Friday, 20 March 2015

An Interview with ... Tony Stokes

Tony Stokes is a goal machine, he averages a goal every 1.84 games for Concord Rangers.  I don't know what that is in actual minutes, apart from the fact it's bloody impressive.
After speaking with Tony he loves goals.  He can't get enough of them.  In fact he wants to teach the next generation about scoring goals.

I started off with Tony asking him about his time at West Ham...

You came up through the famous West Ham academy, what age were you when you signed for West Ham? Were any other clubs interested in signing you?  

I was 9 when I first signed for West Ham.  I was playing for my District at the time, Hackney, and got spotted.  The only other club I had a trial for at that time was Arsenal and they wanted to sign me there and then.  It was quite funny really because Liam Brady kept phoning to talk to my dad to get me to sign and everyone knows what a legend he is.  All my family were West Ham so I reckon that was a major factor in signing there.

As captain of the youth sides and reserve sides, you must have been highly thought of at the club.  Obviously it must be disappointing not to make that break through, what was the moment that you thought this isn't going happen.  Was it a particular manager who didn't rate you? 

I loved captaining the youth side and the reserve side because it is always such a honour when you get asked to be the captain.  I have been Concord's captain for the last 3 years and have been lucky enough to lift 3 trophies.  I made my debut for West Ham when I was 18 against Sheffield Wednesday in the Carling Cup at Hillsborough, under Alan Pardew.  He then sent me out on loan to gain some experience at Brighton, where i dislocated my shoulder and had to have an operation on it.  It forced me out of the game for about 8 months and in that time Alan Pardew got the sack.  I was always training with the First Team and in their match day squads against the likes of Man Utd and Arsenal but never did end up getting that final chance.

You spent a lot of time at West Ham, are you still friends with any of the guys you used to play with?  

The only lad I really still chat to Is Freddie Sears, he has just had a great move to Ipswich and he is doing really well.  When you leave a team, you just seem to lose contact with people and start your new adventure and meet new team mates.  Thats the best thing about football, no matter what club you go to you will always start a new football family.  The football family I have at Concord is probably the best you would get.  Never have enjoyed myself so much at club in my life.

What made you decide to join Ujpest?  What was it like playing in Hungary?    

I was playing in a reserve game and the Director of Ujpest was watching and approached the club about taking me out there.  I had a week trial out there first to see what the country was like and the football.  I loved it, so decided to spend the next 4 months on loan and ended up finishing second which got us an Europa League place.  At the end of the season I signed a 3 year deal with them and played in the Europa League against Steaua Bucharest who we got knocked out by in two legs.  Away from football, it is such a beautiful city and a fun place to go to.  I do recommend if anyone hasn't been, they should go and see what it is like because you won't be disappointed.

You signed for Concord in 2010, what was the key part in you making that decision?  

I was 1 year into my Ujpest contract and was really homesick and came to an understanding with the club to terminate my contract.  I was then back home without a club.  One day i received a phone call from Dan Cowley saying that him and the chairman Ant Smith wanted to have a meeting.  After hearing about the plans they had for the club and the way they did things, it just sounded like the perfect match for me plus it was right on my doorstep.  It's really strange that looking back now, everything we discussed in that meeting has come true and we are where we wanted to be all those years ago.

You've banged in the goals for Concord since signing, any favourite goal?  

All my goals are my favourite goals.  I love scoring goals, theres not a better feeling in football than helping your team out by putting that ball in the back of the net.  I've scored a few goals this season that have been really important goals and will hopefully look back at the end of the season and we will have something to show for it. 

You started out as a centre midfielder, but mainly play up front for Concord.  What position do you prefer?  

I really enjoy playing up front, scoring goals and making goals.  My dad has always taught me that when I'm on that pitch i must affect the game by either scoring or setting up a goal.  I have always stood by that and it has never done me any harm.  I just love playing football so if the manager ever needed me to go back into midfield and do a job for him, he knows I would do it to the best of my ability.  Two seasons ago I was going for the league's Golden Boot and was joint top, we had a midfield crisis and had no one to play there.  I spent the next 8 to 10 games in centre midfield which cost me my Golden Boot but we ended up winning the Ryman Cup and promotion to Conference South on the back of it.

Do you enjoy playing, watching any other sports.  Do you fancy yourself at anything else...for example, you good at golf?  

I'm a massive NFL fan, I really can't get enough of it.  Every Sunday during the season I am just glued to my TV.  I support the Pittsburgh Steelers and were fortunate enough to watch them play at Wembley two years ago.  I'm not the golfing type, i've not got the patience for it.  I get to annoyed when I play a bad shot and lose focus and get bored.  I do love a good game of pool though, I go as much as I can with my dad and mates.

Do the team socialise away from the pitch.  If so, who are the party boys, and who are the quiet ones?  What category do you fall in?  

Every couple of months, we love to get together as a team and go out.  Our squad is based on teamship and fighting for one another so I really think it helps when we all bond over a night out.  I would have to say the Party Boys are James White, Gary Ogilvie and Sam Collins.  They love a night out and always drag me into it.  Before I had my lil boy, i would have been out all the time on a spur of the moment situation.  Now I have to pencil our nights out with the Mrs.  How times have changed lol.

With a little one, there's not much time to relax.  But what do you like doing in your spare time?  

I just like to spend time with the Mrs and my boy Chase.  Due to work, training and match days, I don't get to see them as much as i would like to so when away from football, we like to make the most of it.  She is really supportive in my football and comes to as many games as she can and it's great to see them both there on the sidelines.   Also like going to see my Parents because if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be the person i am today so enjoy just chilling out round their house.

That's a really nice answer! To finish, what does the future hold for Tony Stokes?   

I really don't know what the future holds for me really, I just take a day at a time and see what happens.  I.m in the best shape I've been in and still scoring goals so who knows what will happen.  One thing I do know is fingers crossed I will be holding up another Trophy come the end of the season, which will take me to 4 trophies in the 5 seasons I have been at the club.  I'm hoping one day to go into coaching and teaching strikers how to score goals.  Everyone assumes you have to kick the ball as hard as you can to score a goal but not every time that is the case.  I can't remember the last goal I scored when I put my foot through it.  Hopefully I can teach the kids my style of shooting and some will benefit from just passing the ball into the back of the net.

Who would have thought that Concord Rangers would have someone playing for them that has played in the Europa League! During Tony's time at the club he has proved himself to be a lethal marksman in Non League football, and he hasn't finished scoring yet!

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