Okay spent four and a half years with the Trawlerboys and after a serious injury, Okay now finds himself in the dugout as the assistant manager for Bostik North side Soham Town.
What have you been up to since you left Lowestoft?
“Since leaving Lowestoft I have had a couple of clubs. I’ve been with Royston Town, Cambridge City and AFC Sudbury. That is quite unusual for me to be at three clubs within a season because I am quite a loyal and settled player. I was at Lowestoft for four and a half seasons, before that I was at Histon for five and half years. So, it’s unusual for me to have three clubs in a season but I suffered a really bad knee injury, snapping my cruciate ligament in January. I’m now the assistant manager of Soham Town in the Bostik North Division. I’m still looking to get back to playing if I can, but I’ve just had an operation so we will see how things go. So, for now, I am on the coaching side of things but it’s going okay.”
Did you spend your time at AFC Sudbury with former Trawlerboys Jamie Godbold and Andy Reynolds?
“Yes, both are top lads and they have got a great set-up over there. We were doing alright when I was playing for them and it was unfortunate that I was playing Lowestoft when I snapped my cruciate ligament against Lowestoft. It was a shame that it happened in that game because we were leading 1-0 and if the injury didn’t happen to me I probably would have still played at AFC Sudbury. I would have loved to have given things a go there but unfortunately due to what happened to myself my time was cut short. I was out the game for many months and I thought the way I could get back was with the opportunity to start my coaching career because I’m 32 now and it was something that I wanted to get into.”
What’s the real difference you’ve noticed between playing and management?
“You’re not only coaching players within the game, it’s dealing with different personalities and characteristics within the squad. It is also the understanding that especially at our level the lads have got so much more going on outside of football. We have to understand and as much as football is great it’s not the most important thing in people’s lives at this level. The Squad we have at Soham are very young, who are still learning and we understand that we are not the finished article so we are having to coach and help them out a lot, but they’ve taken onboard a lot of information. Looking at the bigger picture, the disappointing side of coaching is leaving people unhappy and it’s about trying to keep everyone happy which is the hardest bit as you don’t want to let people down, but you have to make tough choices and that’s the hardest bit I’d say. Another difficulty we face at this level is competing with sides who are throwing money about.”
Do you have any standout memories from your time at Lowestoft?
“I was there for four years and the whole time was an enjoyable experience for me. The standout memory would be getting promoted from the Bostik Premier because we were mid-table around January and we were really struggling. We were well out of the picture and people had already wrote us off completely. We had quite a small squad to be fair, considering the turnaround of the players in the previous year, so to do what we did in the second half of the season was unbelievable and was a great effort from the whole squad and the management team. Everyone just pulled together, we went on a great run making the play-offs and we got through them and it was deserved. There was also that first season in the Conference North, where everyone had written us off to go down, but ended up mid-table despite some difficult journeys but we got through that as well. So, I can’t pinpoint just one as there was just so many but both of these are certainly up there.”
Were there any key moments in Lowestoft’s first season in the Conference North which stand out to you?
“It took time for us to find our feet, our home form wasn’t bad but the second half of the season I think we went on a 14-game unbeaten run, which showed that we as a team were difficult to play against. We were managing to get points on the board from difficult places, like Solihull Moors away, where we were 3-0 down with ten men and we got it back to three all, which showed the fight and determination that the whole squad had.”
What were the away day journeys like in the Conference North?
“Very long, we were leaving our houses at like seven in the morning and getting home at like eleven in the evening. It can be draining and it can be difficult if you aren’t performing or don’t have the right squad to deal with it. But at the time we were all so close and as a team we gelled so well which made the journeys seem shorter. Even going to training, which going from Cambridge to Lowestoft wasn’t a close journey for me, but because I enjoyed my time there so much the journey seemed shorter. It also hopes when you are getting good results. As players, you want to test yourself and play at the top level, in the highest leagues you can. I always wanted to play at the highest level for the longest I could, so you just deal with what’s thrown in front of you and we dealt with it perfectly that first season.”
If you could play with just a few former Lowestoft players, who would they be and why?
“Tough question. I’ve played with some great players during my time at Lowestoft but I always seemed to play well when I played with Rossi Jarvis or Andrew Fisk in midfield. I’d always have good games next to them two, as we’d always seem to have a good understanding of each other. Jake Reed was another talented player to play with as he always seemed to know where the goal was. We had a really good squad with people like Dan Gleeson, Curtley Williams and Chris Henderson just to name a few.”
If you had to pick a favourite game at Lowestoft what would it be?
“There’s one game where we played Kingstonian away which we won 1-0 and I scored. It was memorable in that sense because the goal I scored was something that I would never be able to score again and it sticks out in my mind. It was during one of my best spells as a footballer as well, as I was just on form where everything I was doing was just turning to gold at the time. Adam Smith had a throw-in and threw it across my body and as I’ve turned I have volleyed it from the edge of the penalty area and it just flew perfectly into the far corner of the goal. I’m not kidding you if I try that in training or in a game again it will never come off. We won 1-0 as well that day making it the perfect away performance. That sticks in my mind and after that I think I scored four or five goals on the bounce, so it was a good run of form for myself and the team. Or as previously mentioned the Solihull Moors game, sticks in my mind as well.”
What attracted you to Lowestoft?
“I think Danny Bloomfield an ex-player had spoken about Lowestoft Town to me. I was leaving Histon at the time and I checked on Lowestoft’s results and noticed that they were doing really well as well as getting some decent crowds. Micky Chapman phoned me up and invited me to come down to train with the guys so I went there and as soon as I went to training I had a good rapport with the players and noticed there was a good atmosphere. They wanted to achieve promotion and wanted to progress and I wanted to be a part of that. The management team at the time, Ady Gallagher, Micky Chapman, Craig Fleming as well as Dave Carolan made sure that the things were done properly on and off the pitch. The club was supported so well, we were getting crowds of seven hundred fans at games which at that level was incredible. The club was well supported in that sense and it has got a great fan base with great people and a great atmosphere. It was a good time for me to join the club.”
What are you plans for the season ahead (if playing) or What are your plans for the future (stopped playing)?
“I’m still quite new into the management side of things, so I am hoping to find my feet and trying to help stabilise Soham Town, getting them to as high as they can as they struggled last year with player turnover and just escaped relegation on the last day of the season. I want to progress the club and do things right there, both on and off the pitch. Also, I hope to try and get fit again if I can because I am currently in rehab and I hope to be back in the new year. If not I’ll concentrate on coaching and I’ll try to get as much experience as I can and help these young players improve.
I’d also just like to say that Gary Keyzor the chairman is a top guy and he is very supportive of what the squad does and the players do. He was a fantastic chairman to play for. Also, a big thank you to the fans as well because your support was a different class. I’d like to wish you all the best for the future.”
On behalf of everyone at LTFC, I’d like to wish Erkan a speedy recovery and the best of luck for the coming season.
Updated 18:02 - 19 Sep 2017 by Sean Galea-Pace