Dayton says he has taken a step up by signing for Kilmarnock
By Fraser Wilson
Former Crystal Palace winger James Dayton has won a contract with Kilmarnock but admits he came close to quitting football ahead of his trial.
The 21-year-old Englishman has signed a three-year contract, becoming the Ayrshire club's second signing in two days after keeper Kyle Letheren.
Dayton was released by Palace last summer and joined the Glenn Hoddle Academy after failing to find a club.
"Last year, I had a bit of a nightmare year to be honest," he said.
"I was playing in the Conference and the Conference South and it wasn't what I was looking for.
"There were some days, some weeks when I thought 'what am I doing, I might as well call it a day'.
That will be a dream, to be honest, playing in front of 50,000-plus people
Kilmarnock winger James Dayton
"I've always wanted to be a footballer. I wasn't so much thinking about what I was going to do afterwards, I was thinking more about just giving up."
Dayton had loan spells with Yeovil Town and Crawley Town before leaving Championship outfit Palace.
However, in November he joined Hoddle's academy in Jerez, Spain, set up by the former England footballer in 2008 to help former Premier League and Football League players return to professional football after being released by their clubs.
"The academy offers a good opportunity for boys who have come out of the game to get back in and, as you can see, for me it's worked out," said Dayton.
He admits that he will be stepping into the unknown should he win a starting place against Scottish Premier League champions Rangers as the season kicks off on Saturday.
"That will be a dream, to be honest, playing in front of 50,000-plus people really would be a great opportunity for me," he said.
"Playing at Ibrox is the next level. So far, my biggest crowd was 24,000 at the Riverside - we played Middlesbrough in the Carling Cup.
"I didn't know a lot of the SPL to be honest, but I know it's a tough, competitive league."
Dayton has been impressed with manager Mixu Paatelainen and is hopeful that they can avoid the relegation problems suffered last season under Jimmy Calderwood.
"I believe the way he's putting across his way to play football and his philosophy is exactly the way I like to play football, the real way football should be played on the floor," said the midfielder.
Dayton and Letheren, who was previously with Preston North End, were the latest to win contracts after trials with Kilmarnock.
Chelsea left back Ben Gordon signed on a short-term loan, while winger David Mendes Da Silva was given a two-year deal after his release by CSKA Sofia.
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