FORMER Swindon youngster Aaron Oakley has set his sights on a quick return to the Football League following his release by the Robins at the end of last season.
The towering centre-half was touted as a star of the future by many, having progressed quickly through the Welsh age group teams to take his place in his country’s under 21 squad aged only 18, but failed to make an appearance for the Country Ground club during either of his two years as a professional.
His lack of action was largely down to a troublesome foot injury which eventually required surgery, resulting in Oakley being loaned out to Southern Premier side Chippenham to get vital minutes in his legs as he searched for match fitness.
However, it wasn’t enough to earn a new deal at the County Ground and, while the modest defender is disappointed to have been let go by the club he has been involved in with for over a decade, he is keen to remain in the professional game.
“It was a brief conversation but Swindon told me they weren’t renewing my contract, it was all on good terms and it was all done face to face,” Oakley told the Advertiser.
“I knew there were loads of players out of contract so they wouldn’t keep everyone and, given the year I’d had with injury and the fact I didn’t make my debut, I half expected it really.
“That didn’t make it any easier and it doesn’t hit you until you really think about it and you realise you’re not going to be there any more.
“I’ve known that place since I was eight or nine years old and people like Nutty (Jeremy Newton, academy manager) and Paul Bodin (former youth team manager) were there when I was young and it’s hard to think they won’t be part of my career from now on.
“It’s quite quiet at the moment because everyone has shut up shop for a while, although there are a few rumours going around, but I might have to wait for a week or two before things pick up again.
“I really enjoyed my time at Chippenham but my aim is to get sorted with another Football League club, definitely. Chippenham were good to me and they helped me get my sharpness back but after being at Swindon all these years I’d like to think I could try and move on to another League club and show them what I’ve got.
“I just want to prove I am worth something.”
The Wootton Bassett-bred defender’s release was particularly frustrating given his injured foot made it impossible for him to show his full potential under Paolo Di Canio, Kevin MacDonald or Mark Cooper.
“It was really frustrating to be out injured so long and it started when Di Canio was here,” he said.
“It never got fixed because I spent time in a boot and I thought it was healed, but a scan showed it wasn’t and I had an operation so spent the best part of a year injured.
“My first year as a pro wasn’t one I look back on too fondly and I guess I was never able to show my full potential. I was desperate to show what I had but I never reached that so I’m really disappointed.
“The injury disrupted and slowed down my progress which was a shame but I have to move on from it.”