RYMAN LEAGUE: AFC Sudbury sign England C international Erkan Okay + round-up
Former Ipswich Town, Histon and Lowestoft Town midfielder or full-back Erkan Okay has signed for AFC Sudbury — and the 31-year-old goes straight into squad for tomorrow night’s Ryman League Cup tie at AFC Hornchurch.
Okay, who was born in Turkey but has played for the England C team, started out in Ipswich Town’s academy before helping village side Histon on a fiarytale rise into the Conference during his five seasons there, as well as famously knocking Shrewsbury Town and Leeds United out of the FA Cup.
But his career took a big downward spiral after he was convicted of assaulting a police officer on a night out, leading to Histon sacking him in 2009 as well as losing his job as a community coach, where he had been working with local schools.
In an interview with the BBC in 2012 he said he had turned his life around after ‘going off the rails’.
During his work as a link worker at a homeless shelter in Cambridge, he said: “I was going off the rails at that point - going out drinking too much and getting in trouble.
“My reputation went downhill after that and it was difficult to stay in that job, as parents didn’t trust me.
“I thought I needed to change the way I was, my behaviour and how I was as a person.
“It wasn’t the first time I’d been in trouble. From when I was 18 to about 23 I was constantly getting into stupid things that I shouldn’t have.”
But after learning to take full responsibility for his actions, he was able to piece his life back together through helping others.
“I started working part time at a youth hostel in Cambridge and through that I built up more confidence and gradually turned full-time, and moved here (Jimmy’s Hostel).”
He added: “I do it now (go out) to enjoy a night out with my mates, which I can actually enjoy — without the regret the day after.”
Okay went on to spend five seasons with Lowestoft Town, who he helped achieve the highest league standing in their history in the Conference Premier, before moving to Royston Town last season and playing for Cambridge City this term.
Okay, who watched AFC’s home league defeat to Harlow Town on Saturday (2-1), is also available for Saturday’s big FA Trophy tie when Vanarama National League South outfit Gosport Borough visit The Wardale Williams Stadium.
On Saturday, James Baker, playing up front in the absence of Luke Callander, who had suffered a knock in mid-week, had fired The Yellows a sixth-minute, which they had taken into half-time.
But Harlow hit back in the second period with ex-AFC defender Craig Pope levelling in the 69th minute before Jared Small’s cross deflected in off Aidan Austin 11 minutes from time.
The result leaves AFC, who had ended back-to-back leage defeats going into the game, in 15th place in the Ryman League Premier Division table, but just three points above the bottom four relegation places.
Elswhere locally in the Ryman League, Needham Market moved to within a point of the leaders in the Premier Division with a 2-1 home victory over Jimmy Bullard’s Leatherhead leaving them third, but having played more games than the sides above them.
Luke Ingram and Joe Whight both struck within a five minute period of the first half, to overturn Leatherhead’s early lead from Daniel Akindayindi.
In Division One North, Bury Town got a much-needed win to halt their sticky run, beating Brentwood Town 3-1 at Ram Meadow to move them to within four points of league leaders Maldon & Tiptree, though having played two games more and still being just outside the play-offs in sixth place.
Ollie Hughes put Bury ahead in the 10th minute before Andy Greenslade hit back for Brentwood just after the hour-hour mark.
Remi Garrett’s strike regained the lead for the Blues in the 58th minute before Ryan Jolland effectively sealed the points with a third in the 81st minute.
Soham Town Rangers had announced the departure of joint-manager Robbie Nightingale, who was named Cambridge City boss, ahead of Saturday’s trip to Romford.
But The Greens showed no ill effects, building on the previous weekend’s 5-2 home win over VCD Athletic with a 4-1 success in Essex.
Lewis McDonald (21’), Robbie Mason (38’) and Dan Hobbs (42’, 87’) were all on target as Dave Theobald took sole charge before announcing his departure following the game, with Soham in 12th place in the table.