DANNY ELLIOTT is grateful that football has given him something to focus his energy on during an emotional time.

Chester striker Elliott was confronted with the tragic news that close friend Derrick Otim had passed away at just 24 earlier this month in South Carolina.

The two had been close friends ever since they came up against each other as youngsters, combining forces at 14 for four years in Nottingham Forest’s youth ranks.

“We were very good mates,” said Elliott, preparing for Sunday’s National League North play-off eliminator at Altrincham “We played against each other in Sunday league football. We’d beaten Derrick’s team 8-0 without him and then he signed and they beat us 7-0, and Derrick scored all seven.

“He was quickly signed by Forest. I went to Villa and then came back to Forest at 14, where we spent four years together.

“Derrick was the golden boy of the academy and if he’d been nurtured a bit better - sent out on loan - he’d have made his mark.

“It’s been an emotional time since finding out the news about Derrick. I’ve spent a lot of time with his family and it’s tragic what they’ve had to go through.

“I’m looking forward to the game on Sunday because it’s given me something to focus on and I am determined to do my best.”

And Elliott is one of four Chester strikers - alongside Matty Hughes, George Waring and Anthony Dudley - looking to fill the gap left by top scorer Akwasi Asante, who has signed for Gloucester City.

The 24-year-old returned from a loan spell at Alfreton to feature in Chester’s two games before the season was ended, the striker netting from the spot to sink Tranmere Rovers in the Cheshire Senior Cup and playing a part in a surprise league defeat to Bradford PA.

Despite the four-month break in action, Elliott is ready,

“I know it’s been a few months since we last played, but I’ve still got that confidence that came with scoring goals for Alfreton and Chester.

“I’m very excited for Sunday. Akwasi has gone, and he did a great job for Chester and the fans loved him, but I have always believed in my own ability.

“When Akwasi was scoring goals I was sat thinking ‘I can do that’, and I am raring to go and ready to show the fans exactly what I can do.

“I believe I am capable of scoring lots of goals at this level and hopefully I get the chance to show the fans what I can do because they’ve been very patient with me.”

Chester go into Sunday’s clash with Altrincham as underdogs.

The Blues are priced 19/10 to secure a semi-final trip to York City, with Altrincham 11/10 favourites for victory.

Elliott isn’t fazed, however, saying: “All what has happened in the season goes out of the window because no-one has played for so long.

“It will probably come down to who is fitter on Sunday and we’ve got a young, hungry squad in good shape.”

During lockdown, Elliott raised over £5,000 for Show Racism the Red Card by cycling 200 miles.

Taking a knee has been widespread since the restart of sport as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, and Elliott expects a discussion to take place over whether Chester and Altrincham will follow suit.

Elliott added: “It’s definitely sparked conversation amongst the players.”