It’s been a longer summer than usual for everyone connected with the game and new Fleet arrival Tobi Adebayo-Rowling is impatient to set foot in the Kuflink Stadium and kick a ball in anger. The defender’s last game was on March 14th when he played 90 minutes and kept a clean sheet as Eastbourne Borough put Maidstone United to the sword to the tune of 3-0.
Now he’s chomping at the bit to get off to a flyer with his new club.
“I can’t wait to get back on the ball,” he told the Fleet website. “Like everyone I’ve been keeping myself fit during this whole time. I can’t sit around, I have to be active and I’ve kept myself kicking on through the months. But it’s not the same as football fitness, I can’t wait for that side of things, the match fitness, the matchday. I’m hungry to get back and I’m definitely hungry to get started at the club.”
A pacy, versatile wide player, Adebayo-Rowling was a youth prospect with hometown club Brighton & Hove Albion before breaking into the Peterborough United first-team squad in League One. Now he wants to climb back up the divisions again and he made no secret that when the Fleet’s interest was known, that was the one for him.
“Ebbsfleet’s scouting system did their research from a recommendation and luckily for me they liked what they saw,” said Adebayo-Rowling. “I got the call from Steve Lovell and it sounded perfect for me. I did have other options but to be honest, as soon as I got this call it was a no-brainer. I was in other talks but as soon as I came in to Ebbsfleet and talked to everyone, I knew this was the one. I could have signed at Eastbourne again as well but I chose this and am really happy now to sign.
“My personal goal is just to try and play every game and have an impact on the team. But it’s the squad goals, pushing for promotion, that’s what we’re all here for and I’m looking forward to being part of a winning team.”
So just what sort of impact can Fleet fans expect from the new man?
“I’ve been playing more as a right wing-back for the last two seasons but I’m comfortable right-back too. I love getting forward, that’s my main game – up and down the pitch quickly, covering that ground out wide and getting crosses in. That’s the side of the game I thrive off.”
Adebayo-Rowling joined Eastbourne in the autumn of 2018 and despite only spending two-thirds of the season there, he walked off with the supporters’ player of the year award in 2018/19.
“I was on loan there to start with and signing from about November,” Adebayo-Rowling recalled. “So it was nice recognition and an achievement too having played probably less games than in a full season.”
That’s not been the player’s only award. In his time in Ireland with Sligo Rovers, he won the Premier Division club’s young player of the year award in his first season. It was quite a move for a player who had experienced English academies at Brighton and Peterborough to pack his belongings for the north-west of Ireland and move to Sligo with its 20,000 population.
“It was a big culture shock for me at 19,” he said. “There’s some wider areas of Sligo that only speak the Irish language. It wasn’t like signing for a club in the bigger cities like Dublin or Cork but I loved the people and I liked my time there.”
He returned to England via a brief spell at Roy Keane’s old club, Cork City, and he knows exactly what to expect from the National League South.
“It’ll definitely be a strong league and it’s not an easy league,” he said. “I’m sure people at Ebbsfleet will remember from their time there before, it’s getting stronger and stronger. There’s a lot of teams that have a bit of money and they’ll be getting good players in like we are. Fleet will have a great chance of getting promoted with the squad here being formed, it’s looking strong already and pushing for success is what we’re all being geared up to.”
Adebayo-Rowling, of course, joins former teammates Tom Hadler and Michael West this coming season, so while Dennis Kutrieb’s squad may be newly assembled, there’s an air of familiarity for the full-back to thrive.
“Those two I know very well,” he said. “That definitely helps break the ice when you go in. Westy obviously knows the club inside-out and I spoke to him about it but Ebbsfleet have always been a big club in the National League or South going back lots of seasons. I’ve been here with the Bromley squad when the ground was being developed – I know some ex-players so I know what to expect, what the demands are and I’m looking forward to finally getting started.”