Fleet’s first signing of the summer, Ayo Obileye, might well have finished last season with a goal for Maidenhead but it’s keeping his new side’s defensive record intact that is focusing the mind ahead of the pre-season programme.
Obileye struck a fine shot from outside the box against Chesterfield on the last day of the 2018/19 campaign to help Maidenhead’s season end on a high and the former Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton youngster could reach 20 career goals this campaign – but it’s defending that he says will ultimately win his new side matches.
“For a defender, relatively, I do get a few goals,” he told the club website. “But I’m not trying to make that my focus. As a centre-half, I want more clean sheets now than goals scored obviously. I tend to get a lot of goals for a defender but I want to focus on my clean sheets. The more clean sheets I get, the more games we win.”
When Obileye last trod the turf at the Kuflink Stadium, with Maidenhead in March, he played in a slightly more advanced role. He’s been utilised in various positions in his career but says his bread and butter is in the centre of defence.
“I’ve played centre-midfield for half of a season but I am a central defender,” he says. “I played right-back at Eastleigh for 15 games two seasons ago but that was to cover injury and I had to fill in there. Centre-back, that’s my position, but I can do centre-midfield if needs-be too.
“I’m 6ft 4in, I look to be a big presence in the team, commanding and aggressive, and to be a leader on the pitch and off it. That’s the main thing I try to be and try to develop and I hope to show that to the Ebbsfleet fans this season.”
There’ll be a familiar face at training as pre-season gets under way, with Obileye having previously turned out – albeit briefly – with another new signing during a short-lived loan spell at Dover Athletic.
“I played with Aswad Thomas at Dover, so I know him a bit,” said Obileye. “I’ve seen the boys in the squad play previously, I’ve played against them before so it’s nothing new to me and we’ll bond and get on well with pre-season coming, I’m sure of that.”
The new Fleet signing had just emerged from the gym when we spoke and he’s determined to hit the ground running.
“Keeping up with my fitness is key,” he said. “The season starts for us on Saturday, I want to make sure I get myself fit and ready for the season, in a condition to avoid injuries, so I also have to get my exercise and conditioning in over the holidays as well as when we return. Those bleep tests will be tough!”
Last season saw Obileye’s previous club flirt with relegation before a strong finish pulled Maidenhead clear and the defender had to dig deep as he helped his teammates turn things around.
“It was a great club and the gaffer there, Alan Devonshire, he was a great man as well. He helped me out, giving me the opportunity to play regular football and I played almost 40 games there. We had a bad stint and poor run of games but then we got a few players in and that helped shore it up. I went into midfield for a bit and it helped keep Maidenhead in the league so it was job done. It was an up and down season but at the same time I take it as a positive season because we never gave up. We always had our eye on the job and did it together.”
As the Fleet’s first signing of the summer, Obileye’s arrival may have caused a few eyebrows to be raised given the club’s well-publicised financial issues and restructure but the defender was convinced by Garry Hill’s desire to not just make up the numbers this coming campaign.
“Yeah, those issues, they were a consideration I had to take on board, of course,” said Obileye. “But I look past that and the gaffer explained to me how everything is being sorted, et cetera, and how the fans get behind the team. The aim is still there to finish high and where the club wants to be next season and over the next five years, whether that’s still pushing for play-offs or promotion, it’s something I want to be part of. That’s what brought me here ultimately.
“There was communication between the gaffer and my agent and it’s good to be where I am. I’ve played against the club a fair few times now. I’ve obviously known that there’s been a good team, you’ve always had a great bunch of players here and the facilities are good.
“Ebbsfleet have always been up there in the League, pushing for promotion and that’s what I wanted if I was playing in the National League again, I want to be in a team that’s still pushing. So obviously I hope this is another season that Ebbsfleet do well.”