family to evacuate.. I may not have been footballer if not for scary eruption

DONERVON DANIELS knows a thing or two about beating the odds.

And this time the Walsall skipper, 30, is only talking about a surge towards the play-offs, having lived through a true life-or-death drama.

Defender Donervon Daniels won the League Two's goal of the month award with a solo stunner against Sutton on January 27

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Defender Donervon Daniels won the League Two’s goal of the month award with a solo stunner against Sutton on January 27
The Soufriere Hills volcano is seen spewing ash following the eruption

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The Soufriere Hills volcano is seen spewing ash following the eruptionCredit: AFP

As a toddler, Daniels was part of a mass evacuation when a once-dormant volcano suddenly exploded back into life on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, forcing thousands to flee.

The Saddlers can draw level on points with seventh–placed Harrogate if they win at the EnviroVent Stadium today — and centre-back Daniels knows he can handle the pressure.

January’s Sky Bet goal of the month winner said: “We are a young side and we were in a stalemate for a while back there but now we’re going places.

“Two games ago we beat Mansfield, who are second and, remember, had just scored nine against Harrogate.

“Look at our league position and we’re actually below mid–table but we’re one of nine teams within three points of a play–off position.

“Make no mistake, there’s a growing belief that we can be the ones who can break through because we are developing real momentum.

“This is a club that was a mainstay of League One — it is just where we belong, at least, and I’m convinced that we can get back there this season.”

Daniels often heads back to the scene of that terrifying volcanic eruption as part of Montserrat’s international squad, now managed by former Birmingham and Charlton boss Lee Bowyer.

Daniels claims play-off hopefuls Walsall deserve to return to League One

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Daniels claims play-off hopefuls Walsall deserve to return to League OneCredit: Alamy

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There is nothing Daniels loves more than exploring the island he had to leave so quickly in 1995, when the Soufriere Hills volcano became active and left half of Montserrat uninhabitable.

He left with mum Helen and five siblings for Hackney in London’s East End but paradise was not lost to him.

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Daniels, who has three caps, explained: “My mum was born in the UK but she moved out to Montserrat when she was young because she still had a lot of family there.

“After the eruption, a lot went to America. She came back here but she always pleaded with me to one day try to play for Montserrat.

“She would go there every summer to see relatives and it was down to her that I did get capped.

“Everybody knows everybody over there and she got to know the person who ran the Montserrat FA and I started playing for my adopted country in 2021.

“Sadly, mum passed away five years ago and so never got the chance to see that — but I know she’s looking down and proud.”

Daniels, who began his career at West Brom and joined Walsall from Crewe in 2022, added: “It’s sad, too, that my first home is no longer there.

“We lived in the island’s capital of Plymouth but it was wiped out.

“But I still have her family there when I go over. I love to explore the place and it’s beautiful.

“It’s not far from Antigua and the habitable part of the island is just like paradise.

“It’s strange to think that had it not been for the volcano, I might never have become a footballer or played for Montserrat.

“Now I’m proud to do so thanks to my mum and, hopefully, there will be more pride here at Walsall come the end of the season.”

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