Sydney Olympic striker and former A-League player Tolgay Ozbey says he’s definitely good enough to return to Australia’s premier football competition, after an impressive start to his club’s state league campaign.
After just eight rounds – one of which he missed through suspension – Ozbey is the NSW Premier League’s equal top goal-scorer along with teammate Matthew Mayora, following a double in his side’s 2-1 win over Manly United on Wednesday evening.
Having recaptured the sort of form that saw him snapped up by Sydney FC and then the Newcastle Jets before his return to state football, Ozbey has buried the demons of a disappointing campaign with Marconi last season.
Speaking exclusively to Goal.com, the 23 year-old spoke about the need for an opportunity to prove he is good enough to play at a higher level.
“With full time training I definitely believe I can be in the A-League or even overseas,” Ozbey said. “It’s just the opportunity that I need.
“[I’ve scored] seven goals in seven games – I’m pretty sure a lot of clubs need strikers.
“If I’m up there in the top one, two or three goal-scorers I don’t see why I shouldn’t get a spot.”
He added: “I had a bit of a slow season last year because of a knee operation and I missed all of the pre-season.
“This year has been a pretty good start and a pretty good season; I’m the leading goal-scorer and I’ve played one less game than anyone else because I’ve had a suspension.”
The more recent part of his career hasn’t been easy for Ozbey, who first had a brief stint with Sydney FC at the age of 19 before returning to state football and being signed by the Newcastle Jets a season later.
Brought into the club by then-manager Nick Theodorakopoulos – who was recently appointed as Sydney Olympic head coach – the striker found himself isolated when Theodorakopoulos was replaced by Gary Van Egmond.
“At the Jets I was getting a lot of time with Nick Theodorakopoulos,” Ozbey continued. “I started a game and was getting 20 minutes here and there and then after Nick Theo and Newcastle parted ways, there wasn’t much opportunity with Gary [Van Egmond].
“Gary and I never really got along from the start; there was a bit of a personal problem there.
“That’s the reason that I ended up leaving the Jets at the end of the first year, when I had a two year contract.
“Maybe a bit more game time is what I needed; it’s very hard to come on for 15 minutes and score a goal.
“Nick Theo was a coach that actually signed me up to go to the Jets; obviously he had a bit more interest in me than what Gary did.
“I could just tell from the start that he [Gary] had no interest in me.”
Although Ozbey says he holds no grudges against Van Egmond, he described his departure from the club as “heartbreaking”.
“When it’s your career and it’s the only thing you’ve got and it’s in the hands of one person who can pretty much do what he wants, it’s a bit heartbreaking.
“But you’ve just go to get past it and get back in there.”
Proving The Doubters Wrong
Signed by the Marconi Stallions last season, expectations of the player were high within a side with reputable players.
However, he struggled during his time with the Stallions and along with his teammates, was the subject of criticism after the club missed out on the finals series and struggled on the pitch all year.
Driven by a determination to prove his doubters wrong, Ozbey has made a blistering start to 2009.
“After last season a lot of people were talking,” he said. “It’s easy for people to talk but not look into why I didn’t have such a good season.
“It’s good to prove people wrong and prove to people that I believe I am a leading goal-scorer.
“Nothing feels better than proving people wrong.”
Though he’d be willing to sign with any club in the A-League, Europe is another option for the talented striker of Turkish descent.
“A couple of times I’ve got a couple of phone calls from middle-men and agents in Turkey [in the past] but it hasn’t been concrete.
“But now I’m 23 so if anything came up it would be a good opportunity.
“If I don’t get an A-League club [by the end of the season] I think I might be getting a trial overseas; I’m not 100% sure yet but there’s a couple of clubs on the books.”
Chris Paraskevas, Goal.com